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Best NAS hard drives: Safely store all your data

Network-attached storage (NAS) 3.5-inch hard drives are designed for enclosures and servers. Using these drives is crucial to ensuring data stored on the NAS server is protected against loss. I’ve compiled a list of the best NAS hard drives that provide good transfer speeds and high capacities for the best NAS experience.

What is the best NAS hard drive?

We’d always recommend against using normal hard drives inside a NAS because they’re not designed for continuous use and don’t come with some of the features specially designed for servers. Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, and other brands have a collection of NAS-focused hard drives.

Important metrics to consider when shopping around include price per GB to maximize your spending, transfer speed, motor speed, maximum bay support, cache, and workload. But really, for a home NAS, you’ll be absolutely fine with the cheapest NAS hard drive.

We’ve written up comprehensive guides on Western Digital Red, Red Plus, and Red Pro as well as Seagate IronWolf vs. IronWolf Pro. These should aid you in better understanding the differences between the family of drives.

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My favourite NAS drives

Seagate Ironwolf

Best NAS hard drive

Seagate IronWolf 8TB
Seagate IronWolf 8TB. (Source: Seagate)

I’m a big fan of Seagate storage and the IronWolf series offers impressive drives for use inside servers and NAS enclosures. Ranging between 1TB and 20TB, you can create everything from a small backup server to a media streaming platform.

Capacity1 – 18 TB
Max drive bays~8
Motor speed5,900 – 7,200 RPM
Transfer speed180 – 240 MB/s
Cache64 – 256 MB
$ per GB$0.03 – $0.06
Warranty3 years
  • Wide away of capacities
  • Great value
  • Affordable
  • Lower workloads
  • Bay limits
  • Slower speeds

The base Seagate IronWolf series of hard drives are available with capacities ranging between 1TB and 18TB. These are the hard drives you should buy over traditional consumer desktop drivers you’d typically use inside a PC.

they’re not quite as fast as Seagate IronWolf Pro drives, nor will you be able to use them in a configuration of more than eight drives, but they’ll be perfect for home and office use. A three-year warranty and 180TB per year workload rating shows just how capable these drives are.

The best part is the value with many of the capacity drives costing just $0.02 per GB.

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Seagate IronWolf 1TB8180 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$60$0.06
Seagate IronWolf 2TB8180 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$70$0.04
Seagate IronWolf 3TB8180 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$95$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 4TB8180 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$75$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 6TB8210 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$130$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 8TB8210 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$170$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 10TB8210 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$200$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 12TB8210 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$230$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 14TB8240 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$246$0.02
Seagate IronWolf 16TB8240 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$320$0.03
Seagate IronWolf 18TB8240 MB/s180 TB/yr3 years$390$0.02

Western Digital Red Plus

Runner-up best NAS hard drive

Western Digital Red Plus
Western Digital Red Plus. (Source: WD)

Western Digital’s more affordable Red Plus family of NAS drives are great for those seeking more affordable storage mediums. They max out at 14TB, 210MB/s, and get as low as $0.02 per GB.

Capacity1 – 14 TB
Max drive bays~8
Motor speed5,400 – 7,200 RPM
Transfer rate150 – 210 MB/s
Workload180 TB/yr
Cache64 – 512 MB
$ per GB$0.02 – $0.05
Power draw~ W
Dimensions x x mm
Warranty3 years
  • Wide away of capacities
  • Affordable
  • Great value
  • Slower speeds
  • Bay limits
  • Lower workloads

The Western Digital Red Plus series of NAS drives are specially designed for server use. They’re better than the base Red range by using a better and more reliable way of storing data. This does mean they won’t be the absolute cheapest NAS drives from WD.

Speeds range between 150MB/s and 210MB/s. Capacities go up to 14TB. These are some decent specs, especially considering you can use up to eight of them inside a NAS. A warranty is available that will cover you for up to three years.

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
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$345$0.02

Seagate Ironwolf Pro

Best performance

Seagate IronWolf Pro 20TB
Seagate IronWolf Pro 20TB. (Source: Seagate)

We’re recommending the Seagate IronWolf Pro, not because it’s outright better than the Western Digital Red Pro, but because the drive with the least capacity has better specs. This makes it great to get into the pro range of drives without spending too much.

Capacity4 – 20 TB
Max drive bays~24
Motor speed7,200 RPM
Transfer rate214 – 285 MB/s
Workload300 TB/yr
Cache256 MB
$ per GB$0.03
Warranty5 years
  • Wide away of capacities
  • High workloads
  • Good warranties
  • Good value
  • Loud and power-hungry
  • Bay limits

The Seagate IronWolf Pro range of NAS hard drives offers capacities between 4TB and 20TB. They are capable of being installed in a configuration of up to 24 bays. With a workload rate of 300TB per year and a warranty of five years, you’ll be able to rely on them for long-term storage of data.

While we’re talking about mechanical drives here, these things aren’t necessarily slow (aside from when compared to an SSD). The 4TB Seagate IronWolf Pro is capable of hitting up to 214MB/s, which is enough to saturate the two 1Gb network connections frequently found on prebuilt NAS enclosures.

The 20TB variant takes this up to 285MB/s, so you can have a lot running on the drive before you encounter a bottleneck not found elsewhere. Prices vary between capacities, but we’ve found the entire range to offer up to $0.03 per GB, which is a small price to pay when you compare the price to cloud subscriptions over a number of years.

