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Best NAS Hard Drives in 2021 (For Home & Office Users)

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By        •   July 20, 2021      Advertising Disclosure

 

nas hard drives

Unlike hard drives for most personal computers, you should emphasize reliability over speed for those used in NAS. Most major hard drive manufacturers have NAS-specific models, but my top choice is Seagate IronWolf to balance reliability, price, and performance.

 

If you’re hunting for hard drives to park in your Network Attached Storage (NAS) device, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve spent years poring over detailed lines in data sheets to bring you the best NAS hard drives and matching them to various use cases.

 

NAS drives vary in specification by brand and sometimes even model. Because of this, what works for your friend may not be ideal for you. Keep reading till the end to see the recommended use cases for the drives below, plus a buying guide.

 

 

Note

Prices shown in this article were based on the time of writing. To view current prices, click on the various product links.

 

Let’s jump in.

 

1. Seagate IronWolf

 

Seagate IronWolf

Seagate IronWolf – see on Amazon from $59.99

 

The Seagate IronWolf is a range of drives by Seagate built for use in consumer-level NAS devices. They come in capacities between 1 to 12TB, with higher capacity drives offering the same reliability but better performance.

 

Once you hit the 8TB capacity mark, you get an impressive drive that will run at 7.200 rpm, enabling it to hit write speeds of 210 MB/s. Seagate drives are also readily available in most markets, so you can get replacements easily.

 

Seagate IronWolf specifications

 

  • 1 – 12 TB capacities
  • 1 million hours MTBF
  • 5,400 – 7,200 rpm
  • 64 – 256 MB cache
  • 180 – 210 MB/s sustained write
  • See full specifications

 

Pros & cons of Seagate IronWolf

 

Pros

  • Fast performance.
  • Readily available.
  • Strong reliability.

 

Cons

  • Performance discrepancy between different capacity drives.

 

 

 

2. Seagate IronWolf Pro

 

Seagate IronWolf Pro

Seagate IronWolf Pro – see on Amazon from $139.99

 

If you’re looking for something that falls more into the prosumer range, then the Seagate IronWolf Pro series is for you. These drives eliminate the weakness found on the lower range of IronWolf drives and are supercharged across the line.

 

Seagate IronWolf Pro drives offer slightly better endurance than their non-Pro cousins and max out on speed and cache size. More importantly, the Pro series extends the number of drives you can run in RAIDs to 24 drives per configuration.

 

Seagate IronWolf Pro specifications

 

  • 4 – 18 TB capacities
  • 1.2 million hours MTBF
  • 7,200 rpm
  • 256 MB cache
  • 220 – 260 MB/s sustained write
  • See full specifications

 

Pros & Cons of Seagate IronWolf Pro

 

Pros

  • High performance.
  • 10TB and above filled with Helium.
  • Works in up to 24-drive configurations.

 

Cons

  • Only a slight increase in rated endurance.

 

 

 

3. Seagate EXOS

 

Seagate EXOS

 

Technically the Seagate EXOS series isn’t meant for consumer NAS. They were built to high specifications and intended for data center use. However, since the build is the same, they’ll happily fit your home or office NAS.

 

Seagate EXOS drives only come in massive storage capacities, but they also offer eyebrow-raising endurance ratings more than double what you’ll find in the Seagate IronWolf Pro range. They also come with 5-year warranties, which isn’t what you’ll find in most drives.

 

Seagate EXOS specifications

 

  • 1 – 18 TB capacities
  • 2.5 million hours MTBF
  • 7,200 rpm
  • 256 MB cache
  • 270 MB/s sustained write
  • See full specifications

 

Pros & Cons of Seagate EXOS

 

Pros

  • Solid performance.
  • Low watt/TB rating.
  • Ultra-high endurance.

 

Cons

  • Expensive.

 

 

 

4. Western Digital Red

 

Western Digital Red

Western Digital Red – see on Amazon from $56.99

 

I used to be fond of Western Digital drives since even their consumer drives lasted forever. While the brand has somewhat declined over the years, they remain one of the industry giants. The Western Digital Red is their NAS-specific line of hard disk drives.

 

This series of drives is more limited in scope than its competitors from Seagate. More sedate specifications aim directly at a consumer-oriented environment. While this may sound frustrating, it also removes a lot of confusion for buyers, simplifying technical challenges.

