When looking at a gaming PC build — whether an upcoming plan to build a PC, or upgrading a PC you already have — most gamers will prioritize researching the best CPU, GPU, and RAM they can get, as these are generally the most expensive items.
While prioritizing those should very much be the case, it isn’t everything you need to consider, though. There could be a bottleneck in your system, depending on where you decided to cut back on spending. Some do this on RAM, others when deciding whether or not to add liquid cooling to their CPU. For me? I’ve sometimes chosen to avoid spending money on new Hard Disk Drives (HDD) or Solid State Drives (SSD) for that matter — by reusing the storage I already have.
For as long as I’ve been building PCs, I’ve been known to carry over HDDs from one system to the next, to keep my PC build moderately priced. Now, I built my current PC back in 2016, but it is like living art, and it has evolved and changed from its original form. I’m at a point where it can handle games with their maximum settings enabled, and achieve over 60fps in 1440p resolution.
Why is my gaming PC slow?
However, I’ve always felt like my PC wasn’t as fast as it could be. Games would load “fast,” but there were times I had friends who had SSDs in their systems who were getting into multiplayer sessions sooner than I was, or a video I made was taking a really long time to render. Everything from Windows to video editing to gaming takes a toll on your PC in trying to read and write from a standard hard drive.
How do you know if you have a bottleneck?
Well you can start by going to: thebottlenecker.com — here you can input information about your CPU, GPU, RAM, HDDs, and more, and it’ll let you know where your system stands and what the likely bottleneck is. It’s a great tool especially when planning or currently building a system, to understand if you’re buying the right parts to optimize for what you want to do with it.
So, what’s the best upgrade to improve your PC’s performance, quickly and easily?
After doing some analysis, I opted to get one of the new Seagate BarraCuda SSDs in my system, because it’s a very cost-efficient way to get SSD speed and is a drop-in solution. The result? I’m no longer bottlenecked, and I’m noticing record loading times in games.
How much faster is a gaming PC with a new SSD?
I did some testing of load times from startup to main menu, and then to actually playing the game between HDD and SSD. In that time, and of the games I own, I saw the most benefit with three games in particular:
- Assassin’s Creed Origins — loaded 93 seconds faster than a HDD
- Monster Hunter: World — from start to playing was 30 seconds faster
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — loaded 89 seconds faster
I also saw significant improvements in other games like Dying Light, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, and Grand Theft Auto V. In fact, you’re likely to see faster load times in any game.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Windows 10 saw enormously decreased loading times as well. My original time to a fully usable desktop (including sign on) was 3 minutes and 4 seconds. With the BarraCuda SSD, I saw that time improve to a mere 38 seconds!
Should I install an SSD in a budget PC?
It is no surprise that SSDs can get expensive, depending on manufacturer and more importantly on storage capacity. But if you’re on a budget, it’s worth considering adding an SSD as a higher priority over CPU and GPU.
A budget build likely won’t be able to run everything in its highest settings, but with an SSD you’ll know there’s not a bottleneck due to your storage. BarraCuda SSD is actually a cost-effective drop-in upgrade for any PC or laptop with an HDD slot, and it comes in capacities up to 2TB so you don’t have to choose between capacity or performance. And the 5-year warranty is great.
And of course, if you have a higher budget, then you should absolutely purchase an SSD for your system, existing or new. For the fastest NVMe SSD speeds, Seagate offers their newest top-of-the-line FireCuda 520 SSD, as well as its cousin the FireCuda 510 SSD which earned the Editor’s Choice award at PC Mag. The benefits of having an SSD in your system far outweigh the cost. It certainly took me too long to realize that.
Everyone knows the benefits of Solid State Drives, but are hesitant to spend the money on them. I’ve found they are absolutely worth the investment and are vital to any PC build, budget or otherwise. They will change how you think about speed.