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NAS Hard Drives are designed specifically for NAS servers, they can support group operation, resist vibration, can run 24/7, etc...

Many users are not aware that desktop drives are not optimised for environments such as a NAS that are densely nested. NAS drives are best suited for the NAS environment, with greater reliability.

A NAS HDD is tailor-made for a NAS server with a heat-resistant and anti-vibration architecture, providing higher speeds for 24/7 service. NAS Hard Drives have a high degree of durability and reliability which makes them very cost-effective in the long term, producing a lower TCO (total cost of ownership) and a higher ROI (return on investment).

Continuous operation and RAID setup are the main advantages of NAS Hard Drives. 

NAS Hard drives are built to run on end for weeks, while a desktop hard drive can read and write data for hours at a time only. A NAS Hard Drive is built specifically for RAID setup.

RAID configurations provide data redundancy by integrating multiple drives into one single logical unit, thus protecting your important data against drive failures.


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NAS Hard Drives Buying Guide

The rise of the NAS (Network Attached Storage) market has created a major upheaval in the world of data storage. Choosing a NAS hard drive is no longer a question of price or capacity. There are other aspects to consider, such as vibration protection, reliability, and the ability to access the drive by multiple users at the same time and at any time.

Not all hard drives are created equal

It is possible to purchase an internal computer hard drive and install it in a NAS server. This solution may work if you are using a NAS with a single hard drive on which you do not want to access multiple users at the same time. This type of hard drive is more affordable but does not have vibration protection. It is therefore not intended to be used in a RAID configuration with multiple drives where more than one running motor will cause vibration. In addition, a PC hard drive is not designed to operate in RAID 5 and above. If you risk it, you will be faced with a slow-running drive at best and it can lead to data loss.

What makes a NAS hard drive different from a desktop hard drive?

First misconception, the price is not that different between a NAS hard drive and a PC hard drive.

Only a few bucks differentiates a hard drive for network storage from a standard drive. For example the price variation between Seagate Barracuda for PC and Seagate IronWolf is only $15.

So the price is certainly slightly higher but they are more economical in the long term because they consume less energy, suitable for NAS and therefore with a longer lifespan.

When it comes to power consumption, the NAS hard drive consumes less power because it has better control over consumption during idle periods. Even though a NAS server is always on, its hard disks are not used at all times. Putting a conventional hard drive to sleep does not work the same and consumes more. But a NAS can't be used like a PC, and being constantly on will necessarily consume more power than a computer does a few hours a day.

The NAS hard drive has a longer life than a conventional drive. Its manufacture and firmware are designed with greater resistance to intermittent access. Hard drives optimized for network storage are about 30% more reliable than desktop hard drives.

Finally, performance and storage capacity are the last points that make the difference with desktop hard drives. A NAS hard drive offers performance suitable for transmitting data to multiple users and can reach up to 18TB of storage space, which is much more than a conventional hard drive.

What makes one NAS hard drive different from another?

There are three major players in the hard drive market - Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba. All these brands offer a wide range of hard drives divided into three main categories: desktop drive, NAS drive and surveillance drive. Some ranges are geared towards professionals while others are geared towards consumers.

Let’s go through the main points of comparison between NAS hard drives:


  1. Rotation speed (Or Spindle speed)

The main factor you should put into consideration when choosing a NAS hard drivee is the speed of rotation. This information is found as a number often followed by the acronym RPM (Rotation Per Minute) or RPM. This figure is typically between 5400 and 7200 for consumer hard drives but can go higher for Enterprise and data centres hard drives. For a NAS, the rotational speed will not exceed 7200 rpm. This rotation speed will determine the disk access time and the data transfer speed. The higher the speed, the faster you can access the information on the drive.

But bear in mind that higher rotation speed also means higher power consumption and noise. Power consumption (and noise) is a key factor for a NAS hard drive since it is used for longer times. And the more users you share data access with, the more the hard drives will spin and therefore consume. Take this into account when choosing your discs. A user who does not need to transfer large data at close frequency or share NAS access with a large number of users may not need hard drives that spin at 7200 RPM. The difference in performance will play out over a few milliseconds for disks that consume more energy and generate more noise.


