Setting up a decent gaming rig will require a decent enough storage device. But what defines decent enough storage? How much storage do you need for gaming if you’re going to do it right in 2022? Let’s talk storage for gaming laptops and dive to see what’s ideal so you can make an informed decision.
How much storage for gaming PC
All in all, you need at least 1TB of storage for a gaming PC. That number can go up to 3, 4 or 5TB if money is not an issue. With storage for gaming, the more, the better.
When you’re shopping for or building a gaming PC, you need storage for two things:
- To host the game install files
- To host the original game (or raw) files
The original game files are what you install to play the game. The install files are the additional files created after you’ve ran the install – they’re used to launch and play the game on your PC.
In budgeting for storage on a gaming PC, it’s important that you take these two requirements into consideration. Many games clear the original game files after installation is complete, assuming you use legit gaming platforms like Steam for your installation.
If you’re downloading games from third-party sites and then running installs after downloading, then you’ll have both the downloaded game files and the install files. And sometimes, it might be a good idea to keep the original game files even after installs.
How much storage do games use
Original game files for most modern games can be anything between 10 – 70GB. Game install files typically max out at 50GB, but the average range is between 20 – 50GB. So overall, expect each game on your PC to take up between 30 – 120GB of space.
Again this estimate applies if you’re downloading the install files separately, as would be the case if you were downloading from a torrent or mirror site. Direct installs from platforms like Steam usually delete the original game files once the install is complete, leaving you with just the install files and freed up storage space.
How much storage should a gaming PC have
To keep things simple, I’m going to assume you’re using a platform like Steam, or you have an external hard drive to store original game files – that’s what I do. With the average range for game install files being 20 – 50GB, you should be fine with a 1TB storage device if you plan on installing under 20 games at any given point in time. That’s another way of saying 1TB is enough if all you’re the average gamer.
If you plan on gaming every once in a while and as such probably need under ten games installed at any point on your PC, then a 512GB storage device should be enough.
Professional gamers or semi-professional gamers will want to have more space on their PC since they usually have a larger number of installed games. If you’re planning to go Pro, you can start with a 2TB storage device, but the ideal is something in the 3TB – 5TB range.
What storage device is best for gaming
So far, we’ve only focused on the size requirement for gaming PC storage. Another important factor to consider when deciding what storage you need for a gaming PC is the type or, better put, architecture of the storage device.
For now, you can either get an SSD or an HDD for your gaming PC. SSD stands for Solid State Drive, while HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive.
Which is the best
SSDs are better off than HDDs. SSDs are the latest-gen technology, and HDDs have been around for quite a while now. Without getting into the technical details, compared to an HDD, SSDs provide better performance and are more durable and portable.
Better performance in this sense applies to how SSDs can read/write data faster. When you launch a game software on your PC, it reads (retrieves) the files it needs to run from your storage device. The ability of the storage device to deliver said files at a faster rate will determine how long the game software spends retrieving the files, ergo how long it spends ‘loading.’ SSDs can deliver data (game files) at a rate of 2200MBs. That’s astonishing when compared to the slower 550MBs read rates of the fastest HDDs.
SSDs have a more compact and smaller build which is why they’re more portable than HDDs. HDDs are made of magnets, and a simple fall can be all it takes to damage one. SSDs are more ‘solid-state.’ There are no active magnets or moving parts, so they can take more abuse than the traditional HDD.
To summarize, if you want the best storage for your gaming PC, you should get an SSD. You can expect a better gaming experience through the performance boost they provide. Specifically, an SSD will:
- Reduce loading times
Ever had to sit through a five minutes long loading screen? Skyrim fans will relate. To load a scene or a game level (like the loading interval when you’re done picking teams and setting formations on PES), your computer needs to gather all the required assets from your SSD and dump them into your RAM. The RAM then feeds the game software at the lightning read speeds it’s capable of.
With a fast SSD, this initial prefetch is completed faster! Slow storage devices like HDDs take more time to transmit the necessary data to your PC’s RAM.
- Make gaming a whole lot smoother
Read events – data transmission from your SSD can occur and very often does occur even after you’ve gone past loading screens. Notice how some game assets only appear or become clearer when you go close enough? In most cases, the limiting factor that will cause game elements to load fast or slowly is your GPU or RAM. However, if you’ve got a solid GPU and RAM but a not so fast primary storage device, then lags might occur. Good SSDs prevent this.