 

Western Digital Red specifications

 

  • 2 – 6 TB capacities
  • 1 million hours MTBF
  • 5,400 rpm
  • 256 MB cache
  • 180 MB/s sustained write
  • See full specifications

 

Pros & Cons of Western Digital Red

 

Pros

  • Great for up to 8-bay configurations.
  • All drives come with 3-year warranties.
  • Good reliability for lower capacity drives.

 

Cons

  • SMR-only.
  • Limited capacity.

 

 

 

5. Western Digital Red Pro

 

Western Digital Red Pro

Western Digital Red Pro – see on Amazon from $486.98

 

The Western Digital Red Pro line of drives slightly improves on the non-Pro variants. The series has a more varied performance, with higher capacity versions pushing data transfer speeds to the 255 MB/s mark while retaining the same MTBF rating.

 

These drives are also able to work in larger RAID configurations of up to 24 drives. They also offer better error recovery features with the inclusion of special controllers. Like all NAS drives, Western Digital Red Pros are slightly noisy, but the whirring sound is less alarming than Seagate drives’ clicking.

 

Western Digital Red Pro specifications

 

  • 2 – 14 TB capacities
  • 1 million hours MTBF
  • 7,200 rpm
  • 64 – 512 MB cache
  • 180 MB/s sustained write
  • See full specifications

 

Pros & Cons of Western Digital Red Pro

 

Pros

  • 5-year warranty across the range.
  • Fast speeds and decent reliability.
  • Highest capacity drive offers a whopping 512 MB cache.

 

Cons

  • Poor warranty service.

 

 

 

6. Western Digital Gold

 

Western Digital Gold

Western Digital Gold – see on Amazon from $159.99

 

Western Digital Gold drives are the counterpart to Seagate’s EXOS series. These enterprise-scale use can also be used in a home or small office NAS and offer much better reliability over their other Red cousins.

 

What makes these drives unique when used for consumer-grade NAS is the wide range of choices in capacities. It means you can buy a smaller capacity Gold drive but still take advantage of the better reliability than regular NAS drives.

 

Western Digital Gold specifications

 

  • 1 – 18 TB capacities
  • 2 – 2.5 million hours MTBF
  • 7,200 rpm
  • 128 – 512 MB cache
  • 184 – 269 MB/s sustained write
  • See full specifications

 

Pros & Cons of Western Digital Gold

 

Pros

  • Very power efficient.
  • Potential for massive storage space.
  • Impressive endurance for lower capacity drives.

 

Cons

  • Widely varying specs can confuse buyers.

 

 

 

7. Toshiba N300

 

Toshiba N300

 

Toshiba may sound more of a washing machine brand than a hard disk drive manufacturer, but the Toshiba N300 line of NAS drives is pretty reliable. Those fed up with the mountain of choices coming from companies specializing in hard drives can simply get a Toshiba N300 and be done with things.

 

The N300 is in no way inferior to what Western Digital or Seagate offers. It sits nicely in the NAS space, with somewhat varying specifications across a single line of drives. There is also decent capacity range to fit most use cases.

 

Toshiba N300 specifications

 

  • 4 – 16 TB capacities
  • 1- 1.2 million hours MTBF
  • 7,200 rpm
  • 128 – 512 MB cache
  • 204 – 274 MB/s sustained write
  • See full specifications

 

Pros & Cons of Toshiba N300

 

Pros

  • Good reliability.
  • Fast transfer speeds.
  • Good specs for consumer use.

 

Cons

  • Buys need to be careful matching specs to needs.

 

 

 

8. Synology HAT5300

 

Synology HAT5300

Synology HAT5300 – see on Amazon from $248.76

 

Synology has ventured into the hard drive space but not directly. They have been rebranding and slightly modifying Toshiba drives, resulting in the Synology HAT5300 series of enterprise-scale hard drives.

 

The HAT5300 series are labeled as enterprise drives with the specifications to match. They will still work fine in consumer and small office NAS, so those willing to pay can take advantage of the top-notch performance.

