Cheap Hard Drives

Category: Hard-Drives

Magnetic hard drives are the workhorses of mass storage. Virtually every computer has a hard drive. There are dozens of hard drive manufacturers worldwide. So it's not surprising that competition, along with technology improvements, has driven hard drive prices to all-time record lows. That's good news. But are cheap hard drives truly a bargain? Read on…

Cheap Hard Drives

Cheap Hard Drives - Are They Worth the Money?

Is the money you save when buying a cheap hard drive lost due to lower performance and/or shorter lifespan? The answer is "yes and no; but mostly, no." Sure, there are manufacturers who cut corners to sell at the very lowest prices, and their hard drives may be lacking. But most of the drop in hard drive prices has not come at the expense of quality.

In 1990, hard drive storage cost about US$10 per megabyte. By 2000, the price was about one CENT per megabyte. And in the past ten years, prices have come down again by a factor of 100X. To put that in perspective, the 500GB of hard drive stoage that costs about $50 today would have cost $5,000,000 twenty years ago. It's true that modern operating systems and software applications gobble up hard drive space like candy, but hard drives today look mighty cheap when compared to just a few years ago.

If you want a larger, less expensive, and higher quality hard drive, it seems the best thing to do is wait. But if you need a hard drive today, the news is still good. Cheap hard drives from well-known manufacturers really are much better today than they were five years ago. Quantum leaps in magnetic storage technology allow many times more data to be packed into every square inch of a disk. Consequently, a hard drive of a given capacity can be made smaller, and smaller costs less. Reliability is the sine qua non in hard drives, so great improvements have been made in that department as manufacturers compete for consumers' trust. The ever growing market for mass storage enables economies of manufacturing scale, and that drives prices down too.

How cheap and good do hard drives get? A quick search for "cheap hard drives" pulls up a 400GB Seagate Barracuda ES (SATA, 7200RPM, 16MB cache) hard drive priced at only $37.99. Seagate is a top-notch hard drive manufacturer. SATA is the latest standard for hard drive controller interfaces, enabling data to be read and written much faster. A hard drive spinning at 7200 rpm reads and writes data one-third faster than the old 5400 rpm standard. A 16 MB on-board cache keeps a lot of frequently accessed data in instantly accessible RAM. That's really good, and really cheap!

In fact, it is well worth it to buy a 7200 rpm cheap hard drive the moment you get a new computer, if the PC comes with a slower 5400 rpm hard drive. The slow drive can become a backup device, or even sit on a shelf in a closet in case of emergencies. The price of a much faster hard drive is not a hindrance to a dramatic performance increase.

Reputable brand names in cheap hard drives include Seagate; Samsung; Toshiba; Fujitsu; Maxtor; and Western Digital. This list is not complete, by any means, but it's a good start. You will find lots of other names and reviews of cheap hard drives by end users in ePinions.com, Pricegrabber.com, Amazon.com, and other online resources. Just bear in mind that you can pick ANY well-known brand, and you'll find someone with negative comments about it. Pay less attention to comments like "Brand X sucks" or "Brand Y is the best" -- and more to patterns of comments about problems with a specific model.

When shopping for a cheap hard drive, don't get obsessed over saving the last nickel possible. Make sure the drive is new, and not a refurbished unit. If there is no name on the drive, or it's in a language you can't read, pay the extra buck or two for a known reputation. Oh, and you might actually save money by getting a larger drive. An 80GB drive costs just a few dollars less than a 500GB drive.

Do you have questions about cheap hard drives? Post your comment or question below…

 
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Posted by on 11 Jun 2010


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Most recent comments on "Cheap Hard Drives"

Posted by:

steven
12 Jun 2010

Does brand matter, anymore? Everything is "Made in China."

EDITOR'S NOTE: As a rule, I try to avoid products made in China. I'd much rather pay a few dollars more, get a quality product, and support the economy of my own country. That said, I don't know if any hard drives are manufactured in the USA. Anyone know?


Posted by:

Victor Gonzalez
14 Jun 2010

Thank you very much for the info on hard drives I found it very useful.


Posted by:

Jack mccurdy
14 Jun 2010

. "Pay less attention to comments like "Brand X sucks" or "Brand Y is the best" -- and more to patterns of comments about problems with a specific model"

