Best HDDs for Network Attached Storage in 2021

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One question that we answer a lot is - which Hard drive is best for a particular NAS ( Network-attached storage) . All the major NAS vendors - QNAP, Synology, Asustor, and TerraMaster are diskless so purchasing always involves 2 decisions - Deciding on the NAS device and on the Hard drives

Quick tips for choosing a Hard drive for your NAS

Before we reveal our editor's choice, here are a few things you need to consider when you buy a hard drive for your NAS.

Interface: SAS or SATA ( Mostly It's SATA )
Choose the SATA interface drives, Unless your NAS supports SAS drives ( high-end enterprise models do), SATA is the drive to go.

Grade: Enterprise or Network grade ( Take Enterprise if Budget suits)
Enterprise-Grade Drives are THE BEST. Pick up an Enterprise-grade drive if you can ( WD Ultrastar, Seagate Exos, Toshiba MG series ). Don't settle for anything less than NAS grade ( WD red, Seagate Ironwolf, or Toshiba N300). Never use a Desktop grade drive like Barracuda, green etc in your NAS.

RPM : 5400, 5900, 7200 , 10K or 15K ( Doesn't matter much)
RPM is an overstated quality. Yes, 7200 RPM is faster than 5400 RPM , but only marginally. There are many other things like caching, recording technology, the number of actuators, drive capacity, etc that contribute to the speed of a drive.10K and 15K RMP drives are only available in small form factor ( 2.5" drives), in small capacities ( 300G, 600G.. up to 2.4TB), and only with SAS interface. They are only used in enterprise environments. So your choices are between 7200 and lower. Take a 7200 RPM drive, if you have the option , but 5400 and 5900 RPM drives are not slow. In fact most of the NAS grade drives you find are 5400 or 5900 RPM.

All the vendors offer SSD Caching and if you want better performance, go with SSD Caching ( using a small SSD to hold your frequently accessed data, while HDDs hold the primary data).

SMR vs CMR ( Never SMR, take CMR)
You probably know this already, but we will again state it. Avoid SMR if you can. CMR drives are better than SMR.

Warranty : 3 Years, 5 Years, Full and Limited ( Choose what suits you)
Both WD and Seagate NAS drives ( Red, Ironwolf) offer 3 years limited warranty. Toshiba N300 is 3 years full replacement warranty. Likewise in Enterprise drives - both Seagate Exos and WD Ultrastar offer 5 years limited, and Toshiba MG is 5 years full replacement warranty. Limited warranty means each passing year your drive's value depreciates and you get a partial refund for the drive if it fails. Full warranty means you always get a new drive in return when your drive fails. Its not a big deal, but if you want a Full replacement warranty, Toshiba is your only choice.

Which brand ( forget the brand, look at the drive)
Which brand is better , This is a never settling debate. No industry research proves one vendor is better than the other. Brand Bias exists and arises when you have a previous Failed drive experience and you associate the brand with a failed drive. All mechanical drives are prone to failure. The drive that fits your budget, gets you the functions and features you want is the best, irrespective of which brand it is from. Don't let Brand Bias keep you from choosing a good drive from a brand you think is not reliable.

Helium filled or Air-filled Drives ( Doesn't matter)
Just because all the higher capacity drives are helium-filled doesn't mean they are better. Helium is used to reduce the drag when the drive spins- and that's that. A helium drive is sealed ( hence the alternate name helio-sealed) to keep helium from escaping so it means a higher cost. WD used to have 10TB Helium Drives. Then they managed to reduce the platter size and made a 10TB Air drive - it was cheaper, performed the same, and then helium was dropped from the product line.

Bottom line - Both Air and Helium drives offer you the same performance and reliability.


How we recommend the best hard drives for your NAS

We look at the price, capacity, grade, RPM, recording technology and extra features and then combine it with our experience of selling hundreds of drives a month and curate a list of drives that we think are the best. We revise the list whenever there is a change in the specifications, this list is complied Beginning of 2021.

If you are still contemplating which brand, here is a list of major attributes of each brand product line that could help you make your mind up

WD Ultrastar :
+ Solid Reliability
+ 5 Years Limited Warranty
+ Data center grade. Upto 18TB
+ CMR
+ 7200 RPM
Seagate Exos :
+ Solid Reliability
+ 5 Years Limited Warranty
+ Data center grade. Upto 18TB
+ CMR
+ 7200 RPM
WD Red Plus :
+ NAS Grade
+ 3 Years Limited Warranty
- 5400 RPM
- Expensive
Seagate Ironwolf
+ NAS Grade
+ 3 Years Limited Warranty
+ 2 years Data Recovery Rescue Included
- 5900 RPM
WD Red
+ NAS Grade
+ 3 Years Limited Warranty
- SMR
- 5400 RPM
Toshiba N300
+ NAS Grade
+ Full Warranty
+ CMR
+ 7200 RPM

Best Hard drives for your Network-attached Storage (NAS)

Seagate Ironwolf 4TB
With the Data Rescue bundle inclusing, Seagate Ironwolf is the top choice today in the NAS Drives.
Seagate Ironwolf 6TB
A Top Seller that never disappoints you. The Ironwolf 6TB has just the right capacity and the right price
What we Like : CMR Drives, 3 years Limited Warranty, Data Rescue What we Like : CMR Drives, 3 years Limited Warranty, Data Rescue
WD Ultrastar 8TB
Reliability is the first word that comes to mind when you hear Ultrastar. 8TB is a very cost effective model and if you can pick it up in place of Red, its a bargain. .
WD Ultrastar 10TB
10TB Ultrastar is very popular, specially during promotion times when we sell it for the same price as Red
What we Like : CMR Drives, 5 years Limited Warranty, 7200 RPM What we Like : CMR Drives, 5 years Limited Warranty, 7200 RPM
Seagate Exos 16TB
Seagate Exos are the Enterprise-grade hard drives, designed to work in the datacenter and enterprise applications. 16TB is a massive drive and very popular for high density installations
WD Red Plus 4TB
WD Red usually is the most aggressively marketed drive and would be the choice for NAS. This title now belongs to WD Red Plus though, thanks to its CMR recording. In case you are wondering why WD Red didn't make it to our list, its because Red only has SMR drives now.
What we Like : CMR Drives, 5 years Limited Warranty, 7200 RPM What we Like : CMR Drives, 3 years Limited Warranty, Red Legacy
Seagate Exos 10TB
Designed for Data Centers, you can use Exos in NAS boxes also. Upgrade to 10TB Exos from Ironwolf if you can live without the Rescue. Its a solid enterprise drive at a great price
Toshiba N300 4TB
Ah, Toshiba. The not so well marketed Japanese vendor. The N300 4TB has 2 major selling points - price and full warranty. If you want a low-cost drive, that gets you a full warranty, go with N300 4TB
What we Like : CMR Drives, 5 years Limited Warranty, 7200 RPM What we Like : CMR Drives, 3 years Full drive

In case you are still undecided, contact us and we will suggest a drive that works best for your NAS.

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