This article will discuss whether you should install your DAW and plugins on an SSD or HDD.
Another way to frame this question is whether you should have your main drive or your C: Drive as an SSD or an HDD. The main drive, the C Drive, contains the operating system and related system files. Hence you install apps and software on that. You can source its data from another drive, but the main software has to be installed there.
Since the main drive is the drive from which your computer reads all the apps and on which it runs all apps, so it has to be efficient. So now let’s discuss if HDD is a better alternative or SSD.
Should I install DAW & VST plugins on SSD or HDD?
To install DAW and plugins, SSD is a better but more expensive alternative than HDD. That is because SSD is more efficient and reliable, has faster reading-writing speeds, doesn’t overheat or make noise, and consumes lesser power. That means your C: Drive, or the OS drive, is better off as an SSD drive.
However, in many cases, you need not bear the high expenses of an SSD drive, so let’s do an in-depth discussion on SSDs and HDDs. SSD stands for Solid State Drive, and HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive. Both are storage devices, but the underlying technology is different for both. An HDD uses a spinning magnetic tape combined with some moving mechanical parts, making it larger, less stationary, and slower in processing data.
However, an SSD relies on flash memory for storing, reading, and writing data and processes data immediately. Hence, apart from being faster, it is also more compact and durable. HDDs having moving parts makes them easier to break. Also, because of its spinning disk, an HDD wears out after a few years and lasts lesser than an SSD.
Do I need an SSD?
SSDs are about ten times faster than HDDs, but it depends on the type of SSD. An SSD of about 500 MBPS reading and writing speed is just as good as an HDD. Yes, flash drive storage technology has added advantages that lead to better reliability, but that’s it.
You should not pay extra money for only a handful of more megabytes per second. So, even if you’re buying an SSD, remember that thunderbolt connectivity and NVMe technology would significantly improve the efficiency of the drive and bring about a major difference.
Lastly, if you’re a hobbyist music producer or your workflow depends mostly on stock plugins, and you use only a few samples in the session, in that case, HDD may be a more efficient option, as it is more affordable and will suffice your needs.
However, if you use big Kontakt libraries, have a huge library of samples, and use heavy mixing-mastering plugins, then SSD is crucial to ensure a seamless and smooth workflow. SSDs are also better if you’re a recording and mixing-mastering engineer, as it is quieter and gives you a more suitable & uninterrupted environment for your needs.
Should I install VST plugins or DAW on an external SSD?
It’s impossible to install software, be it a plugin (VST, AAX, AU, etc.) or a DAW on an external drive. However, you can install the plugin or the DAW on the main drive and source its data, samples, audio, recordings, etc., from an external drive. You can also save the sessions, recordings, MIDI files, wave files, etc., on an external drive.
If you use the external drive in real-time with your sessions, I recommend you use an SSD as the external drive. If you use it for storage, then also, I recommend using an SSD, as it has a longer lifespan and is lighter, smaller, and more rugged. However, if there are budget constraints, and you need a drive with as much capacity as possible at affordable rates, then HDD is a good option.
What are the best internal drives for music production?
The Samsung 980 SSD M.2 NVMe interface and Samsung 870 QVO SATA III 2.5″ SSD are great internal drives that you could use for music production. The Samsung T7 Portable SSD, Samsung T5 Portable SSD, Samsung X5, Atom Portable SSD, and SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSDs are the best external SSDs for music production.
The best HHDs for music production are LaCie Rugged Mini HDD, Cirago Slim External Portable HDD, Toshiba Canvio, and Seagate Expansion Portable HDD. It’s important to choose a drive that is efficient with audio digital signal processing and can handle audio data without compromising the quality.
We have seen that you can install the DAW and plugins only on the main C Drive and that SSD is a more efficient, faster, and long-term solution for a C Drive. You can only use external drives for sourcing or storing the data; even for those purposes, SSD is a better solution.
We have also discussed the exceptions in which an HDD may be a better solution. Hope the article was of help. Thank you for reading.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.