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Most modern motherboards have at least one M.2 slot, and you're missing out if you're not taking advantage of it. Not only does using an M.2 drive free up one of your SATA ports, but these drives also tend to perform better than their SATA counterparts. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD is blazing fast, utilizing 4 PCIe 3.0 lanes for up to 3,500MBps read and 3,300MBps write speeds.
While these speeds are only theoretical, in practice you'll still get pretty close to copying and reading data that fast. An SSD can be a life-changer, especially if you're a gamer, and for its mixture of value and performance, the Samsung 970 EVO Plus is one of the best hard drives you can find on the market.
There's no way we could forget the old reliable Western Digital Blue on our list. These drives are cheap and slow, and that's why they're absolutely perfect for bulk storage. While they're not NAS grade by any means, The WD Blue WD40EZRZ 4TB is fantastic if you just want something to store music, documents, and photos on without taking up precious room on a solid-state drive.
Even though these hard drives are fairly slow at 5,400RPM, that's more than fast enough for incidental files and local backups. These bad boys are unappreciated workhorses, and the amount of PCs still equipped with them as secondary storage is shocking. Chances are if you've purchased a pre-built computer in the last decade, it had one of these, and there's a reason why. With the WD Blue line being both inexpensive and reliable, it's tough to go wrong.
A NAS is a handy thing to have. You can store tons of data, set up a personal media server, or run a bunch of virtual machines on it. Regardless of what you choose to do, you want to have hard drives with the reliability to protect your data and the speed to access it quickly. The Toshiba N300 4TB strikes an excellent balance for a SATA NAS hard drive.
It's rated for up to 180TB/yr of read/write operations, has a 128MB cache, and runs at 7,200RPM, making it quite a bit faster than lower-end 5,400RPM drives. Additionally, it carries a three-year warranty, as opposed to the two years most non-NAS rated drives come with, which is quite the relief when you're putting a hard drive through heavy-use situations.
If you're looking to build a massive NAS device, SAS drives are where it's at. Though SAS drives require extra hardware and setup compared to more consumer-oriented SATA HDDs, you'll be spending less per hard drive, which can really add up when you're talking about building massive arrays.
The Seagate ST6000NM0034 SAS hard drive is a pretty run-of-the-mill product, but it excels in scalability. These relatively cheap drives are great when you're just looking to store a massive amount of data, and you have a suitable RAID setup. They're reliable, but when a drive inevitability fails, they're cheap enough that it's no sweat to throw a new one in, rebuild your array, and keep it rolling.
SSDs, or solid-state drives, have finally reached the point of price parity with traditional mechanical hard drives. The SK Hynix Gold S31 1TB is one of the newest SATA SSDs on the market, and at launch, its price of $120 is around what you'd pay for a 1TB HDD a few years ago.
While an M.2 drive is preferred for a primary drive, the Hynix Gold S31 is cheap enough and has enough space to replace a mechanical hard drive for extra storage. Though it's affordable, this SSD is still blazing fast with up to 560MBps read, and 525MBps write speeds. This drive is a great all-rounder and is just as good for installing games on as it is storing documents and photos.
Games are only getting bigger, and that means that even the 1TB hard drives standard in the most recent consoles aren't enough. While you can use pretty much any external hard drive with the PlayStation 4, why not go with one that matches it? Most external hard drives are squat, ugly things, and hiding them in an entertainment center isn't an option for everyone.
If you're concerned with how cool your PS4 looks, the officially licensed Seagate Game Drive comes decked in black and Sony blue that makes a perfect match for your console. It costs a bit more than an equivalent non-Game Drive external HDD, but sometimes style is worth a little extra.
Whereas the PS4 Game Drive is a bit subdued, the Seagate Game Drive for Xbox One is an eye-catcher. This Xbox green external hard drive looks terrific paired with a console, and even includes the Xbox logo on the casing.
Again, this hard drive is a bit more expensive than its peers, but it's also way cooler looking. The USB 3.0 connection means that games load just as fast as they do on your console's internal drive, and with 4TB, you can hold most, if not all, of your digital library.
Sometimes you just need a cheap hard drive. Whether its a replacement for your grandma's old computer or you're working on some retro hardware and you're looking for a decent drive to fit a SATA-to-IDE converter, sometimes you don't need a ton of space or speed.
In that case, the Seagate BarraCuda 2TB ST2000DM008 offers a decent amount of space at a price almost anyone can afford. As a bonus, this hard drive spins at 7,200RPM and has a surprisingly large 256MB cache which makes it speedier than you'd think you'd get at this price point.
Our writers spent 10 hours researching and testing the most popular hard drives for gaming on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.