Choosing a hard drive for your network attached storage (NAS) is about more than affordability. You need to consider other factors including capacity, vibration protection, and reliability.
Not all drives are the same
It’s possible to purchase a desktop hard drive, throw it into your Network Attached Storage box (NAS) and call it a day. This is OK if you’re only going to install a single drive that won’t be accessed by multiple users simultaneously. These more affordable drives don’t have vibration protection and as such shouldn’t be used in a multi-drive RAID setup where more than one motor running will cause vibration. That could have a negative effect on the performance and longevity of each drive.
One way to solve this issue is to spend a little more on enterprise-grade drives, which are manufactured using more advanced components and support various additional features. They may include error correction, vibration protection, and increased Power On Hours (POH). The more money invested will also result in superior performance, which is ideal should you be utilizing the NAS for larger files or intense use scenarios.
Dedicated NAS drives are a middle ground between desktop and enterprise drives. They’re durable enough for shared storage deployment and usually come optimized for NAS use. Increased performance and better power efficiency can also be found in NAS drives compared to their desktop counterparts. Lastly, we have drives specifically designed for surveillance systems. These aren’t recommended for a NAS simply because they offer lower random access performance.
Generally speaking, you will want to aim for a 7,200RPM drive with 64MB of cache. Hard drives will perform similarly between brands, but you’ll want to pay attention to reviews, as well as features and specifications, to pick a drive that will handle everything you throw at it.
These are the drives you’re looking for
Western Digital Red
Western Digital’s (WD) Red family of hard drives are manufactured for NAS use and can be deployed in systems that support up to eight bays. Backed by a three-year limited warranty and a powerful brand in the storage market, WD drives are well known to be of top quality, and they last a long time. The Red series aren’t the fastest hard drives on the market, but using them in a RAID formation can make up for this.
This particular series of drives comes in 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB and 8TB versions. Depending on just how much space you require, it’s possible to pick one up for $64.99 (1TB). Each drive comes with the company’s NASware 3.0 for enhanced reliability and performance. It’s also worth noting that WD doesn’t ship any mounting brackets or screws with these drives.
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Seagate’s IronWolf series is the company’s solution for NAS setups, rivaling WD Red. Similar technology, named AgileArray, is implemented to offer enhanced performance and reliability over desktop drives, and these units can be installed in boxes that support up to eight bays. IronWolf Pro is the next step up with slightly more expensive drives but increased supported bays, workload rates, and a limited warranty.
The IronWolf family of NAS hard drives come in 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, 7TB, 8TB and 10TB versions and a three-year warranty. Prices start at $64.99 for the 1TB capacity configuration.
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HGST Deskstar NAS
HGST is actually the child company of Western Digital and as such you’ll enjoy the similar performance, reliability and customer service experiences. Vibration protection and a million hours MTBF (mean time before failure) make these NAS-classified drives ideal for deployment at home or in a small office. These drives are fairly expensive, starting at $128 for 3TB, but you get better speed than WD Red and Seagate’s IronWolf.
The only downside to these drives is that they’re loud. You’ll be able to hear the head moving around more so than on competitor drives. This may not be a problem for anyone locking the drives away in a NAS cabinet, but should you require silence in the office or bedroom and have a few of these installed nearby, you may need a pair of headphones.
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NAS required reading
Updated July 29, 2017: We made no alterations as these remain the best hard drives you can install inside a NAS.
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