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How Much Storage Does a Gaming PC Need? (2022)

Find out how big a hard drive or SSD you should get to maximize your PC gaming experience.

Samsung 970 EVO SSD M.2 NVMe Kevin Jones / TechReviewer

Last Updated: December 30, 2021

Written by Kevin Jones

Perhaps you are building a new gaming PC or thinking about upgrading your current one.

This article will discuss the storage capacity needed for a modern gaming PC and touch on the types of storage devices you should use.

Check out our recommended NVMe M.2 SSDs and SATA 2.5" SSDs below.

Samsung 870 QVO SATA III SSD 2TB Samsung 870 QVO SATA III SSD 2TB Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

How Much Storage Space Do Modern Games Use?

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Many modern blockbuster games can take 30 to 50 GB of space each when installed on your computer, with some reaching into the hundreds of gigabytes.

If you switch back and forth between games often, you probably don't want to keep reinstalling them to manage your disk space. On the other hand, if you only play a few games, curating your installed games may be an option for those wanting to save some money.

How Much Storage Space Do You Need for a Gaming PC?

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You can estimate needing 1 TB of storage space for games if you want 20 games installed with an average size of 40 GB each. Keep in mind that you will need additional space for the operating system, other installed applications, and files. For this reason, it is reasonable to leave a 50-200 GB buffer for non-game files, either on the same storage device or a separate one.

You can scale this estimate up or down based on how many games you wish to have installed.

How Can an SSD Improve PC Gaming Performance?

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By using an SSD in place of a hard drive for storage, you are increasing the speed at which your computer can read and write data. Games don't write very much data to storage, so the most critical performance metric is the read speed.

Some games may not even read from your storage device very often. If you have an adequate amount of memory (RAM), optimized closed-world games may load much of the level into memory as the level first loads. Memory is much faster than even a solid-state drive, so it makes sense for a game to keep game data in memory when it can. Learn more about recommended memory capacities in my article, How Much RAM Do You Need for Gaming?.

Loading Times

Have you noticed the long loading screen when a game level starts or when switching locations? A large portion of this time is spent copying game assets from your storage device to memory.

Open-world games may contain too much data to copy all level data to your PC's memory at once. Instead, they load game assets for objects near your character. Games must read additional data from your storage device as you traverse the world. If your storage device isn't fast enough, you may notice stuttering or pausing until the assets load. Depending on the game's design, you may see objects or textures appearing after a delay. However, delayed object loading can sometimes relate to your GPU's capabilities.

Installation and Update Times

During gameplay, games seldom write to your storage device. However, game files are written to your storage device during installation and game patches.

During updates, installers can write many gigabytes of data. Game installers first write to your storage device when downloading a compressed copy of the game update. After that, game files are read and extracted, writing individual files to the device again.

You likely won't notice when the update is first written, as your Internet download speed may be around the same rate.

Hard disk drives will extract files slower due to the resulting files being non-contiguous (i.e., spread out across the disk). Because storage device writes are often slower than reading speeds, game patches can be painful to wait for with a slower storage device.

We can estimate that a hard drive could extract an update at an average write speed of 50 MB/s and read speed of 200 MB/s. At this rate, a hard disk drive would take 1.5 minutes to extract 6 GB of files during the game update.

The latest PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSDs, on the other hand, might write at speeds of 2 GB/s and read at 7 GB/s while extracting 6 GB of files. This type of SSD would take about 4 seconds, assuming that your CPU can keep up.

FPS

FPS (frames per second) is a measurement determined by what your computer needs to do every time it renders a frame from the game scene. Because games only need to read from a storage device when loading additional level assets into memory, upgrading a storage device will not impact your average FPS.

However, using a fast storage device like an NVMe SSD will significantly improve your experience. A fast storage device will reduce the time it takes to boot your computer, load games levels, and load assets when exploring a game world.

