Best hard drive (HDD) for gaming 2023 – best for speed & storage
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While it may seem redundant to some, there are still budget-focused PC builders that search for the best hard drive (HDD) for gaming. They don’t offer the same read and write speeds as their newer SSD counterpart or the same acoustic performance but they are incredibly affordable and reliable. This makes the best HDDs a viable option for many where speed isn’t the main priority in certain games and where you have a lot of media files or data that need to be stored or backed up. If you want a couple of quick suggestions, then the Seagate FireCuda (2TB) hybrid or massive Western Digital 14TB Ultrastar are top-notch.
In the following article, we have chosen five of the best HDDs available, catering to all needs and situations leaving no stone unturned. Additionally, we’ll keep this guide updated with the best picks – even now that SSDs are more commonplace than ever. They range from Hybrid storage solutions to budget options with sizes varying from 500GB up to 14TB! Without further ado let’s take a closer look.
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Best hard drive (HDD) for gaming 2023
So, what can you expect from the best hard drives for gaming? Well, excellent value for money is once thing, and reliability is another. One interesting thing to explore is the SSHD, which is a hybrid that helps offers speeds closer to what you’d find in the best gaming SSDs, aiming to give you the best of both worlds, though more closely resembling a traditional HDD.
Seagate FireCuda (2TB) Hybrid Drive
Seagate FireCuda (2TB)
- Amazing storage
- More than enough room for games and media
- Far faster than a 7200RPM HDD
- Can fit in laptops/consoles
- Sacrifices storage gains for speed
- Somewhat poorer value than other options
The Seagate Firecuda (2TB) takes our number one position in the best HDD for gaming list and for good reason… Not only does it have the hybrid technology many have come to love, but it also slots perfectly into your laptops and consoles if you require a capacity boost. This 2.5-inch SSHD storage device may look like an ordinary mechanical hard drive but under the hood is something very different.
This is a hybrid hard drive that boasts much faster read and write speeds than your ordinary HDD – thanks to the 8GB NAND solid-state memory. It’s essentially a type of flash memory that could access speeds faster than regular hard drives. It’s what makes it the best 2TB HDD for gaming and set’s it apart from the rest of the hard drives you’ve probably been looking at.
However this being said, it still doesn’t land a blow on the performance stats of SSD devices which are widely considered the new GO-TO storage solution for gamers. It does however boast a much larger storage capacity than SSD at a much more affordable price.
We highly recommend you get this if you want faster boot and loading times on top of pure, raw storage space. Moreover, we also recommend this if you record videos and store large media files (4k films) on the sides. If you think 2TB of SSHD storage is too much for what you really need, fret not as we have a number of different-sized candidates yet to come.
Seagate Barracuda (3TB)
Seagate Barracuda (3TB)
- Pure storage capacity
- …at an amazing value
- Boasts all the room you should need on an HDD
- No hybrid benefits
- Can’t fit in laptops/consoles
Out of the 12 hard drives that we tested, we already anticipated that the Seagate Barracuda (3TB) was going to be one of the best HDD solutions on our list. But after doing the benchmarks and tests, we’re extremely surprised to see what this HDD had to offer under the hood.
The 2TB Seagate FireCuda may be 231% faster when it comes to 4K random write speeds but the 3TB Seagate Barracuda is still 10% faster in terms of real-world speed. The 3TB storage capacity allows you to store a huge amount of modern games in your library. In fact, this is capable of holding all the games you could possibly have in your drive right now and still has enough room left to accommodate more.
A word that you need to keep in mind though is that this won’t fit in laptops and consoles since this is a 3.5-inch HDD. However, if that isn’t one of your goals then consider this the perfect all-around solution for you. If you’re on the hunt for an HDD that you could fit on your laptop or console then our main choice would certainly be the Firecuda 2TB.
Western Digital 14TB Ultrastar
Western Digital 14TB Ultrastar HDD
- Massive capacity
- Solid build quality
- Perfect for video editors and streamers
Many will say, upon seeing this in our best HDD’s list, that the 14TB Ultrastar from Western Digital isn’t considered a consumer-level HDD, and they’d be half right in thinking that. In all honesty, the main goal of this HDD is to be part of a NAS (Network attached storage device) which can be accessed by many PCs simultaneously. However, with the popularity of streaming and 4K, we think this hard drive has a legitimate claim as our best large-capacity storage solution.
Over the last 10 years, we have seen the influx of streaming and 4K video content become part of our everyday viewing material. What some people probably aren’t aware of however is how much storage these things take up. Streaming and video editing require a great deal of storage capacity especially when you bring 4K into the equation, and for this reason, we feel the 14TB Ultrastar HDD from Western Digital is a brilliant choice. Furthermore, this has a disk buffer rate of 512mb/s making it much faster than other large storage options in today’s market.
Let’s not forget the advancements in modern technology either, 8K is up next and will eventually be widely available on all platforms and in hand will undoubtedly require more storage. All being said, this is probably not your go-to option right now, but if you’re looking to future-proof your machine then why not consider this monster as an option?
Seagate FireCuda (1TB)
Seagate FireCuda (1TB)
- Great intermediate storage
- Great for the price
- Plenty of room for games and media
- Far faster than a 7200RPM HDD
- Can fit in laptops/consoles
- Sacrifices storage gains for speed
There were a few candidates for the ‘best 1TB HDD for gaming’ number 1 spot but inevitably we had to go for Seagate’s Firecuda, and for good reason. The Firecuda, thanks to its hybrid features, stands alone at the top of the list and it’s hard to argue against it. This HDD is literally the best of both worlds, no compromises need to be made here. One downside however is that it is recently only available in a refurbished state, rather than brand-new.
