Last Updated: Aug 30, 2018
Computer hard drives are one of the simpler parts to pick for your gaming PC build but there are perhaps still a couple things you may wish to know about them. In this guide we'll cover the basics including a bit about how they work, what RPM and cache is, what size to get for a gaming rig, and which brands are best in 2018. Let's get straight into perhaps the shortest hardware guide on the site.
The hard drive (HDD: Hard Disk Drive) is where all your files, programs, and of course your favorite games are stored. It'll also be where you install your operating system should you only be using the one drive; if you're also getting a Solid State Drive then you'll want to install your OS on there instead.
How do they work in a nutshell? Hard drives store information by manipulating magnetic fields over the moving surface of a disk coated with a magnetic material. This use of magnetism to store information is very similar to how tape or video recorders work. Each individual disk inside a hard drive is called a platter. Large hard drives contain several platters and use both sides of each platter for storage. The drive contains a motor that spins the platters at speeds from 5400 to 15,000 rotations per minute (RPM).
Hard drives have spinning discs inside of them, and the faster they spin the faster you can access and transfer data. The RPM of a hard drive is the spec that measures its speed, which stands for Revolutions Per Minute. What's a good RPM? 7200rpm or above is ideal, but if you get a 5400rpm it's not the end of the world, especially if you use an SSD for your key, frequently-used programs. But when buying a HDD do shoot for 7200rpm if at all possible. We always include 7200rpm hard drives in our best gaming PC builds of the month as we would personally never buy a 5400rpm HDD (but some people won't mind them).
Hard drives usually come with extra cache memory built into the drive for even faster loading. Drives with 32MB or even 64MB of cache is ideal for maximum performance, but you don't need huge amounts of cache memory in reality, and picking a hard drive with less cache memory such as 8MB or 16MB is fine.
Now to what you're probably wondering when picking the right HDD - what size is good? Of course it'll depend on your particular needs, but if in doubt and you don't think your needs are any higher than the typical gamer and PC user then 1TB is a good place to start as it's not too small and not too big (read: good value for money). Although 2TB HDDs aren't usually all that much more so consider one of those instead. But yeah, I'll stick my neck out and say that for most gamers 1TB will serve you well. Plus, you can always add a secondary (internal or external) hard drive later on should you want more storage.
Hard drives do fail at times, so if you want to buy the best hard drive for your gaming PC then stick to trusted brands like Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and Hitachi which have the lowest failure rates in the industry in general. Personally, I always stick to the first 2 names mentioned when building or upgrading a PC.
A hobbyist game programmer turned hardware enthusiast, Julien "cyberjulz" is the founder of BGC and has kept a keen eye on the latest in DIY gaming ever since starting BGC back in '06 as an almost laughably-basic and brief 20 page site with the aim to make building PCs more accessible to the average gamer since most resources weren't too noob friendly. Over countless reinventions and reiterations to the quality, depth and usefulness of the content over many years the site has steadily grown into the expansive, comprehensive and ever-updated first-time PC builder resource that it is today that now reaches and helps thousands of gamers and power users each month to more easily plan optimal setups for their exact needs. You can learn more about the BGC mission and ways to support it here.
Have a question or enjoyed the article and want to share some feedback, constructive criticism, or report an error to help us keep making BGC the best beginner building resource around? We're listening: feel free to comment or message on our Fanpage or email us here.
For those wanting comprehensive 1 on 1 help with planning the right build for your specific budget and needs to ensure you buy a good parts-list and don't waste your money, I also offer a personalized parts-list email service where you send in your exact build requirements and for a small tip I'll spend whatever time necessary to do the painstaking, in-depth research for you to thoroughly plan the perfect parts-list for your exact situation.