Last Updated on May 30, 2021
Home media servers are a great option for users who consume a lot of digital content and need a way to store and access it centrally at home.
You will need a good storage solution that can easily handle large files. Hence, with a drive that won’t fail unexpectedly, you are sure to get some good service from a media server.
For HDDs, a high cache can improve read speeds, thereby improving the performance of the disk.
To be the best hard drives for media server or Plex, a drive needs to have these features.
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Comparison of Hard Drives for Media Server
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List of Best Hard Drives for Media Server in 2021
Here we have rounded up some of the best options you have for a hard drive to use on a media server.
- Seagate IronWolf NAS – High Cache 5900 RPM HDD
- WD Red NAS – Specialized and Highly Reliable
- WD Red Pro – 7200 RPM specialized NAS HDD
- Seagate IronWolf 110 – 560 MB/s SATA SSD
- WD Red SA500 – M.2 SSD for Media Server
1. Seagate IronWolf NAS – High Cache 5900 RPM HDD
A very high amount of cache and a specialized hard drive for NAS. Affordable and operates at 5900 RPM.
The Seagate IronWolf is a specialized hard drive, built specifically to work with NAS (Network-Attached Storage) devices that can act as the home media server.
What you get out of the box is a hard drive that has a large cache of about 256 MB. With the large cache, you can store files that are often accessed within the drive but at a location that can be accessed faster than reading from the disk. Thus, reducing disk read times. This can bear great improvements in the amount of time you need to wait to get some files.
Additionally, fast read speeds can also be attributed to the fact that the disk itself spins 5900 times per minute.
With a high RPM such as this, read and write latencies are reduced resulting in faster performance of the hard drive. Though not the fastest, you will be able to get decent performance under a moderate load.
This is one of the best hard drive for media server because it combines performance with cost and storage capacity. A 6-TB unit of this type could cost you fairly low despite being reliable.
2. WD Red NAS – Specialized and Highly Reliable
Another reasonable hard disk particularly great for lower storage capacities. Has a high cache size.
If you get a drive from the RED lineup of WD hard drives you can be sure that you have one of the best hard drive for media server.
These drives are built to work with other similar brands of hard drives and can be easily integrated into a media server.
According to Western Digital, their NAS drives are tested to meet the requirements of a NAS setup. Thus, they can deliver great performance for much longer than a regular PC drive would.
This makes them very reliable and great for a media server. In addition to being reliable, the drive can operate optimally in a media server which requires to be on for long periods. Since they can take such a huge workload, a WD Red NAS drive would be great for a media server.
The drive is compatible with many NAS systems so you wouldn’t need to worry about getting the right one for your home media server.
The WD Red NAS drive is great for many reasons. You get a reliable drive that can function even as part of a demanding home server.
3. WD Red Pro – 7200 RPM specialized NAS HDD
Another WD Red, but this operates at a high 7200 RPM. This is also NAS grade and offers very high cache size.
The WD Red Pro is a specialized NAS drive that has a few advantages over the basic WD red discussed above.
What makes it one of the best hard drive for media server is the fact that it operates at a respectable high speed compared to other disk drives that run at 5200 RPM. This one does at 7200.
In addition to the faster disk which results in lower latencies, the drive also features a large 256 MB HDD cache. Caching helps you access data faster by storing some files on a faster-to-access part of the hard drive.
This 3.5-inch drive comes with disk capacities that are ideal for a wide range of users including those who need to store a lot of files.
The Red Pro performs well in a NAS system where it’s required to operate non-stop for long periods.
It’s a great choice for users with a large collection of media and needs to store and access it from a media server.
4. Seagate IronWolf 110 – 560 MB/s SATA SSD
An SSD built specifically for NAS and media servers. Offers a whopping 560 MB/s of transfer speeds.
The biggest advantage of the Seagate IronWolf 110 drive, compared to the first three, is that it is a SATA SSD.
That alone means that the drive can offer better performance in both read and write speeds and thus, multiple users can stream from the same media server concurrently with very few interruptions.
The 2.5-inch drive can deliver up to 560 MB/s in data rates which is enough for even heavy usage.