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Seagate IronWolf Pro 4TB24214MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$133$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 6TB24214MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$180$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 8TB24214MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$180$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 10TB24250MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$270$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 12TB24250MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$235$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 14TB24250MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$245$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 16TB24260MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$270$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 18TB24285MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$334$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 20TB24285MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$350$0.03
Seagate IronWolf Pro 22TB24285MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$400$0.02
Seagate IronWolf Pro 24TB24285MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$650$0.03

Western Digital Red Pro

Runner-up best performance

Western Digital Red Pro
Western Digital Red Pro. (Source: WD)

Whilst you may not be able to match the specs of lesser capacity drives from Seagate, Western Digital does have the upper hand in terms of value and capacity. You can even buy a 22TB Red Pro drive for the ultimate storage machine.

Capacity2 – 22 TB
Max drive bays~24
Motor speed7,200 RPM
Transfer rate164 – 272 MB/s
Workload300 TB/yr
Cache64 – 512 MB
$ per GB$0.02 – $0.04
Power draw~ W
Dimensions x x mm
Warranty5 years
  • Wide away of capacities
  • High workloads
  • Good warranties
  • Good value
  • Loud and power-hungry
  • Bay limits

Western Digital’s Red Pro series of NAS hard drives are designed for more serious storage requirements. They offer the same 300TB per year workload rating as Seagate IronWolf Pro drives, can work with up to 24 bays, and also come with a long-lasting five-year warranty.

Where things differ slightly are speed, price, and capacities. Starting things off with the 2TB Western Digital Red Pro that can hit speeds up to 164MB/s. It offers among the worst value here with this family of drives. Then there’s the mighty 22TB variant.

This monstrosity of a drive is capable of hitting speeds of 265MB/s, which isn’t as fast as Seagate, but you’re only paying $0.02 per GB of storage space, which is amazing value when you’re ditching a cloud subscription service and have a lot of data.

DriveBaysSpeedWorkloadWarrantyPrice$ per GB
Western Digital Red Pro 2TB24164MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$84$0.04
Western Digital Red Pro 4TB24217MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$150$0.04
Western Digital Red Pro 6TB24238MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$180$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 8TB24235MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$230$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 10TB24265MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$262$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 12TB24240MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$289$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 14TB24255MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$297$0.03
Western Digital Red Pro 16TB24259MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$310$0.02
Western Digital Red Pro 18TB24272MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$350$0.02
Western Digital Red Pro 20TB24268MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$372$0.02
Western Digital Red Pro 22TB24265MB/s300 TB/yr5 years$420$0.02


Seagate Exos

Best HDD for enterprise

Seagate Exos X18 14TB
Seagate Exos X18 14TB. (Source: Seagate)

When you’re ready to take your storage to the next level, we’d recommend checking out Seagate’s Exos hard drives. You have the choice of up to 20TB in terms of capacity and what makes them better than the IronWolf series is the use of helium throughout the range.

Capacity1 – 20 TB
Max drive bays
Motor speed 7,200 RPM
Transfer rate194 – 285 MB/s
Workload550 TB/yr
Cache128 – 256 MB
$ per GB$0.02 – $0.08
Warranty5 years
  • Wide away of capacities
  • High workloads
  • Good warranties
  • Helium-filled
  • Loud and power-hungry

For those who want to move up from Pro NAS drives, Seagate’s Exos range of storage will be just what you’re looking for. Some Pro drives will make use of helium, but all Seagate Exos drives are filled with the gas, which improves overall performance and reliability.

Then there’s the warranty of five years and an improved workload rate of 550TB per year. Capacities aren’t too bad too with sizes going up to 20TB with a maximum speed of 285MB/s. You’d think these drives would be far costlier, but the price per GB is still as low as $0.02.

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$220$0.02
Seagate Exos X20 20TB285MB/s550 TB/yr5 years$376$0.02

Seagate SkyHawk

Best HDD for surveillance

Seagate SkyHawk 4TB
Seagate SkyHawk 4TB. (Source: Seagate)

These drives are designed for use with surveillance systems. If you’re building your own security system or are using software on your NAS to record footage from cameras, Seagate SkyHawk drives will be the best choice.

Capacity1 – 20 TB
Max drive bays
Motor speed 7,200 RPM
Transfer rate180 – 260 MB/s
Workload180 – 550 TB/yr
Cache128 – 256 MB
$ per GB$0.03 – $0.05
Warranty5 years
  • Wide away of capacities
  • Designed for heavy writes
  • Good warranties
  • Great valueGreat value
  • Not great for general use

You can use any drive for security footage recording but we’d recommend drives that are designed with such a use in mind like the Seagate SkyHawk. These drives are capable of handling heavier write workloads, such as taking footage from connected IP cameras.

They’re all backed by five-year warranties, have high workload ratings, and don’t cost as much as you may first assume. If you want to store more data, you’ll need to buy a SkyHawk AI drive and they go all the way up to 20TB.

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$529$0.03

FAQ

Can you use a desktop drive inside a NAS?

Yes. It is possible to use a desktop hard drive inside a NAS enclosure, but I’d recommend against doing so. Such drives are not designed for use inside enclosures that run 24/7 with heavier workloads. This is where NAS drives such as the above recommendations come in.

How much capacity do you need?

Working out how big your drives should be is largely dictated by what you plan to store on the NAS. The larger (and numerable) the files, the higher the capacity of drives will be required. I’d recommend starting with 2TB drives.

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