Fastest hard drive of 2024

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In the quest for the fastest hard drive, it's essential to delve deeper than just read and write speeds. 

The right choice depends on various factors, including what you intend to store and transfer, and the volume of data involved. Whether you're upgrading your laptop's hard drive or equipping a network-attached storage (NAS) device with a high-speed option, understanding the nuances of different drives is crucial.

One common question is, "Is an SSD a hard drive?" While many might call an SSD (Solid State Drive) a hard drive out of habit, an SSD is quite different from a traditional HDD (Hard Disk Drive) with spinning platters in terms of design and performance. Without going too deep into the 'SSD vs HDD' debate, in essense, SSDs offer faster data access and are more durable due to the absence of moving parts, but typically have lower maximum storage capacities than HDDs and are more expensive. For instance, finding an SSD over 8TB can be challenging, while HDDs, while slower, can have capacities of 20TB or even more.

When considering the best hard drive for your needs, it's important then to avoid comparing them too much with the best SSDs, since they'll never match an SSD's speed. But for long-term storage or remote file access with the best NAS hard drives, different considerations often win out. That doesn't mean, though, that you want a slow, inefficient storage solution.

So our focus then is finding the fastest hard drives available today that are suitable for upgrading existing devices. We've intentionally excluded the best external hard drives, best portable SSD, fastest external hard drive, and SSD/HDD hybrid options to concentrate on the pure performance of standalone hard drives. This guide aims to help you navigate through the choices to find the fastest hard drive that offers the speed and capacity you need for your specific situation.

The fastest hard drive of 2024 in full:

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We've extensively tested many of the best and fastest hard drive models on the market today for internal server, desktop, and laptop form factors, and have picked our top hard drives for each category below.

The fastest hard drive overall

Seagate IronWolf Pro 20TB

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

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. 

The fastest server hard drive

(Image credit: Seagate)

2. Seagate EXOS MACH.2 2x18

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 contains two independent actuators 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.

The fastest hard drive for laptops

(Image credit: Seagate)

3. Seagate BarraCuda

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. 

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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.

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