All the parts of your computer work together to affect the outcome. Hard drive cache affects gaming in a few specific ways. First, it slows down how load times for maps, levels and cutscenes. Second, it can decrease the graphics potential of your games. Finally, in open world games, it can cause slowdown. However, hard drive cache is not the only hard drive symptom that can cause bad performance in games. In this article, we’ll detail strategies to fix this problem, offer solutions and speculate on what could be slowing down your games.
When your game loads, it’s loading from the files on your hard drive. This is the most noticeable problem of having a slow hard drive with a low cache. If you’ve ever been stuck in a lobby waiting for a map to load, this could be because someone’s hard drive is working on overdrive and isn’t going fast enough. When playing graphic intense solo-games, you’ll notice slow lag times if your hard drive is fragmenting the large files. A big, multi-terabyte hard drive will prevent fragmentation, so this will increase load times in single player games. Finally, in an open world game, as well as some first-person shooters, the game will load the levels during game play. Think of a game like Skyrim: with a massive map like that, there’s no way you could load the entire map without maxing out your RAM. So, when your computer is searching for files while you play, a slow hard drive can negatively impact these in-game load times.
Hard drive cache can also affect the graphics of your game. We bet you’ve seen games with massive frame-rate issues—where mountains just pop out of no where. This is especially common in he 64-bit era games. When you’re playing modern PC games, your system is running graphically intense programs and rendering massive amounts of visual data as you play. This is almost entirely done by your graphics card. If you’re experiencing graphics issues, that’s the first thing to trouble shoot. However, you’ll find that a slow hard drive—or an old hard drive that’s right on the cusp of crashing—is going to limit the graphical performance of your system as well. A faster hard drive cache, and a more reliable hard drive, is going to improve graphic qualities on your games.
Open world games are increasingly popular in the big-studio games market. This is great for gamers who want a lot of choice in the way they play, but it’s incredibly intense for your rig to render these graphics on the fly. Consider that your hard drive is pulling up files and rendering them constantly while you’re playing an open world game. Because of this, you need a reliable hard drive that has good cache size—then your drive can easily recall files that you’ve been using recently. Because an open world game has so many files to call, this is important when playing games with a giant map.
Now, your cache size isn’t the only thing to consider if you want to improve the performance of your games. Your transfer rates affect the hard drive cache, so let’s take a look at those. There’s two metrics to consider: burst speed and read speed. Burst speed is the measurement demonstrating how long it takes data to be sent to your cache. Read speed is how long it takes for data to be written to the drive itself. For gaming, burst speed is going to affect how well your games perform because the faster your burst speed, the better your system will call the stored data from your hard drive. Read speed will affect how long it takes to install games and save files, but if you’re playing online, look for hard drives with a high burst speed.
Access time is another component of your hard drive that you should consider when choosing a model. It’s measured in milliseconds (ms) so you actually want this metric to be low—the fewer the milliseconds, the less time it takes for a task to be accomplished. Access speed measures how long it takes for your hard drive to seek the files needed—and usually clocks in between 10-15 ms. Remember, models with faster access speed will have a lower listed metric.
In conclusion, your hard drive cache is storing large files needed to play a game—it’s like a table with all your important files on it. The more table space, the better. This will improve performance in load times, graphics and stop glitching in open world games. Hard drive speed is also determined by burst speed, read speed, and access time. These three metrics determine how quickly your hard drive can access the files in the cache. When you’re building your own computer, make sure to consider the size of your hard drive’s cache and how fast it pulls up files.