What’s the Largest Hard Drive You Can Buy?
We live in a connected world, where your photos, documents, and other files can be reached from anywhere at just a moment’s notice. Millions of people use cloud storage to help save space on their phones and computers or to make sure their data is backed up in case of emergency. With cloud storage options from companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Dropbox, it’s easy to get a ton of cloud storage for just a few dollars each month.
As great as cloud storage might be, it’s no substitute for traditional physical media. The old way to retain memories was to put physical photos into shoeboxes or store them in albums. They are not always readily available, but they are safe from deletion. If you need more space for gaming or high-key software development, the cloud can cause lag, and if you’re worried about security, you may not want your information stored where an enterprising hacker can steal it.
Though drives pushing 100 terabytes do exist, they’re often expensive and hard to buy—they typically exist for large corporations, not for consumer use. Let’s take a look at the largest drives you can actually buy for your computer in each format.
The Largest Hard Drives You Can Buy
Whether you’re going with an old-school HDD (hard disk drive) or you’ve finally made the move to an SSD (solid-state drive), physical storage continues to plummet in pricing, making it a great time to upgrade your computer with a faster, bigger drive. In fact, if you’re trying to find the largest drive you can, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll be taking a look at three different types of drives on this list: hard disk drives, solid-state drives, and flash storage. It’s worth noting that each of these three categories of drives has its own subcategories that can make purchasing one a bit more complicated.
For example, hybrid drives utilize the storage space of HDDs with a small, built-in solid-state drive in order to speed up your operating system. Solid-state drives come in various shapes, utilizing different connections in order to provide faster read and write speeds. While an SSD will always be faster than a disk-based drive, a SATA SSD will see significantly slower speeds than an NVMe M.2 drive.
Flash storage is perhaps the most complicated of all since it’s essentially a catch-all term for various types of media. Whether you’re looking at a microSD card or a USB flash drive, they all use flash storage to help expand the capabilities of your devices.
Setting aside the differences between drives on the market, let’s look at the largest of all three one by one. We’ll be using Amazon as our go-to source for pricing and availability. While these might not be the largest drives in existence, you can actually buy these drives for your own personal use at home. After all, what good is a drive that isn’t even available to most consumers? Let’s dive in.
Hard Disk Drives
As of April 2022, the largest HDD you’ll find on the market today clocks in at a massive 20 terabytes. Although it’s tempting to buy the most recent and largest drives, we recommend Seagate’s IronWolf 18 TB drive to get the job done. If you absolutely need the storage to house hundreds of games or thousands of hours of video footage, this is the perfect drive for you.
Of course, just because you can buy it doesn’t mean you should. These types of drives are built for enterprise first, which means they’re slow and built to stay on for tens of thousands of hours at a time.
These drives are made for network-attached storage or NAS, and at just 7200 RPM, they aren’t made for speed and performance. Don’t get us wrong, though. If you’re looking for storage above everything else, or you’re building a NAS enclosure for your home network, the IronWolf will get the job done. At just under $600, you’re paying less than four cents per gigabyte.
Early last year, the company released its 20 TB drive.
The whole point of buying a disk-based drive in 2022 is to help deliver tons of storage at a low price, but if you’re looking to get a ton of storage while also keeping your read and write speeds high, you’ll have to turn to SSDs.
With prices dropping on SSDs faster than companies can keep up, buying a new drive has never been a better idea. As of April 2022, the largest SSD you can buy for your personal PC comes in at 16 TB, now almost on par with the 20 TB drive we highlighted above. Given the high price of a 16 TB SSD, you might want to settle for an 8 TB SSD and enjoy the speed increases over a larger capacity HDD.
There are a number of 4 TB SSDs on Amazon, but you can’t go wrong with Samsung’s 860 EVO drive. It’s a traditional SATA drive built for desktop PCs and currently will run you around $600. Samsung’s solid-state drives are recommended by nearly every expert in the field, thanks to their reliability and fantastic speeds.
If you’re using a laptop, you’ll probably have to use an NVMe drive instead of a standard 2.5″ SATA drive. Thankfully, Samsung has you covered on that front, too. Though they don’t yet offer a 4 TB NVMe drive, Samsung’s 970 EVO Plus M.2 NVMe drive is a great option for your laptop. It’s fast, thin, and offers a huge amount of storage for just under $500.
It is also worth mentioning that an 8 TB drive is fine for most users, but it certainly isn’t the largest SSD available on the market today. There’s a lot of talk right now about 200 TB drives and even 1,000 TB drives, but for 2022 it looks like the Nimbus ExaDrive DC is the largest, coming in at 100 TB for $40,000. Depending on how much storage you need, it might be best to wait a little while longer for a cheaper drive this size.
Although cloud storage is more widely used than flash storage, there are still plenty of reasons to buy into flash storage. For one, it’s increasingly cheap, which means having a spare flash drive lying around your house in case you need to move files is a no-brainer.
Second, some devices, including cameras and certain consoles like the Nintendo Switch, rely on microSD cards to expand their storage. If you’re looking for the largest option for flash storage, we have you covered.
For USB drives, consider this PNY flash drive that offers 256 GB of storage. At just $35, it’s a great way to backup your data or move files from one computer to another.
Meanwhile, for anyone looking for either an SD card or a microSD card, you have a couple of options. Although it isn’t the largest you can buy, Samsung’s 512GB microSD card runs you under $100, making it perfect for downloading dozens of games onto your Nintendo Switch.
If, however, you value size over savings, you’ll have to grab this terabyte microSD card from Sandisk. At $165, it’s an expensive card, but if you absolutely need the space, you’ll be glad to know it exists.
Other Large Hard Disk Drives
Following Seagate’s example, other tech companies started unveiling large-capacity hard drives.
At the beginning of 2019, Toshiba unveiled its own 16 TB storage capacity hard drive, although it wasn’t released for some time after that. This hard drive makes 7,200 rotations per minute (RPM), 512 MiB buffer, and a workload of 550 TB per year. It will sport a 9-disk helium design, which should help save a large amount of power.
Western Digital GHST Ultra-Star
The latest drive from the Ultra Star series is a 20 TB giant that is primarily used in video surveillance and cloud storage systems. However, a 12 TB version prior to this one is currently available in stores, making it the second-largest hard drive you can purchase.
Similar to Toshiba’s MG08, it has 7,200 RPM and 512 MB buffer. The helium technology is essential for the drive’s large capacity. This is because a gas that has less density reduces the aerodynamic force and improves the spinning of the drive’s discs. As such, more platters can fit into one drive, and the power usage is greatly reduced.
Western Digital RED
This is a specific HDD that is designed for NAS systems. It comes in 10 TB and 12 TB versions and has some specific features. The most notable of these include heat and noise reduction, advanced customization, and a long-term guarantee. The 12 TB version is similar to the previous two with 7,200 RPM and works with network-attached storage (NAS) systems with up to 24 bays.
Is Capacity Important?
Experts believe that 16 TB of storage will be the maximum needed capacity to satisfy the needs of even the most demanding computer users in the future. Of course, there was a time when all you needed was 16 Gb on your phone too.
With the rise of cloud storage systems, portable flash drives, and streaming services, the demand for personal hard drives is on the decline. Also, large storage drives mean large data loss in case of a failure, which makes cloud storage a much safer option.
Do you think the capacity of storage drives will become less important in the future and why? When shopping for a hard drive, do you go for performance or capacity? Share your thoughts in the comments below.