CPUs and graphics cards typically generate the most excitement among computer components. Nevertheless, a hard drive is an essential element of a computer. An excellent GPU and CPU won’t remain useful with an unreliable hard disk.
With solid-state drives (SSD), Samsung reigns supreme. But what about traditional platter drives? Learn about the most reliable hard drives according to server companies.
Should You Buy a Server-Class Hard Drive?
Not all hard drives are created for the same purposes. Broadly, consumer HDDs fall into two categories: desktop or server-grade. Server-ready hard drives are engineered for 24/7 workloads and (in theory) last longer under heavier usage. You should buy a server hard drive if you’re running a home-based or in-office server.
Defining Reliability for Hard Drives
Often, the word “reliability” gets thrown around. But what does that mean exactly? Unlike SSDs, an HDD’s data integrity is almost as essential as mechanical reliability.
Server company Backblaze tested 10,000 hard drives for 2017. In its extensive testing, Backblaze found that enterprise drives carry a 1.61 percent failure rate on over 300,000 days. Consumer drives, on the other hand, feature a 1.60 percent failure rate on over 420,000 days.
Therefore both consumer and enterprise drives feature similar annualized failure rates for comparable drive days.
ExtremeTech sorts data by annualized hard drive failure rate and compares that to drive size. A failure is defined as:
- Not connecting with an operating system or spinning up
- Not syncing, remaining synced, or staying in a RAID stack
In a 2016 hard drive reliability report, Backblaze allowed that it can accept a fairly high failure rate before yanking drives. It’s not about the number of drive failures. Rather, annualized failure rate proves reliability.
For instance, a low number of drive failures over a low number of days can prove more volatile than a high number of drive failures over a significant lifespan. Backblaze found the HGST HDS5C3030ALA630 fail 148 times. Compare that with just seven for the Toshiba DT10ACA300. But the Toshiba was clocked 72,299 drive days compared with the HGST’s 6,583,679. Additionally, that spanned 40 Toshiba drives versus over 1,000 HGST models. As such, the HGST has a low 0.82 percent annualized failure rate, compared to the Toshiba’s 3.53 percent.
- Look for: Low annualized failure rate
What’s in a Name?
Whereas certain spaces feature loads of choice, the hard drive space is pretty small. With the predominance of SSDs and general use hard disks, server-capable HDDs are limited mostly to a few well-known names. Not surprisingly, Seagate and Western Digital make the cut. Yet HGST and Toshiba appear as sleeper hits.
Despite this dominance, exceptions do occur. At one point, Backblaze yanked a set of unstable Seagate drives. But Seagate’s current drives, and notably their 8TB hard disks, are increasingly reliable.
- Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, and HGST stand as the most reliable hard drive manufacturers as rated by server companies
5 Most Reliable Hard Drives
Hard drives from manufacturers are designated as consumer-facing and NAS-oriented. Western Digital’s Red line of NAS hard drives boasts incredible reliability.
The WD60EFRX clocked in a 4.6 percent annualized failure rate, with the WD40EFRX sliding in at 1.9 percent. The WE30EFRX achieved a 1.21 percent failure rate. In my home server, I’m using a Western Digital drive. Although it’s a consumer-grade hard drive, not the Red line, it’s been high performing, and I run my media server 24/7.
However, it’s limited to 5400 RPM. 7200 is ideal, though even a 7200 RPM drive presents minimal performance gains over a 5400 drive. Especially when compared to an SSD.
Although it’s not traditionally known as a hard drive company, or computer components manufacturer for that matter, Toshiba produces a solid line of hard drives.
Its MD04ABAV line is rated for 24/7 use. Specifically, these drives are created with video surveillance in mind. Moreover, Toshiba includes rotational vibration sensors. These ensure the MD04ABA500V remains functional even in a RAID array or multi-hard drive stack.
The HGST HUH72808ALE600 is a speedy, high-capacity hard drive. This 7200 RPM drive delivered an annualized failure rate of 0.2 percent. Extreme reliability coupled with a quick read-write speed, for a spindle drive at least, makes this a solid choice.
Because of its 8TB capacity, HGST’s HUH728080ALE600 is a top choice in a server environment. Backblaze discovered modest 1.7 percent and 1.10 percent annualized failure ratings for these disks.
Leaving Seagate out of a discussion on the most reliable hard drives would be remiss. Enter the enterprise-level Seagate ST8000DM002. This 8TB 7200 RPM hard disk features 6GB/s SATA and 12GB/s SAS interfaces. It’s specifically designed for 24/7 workloads of about 550TB per year.
According to its research, Backblaze recorded a 1.2 percent annualized failure rate. You might also consider the ST8000NM0055. This Seagate offers a low annualized failure rate, 7200 RPM capacity, and 8TB of storage space.
Whereas the WD Red line is aimed at a NAS application, the WD Black line is geared toward high performance. It’s still reliable, but better suited to applications like video editing, gaming, and general use.
If you’re not running a server, or even if you’re using this in a basic home server, the WD Black line is reliable. However, for an always-on environment, opt for WD Red hard drives.
The Most Reliable Hard Drives Available
Ultimately, the hard drive you select depends on your needs. You’ll want a server hard drive for, well, a server. That includes both enterprise environments and homelabs. Just as with building a server, however, consumer-rated HDDs are still reliable. These may merely present a higher annualized failure rate if run on an always-on machine.
Generally, Western Digital and Seagate rank among the best hard drive manufacturers. But Toshiba and HGST offer superb disks as well. HGST particularly delivers drives with low failure rates. Additionally, many of the HDDs tested are high performing but low cost. Although companies often sell server hard drives at a high cost, low cost, high-reliability drives abound.