Hard Drive vs. SSD Read Speeds for Gaming

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Modern hard disk drives can reach up to 200 MB/s for large files. However, for smaller files that aren't located near each other on a hard drive, you can typically achieve read rates of only 1-3 MB/s. In comparison, the latest PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 drives can often reach speeds of up to 7 GB/s for large files and 2-3 GB/s for smaller scattered files.

For gaming, this means that your levels could load 35x faster by upgrading to the latest SSD devices and PCI-Express versions. This speed increase assumes that level data is collected into files that correlate with the level or map region. Unoptimized games with no asset organization could see a 1000x performance boost when loading data.

Check out my recommended M.2 SSDs and PCIe 4.0 CPUs and Motherboards below.

Samsung 980 PRO SSD with Heatsink 1TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe M.2 Samsung 980 PRO SSD with Heatsink 1TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe M.2 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

SSD Types and Interfaces: SATA, NVMe, M.2

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It's important to note that you may need to upgrade other PC components to achieve the fastest SSD speeds. NVMe SSDs currently provide the fastest available speeds.

SATA

The SATA interface can reach a max speed of 600 MB/s. The NVMe interface, on the other hand, is primarily limited by PCI-Express speeds.

SATA HDD

SATA hard disk drives can provide much higher capacities than SSDs, at a lower price. However, their read speeds are limited to about 200 MB/s due to their design.

SATA SSD

Consumer 2.5" SSDs always use the SATA interface, which means that if you want speeds faster than 600 MB/s, you'll need to upgrade to NVMe M.2 SSDs.

Check out my recommended SATA 2.5" SSDs below.

M.2

M.2 is a small form factor used by storage devices. M.2 devices are typically inserted into a port directly on a motherboard. PCIe expansion cards also exist with M.2 ports.

SATA M.2 SSD

Both SATA and NVMe M.2 cards exist but must be used with a compatible motherboard. When purchasing an M.2 device, ensure that your motherboard supports the form factor, as M.2 cards come in various lengths.

SATA M.2 cards run at SATA speeds, which means they are limited to 600 MB/s.

NVMe M.2 SSD

NVMe M.2 cards use the PCIe connection to provide a high throughput rate, with a max speed of 8 GB/s for PCIe 4.0.

Each version of PCI-Express roughly doubles the supported bandwidth. For example, a PCI-Express 4.0 NVMe M.2 card using x2 lanes may support up to twice the speed of a PCI-Express 3.0 card using the same number of lanes (same keying).

PCI-Express NVMe M.2 Speed (Rounded)
x2 Bandwidthx4 Bandwidth
PCIe 1.0 500 MB/s 750 MB/s
PCIe 2.0 1000 MB/s 2 GB/s
PCIe 3.0 2 GB/s 4 GB/s
PCIe 4.0 4 GB/s 8 GB/s
PCIe 5.0 8 GB/s 16 GB/s
PCIe 6.0 16 GB/s 32 GB/s

Check out my recommended NVMe M.2 SSDs below.

Learn more in my article, Storage Type Comparison: M.2, U.2, NVMe, SATA, SSDs, HDDs.

Add-in Card PCIe to NVMe M.2 SSD Adapter

If SATA speeds are too slow for you, but you don't have M.2 slots available on your motherboard, you might consider a PCIe to M.2 SSD add-in card adapter. Adapters will run at the speeds supported by your PCIe version.

M.2 PCIe NVMe 4.0/3.0 Adapter M.2 PCIe NVMe 4.0/3.0 Adapter Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Will an External USB SSD Work Well for Games?

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An internal SSD will achieve the fastest SSD speeds, but the latest USB speeds may be adequate and improve your game loading times in some cases.

When connecting an NVMe or SATA drive to a computer via a USB interface, it will be limited by the USB version and drive's supported speeds.

If your computer only has USB 2.0 ports, USB speeds would be slower than an internal hard drive, at around 60 MB/s.

