If you’re building or upgrading a gaming computer, chances are that your first priority is the CPU and GPU. And that’s how it should be, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take other components into consideration. Hard drives may rank low on the list of necessary components, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t serve an important role in your build.
A good hard drive ensures that you have the space to hold all your favorite games, but it can also have an impact on performance. In our reviews we only highlight the best hard drives for gaming. We’ve also constructed a beginner friendly guide that can help you understand the important characteristics and specs to consider when shopping.
- The Best Hard Drive for Gaming
- 1. Seagate BarraCuda 2TB Hard Drive
- 2. Seagate IronWolf 14 TB Hard Drive
- 3. Western Digital WD Blue 1TB
- 4. Seagate FireCuda 2TB Hybrid Drive
- 5. WD My Passport External Hard Drive
- 6. Seagate Xbox 2TB Game Drive
- 7. WD Black 1TB Performance Hard Drive
- 8. Toshiba X300 5TB Gaming Hard Drive
- 9. WD 2TB Portable External Gaming Drive
- 10. Toshiba L200 Internal Hard Drive
- Best Hard Drives for Gaming Buyer’s Guide
The Best Hard Drive for Gaming
1. Seagate BarraCuda 2TB Hard Drive
The BarraCuda is a 2 TB hard drive for gaming that costs right around $50. Normally that would and should be a red flag, but Seagate has a reputation for quality performance, and it's one they meet admirably with this budget PC hard drive. In fact, it boasts the claim of fastest desktop hard drive due to its 6Gbps transfer compatibility.
This is a SATA hard drive that gleefully puts performance above any other consideration. A 7200 RPM speed is complemented by an exception 64 MB of cache. And while it sacrifices any illusions of quiet speeds or power saving features in the process, that's not what it was built for. This is a power option through and through, and the fact that it comes in at such a reasonable price ensures that it's an incredible steal for gamers who want to get maximum performance with minimum spending.
2. Seagate IronWolf 14 TB Hard Drive
Games from AAA manufacturers are increasingly becoming ludicrous storage hogs, but the whopping 14 TB offered by the Seagate IronWolf should be more than any gamer will need for the indeterminate future. If you have the money to spend and you absolutely demand the best, the IronWolf can provide. It's an absolute beast of a gaming hard drive. And in contrast to most of its competitors, it offers an incredibly RPM speed of 7200.
But the real selling point of this drive is its NAS format. This means that it can work as external hard drive backup for every machine in your house. Looking to host LAN parties or living with a handful of different gamers? The IronWolf is more than enough for gaming, business, and leisure. Frankly, it's going to be a bit of overkill for most gamers, but it warrants mention as one of the most premium options.
3. Western Digital WD Blue 1TB
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the IronWolf is the inexpensive, compact, but effective Western Digital Blue. The Blue is a well recognized standard in the gaming and general computing industries, and this 1 TB hard drive may be a bit boring, but it's legendary for a reason: its combination of reliable service, decent specs, and great pricing. It's a middle of the road hard drive, but it's the best middle of the road hard drive around.
This is a 3.5 inch hard drive, so it's built for the needs of desktop towers. You'll get reliable speeds when connecting, and its relatively compact size means it should comfortably fit into the builds of most gaming rigs. And if you're looking to transfer files from your old hard drive, the free Acronis True Image turns the whole process into a very seamless experience.
4. Seagate FireCuda 2TB Hybrid Drive
If you're looking to outfit your gaming machine with a hybrid hard drive, the FireCuda is worthy of your attention. This solid state hybrid drive is built specifically with the demands of gamers in mind, combining 8GB of NAND type flash memory with a more traditional HDD for the best of both worlds. And it really knows how to make the most of its dual drives too. The Adaptive Memory technology baked in will learn from your past behaviors when determining what data should be stored in flash memory.
The sequential read speed of 216.9 MB/s and write speed of 211.4 MB/s are easily better than a more traditional option, and that makes this a great hard drive for gaming computer. And while it may not perform quite as well as a traditional SSD, it's very hard to argue against that price.
5. WD My Passport External Hard Drive
Whether you're looking for an external XBox One hard drive or for your PC, the My Passport can fit the bill. What separates a decent external hard drive for gaming from a good hard drive for gaming is connectivity, and My Passport fortunately offers a USB 3.0 connection to ensure quick and peppy transfer rates. It's also incredibly compact, as small as a traditional American passport, so it can slide easily into your existing setup and be comfortably taken with you on the go.