 

Synology HAT5300 specifications

 

  • 4 – 16 TB capacities
  • 1- 1.2 million hours MTBF
  • 7,200 rpm
  • 128 – 512 MB cache
  • 204 – 274 MB/s sustained write
  • See full specifications

 

Pros & Cons of Synology HAT5300

 

Pros

  • Strong reliability and performance.
  • More straightforward range to choose from.
  • Some Synology NAS may require these in future.

 

Cons

  • Loud for non-enterprise environments.

 

 

 

NAS Hard Drive Buying Guide

 

There are several essential things to note before jumping in and buying the most available hard disk drive you can find for your network attached storage. Most NAS-specific drives vary widely in specifications, even within the same product line.

 

Buying a specific brand or even series of drives doesn’t guarantee you the best fit for your needs. Because of this, I’ve outlined a few typical use cases and the best hard disk drives that can fit them:

 

1. Home or SOHO Backups

 

The main aim of your hard drives for home or SOHO NAS use is reliability. Unless you’re a data hoarder, you won’t need massive capacities or blazing fast speeds. You can set backups to run in the background or during idle times.

 

Recommended Hard Drives

 

2. Enthusiasts and Prosumers

 

NAS hard drives are often difficult to recommend for enthusiasts or prosumers. Most brands increase performance as capacities go up. The middle ground in NAS drives isn’t a popular one – with a few minor exceptions.

 

 

3. Small Office

 

In the case of small offices, we need to consider not just price, but capacity. Not all businesses will require large storage spaces, but due to improved performance and reliability, it’s better to consider something above 8TB.

 

 

Understanding Hard Disk Drive Terminology

 

If you’re struggling to choose a hard disk drive due to confusion caused by not knowing bits from bytes, here are some highlights to help. Manufacturers often publish vast lists of specifications, but not all will be vital for everyone.

 

The key terms you need to understand include:

 

  • Capacity
    Often listed in Terabytes (TB), hard drive capacity is the amount of data you can store on the drive.
  • Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF)
    Like all hardware, hard drives will eventually fail. The MTBF rating is the average time the manufacturer has observed to pass (on average) before the drive starts failing. The longer this rating is, the more reliable your drive will be.
  • Revolutions Per Minute (RPM)
    Mechanical hard drives make use of “platters” inside that rotate at high speeds for data access. The faster the platters rotate, the higher the speed of the drive. Common RPM rates range between 5,400 to 7,200.
  • Cache
    Mechanical drives are limited in speed, partially by physics. To improve performance, manufacturers include a small volatile cache to store data while waiting to be written to the drive. The larger the cache size, the better the performance.
  • Write Speed
    Reading a file is always faster than writing one, so the critical speed criteria to observe is maximum sustained write speed. This rating is the fastest speed at which data can continuously be written to a drive, often shown in Megabytes per Second (MB/s).

 

Final Thoughts

 

To give you an idea of how NAS hard disk drive specifications can differ, here’s a chart.

 

TOP 8 NAS HARD DRIVES SPECIFICATIONS COMPARISON
Seagate IronWolf Seagate IronWolf Pro Seagate EXOS Western Digital Red Western Digital Red Pro Western Digital Gold Toshiba N300 Synology HAT5300
Capacities (TB) 1 – 12 4 – 18 1 – 18 2 – 6 2 – 14 1 – 18 4 – 16 4 – 16
MTBF 1 million hours 1.2 million hours 2.5 million hours 1 million hours 1 million hours 2 – 2.5 million hours 1- 1.2 million hours 1- 1.2 million hours
RPM 5,400 – 7,200 7,200 7,200 5,400 7,200 7,200 7,200 7,200
Cache (MB) 64 – 256 256 256 256 64 – 512 128 – 512 128 – 512 128 – 512
Write Speed (MB/s) 180 – 210 220 – 260 270 180 180 184 – 269 204 – 274 204 – 274
Starting Price $59.99 $139.99 $100.00 $56.99 $486.98 $159.99 $109.99 $248.76
Get It From

 

You can technically run a consumer-grade hard disk drive in a network attached storage, but it isn’t ideal. Cheaper consumer hard drives aren’t built for constant access and may not perform well in RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configurations.

 

For those who may still retain some confusion, any hard disk drives on this list will work well in a NAS. They are all meant for this purpose, or at the very least, have the necessary characteristics.

 

With luck, you’ve now selected the best hard drive for your NAS. Next, you can take a look at our NAS setup guide to get you up and running quickly.