Plex is a service that allows users to aggregate their media files into one device called a Plex Server from where the files can be accessed from other devices.
If you have a library of movies, for example, you can designate a computer to act as the server, store your movies there, and with an app on your phone, you can stream your media files.
It allows file sharing at a more user-controlled level. To pull it off, you’ll need the best hard drives for Plex. These are more durable and can work for longer.
While you HDD make the most sense for Plex server due to their lower cost per GB, some people also prefer installing SSD. We look at both below.
Comparison of Top Hard Drives for Plex Server
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List of the Best Hard Drives for Plex in 2021
The following hard drives stand out the most in terms of reliability and value and hence highly recommended for Plex.
- Seagate IronWolf NAS – Recommended Hard Drive for NAS
- WD RED NAS – Affordable Hard Drive for NAS
- Seagate IronWolf 110 – Specialized NAS SATA SSD
- WD Elements – Affordable external hard drive
- WD My Cloud EX2 – Dedicated Plex and raid support
1. Seagate IronWolf NAS – Recommended Hard Drive for NAS
A high performance dedicated internal hard disk drive for NAS and Plex.
This dedicated NAS drive is great for users who want a hard drive particularly for storage servers including plex serves.
Being a NAS storage means it has a much higher TB / year user workload as well as a high mean time between failure. On top of that, it can handle simultaneous loads as well making it excellent for multiple users accessing plex.
It comes in a wide variety of sizes, allowing users with different needs to completely customize their storage options as they please.
Users with computers that have multiple drive bays can have up to eight of these drives configured to work together seamlessly.
The drive has very high cache of 256 MB. The cache stores commonly accessed files at a location that’s much easier to access, thus allowing you to read files from the HDD much faster.
Additionally, you get 7200 with the drive. This gives you decent performance that will let you comfortably stream from your Plex system.
The drive is specialized for NAS enclosures and because it measures 3.5-inches, it’s recommended to ensure it can fit in your system before making a purchase.
2. WD RED NAS – Affordable Hard Drive for NAS
This internal 3.5inch drive is built specifically for NAS systems. As a result, you get a highly reliable NAS disk that can be used as part of your home media system like Plex.
Storage options range from a small 1TB disk to a massive 14TB unit for users who will need the extra space and have very large libraries that need storage.
To ensure you get good performance, the drive has a 64MB cache. Although not very large, the cache can help users improve the speed of the drive.
The drive’s platter runs at 5400 RPM. This will give you good speeds for a media server allowing you to watch HD movies comfortably; though, with many simultaneous connections to the Plex server, you may notice some issues.
The price and endurance of this device make it one of the best hard drives for Plex. WD boasts it can handle 180TB workload per year which is sufficient for home media network.
3. Seagate IronWolf 110 – Specialized NAS SATA SSD
An SSD built particularly for NAS storage solutions.
SSDs are much better than HDDs when it comes to read and write speeds. This 2.5-Inch SATA SSD is no different and can sustain speeds of up to 560MB/s.
SSD are great for situations where multiple users would access the Plex server to watch large 4K media at a time. This would require the drive to cater to exceptionally high data transfer rates.
The Seagate IronWolf 110 is built with NAS systems in mind thus allowing it to run 24/7 without any issues. This is partly because the firmware it uses helps keep things operating at full capacity.
For a Plex server, having this hard drive will allow multiple users to stream media comfortably and will even let you update your library quickly.
With high speeds, moving in new media files will not take as long as an HDD would and because the drive has no moving parts, you don’t get vibrations or noise from your Plex server.
The drive comes with a wide range of capacities for different kinds of users. You can get anywhere from 240GB to 3.82TB which is quite pricey.
4. WD Elements – Affordable External Hard Drive for Plex
A large external storage for storing media for your Plex
For users looking for an external hard drive, the WD Elements is a great choice because it is not only affordable but also you get large capacities as well as great performance.
For Plex servers, this external hard drive has a lot to offer. You get rapid data transfers that will allow you to quickly update your media files.
Also, because it uses a USB 3.0 interface, you can get high transfer speeds resulting in better performance. Generally, you can expect to see speeds of up to 176MB/s which will be great if multiple people are streaming at the same time.
The device comes with Support for Windows computers out of the box. However, if you use a Mac you may need to do some extra reformatting.
The drive comes with a laptop lock so you can put it on a desk somewhere and tether it in place to prevent it from being moved around.
5. WD My Cloud EX2 – Dedicated Plex and raid support
Dedicated NAS for Plex. Cloud connectivity for syncing all of your devices.
The My Cloud EX2 from WD is one of the best hard drives for Plex because it offers dedicated Plex support as well as cloud access.
This isn’t your ordinary hard disk. Instead, this is a dedicated NAS server with built in processors and RAM to cater to the high disk storage and access from multiple computers at a time.
This can come in handy for beginners who are just getting into the home media center niche and want an option that will be easy to set up but very functional in the long run.
The device provides centralized access because it’s connected via a network. This allows users to use their phones as well as computers from anywhere and access their data.
Additionally, you get support for multiple RAID implementations out of the box. With RAID 1, all the data in multiple drives gets duplicated onto other drives so if one of the drives fails, you will retain all of your data. This reduced your total storage by half though.
The drive comes with a processor and onboard RAM so it functions just like a computer. You can be assured that your data is guarded and with cloud functionality, your data will always be within your reach.
How to Choose the Right Plex Hard Drive?
With media servers, the idea is to have your content available when needed.
This entails having the computer running as the server, operate continuously for long periods.
This can introduce a lot of stress to the system, especially spinning hard drives that are prone to mechanical failures that can lead to data loss.
When it comes to endurance, think long term operations. Whichever hard drive you’d like to use for Plex, it should be one that can run 24/7 with a low chance of failure.
A desktop hard drive will be good enough for a plex server; however, these drives were not built to run continuously for days on end.
Instead, there are options like NAS (Network-Attached Storage) drives that can run continuously for long durations.
These are typically designed to endure the long operations of a system that’s built for high availability and are a great choice for Plex.
These are also a great choice. Many are built to handle large workloads and maximum up-time to support modern data centers.
The problem with these drives is that they tend to be very expensive and may not be a good pick if all you want to do is to store your movies.
Regardless, cost aside, these drives are great and have great endurance and good performance.
Video surveillance systems use hard drives that operate 24/7. They can record data from multiple cameras simultaneously and even stream that data.
These drives can be great for a Plex server because of their high endurance. However, some users have pointed out that they have some performance issues like low speeds and frame drops when streaming.
Besides endurance, you will also want a hard drive that performs well. When your plex server needs to stream to multiple devices concurrently, a low-speed drive will show some issues.
SSDs are very fast and have high bandwidths to allow you to stream from multiple devices without issues.
You need to consider storage capacities especially when your media library is expected to grow. You may swap out smaller drives for larger ones when you’re running out of space, but good planning at first will help a lot.
Also, you need a drive that can implement auto-backups. This will come in handy in the event of a disk failure you forgot to manually do the backup.
How to Setup Home Media Server?
The following video sums up the process very well.
In short the best hard drives for Plex are those that are suitable for media servers. Hard drives that are built for NAS, that are reliable and have a high mean time between failures are highly recommended for plex servers.
Alternatively, any large capacity hard disk can do just fine. You don’t necessarily have to use an SSD. However, if there are multiple users using the same storage, then you will certainly benefit from an SSD.
You can also choose to go for cloud based external HDD that have specific support for Plex servers.