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Mahmood Kapustin
Mahmood Kapustin

This Is The Cheapest Hard Disk Drive Per Terabyte Right Now

WD Elements 12TB hard disk drive - $219.99 (opens in new tab)This 12TB hard disk drive from Western Digital is already available at a discount, but you can make an even greater saving by taking advantage of WD's recycling scheme (see below).

This is the cheapest hard disk drive per terabyte right now

The Seagate Backup Plus Slim was our previous portable hard drive pick, but we bumped it in favor of the Toshiba Canvio Flex because the Seagate model is more expensive per terabyte, its warranty is shorter, and it offers only up to 2 TB of space.

Yes, this is a popular question. Especially with bigger size hard drives. Those drives tend to be much more expensive per terabyte. It is often cheaper to get an additional drive which is smaller and gain the same total capacity (using two or 3 drives) cheaper.

The laptop on the left above comes with a traditional hard disk drive, while the one on the right has a more modern solid state drive. While SSDs and HDDs are both storage devices, the way they work is quite different.

The speed difference between solid state drives vs hard disk drives is significant. SSDs are extremely fast in all areas, but the speed difference is more pronounced when performing certain tasks, such as:

Analysts and vendors say the death of hard disk drives, a non-volatile storage technology that's been around for over 60 years, has been greatly exaggerated. But as other storage technology advances, including solid-state drives, the role HDDs play in the enterprise is starting to change.

In 2021, hard disk drives went from a top density of 18 TB to 20 TB. Experts believe this 2 TB bump in density, which can add up in direct proportion to the number of drives used, will affect the market, particularly for cloud and archive storage.

Edward Burns, research director, hard disk drive and storage technologies, IDC: 20 TB HDDs should be shipping in significant volumes by the middle of the year and begin to approach the volumes of the 18 TB by the end of 2022, making 20 TB the leading volume product shipment by the end of the year -- not for the year, but beginning to ship at a higher run rate at that time. We should see significant volumes from WD and Seagate at that capacity point.

Sinan Sahin, principal product manager, Seagate: It's all about how do you normalize the cost of it in dollars per TB. Hard disk drives are still the most economical way to go with it with a dollars per terabyte. But in terms of new and flashy next year, I would say that dual actuators will increase the speed, and it'll still be focused on those dollars per terabyte in terms of an affordable storage compared to something like a flash.

Gorakhpurwalla, WD: [HDDs will] never get displaced in the enterprise. Because the capacity points and the data explosion just demand that we have multiple tiers in the data center, and the primary tier will be hard drives and magnetic recording. You have this body of two minds, if I only know the end device, I'm thinking the hard drive industry is probably declining or going away. If you're in the enterprise space, if you're paying attention to data being created through digital transformation in the world, you realize we're building more factories, and as an industry, we're putting more capacity in. Because capacity, if you listened to our customers, and then translated through our business, you realize our next five years, the number of bits we need to produce is increasing by 35% every year.

Wells Fargo senior analyst Aaron Rakers in August 2019 predicted enterprise storage buyers will start to prefer SSDs when prices fall to five times or less that of hard disk drives. He noted an 18x premium in 2017 for enterprise SSDs over mass capacity nearline disk drives. This dropped to a 9x premium in 2019. He did not predict when the 5x premium crossover point would be reached.

In the chart above, the orange line in this log-scale x-axis chart is the hard disk drive (HDD) $/TB street cost over time, plotted against the left-hand x-axis. The blue line represents the street $/TB SSD cost over the same time period, and the two lines are projected to cross in 2026. The green dotted line stands for the ratio between the SSD and HDD costs, plotted against the values on the right vertical axis.

This is pricier than a lot of 6TB hard disks, even by the standards of those created specifically for use in NAS, as this is. Nonetheless, its high performance makes it a worthwhile investment: we measured it hitting a sequential read speed of 229MB/sec and a sequential write speed of 244MB/sec.

Storage drives mostly fall into two main categories: traditional hard drives, or HDDs, and solid-state drives, or SSDs. Most hard drives, until recently, were mechanical HDDs. These have moving disks (called platters) inside, where the data itself is written and read. These traditional hard drives have largely fallen out of favor for use as system drives, but their larger capacities and much cheaper per-gigabyte cost means they are still a very popular choice for external storage use.

