Best NAS drives 2022: Reliable HDD, SSD, and M.2 cache

You’ll need one of these reliable drives to store data on your NAS.

In order to make the most out of the best NAS you can buy, you’ll need at least one drive to store the OS and all your data. You could try to go without any, but I doubt you’d make much progress! I’ve rounded up the best hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD) for use inside NAS enclosures.

  1. Best overall: Seagate IronWolf — ~18TB, ~24 bays, ~260MB/s, ~5-year warranty
  2. Runner-up: Western Digital Red — ~18TB, ~24 bays, ~272MB/s, ~5-year warranty
  3. Best capacity: Seagate Exos — ~20TB, ~270MB/s, ~5-year warranty
  4. Best NAS SSD: Synology SAT5200 — ~3.8TB, ~530MB/s, ~5-year warranty
  5. Best M.2 cache SSD: Seagate IronWolf 510 — ~2TB, ~5,000MB/s, ~5-year warranty
  6. Best surveillance: Seagate SkyHawk — ~20TB, 260MB/s, ~5-year warranty

What is the best NAS drive?

The best NAS drive would be one that’s specifically designed for use in servers. You could go all-out and pay big bucks for enterprise-grade drives, but manufacturers including Seagate and Western Digital have NAS-specific HDDs and SSDs. Just don’t go and use your old desktop PC drives.

I’m a big fan of Seagate IronWolf, particularly the Pro range. You have the choice of capacities between 1TB and 16TB, as well as speeds of up to 240MB/s. You don’t need SSD speeds if all you have is a NAS and network that supports 1Gb/s transfer rates. Seagate even rates these drives for workloads of up to 180TB/yr.

Western Digital has its Red series of drives if you want something a little more affordable, but still has similar features to Seagate IronWolf. Seagate Exos is for those who want serious capacity for storing all the data in the world. Then there’s the Synology SAT5200, which is a great choice for a NAS SSD.

We’d usually not recommend an SSD for NAS storage since it’s not the best choice due to how flash storage degrades over time through use. Mechanical drives are better overall and don’t have a finite amount of data that can be written. Where an SSD comes into play inside a NAS is caching, and I’d recommend the Seagate IronWolf 510.

HDD vs. SSD for NAS

Hard drives and solid state drives are both used for storing data, but they use different means to do so. The former makes use of a motor to spin platters that are met by a magnetic arm to read and write data to each plate. An SSD utilizes electricity to charge and discharge transistors.

Hard drives are excellent for long-term storage needs that require high capacities. They’re also far more affordable compared to newer SSD technologies. For NAS, it all depends on how much data you have to store, the type of data you want to store, how frequently you’ll be writing to the disks, and how much money you have to spend.

As aforementioned, hard drives usually offer larger capacities for storing data. You can find drives that offer 20TB of storage space. They’re slower than SSDs, thanks to the motor speed, and they don’t do well with vibrations and movement. For NAS, the latter isn’t an issue until you have twenty or more drives populated inside a single chassis.

This is where NAS-designed drives come into play with various features to help shield them against vibrations and other elements. The same goes for SSDs, which are fantastic for speeds but suffer from weaker endurance in the amount of data that can be written to them over time. NAS SSDs are better in this regard but still aren’t as good as HDDs for heavy writes.

1. Seagate IronWolf: Best overall NAS drive

My thoughts: The Seagate IronWolf family of hard drives for NAS are split into two sub-categories. You’ve got normal IronWolf drives and IronWolf Pro drives, the latter supporting more bays, higher speeds, increased warranty, and more.

Capacity: 1TB – 18TB | Max bays: 8 / 24 (Pro) | Workload: 180TB/yr or 300TB/yr (Pro) | Warranty: 3 years / 5 years (Pro) | Speed: 180MB/s – 240MB/s or 214MB/s – 260MB/s (Pro)

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Seagate IronWolf 1TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$60$0.06
Seagate IronWolf 2TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$80$0.04
Seagate IronWolf 3TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$95$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 4TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$83$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 6TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$135$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 8TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$185$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 10TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$237$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 12TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$290$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 16TB8240MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$330$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 4TB24214MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$130$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 6TB24214MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$180$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 8TB24214MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$260$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 10TB24250MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$270$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 12TB24250MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$320$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 14TB24250MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$360$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 16TB24260MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$368$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 18TB24260MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$420$0.03

The Seagate IronWolf series of drives are excellent for NAS. Capacities range between 1TB and 16TB and can be installed inside a NAS enclosure with up to eight drive bays. Seagate rates them with a workload of 180TB/yr, meaning you should be able to write plenty of data to them before encountering issues.

Then there’s the three-year warranty, a transfer speed of up to 240MB/s, and prices starting from just $60. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend two 2TB drives to enable RAID support and shield yourself against data loss. Once you’re comfortable with your server and have a few years of experience, Seagate’s IronWolf Pro is your next stop.

