How to Build a PC - Selecting Storage and Optical Drives

By Mike Clements, on October 31, 2013

Previously, in the How to Build a PC segments, we have covered how to plan your build, how to select a CPU, how to select a motherboard, how to select memory, how to select a graphics card, how to choose a case, how to select case fans, how to select a CPU cooler, and how to select a power supply. In this segment we have detailed the criteria for selecting storage, both fixed storage and drives that use removable storage.  

Optical Drives

Optical drives have come a long way since the early days of writable CDs. At one time,  10 writable CDs would cost you about $100 or so. Those were surely some expensive 700mb coasters if you had a failed burn, which was unfortunately common. 

Coasters

 

These days, you can buy 25GB Blu-ray BD-R disks for less than $1.25ea, burn disks much faster and reliably, and watch Blu-ray movies on your PC with a drive that costs less than that first 10 pack of CD-Rs you bought years ago.

The real decision to make in this case is to decide if you actually need an optical drive. With more and more gaming content available online, it’s becoming more common for gamers to have systems that have no optical drive. If you decide that you do need an optical drive and you do not intend to use Blu-ray media, a standard DVD-ROM or DVD-RW drive will meet most of your needs.  DVD-ROM drives will typically read, write, and burn CDs and will read all DVD media other than Blu-ray. If you need to write DVDs, the RW option is for you. Excellent drives can be had for as little as $20.

If you intend to use Blu-ray media you’ll need to get a Blu-ray capable drive of course. Blu-ray drives come in several different Blu-ray options including read only drives and burners. You’ll need to select the type of Blu-ray drive based on your storage needs.

ASUS BRD


Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Several years ago, RW Labs reviewer Jon Coulter made a very strong statement about SSDs and high performance computers.  "The SSD is the most important performance component found in a modern system today. Without it you do not even have a performance system." We believe this statement to still be true. So, if you are building a high performance system you absolutely must consider an SSD for your primary drive. There are varying grades of SSDs and you can make your selection based upon your budget guidelines you set out for storage in the planning stage and also by your performance needs. 

The Nova 2 and Force 3 SSDs are great entry level SSDs. You can get a great combination of price and performance in a variety of densities. 

Nova 2 Force 3

The Force Series GT and GS SSDs are a step up on performance over the Nova 2 and Force 3 drives. They are excellent choices for gamers and for power users. These drives are built around an LSI/SandForce controller and perform very well. They are at their best with data that is highly compressible. 

GT GS

Note: Many common media files such as MP3s and .avi files allow little or no compressibility. 

Our flagship SSD series is made up of the Neutron and Neutron GTX SSDs. Both are made using the LAMD/Hynix SSD controller. These SSDs have the best overall performance of our SSD lineup. The Neutron series SSDs are exceptionally fast and the Neutron GTX is among the fastest SSDs in the world. Both the Neutron and Neutron GTX boast fantastic performance withcompressible and incompressible data. They are stellar performers across a wide variety usage scenarios. 

Neutrons

Most modern motherboards have built in RAID capability. Striping, also known as RAID-0 can offer huge performance benefits over a single SSD. If your machine is going to need to have fast disk thruput, then you should consider a RAID option. 

 

Hard Disk Drives (HDDs)

Hard disk drives are still the industry's old workhorse for storage. Currently, hard disk drives offer a superior cost per gigabyte ratio over SSDs. However, they do not offer the performance that SSDs provide.

Many users today choose to have their operating systems, games, and software on their SSD and they use a HDD for mass storage of large amounts of data. This is a great option for users that have large amounts of media or data on their system that does not need to reside on the more expensive SSD space. 

A 4TB HDD can be had for approximately the same price as a 256GB SSD. The HDD has 16x the storage space of a 256GB SSD but this is at much lower level of performance that may not be suitable for gamers, users editing videos, or any disk intensive tasks. 

4TB HDD

Planning your way thru your storage selection is critical. Keep in mind that Windows 7 + Microsoft Office 2013 can occupy 60GB or more on your system drive. Battlefield 4 is rumored to take up 30GB alone and that's before any patches or expansions. So, be sure to plan for your current storage needs and your future needs when you select your drives for your new system. 


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