While hard drives lack the shiny appeal of graphics cards and processors, a high-performance, reliable, hard drive is essential. Particularly, a solid HDD remains a necessity for a server, but it’s a consideration for virtually any computer.
Solid-state drives (SSDs), might be increasingly popular, 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 over 100,000 hard drives for 2018. Over the course of its extensive testing, Backblaze reviewed performance and failure rates in both enterprise and consumer-level hard drives. Among the drives tested, Backblaze got hands-on with Toshiba’s whopping 14TB HDDs.
While enterprise drives typically connote greater reliability, Backblaze compared consumer and enterprise models and found that while enterprise drives generally yield better performance, you’ll find pros and cons:
Consumer-oriented hard drives are lower in price, less power-hungry, and boast similar annualized failure rates as their enterprise counterparts. A business-class drive often carries a longer warranty and faster read/write speeds, albeit at a higher price.
Annualized Failure Rate
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 (AFR) 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. For 2018 Q2, Backblaze noted a 1.08% overall annualized failure rate, lower than that of Q1 2018. This means there’s an upward trend in reliability across the board.
- 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
The 5 Most Reliable Hard Drives
Okay, so you know how the drives are evaluated. But which are the most reliable?
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 6TB hard drive clocked in a 2.76 percent annualized failure rate, with the WD40EFRX sliding in at 0.0 percent. The WE30EFRX achieved a 0.0 percent annualized failure rate. In my home server, I originally used a Western Digital drive until I upgraded for more space. Although it was a consumer-grade hard drive, not the Red line, it remained high-performing in an always-on environment.
However, the WD Red NAS line is limited to 5400 RPM. 7200 is ideal, though even a 7200 RPM drive presents minimal performance gains over a 5400 drive, and nowhere near as capable as an SSD. Still, the WD Red lineup ranges from 1TB to 10TB with plenty of options for a NAS-quality storage.
Although it’s not traditionally known as a hard drive company, or computer components manufacturer for that matter, Toshiba produces a solid line of HDDs. Backblaze found its MD04ABA400V and MD04ABA500V drives ranking among the lowest annualized failure rates.
Similarly, the Toshiba N300 line is an incredibly reliable hard drive option. You’ll find 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, and 10TB variants. Engineered for 24/7 use, with 7200 RPM speeds, and rated for 180TB per year workloads, these drives are ideal for home, office, or home office use.
The HGST HUH72808ALE600 is a speedy, high-capacity hard drive. Though HGST isn’t well-known outside of the hard drive realm, its drives are high-quality and solid performers. This 7200 RPM drive delivered an annualized failure rate of 1.18 percent. Sure, that’s a little on the higher side, but this 8TB drive is nonetheless an excellent buy.
Decent 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. You’ll find high-capacity HGST hard drives at modest prices, which makes this a fantastic option.
Leaving Seagate out of a discussion on the most reliable hard drives would be remiss. Enter the enterprise-level Seagate ST10000NM0086. This 10TB 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 0.0 percent annualized failure rate. With a whopping 10TB of space, tons of reliability, and a proven name, the Seagate ST10000NM0086 is an awesome choice for an enterprise-quality hard drive. I’m using a 10TB Seagate ST10000VN0004 drive in my dedicated home lab, and it’s been a gem.
Whereas the WD Red line is aimed at NAS applications, the WD Black line is geared toward high-performance applications. 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 lab, the WD Black line is reliable. Price-to-performance ratios best the Red line, making this a balance of affordability and reliability. 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 home labs. 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.