Best hard drives for NAS 2021: Synology, QNAP Android Central 2021
The best hard drives for NAS enclosures are designed to run 24/7 and deliver solid day-to-day performance. Brands like Seagate and Western Digital now offer several NAS-focused hard drives that excel at long-term reliability, and the Seagate IronWolf series, in particular, stands out. I've used all the drives on this list. Considering I have a 140TB home server, I know a thing or two about picking the right HDD for a NAS enclosure. These are the best hard drives you can buy for your NAS today.
- Truly outstanding: Seagate IronWolf
- Still great, with a caveat: Western Digital Red Plus
- Built for Synology: Synology HAT5300
- Ideal for SOHO users: Seagate IronWolf Pro
- Long-term stability: WD Red Pro
- The gold standard: WD Gold
- Build your own data center: Seagate Exos
- Rock-solid reliability: Toshiba N300
- A fantastic bargain: WD Easystore 8TB
Truly outstanding: Seagate IronWolfStaff Pick
I've been using three 14TB IronWolf drives for over a year, and they're rock-solid in 24/7 use. IronWolf drives feature Seagate's AgileArray tech for better performance and reliability and come with rotational vibration sensors to minimize vibrations. Starting with the 6TB model, all HDDs spin at 7200RPM, have a 180TB/year workload rating, and one million hours mean time between failures (MTBF). All IronWolf drives also feature CMR tech and come with a three-year warranty as standard and are ideal for NAS enclosures with up to 8 bays.
Still great, with a caveat: Western Digital Red Plus
WD's Red series is designed for NAS use, and all of the drives come with noise and vibration protection. Unfortunately, WD was mired in a controversy for using SMR instead of CMR tech in select 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB Red drives. SMR is slower and generally not as reliable as CMR, so if you're interested in a Red drive, make sure you're getting one that's labeled Red Plus. You can get 2TB, 3TB, or 4TB Red Plus drives that use CMR right now, and as long as you're buying from the Plus drive, you won't have any issues.
Built for Synology: Synology HAT5300
Synology is now selling its own HDDs under the HAT5300 series, and if you use a Synology NAS in an office environment and want 24/7 reliability, these are the ideal drives. These drives are available in 8TB, 12TB, and 16TB versions. They spin at 7200RPM, offer a five-year warranty as standard, and deliver 2.5 million hours mean time between failures. The drives are built by Toshiba but feature custom firmware that unlocks better performance, and you get guaranteed reliability.
Ideal for SOHO users: Seagate IronWolf Pro
Seagate's IronWolf Pro drives are ideal for small office/home office (SOHO) users. All the drives in this series spin at 7200RPM, offer sequential reads of over 214MB/s and have robust noise and vibration protection. You'll also get Seagate's drive health management system and two-year data recovery services as standard. These drives are ideally suited for use up to a 24-bay NAS enclosure and come with a 300TB/year workload rating and 1.2 million hours mean time between failures (MTBF). They start at 4TB and go all the way to 16TB.
Long-term stability: WD Red Pro
WD's Red Pro is the ideal upgrade to the standard Red Plus series. All the Red Pro series models feature CMR, spin at 7200RPM, and come with a five-year warranty. They also have noise and vibration protection built-in and are available in storage sizes from 2TB to 16TB. These drives also feature WD's NASware 3.0 for tighter integration with NAS enclosures and don't get loud or hot. So if you're looking at a NAS for your home office, these are the ideal hard drives to slot into the enclosure.
The gold standard: WD Gold
The WD Gold series is aimed at data centers, and as such, these drives are ideally suited for NAS use cases. They have a seven-platter design, feature vibration protection, spin at 7200RPM, and deliver sustained reads of over 177MB/s. You get 2.5 million hours mean time between failures (MTBF), 550TB/year workload rating (three times as much as regular IronWolf drives), and a 5-year warranty as standard. These HDDs are built to last and are available from 1TB to 14TB.
Build your own data center: Seagate Exos
Seagate Exos is what you turn to if you want data center-like reliability for your home office. These drives come with a 550TB/year workload rating, 2 million hours mean time before failures (MTBF), and a 5-year warranty as standard. They have rotational vibration tolerance, built-in efficiency features and offer sequential reads of over 249MB/s. They're very similar to the WD Gold, and the difference comes down to cost and whatever brand you're more comfortable using.
Rock-solid reliability: Toshiba N300
Toshiba's N300 series is designed for NAS enclosures. These drives have a 180TB/year workload rating along with rotational vibrations sensors and built-in controls to detect excessive heat. Toshiba offers a 3-year warranty for the drives as standard, and they're available in configurations from 4TB to 14TB. They spin at 7200RPM and deliver sequential reads of up to 260MB/s.
A fantastic bargain: WD Easystore 8TB
This isn't a traditional hard drive, but WD's Easystore enclosures are fantastic value for money. Just buy the enclosure, read these instructions on how to chuck the drive, and have a 10TB or 12TB hard drive for significantly less than retail price. The HDDs inside these enclosures are just as reliable as regular WD Red Plus or IronWolf drives (they're the same HDD, but white-labeled), and they slot into NAS enclosures without any issues. I've been using two 10TB shucked drives for a while now, and it has been smooth sailing.
You can't go wrong with any of these NAS hard drives
Regardless of whatever drive you pick from the list above, you're going to get 24/7 reliability and long-term stability. My go-to recommendation for a NAS drive in 2021 is the Seagate IronWolf series. Seagate delivers that little bit extra in terms of reliability. Having used IronWolf drives totaling over 40TB of storage for a few years, I can confidently say that these drives are ideal for most NAS users. With options available from 1TB all the way to 16TB, you'll find a drive that is ideal for your home NAS.
If you need the added security of a 5-year warranty, then the IronWolf Pro is the obvious choice. However, these drives are better suited for home offices or small businesses, and the best part is that you get a two-year data recovery plan with each hard drive as standard. I use a few IronWolf Pro drives in the DiskStation DS1520+, and they have been going great.
Finally, with Synology now selling its own HDDs, the HAT5300 may just be the ideal choice if you use a NAS in an office environment. These drives include custom firmware that delivers 23% increased write speeds over similar NAS-focused HDDs, and they're designed exclusively for Synology NAS enclosures.
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