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How to Choose a SSD for Your Gaming PC

Including Our Current Recommended SSD Brands and Models for 2020 Builds

Last Updated: May 24, 2020

SSDs are all the rage these days and for good reason; they're a heck of a lot faster than older, traditional hard drives. In this guide we break down what to know about choosing a SSD for your new custom computer.

See Also: How to Install an M.2 SSD in a Desktop

What Is a SSD? Are They Important for a Gaming PC?

SSD is short for Solid State Drive, and are the now-dominant mainstream storage devices that have slowly but surely replaced slower traditional hard drives (HDDs: Hard Disk Drives). In 2020, HDDs are still bought by PC users needing higher-than-normal storage requirements as they are cheaper than SSDs, but in terms of the main/primary system drive of a PC, SSD technology has completely taken over.

And it makes sense, as smaller (< 500GB) SSDs can be had these days for fairly cheap. SSDs don't directly correlate to better performance and higher frame rates in games, but their indirect benefits to a gaming PC are huge. There's just no reason NOT to buy an SSD for a new gaming computer these days - SSDs are way faster, meaning much better load times and less of your life wasted staring at your screen in frustration as something takes it sweet time to load.

Not having an SSD in 2020 is a punishable crime in PCMR

The Benefits of SSDs (Over HDDs)

The actual technology for SSDs has been around for a long time but it's only recently been available to the mainstream in the past few years. To understand how SSDs work, you must first ponder what "solid state" means. It is the term used to refer to electronic circuitry that is built solely from semiconductors. In the past, the term solid state was used to describe electronic devices that used semiconductors as opposed to vacuum tubes in its construction.

But these days, in terms of a solid state hard disk, the term "solid state" means that the data stored on the SS hard drive is through semiconductors, instead of being stored through magnetic media such as a normal hard drive. You may be thinking to yourself that this type of technology has been around for years with storage devices such as USB flash drives, and in some regard you are right. USB flash drives and solid state hard drives are the same in that they both store memory the same way. But the difference between them is the form factor, and more importantly the fact that solid state drives live inside of your computer and can obviously store a huge amount more data than a flash drive.

As you can imagine, a solid state hard disk has some advantages over a typical magnetic hard disk. The main reason for these advantages is the fact that solid state drives don't have any moving parts inside of them, whereas a traditional/normal hard drive (HDD) has spinning motors inside the magnetic platters and the drive heads (in a SSD, all the memory is stored on flash memory chips).

  • Faster Boot Times (Loading Windows). This is another big advantage thanks to having no moving parts. In a solid state drive you will experience faster data access than with a magnetic hard drive.
  • Faster Game/Application Load Times. Just like when loading Windows every time you start-up your PC, games and applications will also load faster if they are installed onto a SSD.
  • Lower Power Consumption. The first main advantage is that less power will be used. Since there are no moving parts inside the solid state drive, it won't need anywhere near as much power to run.
  • More Reliable. In a typical magnetic hard drive there are more chances the parts may be damaged due to the way it is built with platters, and all the small and fragile parts. With an SSD though, there is less chance of damage and/or failure.
  • More Compact. Standard 2.5 inch SSDs are smaller than traditional hard drives  (HDDs, which are 3.5 inches in size). Not only that, but these days M.2 SSDs are very popular and are even thinner and smaller than 2.5 inch SSDs and inconspicuously slot right into your motherboard (as opposed to standard 2.5 inch SSDs which are installed inside the case just like HDDs are).

Recommended SSD Brands for 2020 (& Our Top Picks)

If you want the most reliable, highest-quality SSD for your computer, look out for Samsung models. While not the cheapest, their range of both standard 2.5 inch SSDs (like the 860 Evo) and M.2 SSDs (like the 970 Evo) are the fastest you can get. But there are a fair few good SSD brands out there, so don't think you have to stick to the top-tier models like the Samsungs. Crucial, Sabrent, Western Digital, Intel and other brands all offer good SSDs, and choosing the best one comes mainly down to current pricing. Speaking of which, for constantly updated recommendations on the best SSDs for a gaming PC, check out our latest full PC build guides which include our top bang for buck SSD picks based on the current market:

The Best Gaming PC Builds for the Money

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USA: Amazon US / BestBuy / B&H

Canada: Amazon CA

UK: Amazon UK / Overclockers

Australia: Amazon AU / PLE / Scorptec

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Trusted VPN

Cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly important issue in the digital age, and installing a VPN is one easy way to improve the security and privacy of your PC. VPNs can also help for gaming. NordVPN is the one I use and can recommend. For more on VPNs see my gaming PC software guide.

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About Me

Indie game dev currently working on my first public release, a story driven VR FPS adventure built with Unreal Engine and designed from the ground up for virtual reality (to be announced here). Also likes writing about tech.

My favorites of all time are OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, THPS3, HL1, HL2, WC3, GTA3, and KOTOR, with the most recent addition to my list of immortals being the VR masterpiece Half Life Alyx. - Julz