That is very good advice, I have always had good luck with Seagate and Western digital, but I will also buy Samsung and others, if the reviews are good. Seagate did put out some bad ones for awhile. It was a firmware problem I think. My old dell Latitude D630 laptop came with only an 80 gig drive. I went to Microcenter and found a Seagate 320 gig drive, with 7200 rpm and 16 MB cache for 65 U.S dollars. Most laptop drives even now are only 5400 rpm and 8 MB cache. So it was a great cheap upgrade. Most hard drives only have a 3 year warranty. Mine is an enterprise class drive though, so it has a 5 year warranty. It can also detect if the laptop is falling, and can park the head before the laptop hits the ground, which will save you from data and hard drive loss. This is a feature anyone buying a laptop hard drive should look for. Along with S.M.A.R.T monitoring I think Seagate and Western digital both offer the free fall detection, on the higher end models. I also bumped my ram up to 4 gigs from 2, with Windows 7 64 bit I changed out the T7100 Core 2 duo @ 1.8 GHZ to a T7250 @ 2.00 GHZ. So I have a very strong running little laptop, considering it's an old 2007 model. I sold the old ram for 30 bucks and payed 80 bucks for 4 gigs. What is really annoying me is, why is ram selling so high these days. Do you think it will ever come back down to where it was?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I read on a forum that vendors are shifting to DDR3 RAM, and producing less DDR2. Also there may have been some price fixing going on. See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/18/technology/18iht-chip.html


Posted by:

Jorge
14 Jun 2010

Brand name do matters...
Altough the drive is made in China or elsewhere, the company facing its name backups the manufacturing.
What is important is after-sale service.


Posted by:

Dave Ruedeman
14 Jun 2010

All drive manufacturers "lose their Mojo" for one reason or another. For example the Seagate 7200.11 AS family had many failures, some say due to poor firmware. In some cases a firmware update didn't fix the problem.
Nor are the so-called enterprise drives a guarantee of long trouble-free life. I had a pair of WD 400 RE drives fail in a RAID1 configuration. I was lucky that I was able to recover the data before the 2nd drive failed.

Hitachi makes some of the best enterprise drives. After all they bought IBM's hard disk division. However they are notoriously in short supply.

The moral is to research the exact model that you want to buy and ALWAYS backup your data.

I keep no less than four copies of critical Data on a system that I am responsible for.


Posted by:

Richard
15 Jun 2010

I've been reading comments from folks who have bought large "green" drives and stuck them in as primary drives. Any thoughts on the use of these green drives as a system drive?


Posted by:

Igor
15 Jun 2010

Quick computer search shows Seagate Barracuda ES 400GB HD selling for around $200 at 10 best known retailers. Bob, where do I get the $37 bargain????


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
15 Jun 2010

Good article. I prefer Western Digital, but have used Seagate and Maxtor, as well. I stick with well known brand names usually, but, I did purchase for my daughter a MDT hard drive and that puppy is working fine.

I think, the best advice is about good tech support. I had an 80GB WD hard drive 'die' on me, when it was only 6 months old. I called WD Tech Support, gave them the 'status code number", was immediately issued a RMA number and a new WD 80GB hard drive was mailed out to me that day. A good solid company will provide good tech support and stand by their products.

Another good piece of advice, when investing in a new larger hard drive, remember that they usually run hotter and your computer case needs to be adequately cooled.


Posted by:

Mike
15 Jun 2010

It might be worthwhile for folks to review Google's hard drive study based on its own experience of using over 100,000 disk drives in its servers, from 5400 to 7200rpm, 80GB to 400GB. This links to the PDF of the report:

http://tinyurl.com/2bfcgfp

If you search for Google hard drive report you can find plenty of sites that created a synopsis of the report. Google doesn't call out names, unfortunately, but does point to a few things that you can watch for ("after their first scan
error, drives are 39 times more likely to fail within 60 days than drives with no such errors...a large fraction of our failed drives
have shown no SMART error signals whatsoever"), so it's worth the research.


Posted by:

Tom
15 Jun 2010

I don't use Hard Drives. I have 300 floppy disks setup in a RAID0 configuration for a blazing fast setup. Boot time is a bit slower (25-30 minutes to bring my system up) but once it's logged it is lighting fast, IOPS are off the chart low. Comparable to a fibre channel SAN. I recommend this for any setup. Thanks for the info Bob! Any idea when these manufactures will come out with larger floppy's?


Posted by:

Jack Mccurdy
16 Jun 2010

@ Igor, The drive you are looking at is a year 2006-2007 server hard drive, If you look at new model 1 terabyte Seagate or Western digital, Hitachi, drives, you can get one for about 80 U.S dollars. And it will be bigger better and faster than that old school thing you're looking at. But if you really want that one Geeks.com has it for $37.99
Super cheap price, huge size high quality brand name hard drives really are for sale all over the internet.


Posted by:

Greg S
22 Jun 2010

I'm told that refurbished drives may generally be *more* reliable than a new drive as they are tested more thoroughly. I also understand that refurbished drives have not really been used, but are returns and such. So why the hesitation?

EDITOR'S NOTE: The hesitation? I guess it's from the "I'm told", the "may generally", the "not really" and the "and such". That, and there's no way to know if your used drive simply was shipped in a machine that never sold, or if it came out of a machine that was used 24/7 for 2 years.


Posted by:

steven
28 Jun 2010

Do they still make floppies? When I used to use them, some failed while in a storage box, not being used.


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