Fastest hard drives of 2023

Image of a hard drive
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Finding the fastest hard drive isn’t as simple as comparing stats for read and write speeds, and you’ll need to consider what you’re looking to store and transfer, and how much of it. There are a number of stellar HDD options available if you’re looking to give your laptop’s hard drive a long overdue upgrade, or even if you’re looking to fit your network-attached storage (NAS) device with a super-fast drive. You’ll certainly be taking different factors into consideration depending on what you need a hard drive for, with the best laptops demanding a relatively reduced storage capacity against, say, a server. Form factor’s also important, so you should consider whether a 2.5in or 3.5in is best.

It’s worth saying that the fastest HDDs may never reach the speeds of the best SSDs. While SSDs offer many advantages, such as being more robust due to the lack of moving parts, you can’t exceed 8TB, and they’re generally far more pricy compared with HDDs. 

When determining the fastest hard drives available today, we’ve considered both 2.5in and 3.5in internal drives that can be fitted into devices you’re looking to upgrade. We’ve also excluded all external and portable options, alongside SSD/HDD hybrids, so the likes of the excellent Seagate FireCuda drive won’t be taken into account.

Backup large drives online with cloud storage

Backup large drives online with cloud storage IDrive, the cloud backup veteran, delivers tons of storage online for an incredibly small outlay. 10TB for $3.98 for the first year is unmatched till now and so is the support for unlimited devices and the extensive file versioning system available. Even the biggest SSD or HDD need a cloud storage to secure data.

Seagate IronWolf Pro 20TB

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
Hard drive with the highest transfer speeds
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Reasons to buy

20TB of capacity
Better performance over 18TB
Modest price increase

Reasons to avoid

300TB/y workload

There’s no discussing fast HDDs without mentioning Seagate, which has specialized in engineering high-speed hard drives for zonks. Enter The Seagate Ironwolf Pro, a block of metal that encases 11 2TB platters, and 22 heads, which operate within a helium atmosphere. This hard drive option is engineered for NAS devices, which is perfect if you’re looking to build a comprehensive backup regime for your movies, photo albums, music, and other kinds of media, or even for small businesses 

It boasts exceptional read and write speeds; we recorded speeds of 286.8MB/s and 279.3MBps respectively in the 20TB iteration, based on testing via CrystalDiskMark, although  This is roughly 10% faster than the previous 18TB drive and is sure to be beaten again by the newly launched 22TB iteration of the zippy HDD. 

This 3.5in SATA HDD also has a 7200 RPM spindle speed, alongside a 512MB cache, with an annual workload of 550TB and mean time before failure of 1.2 million hours – meaning professionals can share and collaborate on large quantities of data. It’s a great option, if not on the pricier side, and the 36-month warranty should offer some comfort should things go awry down the line. 


(Image credit: Seagate)
Fastest hard drive for servers

Seagate unveiled its dual-actuator MACH.2 hard drive technology back in 2021 with the 3.5in Exos 2x14 – the fastest HDD released at the time with a data transfer rate of 524MB/s, and exceptional sequential read and write performance. Available in both SAS and SATA, these drives have been at the cutting edge of HDD technology for data center operators. 

Seagate listed the 2nd generation of the Exos MACH.2 family in November last year in several variants, with the fastest boasting a maximum sustained transfer rate of 554MB/s based on a 12Gb/s interface access speed, according to the company. These kinds of speeds, if they’re reached in real-world settings, can even rival some SSDs and offers far more bang for buck than many on the market. That said, pricing depends on several factors, so you’d have to get in touch directly with Seagate to get more information. 

Designed primarily for servers based in data centers, the multi-actuator hard drive technology is made up of two hermetically sealed and helium-filled hard drives that transfer data concurrently. The upside of essentially double the performance with double the number of actuators comes at a cost of much higher power consumption, however, but this shouldn’t be a massive problem for its target market. These ultra-fast hyperscale drives are perfect for cloud-based performance workloads, and heavy workloads, and are certainly not suitable for home-based appliances.

Seagate Barracuda

(Image credit: Seagate)
Fastest hard drive for notebooks

There’s no underestimating the power of a fast laptop hard drive when it comes to having as good a quality of experience as possible; there’s no more frustrating bottleneck than a file transfer that’s taking much longer than it should. Seagate’s BarraCuda series is renowned for being one of the best options money can buy if you’re looking to upgrade your laptop’s hard drive. This fantastic 2.5in HDD provides a great storage option for critical files, and it’s certainly an upgrade worth making the jump if you’re in the market to do so. The Seagate BarraCuda family of HDDs has been around since 2016, with the latest versions operating with a  SATA III interface, at 6Gb/s, as well as a 128MB buffer cache and a 5,400RPM spindle speed in most models, alongside a reported data transfer rate of up to 140MB/s. 

While the Seagate BarraCuda is available in models up to 5TB, there are slight variations between them. The 1TB and 2TB versions have a 7mm form factor, while options going up to 5TB are 15mm tall. The 1TB version, in particular, has a data transfer rate of 160 MB/s and a spindle speed of 7,200 RPM, making it the fastest option if you’re looking to upgrade your notebook’s storage. If speed is your priority, the fastest hard drive for notebooks right now is the 1TB option. 

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.