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Best Hard Drives for Archiving in 2023

best hard drives for archiving featured

Archiving is one of the major tenets of data retention and preservation. If you are someone who generates or stores a lot of data, you generally have to delete the old stuff in order to make room for the newer data.

However, if somewhere down the road you feel like you may need some of the older files, or if the nature of your work demands you keep backups of previous data, then the best way is to have them preserved in an archive.

To do this, the first step is to invest in the right hard drive. To discover the best hard drives for archiving, read on.

The best part about archiving is that the hard drives do not have to be expensive. You don’t necessarily need a high-speed SSD or a drive with a very high MTBF (mean time between failure) rating since archival hard drives are stowed away and not used continuously.

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How to Find the Best Hard Drive for Archiving?

When getting a new hard disk for archiving, there are a few issues that you’ll need to address. You’d want your files to be safe but you’d also want the processors to be efficient and affordable.

The following guide will help answer common queries.

Internal Vs External HDD for Archiving

An internal hard disk is one that’s inside your computer. You may decide to house the drive inside a computer for a few reasons including stable and faster connection using SATA, physical safety since they are fastened inside the chassis, and affordability.

An external hard drive, on the other hand, is one that isn’t inside a computer. It will need to have an enclosure though, one that has an interface that allows you to connect to the drive itself, and besides that, you may need to take personal care to keep it safe physically.

Whichever option you choose to go with, in the end, it will depend on how you intend to use it. Both have their benefits. An external drive is more portable whereas an internal one is more affordable and, at times, more reliable.

Basically, with the internal drives you are limited by the number of SATA ports on your motherboard. If you do not have sufficient SATA ports, then there is only a limited number of internal drives you’d be able to install. Most motherboards have 4-6 SATA ports.

Types of External Hard Drives

best hard drives for archiving

There are many types of external hard drives, but they all borrow their features from the HDD form factor:

  • 3.5″ Desktop HDDs – These are large and require an external power source.
  • 2.5″ Portable HDDs – These are smaller and do not require an external power source.
  • SATA SSDs – These are slimmer than 2.5″ HDDs but are also faster with 4-5x the speeds at 550 MB/s.
  • NVMe SSDs – These are the fastest and the most expensive external hard drives. They can top speed of up to 2000 MB/s depending upon which USB slot you plug them into.

Options Available to You

Basically, when archiving, the recommended way to go is for HDDs over SSDs.

SSDs are intended for “Hot DATA” or data that is frequently accessed. Archiving is the complete opposite and hence, speed should be the least of your concern when archiving.

Plus a 1 TB external SSD costs almost as much as a 4TB external HDD (if not more). And depending upon its speeds (i.e 1050MB/s or 2000 MB/s) external 1 TB SSDs can even cost twice as much as a 4TB external HDD.

Again, archiving = Hard disk drives

That is a rule of thumb (unless you have very other specific reasons).

2.5″ or 3.5″ Hard Disks



Now there are two types of external hard DISK drives: 3.5″ and 2.5″

3.5″ Desktops external HDDs are basically 3.5″ internal HDDs inserted into an external enclosure.

Key characteristics of a 3.5″ HDD include

  • Cheaper than 2.5″ hard disk drives
  • Larger than 2.5″ hard disk drives
  • Require a USB data AND POWER connection from the wall socket.
  • Can offer up to 22TB per drive!

2.5″ external hard drives are also known as PORTABLE external HDDs. 

Key characteristics of 2.5″ HDDs include:

  • Do NOT require a power source. Can connect just with a USB cable
  • More expensive than 3.5″ external hard drives (if taking per GB cost)
  • Smaller, slimmer, and much easier to carry around
  • Limited to 5TB per drive

The best hard disk drives for archiving are, in my opinion, 3.5″ external or internal hard disk drives.

There are many reasons for this but the primary reason is that they are highly affordable.

Take for instance the 2.5″ WD My Book 4TB vs the 2.5″ WD My Passport 4TB external hard drives. The former is $10 cheaper as compared to the latter.

While this may not seem like a lot, the cost can add up the more hard drives you have.

Plus, if archiving is in question, then YOU DO NOT NEED PORTABILITY anyways. Majority of the time archival HDDs are stowed away once they are full or just left in place.

Recommended Option

With that said WD My Book is a good place to start with. You can find WD My Book in sizes ranging from 4TB-22TB (Single Drive) or up to 44TB for Dual Drive.

WD My Book

4TB-22TB Single Drive USB 3.0

RAID and Multiple Drives for Archiving

Understanding Multiple Drives and RAID Support In Brief

It should be noted that MANY prefer to distribute their archival setup into multiple drives so that RAID can be enabled.

