Buying a hard drive for a desktop PC or laptop is not only about choosing its storage capacity. First, it is necessary to decide what type of drive we want, an HDD (hard disk drive) or an SSD. Today, external hard drives are growing in popularity, as they offer a number of important advantages.

While SSD technology still has some limitations it has not overcome, hard disk drives will remain in many cases the first choice for hard disk mounting in our equipment. So, we developed this comprehensive guide to help you to choose the unit that best suits your needs.

Key Facts

  • The first mechanical hard disk was developed by IBM in the 1950s and weighed exactly a ton.
  • Hard disk drives let us enjoy a large storage capacity at a very economical price.
  • It’s becoming more common to see combinations of SSD with HDDs. The former is used to install the operating system, while the latter is generally used to store large files.

Ranking: The best external hard drives on the U.S. market

Below we have compiled a ranking of the five best hard disk drives currently available on the market. We have aimed to include the most product variety possible, but as always chosen those which often the best value for money.

No. 1: Seagate BarraCuda 4TB Internal Hard Drive HDD

Seagate is one of the world’s leading HDD brands, producing reliable, high-quality products for more than 20 years. The BarraCuda is a 4 terabyte internal hard drive with a 6 GB/s capacity and 5,400 rpm disk rotation speed. It also has a Sustained Transfer Rate OD(MB/s) of 190 MB/s.

This hard disk drive allows you to store more data, while making your computer faster. Gamers can also use it to build a powerful gaming system that supports the highest resolution games without lag or skipping. The HDD also comes with a two-year limited warranty.

No. 2: WD Blue 1TB PC Hard Drive

This 3.5″ Hard Drive from WD Blue contains 1 terabyte of storage. It also boasts SATA 6 Gb/s and 64 MB cache. This brand is designed specifically for desktop and all-in-one PCs with a variety of storage capacities.

This quality product offers solid reliability for office and web applications, and they are perfect for extra storage for desktop PC computing. It is suitable for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Mac OS operating systems.

No. 3: Seagate Desktop 8TB External Hard Drive HDD 

Another style of hard disk drive is the external hard drive, like this one from Seagate. With a USB 3.0 connection, it has 8 terabyte storage capacity. The external hard drive comes with an 18 inch USB 3.0 cable and 18W power adapter.

As the name suggests, this external HDD drive will sit on a desktop, and is ideal for the home, office or dorm. This huge storage capacity can store an almost limitless number of movie, music or program files.

No. 4: Seagate IronWolf 2TB NAS Internal Hard Drive HDD

The Seagate IronWolf HDD is ideal for up to 8-bay, multi-user NAS environments looking for a high level of performance. This NAS-optimized hard drive provides 2 terabytes of storage and cache of up to 64MB. A 3-year limited warranty protection plan is also included.

This hard disk drive is purpose-built for NAS enclosures, IronWolf delivers less wear and tear, little to no noise/vibration, no lags or downtime and increased file-sharing performance. You can be confident in its reliability in the long term, with 1 million hours MTBF.

No. 5: WD Black 6TB Performance Hard Drive 

This high-performance hard drive comes with an impressive 6 terabytes storage capacity and 256 MB of DRAM cache. It is optimized for drive performance and designed for video editors, graphic designers, photographers and gamers. This product comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

You can further enhance your PC’s performance by combining a WD Black drive with an SSD in a dual drive configuration, allowing you to benefit from the additional caching of your operating system onto the SSD for increased performance.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about HDDs

When buying an HDD, it is very important to keep in mind several essential criteria. Don’t forget that there are different models and each offers its own features and benefits. For this reason, in this section, we will respond to the questions most frequently asked by buyers.

External hard drives are perfect for improving the storage space on your computer.
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What are HDDs exactly?

Hard Disk Drives (HDD), also known as mechanical hard drives, are large capacity memory devices. Basically, they consist of information storage units built from a set of mechanical parts in its interior and a set of magnetic disks.

The disks spin at high speed on the same axis, allowing read/write heads to read or write the data by magnetizing the surface. Its main advantage over other types of storage devices is that they offer a high capacity to store information for a much reduced price.

Saving your data has never been so easy: hard drives are a simple and practical option.
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What are the components of an HDD?