These Pro drives come with a five-year warranty, a workload rate of 300TB/yr, and increased speeds with support for up to 24 drive bays. You will need to pay a little more for these more advanced features, however.

Seagate IronWolf

Seagate IronWolf

I’m a big fan of Seagate’s IronWolf series of NAS hard drives. If you’re serious about storage, the Pro range offers a few advanced extras.

2. Western Digital Red: Runner-up

Western Digital Red Plus

My thoughts: The Western Digital Red series of NAS drives are very similar to Seagate’s offering and you should consider these if you can find them at more affordable prices. WD splits its NAS drives into three sub-categories, normal, Plus, and Pro.

Capacity: 1TB – 18TB | Max bays: 8 / 24 (Pro) | Workload: 180TB/yr or 300TB/yr (Pro) | Warranty: 3 years / 5 years (Pro) | Speed: 180MB/s – 210MB/s or 164MB/s – 272MB/s (Pro)

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Western Digital Red 2TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$55$0.03
Western Digital Red 3TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$69$0.02
Western Digital Red 4TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$95$0.02
Western Digital Red 6TB8180MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$130$0.02
Western Digital Red Plus 1TB8150MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$50$0.05
Western Digital Red Plus 2TB8175MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$65$0.03
Western Digital Red Plus 3TB8175MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$70$0.03
Western Digital Red Plus 4TB8175MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$83$0.02
Western Digital Red Plus 6TB8185MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$120$0.02
Western Digital Red Plus 8TB8210MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$170$0.03
Western Digital Red Plus 10TB8215MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$210$0.02
Western Digital Red Plus 12TB8196MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$269$0.02
Western Digital Red Plus 14TB8210MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$283$0.02
Western Digital Red Pro 2TB24164MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$84$0.04
Western Digital Red Pro 4TB24217MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$130$0.04
Western Digital Red Pro 6TB24238MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$200$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 8TB24235MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$248$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 10TB24265MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$282$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 12TB24240MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$320$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 14TB24255MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$304$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 16TB24259MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$300$0.02
Western Digital Red Pro 18TB24272MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$410$0.02
Western Digital Red Pro 20TB24268MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$500$0.02

Western Digital makes some great drives and the Red range of HDDs are designed for NAS use. You can find capacities between 1TB and 18TB, depending on your needs. The Red and Red Plus series are restricted to NAS with up to eight drive bays. You’ll need to go with the Pro series for up to 24 bays.

Like Seagate’s IronWolf, you can expect to enjoy a workload rating of up to 180TB/yr with Western Digital Red drives. If you’re going to be writing a lot of data, you may want to consider the Pro range, which bumps this up to 300TB/yr. I’d go with 2TB Red Plus drives to start with.

Regardless of which Red hard drive you choose, you’re going to have a great time with your new NAS.

Western Digital Red

Western Digital Red

Western Digital makes some of the best drives on the market and its Red range for NAS enclosures is no exception. You’ll have a wide range of options to choose from.

3. Seagate Exos: Best capacity

Seagate Exos

My thoughts: Seagate Exos is serious business. Speeds can hit 272MB/s and the 550TB/yr workload limit is fantastic for NAS and other server applications. Backed by a 5-year warranty, you’ll have peace of mind your data is safe.

Capacity: 1TB – 20TB | Max bays: – | Workload: 550TB/yr | Warranty: 5 years | Speed: 194MB/s – 270MB/s

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Seagate Exos 7E2 1TB194MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$80$0.08
Seagate Exos 7E2 2TB194MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$145$0.07
Seagate Exos 7E8 4TB215MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$160$0.04
Seagate Exos 7E8 6TB226MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$155$0.03
Seagate Exos 7E8 8TB249MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$249$0.03
Seagate Exos X16 10TB249MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$175$0.03
Seagate Exos X16 12TB261MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$260$0.02
Seagate Exos X16 14TB261MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$245$0.02
Seagate Exos X16 16TB261MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$278$0.02
Seagate Exos X18 18TB270MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$322$0.02

Seagate Exos is a premium series of drives from the company. They’re even more advanced than IronWolf Pro and are best suited for server environments. They sport incredible levels of performance and reliability, including a workload rate of 550TB per year.

The 7E2 series takes you from 1TB up to 10TB, which is where the X16 and X18 families take over. The X18 can go all the way up to 18TB, which is more than enough for most home or small NAS enclosure setups. These drives come with a workload rate of 550TB per year and have a warranty of five years.

Seagate Exos

Seagate Exos

Whether you’re going to serious storage on your NAS or wanting to do some Chia cryptocurrency farming, Seagate Exos is a great range of high-endurance HDDs.

4. Synology SAT5200: Best NAS SSD

Synology SAT5200

My thoughts: SSDs are a little more niche when it comes to NAS servers. If you have a network that can handle 530MB/s, solid-state drives will make more sense. Just watch out for the finite write limit and even wear.

