2023 could bring about the death of HDD storage - here's why

SSD vs HDD image showing multiple models on both sides with gamesradar crosses in the background
(Image credit: Future)

There have been quite a few technology wars in my lifetime. VHS vs DVD, CD vs MP3, Blu-Ray vs HD DVD - I mean, even Twitch vs Ustream was pretty entertaining. One that's been silently trundling on longer than any of those, however, is the war between HDD and SSD storage. Even if it's seemed as though the two can co-exist at times, the battles have raged on. But according to experts, analysts, and the biggest names in the sector, 2023 might be the year that HDD finally loses its footing.

Of course, this may not come as a surprise if you've been following things closely. The best SSDs for gaming took a dominant position in the mainstream market as soon as they were adopted by consoles like the PS5, the Xbox Series X, and the best gaming PCs. It's safe to say that before that point, the cheaper prices of HDD meant it was the go-to solution for system storage.

But ever since the tide turned in 2020, things have been very interesting indeed. SSD has been the premium option for gamers as they've realised that it vastly out performs HDD. Load times have become a thing of the past as sequential read and write speeds have surpassed 7,000MB/s, compared to the fairly pathetic 200MB/s an HDD would be lucky to reach. 

For that reason, getting a hold of an SSD in recent years has been tough - demand has been at an all time high. HDD, playing to its capacity strengths, kept a low profile, and even lower prices. In that way, it's clung to a market position that's solely dependent on people needing cheap and cheerful external storage.

A product shot of the WD Black SN850 against a motherboard

(Image credit: Western Digital)

It's not easy at the top...

But SSD hasn't had it easy, especially not recently. 2022 proved tumultuous for the biggest names in storage, because as they've tried to recoup the higher production costs of the pandemic era, they've had a slowly decreasing demand as more and more people have gotten their desired drives. Executives at Seagate and Western Digital even came forward in September to say that both companies were struggling to meet their sales targets for the year. This announcement came after nine months of gradual SSD price decreasing, too.

SSD prices in October were roughly the same as their discounted Black Friday prices almost a year previous, which led to historically low prices for Black Friday 2022. Although nothing is certain, SSD is projected to remain cheap throughout the first half of this year, and that certainly wouldn't surprise me.

This is, of course, incredible for consumers. The top performing storage drives on the market are now more affordable than ever. SSD must be one of the only commodities to get cheaper during worldwide cost of living crises. While manufacturers struggle to bring SSD prices back up, HDD is at serious risk of being left in the dust.

The last days of HDD?

Seagate God of War Ragnarok 2TB Game Drive external hard drive for PlayStation

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)

HDD's Ragnarok prophesy isn't as clear cut as many are making it out to be though, because it does have a few practical uses left. Like I've mentioned, external storage you can take on the go, especially for gamers, is a big one. External HDDs still sell very well, especially in capacities over 2TB.

On the business side of things, higher capacities of largely unused data is still cheaper in HDD form. Things like CCTV footage, archived data, and anything that doesn't need to be accessed speedily. Having said that, external SSD options have been stealing a significant market share recently. There's a real risk that if this continues to be the case, HDD will be left with no leg to stand on because it has all its eggs in that one external basket.

It's highly probably that for many years to come, HDD won't die out thanks to the professional uses I've stated. But for your average consumer looking for a new storage solution, HDD is hanging on by a thread. All it could take is a small technological advance, or say, a continued period of lower prices, for external SSDs to knock them off completely. 

The thing is, that isn't even that improbable. SSD technology continues to advance as time goes on. Meanwhile, HDD is stuck in the mud with spinning discs that have no way of reinventing the wheel.

Who knows what's to come, but 2023 is shaping up to be an extremely interesting year for the storage market.

The chip shortage is over, meaning it's the easiest time in years to get the best graphics cards, the best CPU for gaming, and the best RAM.

Duncan Robertson
Hardware Editor

Ever since playing Journey at the age of 15, I’ve been desperate to cover video games for a living. After graduating from Edinburgh Napier University with a degree in Journalism, I contributed to the Scottish Games Network and completed an Editorial Internship over at Expert Reviews. Besides that, I’ve been managing my own YouTube channel and Podcast for the last 7 years. It’s been a long road, but all that experience somehow landed me a dream job covering gaming hardware. I’m a self-confessing PlayStation fanboy, but my experience covering the larger business and developer side of the whole industry has given me a strong knowledge of all platforms. When I’m not testing out every peripheral I can get my hands on, I’m probably either playing tennis or dissecting game design for an upcoming video essay. Now, I better stop myself here before I get talking about my favourite games like HUNT: Showdown, Dishonored, and Towerfall Ascension.
Location: UK Remote