A mechanical hard disk consists of one or more plates, which are aluminium or glass discs. These disks rotate simultaneously on one same axis. Each disk has two faces. The head is the read/write device and is just a set of arms aligned vertically.

Read/write heads are at the tip of the arms. In total, each face requires one head. In addition, HDD disks also have an electromagnetic system and a board with a printed circuit that controls the disc. Finally, this whole set is covered by a protective housing.

In order to choose the best external hard drive, you need to know their most important technical elements.
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How does an HDD work?

In mechanical hard drives, the plates are constantly spinning. This means that transfer times are reduced. Thus, when the operating system request to read a file, the hard disk determines which disk and track it is in and moves the reading head there.

Data recording is carried out through electric current pulses by a device located in the magnetic head. These data are recorded on the magnetic surface in circumferences lines. When one is completed, the head moves to write a new concentric circumference.

What are the differences between a hard disk drive and an SSD?

For some years now, SSD or solid-state drives have been available. These store information in flash memories connected to each other. Since they do not have mechanical parts, they reach read and write speeds much higher than those offered by external hard drives.

Other advantages include lower energy consumption and a quieter operation. However, as it is a relatively new technology, it still has some drawbacks, such as a higher cost per gigabyte, compared to traditional hard drives.

SSD unit HDD
Prone to breaking down? Don’t have mechanical parts and so are not prone to breaking down. Can suffer break downs as a result of hits or being dropped.
Noise Another advantage of the absence of mechanical parts is that they are less noisy, use less energy and overheat less. Can be noisy, consume more energy, as the disks are spinning constantly and therefore can heat up quickly.
Storage Have less storage capacity. Offer the most storage capacity.
Reading speed Their read/write speed is much superior. Are ideal for installing an operating system. Don’t reach as high read/write speeds, especially with large files.
Rewriting Can only rewrite a set number of times. However, most users will not exceed this amount. Can rewrite an unlimited number of times.
Price Although the price has come down substantially, its price per gigabyte is much higher. Much lower price per gigabyte.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of HDD?

The many advantages of mechanical hard drives help them keep being so popular. They offer a large storage capacity at a much more affordable price. In addition, they allow an unlimited number of rewrites. On the other hand, their reading and writing speed is much lower.

Advantages
  • Large storage capacity
  • It is easier to recover data after a loss
  • You can rewrite the disk an unlimited number of times
Disadvantages
  • Read and write data speed is reduced
  • They are susceptible to mechanical breakdowns due to blows and falls

Is it worth buying a hard disk drive?

Today, the answer is yes, without any doubt. Even if you choose to install an SSD, it never hurts to have a secondary HDD for more storage. Since their price is so low, they do not require a large economic investment.

Who is recommended to buy an HDD?

If you have a computer, either portable or desktop, you need a hard drive. Unless you require a reduced storage capacity or you have an unlimited budget, you will have to go for a mechanical hard drive, either as a main unit or as a secondary unit.

Generally, for an average user who does not need very high-performance equipment, an HDD is the best option. Not surprisingly, its value for money is excellent. Something similar happens if you need large storage capacity, such as video surveillance systems.

What sizes of HDD exist?

Hard disk boxes mainly come in two sizes: 2.5″ and 3.5″. The first is used by laptops or consoles. Desktop computers, on the other hand, usually have installed 3.5″ disks. Keep in mind that size not only influences the space occupied by the unit, but it also determines its performance.

2.5 hard disk 3.5 hard disk
Use Are used in portable devices and gaming consoles. Used in desktop PCs.
Storage Has less storage capacity and slower speed of rotation. Generally run at 5,400 rpm. Its storage capacity is much higher and its rotation speed is also faster, usually 7,200 rpm.
Memory cache Carry a smaller memory cache. Have a greater memory cache.

What is the origin of hard disk drives?

Its origin must be sought in the 1950s when the American company IBM created the first mechanical hard disk. At that time, the first device of this type had a storage capacity of 5 MB. Its development allowed to replace magnetic tape units, which were slower.

That first hard disk weighed a ton and was larger than a refrigerator. Since then, the technology of these devices has evolved to allow for greater capacities in smaller spaces. This way, in 1992, capacities of 250 MB were reached, which in 2002 were already 40 GB, and currently exceed tens of TB.

