As we roll into the second half of 2022, you might ask what place hard drives even have in the world now when SATA SSDs and M.2 NVMe SSDs have been on the market for some time and are much faster and have ever larger capacities. All that being said, a good hard drive can be a great value proposition for files that you don't need very often. They can also offer significantly larger capacities as well, which makes them great options for home media and file servers.
- John Loeffler, US Computing Editor
You're going to want to use the best hard drive for long-term file storage or for network-attached storage (NAS) servers to make sure you have both enough space for your important files as well as having decent protection against inevitable hard drive failure.
The best hard drives, also known as HDDs, are going to be reliable with large capacities and generally lower prices than a solid state drive (SSD) with the same capacity. Even the worst SSD, however, will perform better than the best HDD in terms of file transfer rates and general performance just by virtue of the technology, so the best SSD is going to absolutely smoke the best hard drive in the world.
So why even go with an HDD then? Well, one of the biggest advantages of an HDD is their significantly larger capacities. You can get HDD with capacities up to 20TB right now, and while these can be pretty expensive, when you compare their price per gigabyte of capacity, they are an incredible value.
For example, a Seagate IronWolf Pro 20TB NAS hard drive has a list price of $629 (about £500 / AU$880), but you can regularly get one on Amazon (opens in new tab) or Newegg (opens in new tab) for $399 (about £320 / AU$560). That's just over 51GB per dollar spent.
An SSD meanwhile, will cost you way more and you won't be able to get the same kinds of capacity. This Samsung 870 QVO 8TB SATA SSD at Newegg is $649 (opens in new tab) (about £500 / AU$880), which amounts to just over 12.6GB per dollar spent, or just over four times to price per GB. Even if you take the HDD's list price as your basis, you're still getting much more capacity per dollar, which is what makes HDDs so attractive for low-priority storage.
But which HDD will get you the right amount of storage and performance? Fortunately, we're here to break it down to help you find the best hard drive for you, regardless of your need or budget. We’ve even included a price comparison tool so you can get the best hard drive deal available.
Best hard drives 2022 - Chosen by our experts
It’s almost impossible to talk about hard drives without mentioning Seagate’s BarraCuda lineup – it’s a force to be reckoned with. And, it’s not hard to see why, Seagate BarraCuda drives offer a great gigabyte-per-dollar ratio and speed benefits to top it off. The 2TB model hits a sweet spot by balancing high performance and affordability. Since this drive combines 7,200rpm platters and high density data, computers outfitted with this drive will be able to read data extraordinarily fast.
Western Digital offers a solid bargain with its line of WD Blue hard drives. With a wide variety of storage options from a small 500GB to a capacious 6TB, the WD Blue is a viable pick for almost any type of PC build that’s sticking to a budget. The best value comes from the larger drives – they’ll give you much more storage per dollar spent. And, if you’re looking for a bit more speed, there are also 7,200rpm models available that don’t come with too much of a price hike.
Even if its laptops aren’t as popular as they used to be, Toshiba is still a huge name in computing, and has a lot to offer. When it comes to the best hard drives, the Toshiba X300 is a high-capacity, high-performance champ worth taking a look at. The X300 drives boast great gigabyte-to-dollar value without sacrificing on performance. These drives all spin at 7,200 rpm and include 128MB of cache for higher speeds. The only downside is the warranty only lasts two years, which feels short for a drive meant to store so much important data.
When it comes to PC gaming, it’s better to be fast than capacious. So, if you’ve been resisting the allure of an SSD, and looking to kick it old school with one of the best hard drives, the WD VelociRaptor should be up your alley. Not only does this drive have a whopping 10,000 rpm spin speed, but you’re going to want to pay attention to it. With capacities up to 1TB, the VelociRaptor drives are ready to store large game libraries, and the super fast platters will help your games launch and load quickly.
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Seagate FireCuda
SSDs are incredibly popular, and it’s not hard to see why. But, if you need a lot of fast storage, and you don’t have a vault of cash, hybrid hard drives are a great option. The SeaGate FireCuda is the best hybrid hard drive on the market. It can fit up to 2TB of data, and then its 8GB of solid state cache storage learns which data you use most, so that you can access it quickly. That speed boost is even sweeter when you consider that this drive spins at 7,200rpm. With a 5-year warranty and an approachable price tag, it’s easy to see why this is one of the best hard drives you can buy today.
It’s a little unfortunate that the Seagate IronWolf NAS drives come at a premium, but they aren’t priced much more expensively than a standard hard drive at their capacity. However, their native NAS optimization makes that premium totally worth it. These drives are capable of running at a fast 7,200rpm spin rate 24/7 without having to worry about drive failure. Really, if you have one of the best NAS devices for your business or home, the Seagate IronWolf NAS really is your best bet.
Upgrading the storage in a laptop can be tough, since the hard drives are much smaller. There aren’t a lot of impressive 2.5-inch hard drives, as anything fast comes with a serious markup, but Seagate’s 2.5-inch FireCuda hybrid drive strikes a nice balance. It offers an easy way to add loads of storage to a laptop while also giving it a speed boost thanks to 8GB of flash storage. A five-year warranty on the drive will also help ensure it lasts a long time.
Game consoles hard drives fill up fast with massive libraries. And, like laptops, the upgrade path for 2.5-inch hard drives isn’t all that great, but that’s where an external drive comes in. The WD My Book strikes an amazing balance of storage and price, offering enough room for massive game libraries. Running on USB 3.0, it may not be quite as fast as an internal drive upgrade, but it will run games and offer more storage at a cheaper rate.
A lot of people seem to think that the best hard drives are ancient and dead technology. However, with devices like the G-Technology G-Drive, you can show the naysayers in your life that spinning disks have their own place in the future. Not only does this external hard drive offer huge amounts of storage – up to 10 TB – but thanks to Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, it can even charge your laptop while you work. If you have a MacBook Pro, it’s hard to think of a better work companion.
Read the full review: G-Technology G-Drive
How to shop for a new hard drive
So how do you know which hard drive is best for you? There are a lot of things to consider, so it's not as simple as just buying the "best" hard drive.
Which hard drive is best?
That depends entirely on whether you want speed, capacity, or value, but the best hard drive overall is the Seagate BarraCuda for its excellent capacity for the price. If you're talking about the best hard drive by value, we'd pick the Western Digital WD Blue Desktop hard drive.
What’s the difference between a hard drive and an SSD?
There are a few differences between a hard drive and an SSD, but it’s important to first note that they pretty much have the same job, they just function differently.
Traditional hard drives have a circular disk (platter) that stores your data - as the disk spins, the read-write arm reads data on the disc or writes data to it as it spins. Solid state drives (SSDs) have no moving parts, instead using NAND (Negative-AND) flash memory - the more memory chips an SSD has, the more storage capacity.
Price-wise, you’ll typically find that hard drives are less expensive than SSDs and offer quite a bit more storage capacity for a lower price. However, SSDs tend to be a lot faster than even the best hard drives because they don’t have to rely on moving parts like HDDs. The best SSDs can function up to 10 times faster than traditional hard drives.
There’s a third option in the SSD vs HDD conversation as well - hybrid drives (SSHDs) offer the speed of an SSD and the capacity of a traditional HDD in a single drive. An option like this would be great if you don’t have space for multiple hard drives and want the best of both worlds.
Is HDD or SSD better?
Generally, you're going to get the best performance out of an M.2 NVMe SSD, followed by a SATA SSD, and then a 7,200 RPM HDD, with a 5,400 RPM HDD coming in last. That said, an HDD can offer much higher capacities, making them great for longer term storage of files you don't need to access regularly.