  1. Cachememory

Cache memory is often thought of as the disk buffer. It speeds up the opening time of a file on the hard drive by acting as temporary memory. When you open a file, it is saved to the disk cache and will load faster the next time you open it.

The cache size has much less impact on performance than the rotational speed of the disk. The size of the cache will not speed up the processing of a single job. However, the cache starts to have a real effect when you are performing several tasks at the same time. Normally with a hard disk NAS you will be rather in the second case.

Cache memory is a criterion of choice, but it is not the most important. Note that in general, the cache size varies in proportion to the rotation speed and the storage capacity.


  1. Type of hard drive

There are 2 types of hard drives: HDD and SSD. Among HDD drives, two sizes are available: 3.5 inch and 2.5 inch. The most commonly used NAS hard drive is the 3.5 HDD. Some boxes only accept this type of disc. However, most NAS are capable of accommodating all three types of NAS: 2.5 inch, 3.5 inch, and SSD.

2.5 ”drives are pretty rare for NAS servers. They are smaller physically but also in terms of storage capacity. Only WD offers specific 2.5-inch drives for NAS use. The low storage capacity, limited to 750 GB or 1 TB, in return offers lower power consumption and generates less noise. The relatively poor performance does not make this type of drive ideal for equipping a NAS box.

3.5 ”drives are the most common. The range offered by the various manufacturers is wide. Storage capacities range from 1TB to 18TB and performance varies depending on the characteristics previously mentioned. The prices are reasonable, given the performance.

SSD drives provide exceptional performance. However, the capacities of the SSD will not be exploited to the maximum, the majority of NAS servers being limited by their 1GbE Ethernet port and an associated maximum speed of around 115Mb/s. But the higher the capacity of the NAS, the more the SSD is justified. So, the new high-end NAS that offer 2.5GbE ports (Gigabit Ethernet Port) deserve to be associated with SSDs.

The SSD has no moving parts and therefore does not generate any noise. It's amazing on a 4-bay NAS to hear only the noise of the fan. SSDs consume less power than traditional HDD hard drives. The power consumption ratio is around 60% lower between SSD and 3.5 ’HDD. The cost of SSDs having fallen sharply in a few years, positioning SSDs in your NAS is now quite possible but you will have to make sure that your NAS and your internet connection are up to the task. Read more about this topic on our SSD for NAS guide.

Seagate Ironwolf Vs. WD Red line

The Seagate IronWolf, the hard drive intended for use on a NAS. This NAS hard drive model is designed to integrate enclosures up to 8 bays. Seagate reports an average time between failures of one million MTBF hours (Mean time before failure). Confident about the performance of their equipment, the brand offers a 3-year warranty.

The models offered in 3.5 inches range from 1 TB to 16 TB. Up to 4 TB, the rotational speed is 5900 rpm with 64 MB of cache. From 6TB models, the speed increases to 7200 rpm with 256 MB of cache. Vibration reduction sensors are integrated on models from 4TB to ensure disk performance.

The IronWolf Pro line is for those looking for increased performance. They fit NAS up to 16 bays and are guaranteed for 5 years. Seagate offers Pro version hard drives up to 18TB.

Western Digital's Red line of hard drives are Seagate Ironwolf’s main competitor. The WD Red can be mounted on a NAS with up to 8 bays. WD is a well-known brand in the data backup market and is renowned for its reliability. WD offers a 3 year warranty on its drives.

WD offers two 2.5-inch models in 750 GB or 1 TB and 3.5-inch versions from 1 to 14 TB with a rotation speed of 5400 rpm. The cache memory varies by model. The brand announces 1 million hours before the failure (MTBF).

The Red Pro range is aimed more at businesses. The WD RED Pro can be installed on NAS with up to 24 bays. They are available between 2 TO and 18 TO and display a rotation speed of 7200 rpm. Unlike the WD RED, the RED Pro are guaranteed for 5 years.

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