I am about to buy a new laptop mainly for music production. I know that elements such as the RAM or CPU are very important, but I was mainly interested in the hard drive. I did a research and this what I found: You don’t need an SSD for music production they may be faster, but, a simple HDD Drive at 7200 RPM will do the job, however, I do recommend using two separate hard drives one for the OS and one for your music libraries.
My research didn’t stop there, there were a lot more to consider such as internal or external storage options and their different types, plus I considered signing up for cloud-based storage space and skip the drive thing altogether! Eventually, I ended up with a weird but practical combination!
What is the difference between an SSD and HDD?
I am not going to bore you with detailed technical information instead I am going to focus on the practical differences between these two drives.
SSD stands for solid state drive well HDD’s stand for hard disk drives. You can think of an SSD being an oversized USB memory stick, both of them don’t have any moving parts, the information in an SSD is stored in microchips.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, HDDs do have moving parts, they use a mechanical arm to read/write information on a storage platter. This difference may not seem very important, but it’s the main reason why people prefer SSD’s over HDD’s, they are simply faster and more reliable (a.k.a. They have a greater chance of surviving if you drop them.)
The main advantage of an HDD is that it’s capable of storing cheaply large amounts of data. Therefore, if you are on a budget an HDD will be the best option.
A Dedicated hard drive for music production
I remember when I first started producing I did everything from a single hard drive it was a 512GB HDD 5400 RPM (!) and I remember that it was very slow.
Later I discovered that it’s best to have more than one hard drives if you’re serious about music production
What is an operating drive?
An operating drive is a drive where your OS is installed, commonly we will find in the same drive the DAW installation, the plug-ins, and virtual instruments (VSTs). This is also the place where every other program runs on your computer.
If I had to choose I would pick for my operating drive an SSD with at least 256 GBs capacity ideally I would use a 512GB SSD. The reason for this is I have found that an SSD makes my programs and DAW run faster, Now and HDD would be just perfectly fine doing the same job, it’s just they are a tad slower.
What is a write drive?
A write drive is a dedicated disc where you write your recordings and store your project files on. This option is quite popular amongst producers who work on more than one PCs. Using a dedicated write drive has a few more advantages.
- Faster overall performance since our A drive is used for reading (vsts, programs, DAW, etc) and our B drive is used for writing (recordings, project files, etc).
- If you need to perform a format and reinstall your OS you won’t lose your recordings and project files since they are stored on a separate location. This can be a huge timesaver And an extra layer of security since there is no chance you accidentally delete anything important while performing the format.
Do I need a dedicated drive for sample libraries?
This greatly depends on the size of your sample library, if you’re like me, you have probably over 500GB of samples stored in your computer.
Only the samples that I download from splice and the sample packs I have bought over the last years are over 100GB. Then I also have an active subscription at east-west sounds, I use Omnisphere, Trillian, and Kontakt. You can see how this quickly adds up!
Some people use SSD’s for their sample libraries and others simply use HDD’s. I found that with SSD’s, samples will load faster but compared to the price difference it’s not worth the upgrade plus, I already have everything already installed. If I decide someday to upgrade to SSDs it would probably take me close to a week to install everything from the beginning again. I rather spend that time producing :).
Do I need a dedicated drive for backups?
If you don’t have at least three backups of something, then assume you have no backups at all. My go-to backup drive is either from Lacie or from Transcend. Risers are reasonable their drives rarely fail plus they look good.
If you decide to back up your project files samples and VST’s (which Is something I highly recommend you should do) Please don’t use just any hard drive. I’ve made that mistake in the past, using an external hard drive that was not rugged and I paid the price, I accidentally dropped it and lost all my data. By clicking on this link you can read my backup drive comparison, I explained what you should use and what to avoid, I’ve included an option for every budget. Click here to read more.
Internal or external hard drives?
Of course, your operating system drive will be internal the rest of your drive can be either internal or external. For me, it depends if I’m working from a laptop or a PC.
On my studio PC, I use a combination of internal and external drives, but I tend to prefer a couple of 1TB HDD’s 7200 RPM for my sample library, a 128GB SSD for my project files and recordings, and a 256GB SSD for my operating system.
On my laptop, I have again a 1TB 7200RPM HDD for my sample library but I also stole my recordings in project files on the same drive, then I have a 256GB SSD for my OS.
I have set up Both on my laptop and PC a backup system that combines external and internal drives as well an extra backup in the cloud and a fourth whole system backup on a dedicated 4TB external hard drive. I know you’re probably thinking I’m being a bit paranoid, (and I probably am :D) but hey, better be safe than sorry.
How much storage do I need?
Again this greatly depends on the size of your sample library general guideline would be by the double of what you think you will need. If you estimate you’ll need 500GB buy a 1T, As you probably will end up using more space than your initial calculation. One thing I have to recommend is by big enough hard drive for your OS. If you buy an SSD don’t rely on 128GB drive, instead by a 256BG or bigger. You can always add an extra drive and transfer some of your samples, but it’s very difficult to install new software separate hard drive.
How to organize my sample library?
It’s better to organize your Sample library from the very start, I remember when I decided to organize my library after just a year of music production, it was a complete CHAOS! It took me days to fit everything into folders and organize them neatly, but the reward was amazing seems I speed up my workflow about 50%!
Here is what I recommend,
- For VST libraries: Create a folder in your sample library drive, I named mine “MUSIC STUDIO LIBRARIES DON’T DELETE”. Now create subfolders for each instrument you use, mine looks something like this
- For your audio and midi sample library I use Dropbox. Because I produce on a laptop and one a PC Dropbox allows me to have one place to store all my samples that are automatically synched every time I add or remove a sample. I categorize my samples based on genre and instrument type. Here is how my sample library looks like.
As we saw above an SSD Is a welcoming addition but it’s not necessary for music production. More important is the quality of your craft and the love you put in your productions.
I hope I have helped you decide on what is best for you and your production needs. I had a lot of fun writing this post!