The 9 Best SATA Hard Drives to Buy in 2018

Selection of best hard drives for value, capacity, performance and features

The rise of cloud storage and solid state drives has begun reducing the need for SATA-based hard drives. Serial ATA, SATA for short, was once the great standard in both desktops and laptops before the popularity of Ultrabooks, where the thinner SSD (solid state drives) drives are preferred. However, if you’re looking to upgrade or build a new PC, few drives can offer the storage capacity and reliability of a SATA drive. Not sure where to start? Seagate and Western Digital dominate space and have the best SATA drives for all your needs, as well as for budgets large and small.

Best Overall: Seagate 2TB 7200RPM FireCuda

While hard drive capacity continues to get larger and larger every year, Seagate’s 2TB 7200RPM FireCuda 3.5 inch SATA drive offers more than enough space for music, video, and pictures. With enough space to store 80 25GB-sized games, the Seagate performs up to five times faster than traditional 7200RPM desktop drives. At 3.5 inches in form factor, the drive is ideal for desktop PCs, gaming machines, and workstations where reliable and quality performance count every day. As an added bonus (and for extra peace-of-mind), the FireCuda line is protected with a best-in-class, five-year limited warranty. With the potential for reading and write speeds greater than 200MB/s, the Seagate is a fantastic choice for any SATA shopper.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Seagate 3TB 7200RPM BarraCuda

Ideal for desktops, the Seagate 3TB 7200RPM BarraCuda 3.5-inch SATA internal hard drive is an ideal choice for buyers looking for a great combination of storage, quality, and speed. Capable of reading and writing data at speeds around 210MB/s, the BarraCuda is both versatile and dependable. Whether it’s work or play, storing movies or music, the BarraCuda can store around 300,000 songs without running out of space. It is ideal for both desktops or all-in-one PCs, but and Seagate offers an additional 2.5-inch model that is a perfect fit for laptops. Backed by a two-year limited warranty, the BarraCuda offers the right mix of versatility and reliability combined with a great value that makes it a hard choice to pass up.

Best Budget: Western Digital WD Blue 1TB

Released in 2012, the Western Digital WD Blue 1TB might be slightly older, but it offers such an outstanding price-to-performance ratio that it's still Amazon’s best seller for internal hard drives. The 7200 RPM offers 1TB of space, which is smaller than most of the other choices on this list, but still, has more than enough room for 200,000 songs or more than 17 hours of music. Additionally, the WD Blue offers features like IntelliSeek, which calculates the optimum speed to lower both power consumption, as well as noise and vibration to protect against data loss. Moreover, Western Digital offers Acronis True Image software downloadable from their website to completely copy all the data from the previous hard drive to get up and running right away. It also has read and write speeds around 170MB/s.

Best Speed: WD Black 6TB

If it’s speed you crave, the WD Black series will satiate you. The line is designed to boost performance of heavier computing, perfect for creatives and gamers alike. It houses a dual-core processor that doubles the processing capability of a standard single-core processor to optimize performance. As such, it’s quoted to offer 218MB/s in sustained data-transfer rates and has significant cache sizes up to 128MB of DRAM. It's paired with WD’s Dynamic Cache Technology, which helps to maximize caching algorithms in real time and prioritize cache between reads and writes. So you can bet it's one of the speediest SATA hard drives on the market. On top of it all, the WD Black comes with a five-year limited warranty to deliver the protection you deserve.

For people who do a lot of intensive computer work such as video/music editing, graphic design, or computer modeling, the larger capacity may also be necessary. When storage is a must, the WD Blue 4TB is the best choice.

This hard drive has a 3.5” disc with 4TB of storage capacity. Operating at a standard 5400 RPM speed, it is quick enough to work with intensive media files without waiting for the drive to catch up. Other storage capacities and disc speeds are available as well if you need something more specific to your needs.

The drive’s IntelliSeek function is an active addition that manages the writing speed, power consumption and noise/vibration to keep everything working at peak efficiency. The hard drive works with WD’s Acronis True Image software, so you can easily backup the device for an added layer of safety. If you don’t want to worry about the health of the hard drive, this is the option to choose.

Best Laptop: Seagate 2.5-Inch BarraCuda

Seagate’s 2.5-inch BarraCuda SATA drive is an ideal choice for laptop owners looking to kick performance and storage to the next level. With a 6GB/s data transfer speed and the capability of reading and write speeds of more than 140-150MB/s, the drive comes in both 7mm and 15mm z-heights to best fit your laptop. Additionally, read and write performance is optimized with Multi-Tier Caching Technology, MTC for short, which optimizes data flow and allows apps to load faster than ever before. As a bonus, it works well with numerous all-in-one PCs, as well as ultra-slim desktop PCs. It also comes with Seagate’s two-year limited warranty.

Best for Small Businesses: WD Gold 8TB Datacenter

With at 8TB of storage, the WD Gold 8TB Datacenter drive is a great option if you’re running a business and you need to store high volumes of data. For starters, WD advertises this drive as specifically being designed for enterprise services or for use in data centers. What does that actually mean? Well, they’ve designed the tech to last. You could run data transfers 24 hours a day, every day of the year transferring up to 550TB per year and it won’t fail on you, according to the manufacturer. That’s important because not only do you need high capacity storage if you’re a tech business, you need that storage to be reliable and last through an extended amount of data transfers.

WD is supporting that claim with a 5-year limited warranty that protects you against certain levels of factory defects. The product itself sits in a 3.5-inch footprint, so it’ll fit most standard PC or server racks, and it offers you 6GB/s in transfer protocol and 128MB of cache, which are all standard specs for a top-level SATA drive.


Best for High Performance: WD VelociRaptor 250GB SATA Drive

The VelociRaptor has a performance level of 10,000 RPM, giving you 6GB/s of speed and 64MB of cache. Those performance levels are great for gaming or production, or really any computer function that will require you to call up files constantly from the drive. But with all that speed, this thing probably gets pretty hot, and heat in a high-functioning, mechanical part is going to cause problems in the long run. What makes this drive tech extra functional and extra reliable is the IcePack mounting frame. The ridged black enclosure around the silver bare drive is actually an engineered frame to keep this thing running smooth and cool, even at those blistering speeds.

The full capacity on this model is 250GB, so it isn’t the largest option on the list, but it should do the trick for a basic computer setup. There’s even a Preemptive Wear Leveling tech (PWL for short) built in, so it can optimize performance to adjust. It’s all in an environmentally conscious package, too, so you can feel good about the purchase on that level as well.

Best Solid State: SanDisk Ultra 512GB SATA SSD

Most SATA drives are actually mechanical, RPM-based hard drives…the tried and true tech of desktop computers. But SATA, by definition, is really just a connection protocol, so you can apply that protocol to a solid state drive, allowing you to store data and files on your comp in flash memory. Why’s that so important? Well, standard drives actually employ spinning discs and laser-based readers inside them to scrape for files. Flash memory works differently, allowing instant call-up of data from the drive. And, because there aren’t moving parts in an SSD, you get the added benefit of a typically longer lifespan because you aren’t risking the failure of mechanical parts if you drop the drive or something.

This option from SanDisk, the tech brand known mostly for thumb drives and SD cards, is a super fast choice with 512GB of storage. Write speeds come in at almost half a GB per second, which is a lot faster than most of the drives on this list. As mentioned, it connects via the SATA III protocol, so it’s almost certainly a simple one-to-one connection on your machine, not requiring you to get additional docks or converters. It comes with a SanDisk SSD dashboard that lets you view and ultimately optimize performance, too, which is a really great added feature.


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