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Best internal hard drives (HDD) 2022

Hard Drives
(Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

When it comes to storing files and games, it's hard to beat the value proposition of the classic hard disk drive (HDD). Sure, it's old technology at this point, but with SSDs still costing significantly more in some cases, it's no wonder that HDDs have stuck around. These are the best internal hard drives (HDD) you can buy right now.

Best overall: Seagate FireCuda

Seagate FireCuda

Source: Seagate (Image credit: Seagate)

Seagate FireCuda

Faster than an HDD

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Faster than traditional HDDs
+
5-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Still outclassed by SSDs
-
Flash-acceleration results don't always appear immediately
-
Not as many storage options

Not quite a hard drive, not quite an SSD, the Seagate FireCuda blends both storage types into one unit, an SSHD, if you will. It features an embedded 8GB NAND along with up to 2TB of traditional storage to create an enhanced drive. The flash unit speeds up read/write speeds. With SATA 6Gb/s support onboard, Seagate promises a 140MB/s read speed. At 5400 RPM, the drive itself is quieter and generates less heat.

The benefits of the 8GB NAND aren't always readily apparent since the drive effectively learns your most used applications and loads them faster. For games, it might help with initial load times after you've launched the game a few times. It's easy to get excited about the possibilities with this drive, but even a SATA SSD will still outpace it by a considerable margin.

The whole point of the FireCuda is to enhance the traditional mechanical hard drive. You can still get higher capacities without breaking the bank, all while experiencing improved performance that is noticeably better than even a 7200 RPM HDD.

Runner-up: Western Digital Black

Western Digital Black

Source: Western Digital (Image credit: Western Digital)

Western Digital Black

A solid performer

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Reliable
+
5-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Can get loud
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Outpaced by the FireCuda

Western Digital's cream of the crop, the Black line, represents some of the best the company has to offer with traditional mechanical hard drives. While not the fastest performer, outdone by both the FireCuda and WD VelociRaptor, the Black drives are trustworthy and reliable. They're great for game storage, especially for titles that don't need to load super quick like singleplayer games.

In a world where the FireCuda SSHD doesn't exist, the WD Black would be my top choice, not only for its performance and reliability but also for its price. More expensive than its Blue cousin — which we'll get to in a bit — the Black still represents a tremendous performance-to-value ratio.

Thankfully, Western Digital dropped the "Caviar" moniker, opting for just naming its HDD lines by their respective colors. You can start at as little as 500GB or get up to 6TB, depending on your budget. These are the drives I run in my rig, and I've never had a problem. If you're worried, WD throws in a five-year warranty.

Best capacity: Seagate BarraCuda Pro

BarraCuda Pro

Source: Seagate (Image credit: Source: Seagate)

Seagate BarraCuda Pro

Another great HDD

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent performance
+
Plenty of storage options
+
5-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as good of a value as the WD Black or FireCuda
-
Beaten by the FireCuda for speed

In a similar vein to the WD Black, we have the Seagate BarraCuda Pro series of mechanical hard drives. Sporting Seagate's most robust reliability claims and a higher warranty than the regular BarraCuda — again, we'll get to that shortly — the Pro series aims to last for years to come.

The BarraCuda Pro features a 300TB/year workload maximum, so like the WD Black, it's best left for things like games where you're not going to be moving them back and forth. It's a 7200 RPM drive that supports SATA 6Gb/s for that fast transfer speed.

Where the BarraCuda Pro outclasses the WD Black is the storage options available. You start at 2TB and can climb up to a ludicrous 14TB. You'll pay a pretty penny for that much space, though.

Best performance: Western Digital VelociRaptor

WD VelociRaptor

Source: Amazon (Image credit: Source: Amazon)

Western Digital VelociRaptor

High-performance at a price

Reasons to buy

+
Fast 10000 RPM
+
5-year warranty
+
Highly reliable

Reasons to avoid

-
Still outclassed by SSDs
-
Questionable value
-
Limited storage options

If you're looking for best-in-class HDD performance, then look no further than the WD VelociRaptor. Western Digital is a massive name in the hard drive market, best known for various product categories, including internal hard drives. There are several different WD options — Blue for budget, Red for NAS, Black for performance, Purple for surveillance — but the 10000 RPM VelociRaptor is the king among hard disk drives.

However, this drive is pricy and comes in lower storage sizes, not to mention the SSDs still outclass it. The 2TB Kingston A400 SSD, for example, is roughly the same price and runs laps around this drive at double the space. There's no longer a place for a drive like this.

But, I suppose if you're set on sticking with HDDs, and don't want to go with an SSHD, then the VelociRaptor is the best you'll get in terms of performance. Western Digital also includes a five-year warranty in case anything goes wrong.

Best value: Seagate BarraCuda Pro

Seagate BarraCuda Pro

Source: Seagate (Image credit: Seagate)

Seagate BarraCuda Pro

Best bang for your buck

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible value
+
Plenty of storage options
+
2-year warranty
+
Generally, a quiet drive

Reasons to avoid

-
Sketchy reliability in the past
-
Lower random read/write speeds
-
Shorter warranty than the Pro

If you want to save money, then the Seagate BarraCuda is it. The value here is nothing to sneeze at. Undercutting its own Pro cousin, the regular BarraCuda packs in the same 7200 RPM rotational speed, SATA 6Gb/s, and generous storage options.

