What’s the Largest Hard Drive You Can Buy? [February 2021]
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.
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.
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. So, 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
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.
So, 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 February 2021, the largest HDD you’ll find on the market today clocks in at a massive 18 terabytes, and though you’ll find drives of this size from a number of manufacturers, we recommend Seagate’s IronWolf 18TB 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 under $600, you’re paying less than four cents per gigabyte.
Early last year, the company did announce its 20TB drive is coming. Although not yet available on Amazon or other sites, it will soon be the largest HDD available.
The whole point of buying a disk-based drive in 2021 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 February 2021, the largest SSD you can buy for your personal PC comes in at 8TB, and while that might be a big drop-off from the 18TB drive we highlighted above, you’ll find yourself having a much better experience with an 8TB SSD thanks to its speed increases.
There are a number of 4TB 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 4TB 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 8TB 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 200TB drives and even 1,000TB drives, but for 2020 it looks like the Nimbus ExaDrive DC is the largest coming in at 100TB for $40,000. Depending on how much storage you need, it might be best to wait a little while longer for a lower-cost 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 256GB of storage. At just $35, it’s a great way to backup your data, or to 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 $449, 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 16TB storage capacity hard drive. However, it is yet to be released. It is still unknown if it will be available to regular consumers or business users only.
This hard drive will have 7,200 rotations per minute (RPM), 512MB buffer, and a workload of 550TB per year. It will sport a 9-disk helium design which should help save up a large amount of power.
Western Digital GHST Ultra-Star
The latest drive from the Ultra Star series is a 20TB giant that is primarily used in video surveillance and cloud storage systems. However, a 12TB 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 512MB 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 10TB and 12TB versions and has some specific features. The most notable of these include heat and noise reduction, advanced customization, and long-term guarantee. The 12TB version is similar to the previous two with 7,200RPM and works with network-attached storage (NAS) systems with up to 24 bays.
Is Capacity Important?
Experts believe that 16TB 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 16Gb on your phone too.
With the rise of the 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.