That size is the biggest selling point. This is easily the smallest 2TB external drive around, but it also comes with some smart security and software support, both for Windows and Mac machines. The best feature here is the ability to automate the backup of your data for an additional level of peace of mind. The port is also compatible with USB 2.0 slots.
6. Seagate Xbox 2TB Game Drive
This Seagate hard drive is marketed explicitly as an Xbox One external hard drive. In practical terms, that just means that it connects via a USB 3.0 cable and sports a coloring scheme and branding appropriate to Microsoft's console. It can work just as effectively with your PC or PS4. But marketing eccentricities aside, this is still a solid hard drive for a gaming computer or an XBox. This two terabyte external hard drive is incredibly portable.
Making it work with your console is the definition of simple. All you have to do is plug and play. The 130.9 MB/s read speed and 75.8 MB/s write speed aren't the best you'll find, but if you're a console gamer looking for a way to store your excess games and carry them with you that doesn't require anything in the way of technical knowledge, this drive is a good choice.
7. WD Black 1TB Performance Hard Drive
If you're looking for a hard drive for a gaming computer and the WD Blue just won't cut it, you may want to consider an upgrade to the Black. This is one of the best hard drives for gaming due to the pound for pound value of its storage capacity and a performance level tweaked for the needs of power users. This is an exceedingly fast hard drive for gaming, boasting a 218 MB/s transfer rate. The bulky cache of 64MB of DRAM (double that in higher capacity models) is further bolstered by Western Digital's Dynamic Cache technology.
All told, this is a well balanced and fast hard drive for gaming. The pricing is eminently reasonable, and the performance is a significant boost over what Western Digital has offered in the past. And is a single terabyte isn't enough for you, you can upgrade to up to 6 TB.
8. Toshiba X300 5TB Gaming Hard Drive
While Western Digital and Seagate fight for dominance as the most popular HDD manufacturer, Toshiba has undercover released one of the most affordable high-capacity options internal hard drives around. The RPM speed and cache of this hard drive for a gaming computer are exactly the specs you'd expect for a 5 TB drive, which makes it especially surprising that it's available for only slightly over a hundred bucks. It's quite possibly the best value for storage you'll find, and it's hard to note any discernible places where Toshiba has cut corners.
The meantime between failures is limited at a respectable 1.4 million hours, but if anything does go wrong, the X300 is backed by a full two year warranty. The performance features, admittedly, are fairly minimal, but the X300 does support native command queuing support for more efficient performance and shock sensors to provide an extra layer of security.
9. WD 2TB Portable External Gaming Drive
Like the Seagate XBox drive, this Western Digital 2 TB model is targeted as a PS4 hard drive, but it can work as an external option for any computer or modern console that supports external drives. The result is a pretty standard WD external model, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Whether you're looking to bring your games with you to a friend's house or simply make sure you have enough space for updates and patches, this is a great option for an external drive that doesn't require you to possess any technical knowledge.
That said, it's a pretty stripped down model. As with all models compatible with gaming consoles, it makes use of a USB 3.1 connection, but it doesn't have any special bells or whistles to distinguish it from the competition.
10. Toshiba L200 Internal Hard Drive
Laptop hard drives are by necessity not going to be as good as their desktop alternatives, but Toshiba makes the most out of the inherent limitations and produces a strong model with their L200. This is first and foremost a budget option. That means decent performance, a great price, and a decent but not overwhelming amount of storage capacity. The $70 price tag for a laptop model with 2 TB is pretty good, and the balance that this model offers only enhances that value.
Since this is a laptop hard drive, energy performance is going to be much more important than with a 3.5" drive. Toshiba gets it right on this front. It only requires 1.5 watts per load, and it maintains low temperature levels even when running high power tasks. It's not flashy, but it's a solid option for a lean gaming laptop.
Best Hard Drives for Gaming Buyer’s Guide
The most important question you need to ask yourself when purchasing a gaming hard drive is whether or not it will work with your PC or console. Fortunately, there’s not a lot to consider here, and you can determine the right option for you with a quick glance at the specs. There are two considerations to keep in mind: size and interface.