Capacity: 1TB – 3.8TB | Max bays: – | Workload: 1.3 DWPD | Warranty: 5 years | Speed: ~530MB/s

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Synology SAT5200 480GB530MB/s1.3 DWPD5 years$177$0.37
Synology SAT5200 960GB530MB/s1.3 DWPD5 years$320$0.33
Synology SAT5200 1.9TB530MB/s1.3 DWPD5 years$675$0.36
Synology SAT5200 3.8TB530MB/s1.3 DWPD5 years$1,100$0.29

Not happy with hard drive performance inside your NAS? Want a quieter enclosure without vibrations? You’ll want to consider an SSD. Like desktop-class flash storage, SSDs are great for quick access and quiet operation, but they’re often incredibly more expensive and the same goes for NAS servers.

The Synology SAT5200 series of SSDs are designed for use inside NAS enclosures. Making use of the same 6GB/s SATA interface, it’s possible to achieve read and write speeds of 530MB/s and 500MB/s, respectively. This won’t make a difference if your network is limited to 1Gb connections.

Synology SAT5200

Synology SAT5200

If you really want to have SSD storage inside your NAS server, the Synology SAT5200 is a good choice even if you’re using an enclosure from another brand.

5. Seagate IronWolf 525: Best M.2 cache SSD

Seagate IronWolf 525

My thoughts: If you want considerably better read and write speeds for your already installed hard drives, you can use available M.2 slots to give them both a bump. It’s the best of both worlds without having to spend literal thousands on SSD drives.

Capacity: 500GB – 2TB | Max bays: – | Workload: 0.7 DWPD | Warranty: 5 years | Speed: ~5,000MB/s

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Seagate IronWolf 525 500GB5,000MB/s0.7 DWPD5 years$155$0.27
Seagate IronWolf 525 1TB5,000MB/s0.7 DWPD5 years$243$0.18
Seagate IronWolf 525 2TB5,000MB/s0.7 DWPD5 years$290$0.17

Hard drives don’t have particularly good read and write speeds. To help alleviate this issue, you can either replace the HDDs with SSDs, which quickly becomes expensive or use an M.2 SSD drive as cache. I’d recommend the Seagate IronWolf 525.

With speeds of up to 5,000MB/s, thanks to PCIe 4.0 support, your NAS will be able to take full advantage of this faster storage and use it for frequently accessed data. You won’t be using these drives to increase capacity, but it does allow you to use more HDDs and save some in the process.

Seagate IronWolf 525

Seagate IronWolf 525

Adding SSD storage to your NAS to act as a cache is a great way to improve performance. If you frequently access numerous files on your NAS, this is a good SSD for you.

6. Seagate SkyHawk: Best surveillance drives

Seagate SkyHawk 20TB

My thoughts: If you plan on running a security system and saving recorded footage to a NAS or DVR, you’ll want to look at some drives specifically designed for such scenarios. Seagate’s SkyHawk range is just what you’ll need.

Capacity: 1TB – 20TB | Max bays: – | Workload: 550TB/yr | Warranty: 5 years | Speed: 180MB/s – 260MB/s

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Seagate SkyHawk 1TB180MB/s180 TB/yr5 years$53$0.05
Seagate SkyHawk 2TB180MB/s180 TB/yr5 years$70$0.04
Seagate SkyHawk 4TB180MB/s180 TB/yr5 years$98$0.02
Seagate SkyHawk 6TB180MB/s180 TB/yr5 years$150$0.02
Seagate SkyHawk 8TB210MB/s180 TB/yr5 years$170$0.02
Seagate SkyHawk AI 8TB245MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$218$0.02
Seagate SkyHawk AI 10TB245MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$274$0.03
Seagate SkyHawk AI 12TB250MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$300$0.03
Seagate SkyHawk AI 16TB250MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$410$0.03
Seagate SkyHawk AI 18TB260MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$480$0.03
Seagate SkyHawk AI 20TB260MB/s550 TB/yr5 years

Seagate SkyHawk is designed with surveillance systems in mind. Should you be recording footage to your NAS or DVR setup, these drives will be perfect for storing and accessing saved streams. The basic drives are rated for 180TB per year, but the SkyHawk AI drives are capable of handling up to 500TB per year.

Like other NAS drives, there are rotational vibration sensors to help maintain performance and prevent damage from occurring to the internal components. You should be able to save up to 10,000 hours of footage on a 10TB drive, allowing you to store a lot before needing to overwrite the drive.

Seagate SkyHawk

The Seagate SkyHawk range of hard drives is designed for use inside systems that record footage from various security streams.

By Richard Edmonds

I've been covering the tech industry for more than a decade and have tinkered with NAS for just as long. Follow my ramblings and more right here on NAS Master!

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