On the other hand, if you have USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 ports and a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 SSD device, you could achieve speeds of 2.5 GB/s. This USB speed would be a third of the maximum possible speed of an internal PCIe 4.0 SSD (8 GB/s) but is still a big step up from hard drive speeds.

SanDisk 4TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD SanDisk 4TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
USB Speed
Mode NameMarketing NameBandwidth
USB 1.1 12 Mbps
USB 2.0 Hi-Speed 480 Mbps
USB 3.2 Gen 1x1 / USB 3.1 Gen 1 / USB 3.0 SuperSpeed USB 5Gbps 5 Gbps
USB 3.2 Gen 1x2 10 Gbps
USB 3.2 Gen 2x1 / USB 3.1 Gen 2 / USB 3.1 SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps 10 Gbps
USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps 20 Gbps
USB4 Gen 2x1 10 Gbps
USB4 Gen 2x2 USB4 20Gbps 20 Gbps
USB4 Gen 3x1 20 Gbps
USB4 Gen 3x2 USB4 40Gbps 40 Gbps

Our Favorite M.2 NVMe SSDs

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Best PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD: Samsung 980 PRO SSD

Best Value M.2 SSD: Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD

  • If you're more interested in cost than achieving the fastest speeds, this is a great value!
  • 1 TB Capacity
  • Read speeds up to 3500 MB/s
  • I've had many great experiences with Samsung SSD reliability! Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1TB SSD Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1TB SSD Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Our Favorite SATA 2.5" SSDs

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Best Value SATA SSD: Samsung 870 EVO 2TB SSD

  • This drive provides a good value for those who are interested in SATA SSDs
  • 2 TB Capacity
  • Because this is using the SATA interface, it can reach read speeds of up to 560 MB/s
  • I've had many great experiences with Samsung SSD reliability! Samsung 870 QVO SATA III SSD 2TB Samsung 870 QVO SATA III SSD 2TB Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Our Favorite PCIe 4.0 CPUs and Motherboards

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Best AMD High-Frequency CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

  • Up to 4.8 GHz: perfect for games, video editing, and high-intensity tasks.

  • 12 cores / 24 threads: High core count for the frequency! This combination makes it a great all-around system that can handle almost any job.

  • Check the latest price of the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X on Amazon (affiliate link).

    AMD Ryzen 9 5900X AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • For the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X CPU, you'll need a 5000 series motherboard with the X570 chipset to support PCIe 4.0.

  • Our recommended motherboard to pair with the Ryzen 9 5900X is MSI's MAG X570 TOMAHAWK WIFI Motherboard: MSI MAG X570 TOMAHAWK WIFI MSI MAG X570 TOMAHAWK WIFI Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 4.0 support
    • One 2.5 Gb Ethernet port is faster than most Internet speeds, with room to spare for file transfers.
    • Two NVMe M.2 slots both run at PCIe 4.0 speeds.
    • Wi-Fi 6 provides great Wi-Fi speeds (not Wi-Fi 6E, but still really good).
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2 offers 10 Gbps USB speeds.
    • Check the latest price of the MSI MAG X570 TOMAHAWK WIFI Motherboard on Amazon (affiliate link).

Best Intel High-Frequency CPU: Intel Core i9-11900K

  • Up to 5.3 GHz: perfect for games, video editing, and high-intensity tasks.

  • 8 cores / 16 threads: Quite a few cores considering the frequency! This combination makes it a great all-around system that can handle almost any task.

  • You'll want to use a good cooler, as the "Thermal Velocity Boost Frequency" feature will improve your clock speed based on how cool you can keep it.

  • Virtualization features make it great for running virtual machines.

  • Check the latest price of the Intel Core i9-11900K on Amazon (affiliate link).

    Intel Core i9-11900K Intel Core i9-11900K Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • For the Intel Core i9-11900K CPU, you'll need a motherboard with the Z590 chipset to support PCIe 4.0.