Shopping criteria

When it comes to buying an HDD, it is important to consider some criteria. To help you in the election process, we have selected the ones we consider most important. We expect them to guide your purchase as much as possible to fit your quality-value ratio.

  • Use you will give
  • Storage capacity
  • Read/write speed
  • Rotation speed
  • Cache
  • Connection bus
  • Brand

Use you will give

When buying a mechanical hard drive, the first thing you have to think about is the use you are going to give it. And second, on which device are you going to ride it. You will not need the same type of HDD on a laptop as on a desktop computer. So, for a laptop, you will be interested in a disk size of 2.5″ instead of the traditional 3.5″.

Similarly, you have to wonder if the computer you use it for basic tasks, for more professional use or to play video games. In each case, will be more convenient one type of hard disk than another. It is even possible that you agree to combine an SSD with an HDD to take advantage of the benefits each one offers.

External card drives are low-cost and have a very large memory capacity.
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Storage capacity

No doubt, storage capacity is an important issue when buying a hard drive. However, as we have said before you should not let yourself be guided by this alone. Today, mechanical hard drives offer more than enough capabilities to meet the users’ needs.

Currently, there are HDD units with capacities ranging from 500 GB to 12 TB. For an average user with a 1 TB disk, it is more than enough. If you are going to use your computer to play video games, a combination of a 250 GB SSD and 2 TB, or more, on an HDD disc may suit you.

Read/write speed

Read/write speed is a fundamental aspect of its performance. However, it is often not given all the importance it deserves. A higher reading speed will allow the computer to boot much faster if the operating system is installed on that hard disk.

Similarly, it can also influence the performance of installed programs and applications. However, when playing a video game, it will not be decisive for the performance, but it will reduce loading times.

If you have a computer, eventually you will need a hard drive.
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Rotation speed

In HDD devices, read/write speed will depend, to a large extent, on the discs rotation speed, which is measured in revolutions per minute (rpm). Currently, it is usual to find devices with speeds of 5,400 rpm and 7,200 rpm, although there is also 10,000 rpm.

For a desktop computer, if you want to enjoy a good performance, you should go for a disk with at least 7,200 rpm. However, for laptops, the most common speed is 5,400 rpm due to limitations derived from the smaller size of the 2.5″ disks.

Cache

Hard drives have two memory areas. In one of them, the data is saved even when there is no electric current. This is the main area and where the files are stored. The other one is the cache memory and it is where the information is temporarily stored when the disk receives electric current.

Cache allows the hard drive to access information faster. This is because every time the disk reads a piece of information it leaves part of it stored in the cache. The most common is usually 64 MB. Logically, the larger it is, the faster the disk will find more data.

Connection bus

Currently, hard drives can use different interfaces to connect to the motherboard: the main ones are SATA, IDE, SAS or SCSI. No doubt, SATA standard is the most used by virtually all desktops and all the latest generation laptops.

Current HDD hard drives are connected using the SATA-III standard. This reaches a link speed of 6 GB/s, resulting in 750 MB/s of theoretical maximum transfer rate. However, at a practical level, this is reduced to 600 MB/s.

foco

La velocidad máxima de los SATA-II es de 300 MB/s y la de los SATA de 150 MB/s.

Brand

There are many manufacturers of HDD storage units. Not everyone offers the same quality levels. In that sense, some of the brands that guarantee you higher quality levels are: Toshiba, HGST, Trekstor, Seagate or Western Digital. Among the Chinese units, ExelStor is one of the best reputation brands.

Summary

An external hard disk is an essential element in both desktop computers and laptops. Lately, many users have started to mount SSD drives on their computers; however, thanks to its low cost and large storage capacity, hard disk drives continue to be the best option in most cases.

Choosing a mechanical hard disk correctly implies knowing some technical aspects of these devices that often exceed the knowledge of an average user. Therefore, it is important to have as much information as possible. With this in mind, we have prepared this complete buying guide.

If you think it was useful in your selection process, you can leave us a comment or share it with your friends in your social media.

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Our writers and editors at THEGOODESTATE.com focus on making your life easier by selecting the best available options on the U.S. market of everyday objects and supplements.