When it comes to lots of storage at an affordable price, even the latest m.2 SSDs can’t beat the good old hard drives. Internal hard drives have become standardized in two form factors: 3.5” hard drives that are commonly used in PCs and 2.5” hard drives that are used in laptops and consoles.
Upgrading your hard drive to one with more storage and faster speeds is a great way to boost the performance and reliability of your computer or console.
Best 3.5” and 2.5” Hard Drives Reviewed
Hard drives are no longer the industry standard for computer storage (SSDs reign supreme now), but their application is still widespread. This is particularly true in gaming PCs and laptops, as well as videogame consoles.
We’ve handpicked the 5 best internal hard drives available in the market – three of them 3.5” ones and two 2.5” models. To help you understand hard drives better, we’ve also made a buyer’s guide for you to read after the reviews.
Best 3.5” Hard Drive
Mix of Value and Performance
The Seagate BarraCuda comes in a huge set of storage options such as 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB. The speed of the hard drive is 7,200 RPM and it has a cache of 64MB.
A mix of affordability, tons of storage options, and good performance make the Seagate BarraCuda one of the most purchased 3.5” hard drives available right now.
Best 2.5” Hard Drive
Fastest 2.5” Drive
The Western Digital Black 2.5” HDD comes in capacities of 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB. The 750GB model features a 15MB cache while the rest feature 32MB. At 7200 RPM, this hard drive has one of the fastest read/write speeds out there among 2.5” HDDs.
If you’re upgrading your console drive or a gaming laptop’s drive to something beefier and faster, there are few (if any) better options than the WD Black.
The Seagate BarraCude is the most well-known 3.5” internal hard drive available in the market. It is all-around the best one you can buy thanks to its combination of speed and reliability. The speed of the hard drive is 7,200 RPM, and you can get it in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, and 8TB capacities. It also has a cache of 64MB.
For most users looking to store a large volume of data, the BarraCuda is the preferred choice as it hits the sweet spot between cost-effectiveness, performance, and reliability. You should expect transfer speeds of 110 and 100MB/s for sequential read and write speeds respectively. This Seagate hard drive comes with a 2-year warranty as well.
- Low cost
- Good performance for the price
- Available in lots of storage capacities
- Quality control issues
This massive 3.5” internal hard drive not only looks different but also performs differently. This is all thanks to a rapid-fast 10,000 rpm speed that makes it one of the fastest hard drives available on the market right now.
This makes it a very popular choice for hardcore gamers who will look to store today’s massive games on their hard drives. Western Digital provides capacities ranging from between 250GB to 1TB, so you can’t find this hard drive in a larger capacity beyond 1TB.
Due to its very high speeds, WD has slapped on an integrated cooler on this drive to keep it running at ideal temperatures. However, because of its high speeds and design, this HDD does demand a larger fee than other 3.5” hard drives.
- Fastest hard drive out there
- Built-on cooler
- Warranty of 5 years
We fancy the Seagate FireCuda for several reasons. Perhaps the most important is that this is a hybrid hard drive. This means that it combines the best parts of both a regular hard drive and a solid-state drive into one.
Hybrid hard drives contain a small amount of solid-state storage to really boost the speeds, and the Seagate FireCuda does so in brilliant fashion thanks to its NAND boosted performance. Because of the large storage and the boosted performance, the FireCuda is a popular component in most gaming PCs.
You can get the drive in 1TB or 2TB capacity. The solid-state capacity of this hard drive is 8GB, which is added on top of the normal capacity. This 3.5” hard drive runs at 7,200 rpm. What’s more, it offers a fantastic 5-year warranty that makes the extra cash you’ll pay for it worth it.
- Hybrid design makes it faster than normal
- Long warranty
- Good value
- Only available in two storage capacities
Coming now to internal hard drives for laptops and consoles, the Western Digital Black is our favorite because it’s one of the fastest among 2.5” hard drives and also one of the most reliable. You get the WD Black in capacities of 250GB, 320GB, 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB. The 750GB model features a 15MB cache while the rest feature 32MB.
The WD Black runs at 7200 rpm, which is faster than what you’ll get in most 2.5” hard drives. As a result, sequential read and write speeds are speedier than normal with 120MB/s and 110MB/s respectively.
We consider the WD Black the best overall 2.5” hard drive for its performance. However, WD does demand a price higher than what you’ll normally pay for a regular 2.5” hard drive. The extra cost is worth it though as you’ll see notable improvements in speed.
- Fastest 2.5” hard drive
- Five-year warranty
- More expensive than competition
Yep, Seagate does make the FireCuda in a smaller form factor for consoles and laptops. The Seagate FireCuda Mobile shares many traits with its elder brother. It does come at a slower RPM of 5,400, but the 8GB flash memory is still there to greatly boost performance.
Capacities of this hard drive range from 500GB to 2TB, which on average are more options than what you’d normally get with 2.5” hard drives. Like its bigger brother, you get a 5-year warranty with this hard drive. Cache on this drive is also larger than what you’ll get with most, set at the 3.5” standard of 64MB.
The drive overall isn’t as fast as the WD Black, but it’s an excellent alternative, especially if you’re looking for higher storage options. Expect speeds of around 105MB/s for read and 75MB/s for write.
- Good storage capacity options
- Faster than most standard HDD
- Not as fast as WD Black despite hybrid design
Storage capacity is one of the main factors in choosing your hard drive. 3.5” hard drives will generally offer higher storage capacities than 2.5” hard drives, with some offering even up to a whopping 8TB of storage. One of the main reasons hard drives are still around is because they offer massive storage space at an affordable price.
The speed of the hard drive is determined by its RPM or revolutions per minute. This is the speed at which the disks inside the hard drive rotate. The standards in the industry for both 3.5” and 2.5” hard drives are 5400 and 7,200 RPM. We recommend sticking to 7,200 RPM as the hard drive’s read/write speeds are faster with higher RPMs.
Some of the fastest hard drives offer 10,000 RPM speed which is among the fastest you’ll find out there. Still, even the fastest hard drive is no much for the slowest SSD out there, so some manufacturers build hybrid drives with flash memory in them to boost the speed and performance. s
Price per GB is one of the biggest reasons why HDDs are still around. While SSDs are faster, more reliable, and more robust (because of no moving parts), hard drives are considerably cheaper. The standard of measurement of affordability in the industry is the price per GB, which is the amount of money you’ll pay for every gigabyte of storage.
Hard drives can cost anywhere between $0.03 to $0.06 per GB. This is incredibly cheap when compared to SSDs, which can average around $0.25 to $0.30 per GB, with some of the fastest m.2 SSDs being almost $0.50 per GB.
Hybrid HDDs are mostly like regular hard drives, but they have an additional bit of flash memory attached to the drive. The most frequently used data is cached to the high-speed NAND flash memory for quicker access, which makes them slightly faster than normal hard drives.
Is having multiple small internal hard drives better or one large hard drive in a PC?
A larger hard drive will allow for easier access and management. However, there is a risk with larger drives. Hard drives are often prone to failure, which can lead to data losses. If you have a lot of sensitive data, putting it all in one drive is risky business. A great alternative to multiple drives is to have one large drive and one external drive with a backup of all the essential data in case your main drive fails.
Should I upgrade my laptop’s current hard drive with a newer hard drive?
We don’t recommend it for normal laptops. The best route to go for a laptop upgrade is a solid state drive or SSD. A 2.5” SSD will massively boost the performance of your laptop, and they are getting cheaper by the minute. It’s a different scenario if you own a gaming laptop with an SSD as well as a hard drive, in which case a hard drive upgrade to a larger capacity and/or higher RPM would serve you well.