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A good SATA hard drive makes a big different to performance. Faster hard drives and solid-state drives increase boot time, make it easier to read/write large amounts of data, and generally improve performance on your PC or laptop. If your device is feeling slow, a new drive is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to give it a significant upgrade in performance. We've reviewed and researched a number of drives from top brands like Seagate, Western Digital, Samsung, and others.
If you want a drive for additional storage, you should also check out our list of best external hard drives. And if you're a gamer, picking up a great SSD for your games can really make a difference.
Improved speed over regular HDDs
Not as fast as SSDs
Smaller storage size
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. Our reviewer liked how it tried to bridge the gap with SSDs in terms of performance, acting as an affordable compromise on more costly drives.
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.
"Though not nearly as quick as SSDs, this smart addition helps close the gap a bit and makes hybrids quicker than their HDD counterparts." — Zach Sweat, Product Tester
Large storage capacity
No mounting hardware or cables included
The Seagate BarraCuda 8TB hard drive is another excellent option if you're looking to either upgrade your current setup or building your first PC. This hard drive is suited for gaming, photography, graphic design, and even server applications. With integrated data protection and an optional data recovery service, your files and personal information are safe from unwanted access and protected from accidental removal or data corruption. It's also backed by a two-year warranty against mechanical failure and manufacturing defects.
With multi-tier data caching, everything from basic documents to complex applications like Photoshop and triple-A title video games load faster than with previous models of Seagate hard drives. Even with its large storage capacity, the Seagate BarraCuda 8TB hard drive features a budget-friendly price point that makes it accessible for a wide range of PC enthusiasts.
Faster than cheaper HDDs
Massive storage size
Still slower than SSDs
Some reliability issues
One of the fastest hard drives available, Western Digital's WD Black was constructed to boost the efficiency of any computer and it comes with a five-year warranty for added peace of mind. Whether it’s for music editing, online gaming, or general browsing, the dual-core processor of the Black pushes its performance to the limits and slightly beyond. Our reviewer did point out it tends to run on the hotter and louder side compared to SSDs though.
Regardless of use case, the WD Black begins as small as a 250GB storage model and goes all the way up to 6 TBs of capacity. For peak speed, users opting for the 5TB and 6TB storage option will receive an additional 128MB of cache DRAM which improves real-time operation so they can also achieve a maximum read/write speed of up to 218 MB/s. The inclusion of the dual-core processor enables the Black to significantly enhance performance, especially when loading large games or shuffling around multimedia files. In any case, it vastly outperforms single-core SATA drives under the same conditions. Taking things a step further, the WD Black shines with StableTrac technology which increases reliability and overall stability of the Black HDD lineup.
"The Black series does indeed live up to its performance claims, and remains one of the fastest HDDs available." — Zach Sweat, Product Tester
Quick read and write speeds
Great software included
SATA 3 hinders performance somewhat
More expensive than competition
Make no mistake about it, the Samsung 860 EVO is proof that SATA-based solid-state drives can deliver excellent performance and still be affordable. Available in a multitude of sizes ranging from 500GB to 4TB, the 860 EVO provides an outstanding maximum read/write speed of 550 MB/s and 520 MB/s respectively. Well-suited for both desktops and laptops, the 860 EVO is ideal for all kinds of daily computing tasks including gaming, movie editing, or word processing without any performance degradation. Our tester liked how much added performance it offered for the price.
Compatible with Windows 8 and above as well as Apple and Linux software, the 2.5-inch SSD comes with all the necessary hardware to connect internally to a computer. Samsung touts the 860 EVO’s performance as being more than capable of storing and rendering 4K video while a five-year limited warranty adds an extra level of comfort. Powered by Samsung’s 64-layer V-NAND technology, the 860 can write data nearly eight times faster than its predecessor and it wins benchmark after benchmark in overall performance tests against its closest competitors.
"Given the overall performance, reliability, included software and quality reputation of Samsung in the SSD world, we feel these prices are well warranted." — Zach Sweat, Product Tester
Great for heavier computing
Dual processor for improved processing capability
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.
Decent amount of space
On the older side
Released in 2012, Western Digital's 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.
5 year warranty
Data recovery plan costs extra
If you're looking to upgrade your laptop's hard drive, the Seagate FireCuda Mobile is a great choice. It combines solid-state drive speeds with traditional hard drive storage capacity. You can choose from 500GB to up to 2TB for storage while getting the fast boot and load speeds you come to expect from SSDs. It's flash memory enhanced to give you speeds up to five times faster than traditional hard disk drives so you can be more productive.
With low power consumption, this hybrid drive is energy efficient, meaning it won't put a large load on your laptop's battery. It also features adaptive memory for faster access to frequently used data like word documents, spreadsheets, or specific programs. This hard drive is backed by a five-year warranty and an optional data recovery program to protect your information from unauthorized access and to recover lost or corrupted files.
