SSD vs. HDD: How the Choice of Storage Affects Developer Workflows

As a software developer, your computer’s performance can significantly impact your work. Are HDDs or SSDs better for your workflow?

Having the right tools makes a big difference in any job. Software development is no different, where your computer’s performance can significantly help or hinder your efficiency at work. While there are many hardware factors to consider, one of the most important is choosing the right kind of storage.

Hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs) each have unique strengths and weaknesses. As a developer, you should carefully weigh these factors to determine which is best for your workflow.

Hard Disk Drives

HDDs are the most familiar storage option for many developers, as they’ve been around much longer. These drives use spinning magnetic disks and a mechanical write head to read and write data. While they’re declining in popularity, they still have some advantages.

HDD Pros

The biggest benefit of HDDs is they’re affordable. They can be as cheap as $0.014 per gigabyte (GB) if you get them in large enough sizes. These prices tend to fall by roughly 0.5% per month, too, so they’re only getting cheaper.

That cost-effectiveness also means you’re more likely to find high-capacity HDDs than SSDs — particularly valuable if you work with larger data volumes or complex software like AI models. Similarly, there are more options because it’s an older technology, giving you more freedom to build a PC specific to your programming needs and budget.

HDD Cons

The most noticeable downside of HDDs for developer workflows is that they’re slower. That’s not to say SSDs can’t get slow — the drives in Macs, for example, slow down with 2GB or less of remaining space — but HDDs can’t match SSD’s general read-write speeds.

Because HDDs rely on moving parts, they’re also less reliable. The threat of storage failure in the middle of building a program isn’t something most developers want to deal with. On a less severe note, those moving parts are noisy, which could become distracting after hours of coding.

Solid-State Drives

While HDDs are a time-honored standard, SSDs are slowly becoming more common. As the name implies, these drives have no moving parts, relying entirely on circuitry instead of mechanical storage.

SSD Pros

The biggest upside of SSDs is their speed. Some SSDs are 35 times faster than average HDDs, letting you start your computer and compile code in much less time. It also takes less time to save your work, which can come in handy when dealing with large projects.

SSDs are also smaller and run quieter, minimizing distractions and letting you build a more compact PC. SSDs are also far less likely to break than HDDs because they lack moving parts — a crucial advantage for high-value development projects.

SSD Cons

Of course, these performance upgrades come at a cost. SSDs are more expensive than their mechanical counterparts. That said, they are getting cheaper over time, with some drives costing as little as $0.04 per GB today.

You’re also less likely to be able to find SSDs in as large capacities as HDDs. There are still enough options for most projects, but you may need more capacity if you’re working with particularly large data sets. It’s slightly harder to recover corrupted data from SDDs, too, though they’re not prone to corruption.

SSD or HDD: Which Is Best for Developers?

Overall, SSDs are the best choice for developers. While they cost more and fall slightly behind in capacity, those factors are changing, and the performance upgrade is more than worth it. Increased read-write speeds and reliability are advantageous in any setting, but especially in processing-intensive programming workflows.

HDDs aren’t a bad choice if you have a lower budget and only work on lightweight projects. However, you’ll quickly run into speed and reliability issues as your workload increases, so it’s best to go ahead and get an SSD.

You may also like