A very important thing to consider is read and write speeds (the speeds at which data is downloaded from and uploaded to the hard drive), but this is less of a potential pitfall than it was in the past. Even traditional rotary hard drives (HDDs) offer pretty solid read/write speeds today, with 7,200rpm being the standard. Be sure to double-check this and avoid any that use the older 5,400rpm standard, although these are less common now. Solid-state drives naturally offer the best read/write speeds, but, as explained above, offer the least value per gigabyte.

Synology has introduced 8, 12, and 16TB enterprise hard drives (rebranded Toshiba Enterprise HDDs with custom firmware), but they are meant specifically for Synology NAS units (no warranties if used in other systems) and are not part of this buyer's guide. Toshiba's MG09 18TB HDDs based on FC-MAMR are quite new in the market, and will be added in a future update to this buyer's guide

It's in the real-world tests where the SN770 really struts its stuff. Basically, you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference between this drive and much faster offerings in most day-to-day operations. Given this is the cheaper drive right now, that counts for a lot. If you need better performance, then the SN850 is clearly the better drive, but you will pay considerably more for it.

It will happily function as a boot drive on systems with no M.2 sockets, or at least no bootable M.2 sockets anyway. You will still be missing out on the zippy response of your operating system running on the SSD-specific NVMe protocol, but if that's not an option anyway, this drive will see you right.

If you bought an ultraportable laptop anytime in the last few years, you very likely got a solid-state drive (SSD) as the primary boot drive. Bulkier gaming laptops have moved to SSD boot drives, too, while only a subset of budget machines still favor hard disk drives (HDDs). The boot drives in prebuilt desktop PCs are mostly SSDs now, too, except in the cheapest models. In some cases, a desktop comes with both, with the SSD as the boot drive and the HDD as a bigger-capacity storage supplement.

Most 2.5- and 3.5-inch drives use SATA interfaces (at least on consumer computers), but many high-speed internal SSDs now use the faster PCI Express interface instead. Capacities have grown from multiple megabytes to multiple terabytes, more than a million-fold increase. As for hard drives, current 3.5-inch hard drives are now available in capacities exceeding 10TB.

SSDs are more expensive than hard drives in terms of dollar per gigabyte. A 1TB internal 2.5-inch hard drive costs between $40 and $60, but as of this writing, the very cheapest SSDs of the same capacity and form factor start at around $80. That translates into 4 to 6 cents per gigabyte for the hard drive versus 8 cents per gigabyte for the SSD. The differences are more drastic if you look at high-capacity 3.5-inch hard drives. For example, a 12TB 3.5-inch hard drive that sells for around $300 to $350 can push the per-gigabyte cost below 3 cents.

A secondary issue to this: fragmentation. Because of their rotary recording surfaces, hard drives work best with larger files that are laid down in contiguous blocks. That way, the drive head can start and end its read in one continuous motion. When hard drives start to fill up, bits of large files end up scattered around the disk platter, causing the drive to suffer from what's called "fragmentation." While read/write algorithms have improved to the point that the effect is minimized, hard drives can still become fragmented to the point of affecting performance. SSDs can't, however, because the lack of a physical read head means data can be stored anywhere without penalty. This contributes to SSDs' inherently faster nature.

Then there's the issue of longevity. While it is true that SSDs wear out over time (each cell in a flash-memory bank can be written to and erased a limited number of times, measured by SSD makers as a "terabytes written" or TBW rating), thanks to TRIM command technology that dynamically optimizes these read/write cycles, you're more likely to discard the system for obsolescence before you start running into read/write errors with an SSD. If you're really worried, several tools can let you know if you're approaching the drive's rated end of life. Eventually, hard drives will wear out from constant use, as well, since they use physical recording methods. Longevity is a wash when it's separated from travel and ruggedness concerns.

A better solution for many folks will be a dual-drive system. In this case, a PC builder or manufacturer will install an SSD as the primary drive (C:) for the operating system and apps, and add a larger-capacity spinning hard drive for storing files. This works well in theory; in practice, you want to be sure the manufacturer doesn't go too small on the SSD. Windows itself takes up a lot of space on the primary drive, and some apps can't be installed on other drives. In our opinion, 256GB is a practical minimum size for the C: drive nowadays for general use, with 128GB workable if you have no choice. Space concerns are the same as with any multiple-drive system: You need physical space inside the PC chassis to hold two (or more) drives, which means that these kind of arrangements are practical only in PC desktops and some big-chassis, high-end (usually gaming-oriented) laptops. 350c69d7ab


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