What’s even better is that this drive is specialized for NAS systems, meaning that they are built to run continuously for long periods without running into fatal issues.
The device uses a SATA interface which is quite common so you don’t have to worry much about compatibility and with the storage sizes ranging from 240 GB to 3.84 TB, you will have a lot of options.
The cost of this drive per gigabyte is much higher compared to the first three. So, it carries a higher investment cost. But if you are concerned about speed and performance then this is the best hard drive for media server.
5. WD Red SA500 – M.2 SSD for Media Server
A NAS SSD with an M.2 form factor. Great for compact media servers. Fast 560 MB/s transfer speeds.
The first hard drives we have seen all use a regular SATA connector to connect to a NAS system that makes up the media server and hence has the 2.5″ form factor.
The WD Red SA500 instead uses an M.2 socket that’s used by M.2 form factor SSDs.
Among the best hard drive for media server, this one moves to fulfill the needs of a user whose NAS has the appropriate M.2 slots.
Note that being a SATA SSD it implies that it provides read and write speeds of up to 560 MB/s and has great endurance for heavy tasks. However, it is not the same as an NVMe PCIe SSD that reach speeds upto 4 GB/s to 8 GB/s – depending upon whether you have PCIe v3.0 or PCIe v4.0
Built specifically for NAS systems, this drive is good for a media server as it can operate 24/7 with minimal issues and has been tested following the requirements for a NAS and passes.
With that in mind, you’d want a drive that is capable of reading and writing files quickly while being able to support multiple users at the same time.
With the addition of having the small M.2 form factor, this drive is quite handy for compatible hardware. The storage capacities start from 500GB.
Guide to Choosing the Right Media Server Hard Drive
With media servers, you want access to your files from one central location. Here are some of the things you’ll need to look out for when looking for a hard drive.
Also Read: Best Hard Drives for Archiving
What you want for your media server is enough storage so that you don’t have to keep deleting older files to make room for new ones.
With large capacity drives, you don’t have to worry about this as you can save multiple high-quality format files before you start running out of space.
What’s more, having a hard drive with a large storage capacity will allow the people who use the media server to copy and move files with ease. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about someone overwriting your files with theirs.
High Cache for HDD
An HDD has limited speeds which can be a bottleneck. You will need storage caching to overcome this issue.
An HDD cache will store some of the files that have been used recently and are likely to be used again. Depending on how large the cache is, you can also store some extra files that are likely to be used.
This enables faster data access from the hard drive. This can be beneficial where many people, like a large family, need to connect to the media server at the same time.
Reliability over Continuous Use
HDDs with moving parts are usually not friendly with mechanical stresses like shocks or hard falls. You’d want a hard drive that, even without serious impacts, lasts long enough to pay back its value at purchase.
A reliable hard drive means fewer trips to the store to get a replacement and will even save you some money in the long run.
It is available to use multiple drives to store your data and even then, a bit of reliability can mean a lot. So, the best hard drives need to also be reliable.
SSD vs HDD
This criterion is the easiest to consider. Both SSDs and HDDs have their pros and cons.
Generally, HDDs are much cheaper and SSDs are much faster.
While SSDs were quite expensive a few years ago, they are a lot cheaper now. SSDs are also much faster than HDDs and have no moving parts. No moving mechanical parts makes SSDs more reliable.
With HDDs, however, you get larger capacities for a cheaper price tag so if data read and write speeds aren’t an issue to you this can be a great option to save some money.
As far as the speed the concerned, a typical 7200 RPM HDD has a data transfer speed of about 150 MB/s. A typical NAS grade SSD has a data transfer speed of about 550 MB/s. This is multiple times faster.
However, with higher cache sizes for media server grade HDDs, the responsiveness and latency of HDDs also improves significantly.
In this article, we looked at some of the best hard drives for media server. Generally, we looked at NAS grade hard drives that offer a high cache size for quick access, affordability for high storage capacity and fast speeds.
These hard disks are specialized to reduce latency in accessing files from the media storage, playing videos or editing 4k or 8k videos and commercial level databases.