  • Our recommended motherboard to pair with the i9-11900K is ASUS's ROG Maximus XIII Hero: ASUS ROG Maximus XIII Hero ASUS ROG Maximus XIII Hero Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 4.0 support
    • Wi-Fi 6E makes it easy to reach the fastest speeds and future-proof your Wi-Fi system.
    • Four NVMe M.2 slots, which is a lot! (Only two of them run at PCIe 4.0 speeds)
    • Two 2.5 Gb Ethernet ports are faster than most Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the ASUS ROG Maximus XIII Hero on Amazon (affiliate link).

Best High-Core CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X

  • 64 cores / 128 threads: Insane number of cores/threads.

  • This CPU is going to be best for high-intensity multi-threading such as:

    • 3D graphics rendering (e.g., Blender/3DS Max/Maya)
    • CAD design, simulation, and visualization (e.g., AutoDesk Inventor)
    • Software that does a lot of physics analysis
  • Due to the high price, this CPU is best for business use-cases.

  • Check the latest price of the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X on Amazon (affiliate link).

  • AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X (affiliate link) is a backup option if this one isn't in stock and for lower budgets.

    AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • For the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X CPU, you'll need a motherboard with the TRX40 chipset to support PCIe 4.0.

  • Our recommended motherboard to pair with the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X is ASUS's ROG Zenith II Extreme Alpha: ASUS ROG Zenith II Extreme Alpha ASUS ROG Zenith II Extreme Alpha Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 4.0 support
    • Five NVMe M.2 slots all run at PCIe 4.0 seeds, which is insane!
    • One 10 Gb Ethernet port would allow you to transfer a 1 GB video file in under a second!
    • 1 USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USBs speeds; 9 USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports provide 10 Gbps; 8 USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports provide 5 Gbps; 3 USB 2.0 ports
    • Wi-Fi 6 provides great Wi-Fi speed (not Wi-Fi 6E, but still really good).
    • Bluetooth 5.0 is great for streaming music to Bluetooth headphones.
    • Check the latest price of the ASUS ROG Zenith II Extreme Alpha on Amazon (affiliate link).

Best Value CPU: Intel Core i5-11600K

  • Half the price of the i9-11900K, but still excellent performance at up to 4.9 GHz.

  • 6 cores / 12 threads: There are a decent number of threads to make it good at everyday multi-threading tasks, such as having tons of browser windows open.

  • Check the latest price of the Intel Core i5-11600K on Amazon (affiliate link).

  • Intel Core i5-11600KF (affiliate link) is a backup option if this one isn't in stock. It is the same other than the lack of integrated graphics support.

    Intel Core i5-11600K Intel Core i5-11600K Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
  • For the Intel Core i5-11600K CPU, you'll need a motherboard with the Z590 chipset to support PCIe 4.0.

  • Our recommended motherboard to pair with the i5-11600K is MSI's Z590 PRO WiFi ProSeries motherboard: MSI Z590 PRO WiFi ProSeries MSI Z590 PRO WiFi ProSeries Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

    • PCIe 4.0 support
    • Wi-Fi 6E makes it easy to reach the fastest speeds and future-proof your Wi-Fi system.
    • Bluetooth 5.2 is great for streaming music to Bluetooth headphones.
    • Three NVMe M.2 slots, which is pretty good! (Only one of them runs at PCIe 4.0 speeds)
    • Two 2.5 Gb Ethernet ports are faster than most Internet speeds with room to spare for file transfers.
    • USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 offers 20 Gbps USB speeds!
    • Check the latest price of the MSI Z590 PRO WiFi ProSeries on Amazon (affiliate link).

Other Considerations When Building a PC

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Want to brush up on other new technologies to consider when building a computer? Check out these articles:

Learn More About PCI-Express

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Want to brush up on the latest PCIe products, versions, and features? Check out the articles in this PCI-Express series: