Microsoft has reportedly started pushing PC manufacturers to make a major hardware change in the next year. The Windows maker supposedly wants computers to no longer ship with spinning boot drives, moving all PCs to solid state drives (SSDs) by 2023. OEMs are apparently nonplussed with the request, fearing it could drive up costs in machines that are aimed at budget- conscious buyers.
SSDs have become the de facto standard in most computers today — even mid-range laptops will ship with an SSD instead of a spinning drive because the performance of an SSD is vastly superior to traditional hard drives. In systems that have space, manufacturers might still choose to include a spinning drive, which can offer more capacity at a lower price. However, this is not the practice Microsoft aim to end. It wants Windows running on SSDs for the performance boost.
Currently, Microsoft still allows users to install Windows 11 on a spinning drive, provided the partition has at least 64GB of space. That’s not likely to change in 2023, but it could become almost unheard of to find a PC for sale that runs that way. It’s unclear why Microsoft would make this push in the middle of a product’s life cycle. Only two features in Windows 11, DirectStorage and the Windows Subsystem for Android, require an SSD. The company’s push to end the era of HDDs could portend more features that require faster storage, though.
PC makers are allegedly concerned that low-cost machines could become less useful following such a change. It’s not uncommon to see inexpensive laptops with a 1TB hard drive, and moving to an SSD would require either raising the cost or going with a smaller amount of storage, something in the range of 256GB. Most OEMs don’t believe that’s enough for average consumers anymore, except for Apple of course. Those buying machines with basic hardware are less likely to be concerned with faster storage, instead preferring expansive volumes (even if they’re slow) paired with a low price. Gamers, designers, and others who need fast storage tend not to purchase budget machines in the first place.
Despite SSDs getting bigger and cheaper over the years, hard drives are still the king when it comes to value. If you need to store a lot of video, images, or other bulky data, spinning drives can accommodate up to 26TB of it. Microsoft’s partners are said to be pushing for a longer transition timeframe, possibly to 2024 or later. That would give SSD production more time to catch up with spinning drive costs per gigabyte.