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Best hard drives 2021: the top HDD for desktops and laptops

Included in this guide:

Hard drives against a green colorblock background
(Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Get one of the best hard drives if you’re looking for the best value storage solution for your PC. You’re not just getting it cheaper than the best SSDs, but you’re also getting more storage capacity for less – a 4TB HDD and a 1TB SSD will end up costing you the same, for instance. And, it makes economic sense, especially if you need to buy storage solutions for your office or business.

It’s true that the SSDs come with higher speeds and are more durable, but hard drives are still reliable and capable of retrieving, saving, and protecting your important documents and projects. And, if you don’t need anything with blazing-fast read and write speeds anyway, it doesn’t really make sense to pay extra for that privilege. 

No matter if you’re looking for an external hard drive that can live on the road with you or an internal one to upgrade the best gaming PC you just bought, one of the best hard drives should be ideal for you. And, since Black Friday and Cyber Monday tend to roll out massive discounts on the most popular of them, you’ll save even more. In fact, you’ll save enough, that you should have no problem getting another one.


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Best hard drives at a glance

  1. Seagate BarraCuda
  2. Toshiba X300
  3. WD VelociRaptor
  4. WD Blue Desktop
  5. Seagate Firecuda Desktop
  6. Seagate IronWolf NAS
  7. Seagate FireCuda Mobile
  8. WD My Book
  9. G-Technology G-Drive

Best hard drive: Seagate BarraCuda

Seagate BarraCuda drives offer a great gigabyte-per-dollar ratio and speed benefits to top it off. (Image Credit: Seagate)

Best hard drive: Seagate BarraCuda

High RPM and storage at a low price

Specifications
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Capacity: 2 – 3TB
Cache: 64MB
RPM: 7,200
Reasons to buy
+Low cost+Fast spinning disks
Reasons to avoid
- Limited cache

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.

Best high capacity hard drive: Toshiba X300

The Toshiba X300 is a high-capacity, high-performance champ worth taking a look at. (Image Credit: Toshiba)

Best high capacity hard drive: Toshiba X300

Big drives at nimble speeds

Specifications
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Capacity: 4 – 8TB
Cache: 128MB
RPM: 7,200
Reasons to buy
+Massive storage+High speeds
Reasons to avoid
-Short warranty

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.

Best gaming hard drive: WD VelociRaptor

Kick it old school with one of the best hard drives with the WD VelociRaptor. (Image Credit: Western Digital)

Best gaming hard drive: WD VelociRaptor

Faster spinning, faster gaming

Specifications
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Capacity: 250GB – 1TB
Cache: 64MB
RPM: 10,000
Reasons to buy
+Insane HDD speed+Built-on cooler
Reasons to avoid
-Priced like an SSD

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 

Best budget hard drive: WD Blue Desktop

The WD Blue is a viable pick for almost any type of PC build that’s sticking to a budget. (Image Credit: Western Digital)

Best budget hard drive: WD Blue Desktop

Heavy on storage, light on price

Specifications
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Capacity: 500GB – 6TB
Cache: 64MB
RPM: 5,400 – 7,200
Reasons to buy
+An option for every budget+Faster option available
Reasons to avoid
-Less value from smaller drives

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. 

Best hybrid hard drive: Seagate Firecuda Desktop

The SeaGate FireCuda is the best hybrid hard drive on the market. (Image Credit: Seagate)

Best hybrid hard drive: Seagate Firecuda Desktop

Faster than a HDD, cheaper than an SSD

Specifications
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Capacity: 1TB – 2TB + 8GB
Cache: 64 MB
RPM: 7,200
Reasons to buy
+NAND-boosted performance+An already fast platter
Reasons to avoid
-No competition

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.

Best NAS hard drive: Seagate IronWolf NAS

Seagate IronWolf NAS drives come at a premium (Image Credit: Seagate)

Best NAS hard drive: Seagate IronWolf NAS

Storage-galore for the network

Specifications
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Capacity: 6 – 12TB
Cache: 256MB
RPM: 7,200
Reasons to buy
+Ready for RAID+Faster than smaller options
Reasons to avoid
-Pricier than non-NAS drives

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. 

Best laptop hard drive: Seagate FireCuda Mobile

Seagate’s 2.5-inch FireCuda hybrid drive strikes a nice balance. (Image Credit: Seagate)

Best laptop hard drive: Seagate FireCuda Mobile

Adds more pep to a laptop than an HDD

Specifications
Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Capacity: 500GB – 2TB + 8GB
Cache: 64 MB
RPM: 5,400
Reasons to buy
+Multiple capacity options+Performance above a standard HDD
Reasons to avoid
-Flash storage comes at a premium

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.

Best game console hard drive: WD My Book

The WD My Book strikes an amazing balance of storage and price. (Image Credit: Western Digital)

Best game console hard drive: WD My Book

For when you need to fit all the games

Specifications
Interface: USB 3.0
Capacity: 3 – 20TB
Reasons to buy
+Massive storage options+Simpler upgrade solution
Reasons to avoid
-Potentially slower

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.

Best external hard drive: G-Technology G-Drive

The G-Technology G-Drive offers huge amounts of storage but thanks to Thunderbolt 3 compatibility. (Image Credit: G-Technology)

Best external hard drive: G-Technology G-Drive

Life in spinning disks

Specifications
Interface: USB 3.1 (Type-C)
Capacity: 4 – 10TB
Reasons to buy
+ Fantastic performance + USB Type-C V2 
Reasons to avoid
- Bigger than expected 

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 

Mark Knapp

Over the last several years, Mark has been tasked as a writer, an editor, and a manager, interacting with published content from all angles. He is intimately familiar with the editorial process from the inception of an article idea, through the iterative process, past publishing, and down the road into performance analysis.