So basically, if one has a requirement of 8 TB, many prefer to get 2 x 4TB hard disk drives instead of a single 8 TB drive.

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks and depending upon the configuration you can choose to strip, mirror, or a combination to improve the reliability or performance of your hard disk drives.

Here are the two most common configurations:

  • RAID 0: Stripping – for improving speeds
  • RAID 1: Mirroring – for making exact copies of the data – best for critical data

So in other words, if you have a 2 x 4TB HDD with RAID 1 configured, then you will in fact only have 4 TB of usable storage space since both drives will be mirroring data.

In this case, if one drive fails, your data will be preserved in the other drive.

There are some very complex RAID configurations you can make.

But the most basic one involves 2 drives at a minimum. Plus you need an enclosure or NAS that allows for RAID to be configured.

The most basic of these is the WD My Book Duo.

WD My Book Duo

8TB -44 TB = divided into two drives.
RAID 0 configured out of the box.

Portable Drive

2.5″ Portable Drive Option

While 2.5″ portable drives are not preferred by enterprises that have a lot of data to store, if you are someone on the move and want to store and carry your personal or work data with you, then they can be taken into consideration.

Internal Drive if You Have Enough SATA Ports

Internal Drive Option

Again, you can only have as many internal drives as the number of SATA ports you have.

For an internal drive, a basic 5400RPM WD Blue or Seagate BarraCuda is a good place to start with.

Seagate BarraCuda

Internal Hard Drive
Upto 8 TB

If you want something more specialized, then you can look into the 7200RPM drives such as those from the WD Black series, or Seagate Pro series that have data recovery options.

For very large storage arrays such as NAS you can even look into the specifically made NAS drives, such as WD Red which have a much larger overall capacity, run at slower speeds for longevity and reliability, and have vibration and heat protection.

Again, for an average user archiving data, these shouldn’t matter much.

Is Storing in HDD the Best Way to Archive?

You have several mediums to archive your data. We covered a few points regarding this topic above, but let’s recap along with an additional few.

1. CD/DVDs/Blu-Ray – Are they Viable for Data Archiving?

CDs are a good old-fashioned way of archiving. Unfortunately, given the current demand and the amount of data one generates, they are very slow and thus not feasible.

They do have their application in certain professional cases, but if you have terabytes over terabytes of Data to store, archiving on CDs, managing them, and keeping track of them would be a hassle.

2. Solid State Drives – Great But Volatile

As mentioned earlier, SSDs are fast, however, when it comes to data safety, they are not the best.

SSDs are volatile, meaning they store memory temporarily. Hence once the data is lost, it cannot be retrieved. So the smallest of mishaps can lead to your data being lost permanently.

Hence for the long term, these are not the most reliable.

However, for short-term archiving and for backing up data often, these are great.

3. Hard Disk Drives – Reliable, Affordable, and Safe

Hard disk drives are among the most recommended way to archive your data. They are affordable and you can have them in RAID configuration for mirror backup for quite cheap as well.

For instance, if you have 2 hard disks, you can have them in RAID 1 configuration to clone the data on both drives.

Plus unlike with the SSDs, the data written on the disk platters is more or less permanent. With HDD as long as the disk platters are safe and if there is an electronic failure with the head, or a mechanical failure, etc. your data would still be retrievable.

Hence not only are Hard Drives safer, they are also more efficient for large data and affordable compared to the rest.

4. Cloud Storage – Best but Expensive

One of the best ways to archive non-sensitive data. However, given the cost involved, they are currently not a viable solution for most studios.

For those who are concerned about critical data being stored on the net for security reasons, Cloud is not the way to go.

Cloud storage can be used for certain redundancy scenarios. For instance, you can save your best material on Cloud which you simply cannot afford to lose. Whereas at the same time, you can use hard drives for keeping the large data of raw files.

Final Words

In this article, we had a look at some of the best hard drives for archiving. It is worth noting that reliability and cost/GB are key here. If reliability is in question, then nothing trumps a RAID setup with a Mirror configuration.

Other than that, in the majority of cases, you do not need to worry much about getting an SSD for its speed or a slimmer drive for its portability.

Atif Qazi

Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGearLab.com and a huge gaming nerd. Thanks to a vast IT related experience under his belt, you can often find him writing detailed pieces of content on PC hardware. But in all honesty nothing gives him more pleasure than 'one-shotting' everyone as a stealth archer in ESO:Skyrim.

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