Strong mix of performance and data protection
Wide range of sizes
Works with NAS
Strong data recovery and warranty
Designed with small businesses in mind, the Seagate 6TB IronWolf Pro aims to satisfy hard drive users who want a strong mix of performance and data protection. Equipped with a 7,200 RPM spindle speed, 256 MB cache, and maximum read/write speed of 214 MB/s, the IronWolf is available in a range of sizes from 1TB to 12TB of storage. Specially optimized to fit and perform well in a single bay to 16 bay NAS enclosure, the Seagate establishes a 300TB per year user rating with an upload and download rating of 600,000 cycles.
For small businesses especially, Seagate’s two-year rescue data recovery service and five-year warranty add up to total peace of mind in the event of any unexpected crashing or data loss. To assist in mitigating potential data errors, the IronWolf Pro comes standard with rotational vibration sensors that maintain its high performance whether it sits alone in a NAS enclosure or alongside a multitude of other drives. If you want quiet performance, 24/7 runtime, and a lengthy warranty, the IronWolf Pro is an excellent choice.
Internal shock sensor
Long life expectancy
Only comes in 3.5-inch format
Serious gamers need a hard drive that can keep up with their growing libraries and deliver consistent performance. The Toshiba X300 is designed from the ground up for top tier gaming rigs. You can choose storage capacities from 4-14TB so you'll never have to worry about choosing which games to keep in your library or running out of room. You can also choose from either 126Mb or 256Mb cache models for fast loading times for large games or other media files. The tunnel magneto resistive recording head is designed for improved stability when reading and writing data for reduced risk of corrupted data.
The hard drive features and internal shock sensor and drive stabilization technology to protect against damage from vibrations, bumps, and drops. With a two year warranty that protects against mechanical failures and manufacturing defects as well as a life expectancy of up to 600,000 hours, you can download and play the latest indie and triple-A games without worrying about your hard drive failing in the middle of a big boss fight or battle royale shootout.
Can be used in both laptops and desktops
Large storage capacities
Pricey at larger capacities
Solid-state drives are becoming the new standard in computer memory storage. The Samsung 860 QVO SSD is the best on the market. This SSD has no moving parts, making it more reliable than a traditional hard disk drive. It also gives you ultra-fast boot speeds, allowing you to turn on your computer and start work in seconds. With storage sizes from 1TB to 4TB, you can store games, 4K movies, photos, and tons of documents without running out of space. With integrated AES 256-bit encryption, your personal data is safe from unwanted access.
This SSD comes with the Samsung Magician suite of software to monitor speeds, performance, and overall health of your drive so you can spot and fix problems before they crash your computer. This SSD is compatible with both Windows and macOS based computers and laptops, so no matter what you use at home or in the office, you won't have any compatibility issues. The 860 QVO is backed by a three-year warranty for peace of mind and to cover mechanical failures and manufacturing defects.
If you're bumping up against the storage limits of your desktop or laptop, or it's starting to feel sluggish, a new SATA hard drive is a great way to pump some new life into it. One of the best hard drives is Seagate's 2TB FireCuda. It's a SSHD, meaning it uses a mix of NAND flash memory with regular HDD storage to offer a great mix of performance and price. If you need more storage and are willing to pay the price, the WD Black 4TB is a great high-performance drive with plenty of space. It even has a built-in processor to boost read/write and handle intensive tasks.
Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate HDDs based on design, read/write speed, capacity, performance, and functionality. We test their real-life performance in actual use cases, from light productivity to gaming, to dedicated desk benchmarks. Our testers also consider each unit as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the models we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.
Zach Sweat has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. Previously, he's been published on IGN, Void Media, and Whalebone Magazine. As an experienced writer, he's reviewed many consumer technology products, including SSDs, HDDs, monitors, PCs, and other computer hardware. He liked the 2TB FireCuda SSHD for its mix of SSD and HDD elements. He also praised the Samsung Evo 860 SSD for being one of the best in its class.
David Beren is a tech writer with more than a decade of expierence in the industry. He's extensively covered telecom and founded his own tech site.
Speed - Although SATA (serial advanced technology attachment) hard drives are slower than SSDs (solid-state drives), you can still get a component with respectable speeds. The average speed for a desktop hard drive is about 7,200 revolutions per minute (rpm), but some high-performance models run up to 10,000 rpm.
Capacity - If you work in a technical or creative field, large capacity is likely important to you. Hard drive capacities have continued to grow over the years; today’s 3.5-inch hard drives max out around 10TB, and 2.5-inch drives hover around 4TB.
Form factor - Because SATA hard drives have spinning parts, they can be only so small. For desktop devices, they generally measure 3.5 inches, and for laptops, 2.5 inches.