There isn't too much else to say here. Frankly, you can't beat the value of the BarraCuda, and word has it that the reliability of this drive has improved drastically in recent years. One of its most significant downsides from all reports is that it lacks robustness when it comes to random read/write speeds — arguably a better indication of real-world use.

The BarraCuda HDD starts at 1TB and goes up to 8TB, with the value proposition getting better and better at the higher capacities.

Most reliable: Western Digital Blue

Western Digital Blue

Source: Western Digital (Image credit: Western Digital)

Western Digital Blue

Reliable and affordable

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Several storage options
+
2-year warranty

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly more expensive than Seagate
-
Some trouble reported with the warranty
-
Shorter warranty than the Black

Coming in hot behind the BarraCuda is the WD Blue, Western Digital's budget line of HDDs. They're essentially comparable to the BarraCuda but generally run for a few bucks more on average. Western Digital has typically had a better reputation for reliability.

The WD Blue is to the Black like the BarraCuda is to the Pro. Essentially, it's the same drive with a shorter warranty and a few performance tweaks left off to keep costs down. That's fine, but Western Digital needs to keep an eye out on Seagate and drop its prices a tad to stay competitive beyond simple brand loyalty.

Best for a NAS: Seagate IronWolf

Seagate IronWolf

Source: Seagate (Image credit: Source: Seagate)

Seagate IronWolf

Great NAS performance

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Multiple storage options
+
3-year warranty
+
Solid reliability

Reasons to avoid

-
Lower capacity drives lack some features
-
Shorter warranty than the IronWolf Pro

What if you're not looking for game storage but rather something for all of your important files? That's where a NAS (network-attached storage) comes in. Whether you're building your own or buying one ready to go, you'll need some hard drives to keep everything backed up. And my pick for that is Seagate's IronWolf.

I run these personally in my own NAS, and they're great. NAS drives are a bit different than desktop-class HDDs because they're designed to run 24/7 while maintaining a higher level of performance. According to Seagate, the IronWolf comes in storage sizes ranging from 1TB up to 16TB with a three-year warranty. There's also the IronWolf Pro line, but that's aimed more at the business and otherwise professional level.

If you opt for the 3TB or above, you'll get Seagate's IronWolf Health Management, which works well with some NAS manufacturers to ensure that the drive is running at its best. Also, bear in mind that the 4TB drives and below run at 5,900 RPM rather than 7,200 RPM. The 1TB and 2TB models lack the vibration sensing features. The Pro line doesn't feature these disparities, but you pay a bit more of a premium to compensate.

Best enterprise HDD: Seagate Exos

Seagate Exos X

Source: Seagate (Image credit: Source: Seagate)

Seagate Exos

Enterprise grade

Reasons to buy

+
Good performance
+
5-year warranty
+
Power efficient

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
Lacks some of the IronWolf features
-
Fewer smaller storage options

Once again, Seagate has come out with a drive that matches Western Digital's offering and beats it on price. Above the IronWolf, and even the IronWolf Pro, is the Exos X. These enterprise-grade HDDs are meant for servers and are a bit outside the scope of the consumer market unless you're a "prosumer" who's running a home lab or just want some of the best and most reliable performance you can get.

The Exos X ranges from 1TB to 16TB, with the top-of-the-line X16 models sporting 14TB and 16TB capacities. It's much easier to find the X16, though the X10 model (a few steps down) and X14 are available, too. All told, the Exos X16 can handle 550TB of workload per year and has a Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) of 2.5 million hours. That's pretty awesome. Seagate also includes a five-year warranty.

Whether you go with a Seagate or a Western Digital — or even HGST — enterprise drive depends on your brand loyalty and what's on sale when you're shopping; the performance is nearly identical between the brands. Keep in mind that these enterprise-grade drives come at quite a cost over NAS or desktop HDDs.

Choosing the best hard drive

Long gone is the heyday of HDDs and in most cases, one of the best SSDs will be better, but they're still a great option if you want the best GB-to-dollar ratio. Seagate and Western Digital remain the big players in this space. Yet, ultimately, our recommendation for the best HDD for your money isn't an HDD at all, but the SSHD FireCuda. It packs a great value with some extra performance, outpacing the next runner-up.

A SATA SSD will still outclass each of the drives mentioned on this list, even the FireCuda and VelociRaptor. While you don't get quite the spacious storage options, you can pick up an SSD as a boot drive for pretty cheap these days. Assuming you want to just bulk up your storage for your games library without breaking the bank, then the Seagate FireCuda is the way to go.

And if you want to move beyond desktop-class drives for a NAS or home server rack, Seagate's got the IronWolf and Exos X drives to do what you need them to.

Rich Edmonds
Rich Edmonds

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

With contributions from