- Reduce game installation and update times
One area where you’ll definitely feel the impact of a fast SSD is during game installs and updates. Installing or updating a game requires an insane amount of read/write events, all of that 30 -50GB allocation we talked about earlier.
HDDs typically max out at read/write speeds 550MBs/70MBs. At that rate, it could take anywhere between 20 minutes to install the average PC game.
SSDs can reach read/write speeds of up to 4GB/9GB. The same game that’d take 20 mins to install with an HDD as the data source might install in less than 5 minutes with an SSD. If you use game repacks (hello, Fitgirl repacks), an SSD is kind of a must, except you plan on waiting half a day to install some of the newer gen game titles.
Can a hard drive improve your FPS?
Strictly speaking, the answer is no. No, a hard drive, however performant it is, cannot improve your FPS. FPS or frame per second is directly reliant on your CPU, graphics card and, to a lesser extent, your motherboard. Other things that affect FPS away from your control are the game software itself, game settings and code optimization.
If you’re looking to improve your FPS, you’re better off upgrading your CPU and GPU first.
Types of SSDs
Not all SSDs are made equal. Even though the average SSD is a good enough upgrade over an HDD, some are better at improving gaming performance than others. To understand which is best, you need to know the types of SSDs.
SSDs can be broadly grouped into four categories based on two grouping factors:
The form factor
- 2.5 inch
The data transmission protocol
I won’t really go deep into this; I cover SSD types in detail in this piece on 512GB SSDs.
SATA VS NVME
The data transmission protocol is the technology that facilitates data transfer on an SSD. NVME is the latest and fastest data transmission protocol available right now, and it supports up to 4GBs/9GBs in read/write speeds compared to SATA. That’s a huge difference, and you will see when you’re finally ready to purchase an SSD that NVME SSDs cost a lot more than SATA SSDs.
M.2 VS 2.5 Inch
The form factor describes how the SSD is built. M.2 is the latest and better form factor. It’s a more compact and overall more durable build. You’ll find that M.2 SSDs look a lot like SD cards; 2.5 Inch SSDs have a build that’s very similar to traditional HDDs.
Form factor becomes important when you don’t have that much motherboard real estate in your PC build. Because M.2 SSDs are smaller, you can afford to cram in much more storage with limited space on a motherboard compared to 2.5 inch SSDs.
Note also that most NVME type SSDs connect to your PC via M.2 port or a PCI-E interface. SATA SSDs connect via a SATA port or a PCI-E interface modified by an adapter.
To summarize, if you want the best possible config in an SSD, opt for a M.2 NVME SSD. They’re a lot pricier than their SATA 2.5 inch counterparts, but with the boost in performance they bring, it’s a worthwhile investment.
How much SSD do you need for gaming
For moderate gaming, a 1TB or, at the extreme, 2TB SSD is good enough to handle your game install and original game file storage needs.
If you’re planning on gaming just every once in a while, a 512GB SSD mated to a 2 – 3TB HDD combo should work just fine. This way, you get a fast SSD for playing the few games you have and a really large HDD, which is not as fast, but very well suited to handle your other storage needs.
If you’re a pro gamer, your starting point for an SSD should be at least 3TB. On a budget, that 3TB should do, but if you’ve got the cash to spare, you can always opt for a bigger 5, 8 or even 16TB SSD – more is always better.
Important! Always remember to check the type of SSD you’re getting, whether it’s an NVME or SATA SSD. The former is better. If you’re building your gaming PC from scratch, it’s also important to know the storage slots your motherboard has, as that will determine what type of SSD will fit in.
Storage needs for a gaming PC depend largely on the type of gaming you intend to do. Anything below Pro-level gaming, and you’re fine with a 1TB – 3TB storage device. You want your storage device to be fast and durable. SSDs are the faster and more durable option compared to HDDs. SSDs have types, and for most purposes, you’re better off with a M.2 NVME config.
If you want the best of both worlds, you can mate an SSD to a HDD. The SSD will hold important operating system and game install files, so everything runs smoothly. The HDD will serve as a primary storage device for housing bulky files that are not used during actual gameplay.
If you need advice on which SSD (or HDD) to buy, see my review of the best SSDs available right now for purchase.