There are two ways that a hard drive can connect to your computer. SATA, or serial ATA, is one of the oldest and most common ports available in a motherboard. Whether you’re looking at a traditional HDD, an SSD, or a hybrid drive, any drive that’s designed to be installed within your computer frame is going to use a SATA drive. While different legacies of SATA offer different data transfer speeds, the modern standard is 6 Gbp/s. If you ever see a hard drive that promises a rate below this, it’s best avoided. The advantage of internal hard drives is that they typically run at faster speeds and offer larger storage capacities for their price.
Hard drives that employ USB connectivity are designed to be used as external drives. While they’re often a bit slower and smaller in capacity than their internal alternatives, they’re also easier and more flexible to use. Their plug and play interface means they can be carried with you and used with multiple consoles or PCs in much the same way as a flash drive, and they come pre-formatted to work with practically any device. If you want to use your external HDD with a console, you just want to make sure that they utilize the USB 3.0 format.
Size will only be an issue if you’re looking at internal SATA drives, and the only concern here is whether your drive is designed for a desktop or laptop. 3.5″ drives are suited to slot into traditional desktops, while a 2.5″ drive is what you’ll want if you’re looking for a laptop HDD. The physical size usually implies something about the design as well. 2.5″ drives typically have a smaller amount of storage space, but they’re engineered to give off less heat and use less power.
HDD vs SSD vs SSHD
Most of the options we’ve included on our list are traditional hard drives, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only options available to you. Solid state drives and hybrid drives are becoming increasingly popular as well, and there’s no clear winner as to which is the best hard drive for gaming.
The big selling points of HDDs are their affordability and the amount of information they can hold. You can get a hard drive with a comparatively huge storage capacity for a fraction of the price you’d pay for an SSD hard drive. But their conventional design that uses mechanical parts means that they’re more prone to damage if they’re dropped, and they’re slower than an SSD or SSHD. Another advantage of HDDs is that they offer longer life spans.
The durability of SSDs along with their faster read and write speeds mean that they’re becoming increasingly popular for gaming rigs and particularly for gaming laptops. The lack of any moving parts means that they’re lightning quick, and they have a significantly lower rate of error. And the fact that they put off less power than HDDs improves their value as an option for laptops. But with games becoming increasingly large in size and demanding multiple patches and updates, the more limited storage capacity of SSDs often prevents them from being viable as the sole hard drive in use.
SSHDs are the best of both worlds, but that also means that they contain the flaws of both SSDs and HDDs. Their pricing falls somewhere in the middle between the two. Since they’re essentially both an SSD and an HDD stuffed into a single package, the presence of moving parts still hinders speed and makes them more vulnerable to damage. But they essentially take the advantage of volume from a traditional hard drive and use the SSD component to hold the short term memory and speed up the reading and writing process.
Seagate vs Western Digital
Seagate and Western Digital dominate the hard drive market in much the same way that NVIDIA and AMD dominate the GPU market. They naturally constitute the majority of our featured hard drives, but which offers the best HDD for gaming? The answer isn’t clearly defined.
Western Digital was the first company to start offering 2 TB hard drives, but as the available hard drive capacities have become significantly larger, Western Digital have become known for offering great value on their smaller capacity offerings. If you’re looking for a 1 TB or 2 TB drive, Western Digital is probably the manufacturer to look to. They offer great pricing without sacrificing durability and security in the process. The WD Blue is a particularly quality option for those shopping on a tighter budget.
Once you start looking at higher capacity internal drives, Seagate is the company to look towards. Their high capacity drives are typically faster than the Western Digital alternatives while also being a little bit cheaper. They also offer one of the best hybrid drives for gaming anywhere with their FireCuda model, and the IronWolf offers an incredible 14 TB of storage (though that admittedly is probably a bit of overkill even for the most committed gamer).
That being said, there’s not a huge discrepancy between the two companies in terms of pricing or quality. If you see a drive at a great price, go for it. Both manufacturers offer products that are largely comparable in terms of quality, and the discrepancies between them are generally minimal.
Are you looking for a great gaming hard drive? Don’t worry. There’s little to no research required to unpack the specs. Start by considering how much storage you need and whether you want a model that’s external or internal. Regardless of your personal needs, there’s sure to be at least one hard drive on our list that suits your demands.