World Backup Day will soon be upon us and with all the tech that’s available, the topic of storage is bound to come up sooner or later. Whether you’re a casual user, a gamer, or a creative content professional creating backups, archiving data, or designing a surveillance system, storage will be one of the key factors in your overall build. However, not all drives are created equal, so read ahead to find out what kind of drive is recommended for your undertaking.
Photo and Video Enthusiasts, Creative Content Professionals, and Power Users
People working with photo and video typically engage in bandwidth-intensive tasks and need a drive than can keep up. This includes complex tasks in Photoshop, such as multi-layer effects rendering, and working with one or more high-res digital photos or film scans, while users running Final Cut or Resolve can find themselves working with Full HD, 4K, 8K, 3D, HFR (high frame rate), and HDR (high dynamic range) video. All these can eat up a great amount of bandwidth, especially once effects and color grading are applied. Users in these fields will be best served with an M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD, such as Samsung’s 990 PRO, which is available with or without a heatsink and features a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. Also available and still very reliable is Samsung’s 980 PRO, which is also available with or without a heatsink and a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface, as well as the 970 EVO Plus. All of these drives have an M.2 2280 form factor.
Aside from Samsung, you can expect to find lightning-fast performance from the XPG GAMMIX S70 Blade and GAMMIX S50 Lite, Crucial P5 Plus, Seagate FireCuda 530 or 510, Sabrent Rocket, and PNY Technologies CS2140, all of which utilize the PCIe M.2 interface. Many of these are available with or without heatsinks.
Gamers looking to use a hard drive should check out WD’s Black/Desktop Performance lineup, available as a 3.5" hard drive. The WD Black lineup is also available as the SN750 NVMe M.2 SSD, available with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface and with or without a heatsink, or the WD_BLACK SN750 SE, which uses PCIe 4.0. Even more exciting is the WD_BLACK SN850X, which features a capacity up to 4TB, a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface, and is also available with or without a heatsink. SSDs would offer the best performance in this lot, and as long as your gaming rig has an appropriate processor and graphics card, graphics-intensive games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II will run without incident.
Most of the drives mentioned in the previous section may also be used as gaming drives. However, if you’re thinking of getting an SSD for the empty M.2 slot in your PS5, just make sure it supports PCIe 4.0 x4, speeds of at least 5500 MB/s, and a form factor of M.2 2230, 2242, 2260, 2280, or 22110.
Also notable for gamers are the WD WD_BLACK D50 Game Dock, Seagate FireCuda Gaming Hub, and Seagate FireCuda Gaming External SSD. All are external solutions and feature Thunderbolt™ 3, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2x2, or USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 host connectivity, HDD or SSD internal storage, plus a plethora of ports to compensate for what your system may not have.
Data Storage, Backing up, Redundancy, and Archiving
This is where drives suited for 24/7, always-on environments come into play, which are especially useful for NAS and RAID arrays. WD offers the Red Series, which is available as a 2.5" hard drive or M.2 SATA SSD. Moving up the 3.5" ladder, the mid-tier option is WD Red Plus, and the company’s top-tier drive in this arena is the Red Pro.
Seagate also has a big arsenal for this area, which includes the IronWolf 3.5" HDD or IronWolf 525 PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe SSD. If you need something more professional from Seagate, go with the IronWolf Pro 3.5" HDD or IronWolf Pro 125 2.5" SSD.
While purpose-built for enterprise, hyperscale, and data center use, WD UltraStar, WD Ultrastar DC, and Seagate Exos drives would more than cover you here. For what it’s worth, I use Seagate Exos X16 drives in my RAID.
Surveillance, or I Spy with My Little Eye
Hoping to catch Santa coming down the chimney this year? You’ll need one heck of a surveillance system, plus a drive that can keep up. WD Purple drives have firmware and caching algorithms for write-intensive applications, while Seagate’s SkyHawk and SkyHawk AI drives also fill the bill, depending on the total number of drive bays your array has and how many cameras you have. Just as with data storage and archiving, there’s no reason WD UltraStar and Seagate Exos drives can’t be used here.
Casual and Base-Level Users
These types of users aren’t getting involved with intensive tasks, so there’s no reason to splurge on a drive that delivers more performance than is required. Think of it as storing a gallon of liquid in a five-gallon container—there’s not much point in using something that provides more bandwidth than you need. So, for those whose tasks are relegated to browsing the Internet, checking email, resource-friendly gaming, and using Microsoft Office, WD Blue drives fit the bill quite nicely. They are available as an NVMe M.2 SSD, a 2.5" SATA III SSD, a 2.5" SATA III hard drive, or a 3.5" SATA III hard drive. WD Blue drives are also notable because they have low power requirements and are quiet. In case you’re wondering why I recommended SSDs for low-level tasks, it’s because SSDs are becoming more popular and more affordable. WD Blue was always a solid entry-level hard drive, and those same qualities have been ported over to its SSD sibling.
I also like using WD Blue drives for upgrading the storage within gaming consoles. When upgrading the storage within my PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles, I’ve used WD Blue drives with no issues.
Other great entry-level SSDs include Crucial’s MX500 2.5" SATA SSD and Samsung’s 870 QVO 2.5" SATA III SSD, the latter of which includes an 8TB option. If your system uses NVMe PCIe M.2, then Crucial’s P3 and P3 Plus are worth a look.
Regardless of what kind of tasks you’re engaging in, there are hard drive and SSD options… but which should you get? If your primary concern is storage capacity, go with a hard drive, but if speed is more important, then get an SSD. It really is that simple. However, if your main concern is speed, then you’ll want an NVMe PCIe M.2 drive, regardless of the application. Another advantage of SSDs is they can be used for caching, especially in multi-bay arrays, which helps to boost performance, much like Intel© Optane™ memory. Luckily, we’re starting to see larger SSDs at a lower price point, so I think the eventual move to all-flash storage is inevitable.
Which of these drives are already part of your workflow and why? Do you have a particular favorite? Have we missed any? Let us know in the Comments section, below.