Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Best Overall: Seagate 2TB 7200RPM FireCuda at Amazon
"Ideal for desktop PCs, gaming machines, and workstations where quality performance counts every day."
Best for High Performance: WD Black 4TB at Amazon
"Whether for music editing, online gaming, or general browsing, the dual-core processor pushes to the limits and slightly beyond."
Best Solid State: Samsung 860 EVO at Amazon
"Provides an outstanding maximum read/write speed of 550 MB/s and 520 MB/s respectively."
Best Speed: WD Black 6TB at Amazon
"Designed to boost the performance of heavier computing, perfect for creatives and gamers alike."
Best Budget: WD Blue 1TB at Amazon
"Offers such outstanding price-to-performance ratio that it's still Amazon’s best seller."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Seagate 3TB 7200RPM BarraCuda at Amazon
"An ideal choice for … a great combination of storage, quality, and speed."
Best Laptop: Seagate 2.5-Inch BarraCuda at Amazon
"An ideal choice for laptop owners looking to kick performance and storage to the next level."
Best for Small Businesses: Seagate 6TB IronWolf Pro v11 at Amazon
"Aims to satisfy users who want a strong mix of performance and data protection."
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
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.
Ideal for desktops
Good combination of storage, quality, and speed
Has model that fits laptops
Warranty could be longer
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.
Great for laptop owners
Works with AIO PCs and slim desktops
Solid read/write speeds
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.
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.
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.
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.