The SSD and the HDD technologies were blended into one, meaning you get the kick of an SSD and the thick storage capacity of a regular mechanical hard drive. Gamers personally love this because a 1TB storage capacity is more than enough for casual gamers.
The elevated speeds of boot and loading times make it a top pick that gamers just can’t resist. To top that off, this can be installed in laptops and consoles because it’s a 2.5” SSHD, meaning if you want to upgrade your laptop storage or improve your console gaming experience, here’s a choice we personally recommend. If that’s not pleasing enough for you, the price is also considered extremely good value for money. Win-win!
WD Blue 500GB
WD Blue 500GB Hard Disk Drive
- Very cheap
- Limited 500GB Storage Capacity
Finally, we have our budget pick, which comes in the shape of the Western Digital 500GB HDD. You might be sat there asking yourself, why on earth would I get a 500GB HDD, what use will that be? and the answer is really simple, you just don’t have the funds to go for the other recommendations in this list. It’s not all bad though opting for a smaller HDD.
The great thing about storage in today’s market is how inexpensive it can be when you duck under 1TB of capacity. They are the perfect solution if you’re at the end of your build and find yourself a little too close to your monetary limit. Western Digital Blue series comes to the table at 7200RPM which is a step up from other cheap HDDs that usually start at 5400RPM and has good solid build quality.
Ultimately this isn’t a long-term solution if you’re a gamer. It’s going to fill up pretty quickly and you’re going to find yourself in a situation that requires uninstalling programs and games to accommodate for newer stuff. However, it will get you up and running until you have enough money to go for one of our better options above.
How we choose
As most will know, modern-day games are becoming much more demanding, for this reason, we decided to do some extensive research online to make sure the products we’re recommending are the best types of hard drives for gaming.
Since SSDs are king when it comes to speeds, we decided to limit our review to the HDD and SSHD boundaries. We didn’t solely rely on what we found on our end but instead, we also checked what our fellow professionals have to say about the hard drives to get a deeper understanding of the features.
Instead of just randomly picking colorful and cool hard drives we could find online, we spent an entire week checking reviews, forums, benchmarks, as well as feedback from manufacturer websites like Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital.
How we test
Aside from the packaging – which is pretty much straightforward, there’s nothing more we can do but perform in-depth testing on the hard drives straight away.
Below is a table that shows the results based on the 3 benchmarking tools that we used:
We boiled the results down to some of the best hard drives we’ve tested to save you time and make it convenient for everyone.
|Read [MB/s]||Write [MB/s]||Read [MB/s]||Write [MB/s]|
|Seagate Barracuda (3TB)||175||160||0.67||1.53|
|Seagate FireCuda (2TB)||134||168||0.65||5.04|
|Seagate FireCuda (1TB)||133||165||0.71||4.9|
|Seagate Barracuda (1TB)||168||154||0.81||1.52|
|Western Digital Caviar Blue (320GB)||85.4||82.7||0.5||1.64|
We want to make sure that we’re getting the right numbers so we decided to do the test five times per hard drive. The numbers above were the average results based on the five tests performed. Since we want to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money here, we want to keep you updated with how each of these performs long-term.
Things to consider
Like with any piece of hardware, there are always going to be things to consider to ensure you make the correct hard drive purchase for your gaming PC. In this section, we are going to go over a few key factors that you need to be aware of and give you all the help you need to make that all-important final purchase.
First and foremost, address your storage needs.
If you’re a PC enthusiast and you have a large library of games that you play on a regular basis, a large HDD is a no-brainer. This becomes even more important once you start using game recording software, like Shadowplay, which generates large raw video files on your HDD for you to deal with. For a while now games are becoming heavier and heavier meaning it’s important to invest in a storage device with at least 1TB of space, if possible.
If you’re a gamer who isn’t trying to play every game under the sun, however, a smaller drive may be better suited for you. Console gamers can probably make full use of the 1TB SSHD option we’ve provided since your storage will only be mainly used for games and not media files. If you’re just squeezing in a budget, our Western Digital drive may be your best bet. While we’d highly recommend updating your storage at some point in the future, buying PCs in the $300 and under price range often means sacrificing storage for performance.
Does hybrid actually matter?
Hybrid HDDs are an amazing compromise between an SSD’s speed and HDD’s raw storage and are often just the compromise people need. If you want the absolute best performance in all your gaming and applications, a 2TB SSD would get that job done and then some. Unfortunately, SSDs cost way more per GB than HDDs do, and having space for all your games on an SSD simply isn’t feasible for most.
Meanwhile, a 2TB HDD is more than enough space for most people to store their games and media. I’ve been using a 2TB HDD for years now and I still haven’t quite filled it up, despite all the downloads and video recording I’ve done on my PC! However, an HDD can sometimes become subject to slower loading times. As my HDD has aged, I’ve noticed its performance drop, meaning I’m left sitting on loading screens much longer than my contemporaries are. A Hybrid HDD balances the benefits of both storage types but doesn’t quite replace either of them.
When it comes to HDDs, the brand is extremely important. Fortunately, Western Digital and Seagate are some of the best HDD manufacturers out there, with consistently high reviews and solid build quality. If, for some reason, you decide to buy an HDD that isn’t on this list, make sure you’re buying it from a reputable manufacturer. A few other good manufacturers include Toshiba and Samsung.
A note on SSDs
We do need to address the elephant in the room here, though: SSDs exist. With an SSD, you can install your OS, programs, and a few of your favorite games for rapid-fire loading and response times. SSDs are one of the most highly recommended user-experience upgrades that you can get on your PC.
If you’re okay with sacrificing storage space for speed, we highly recommend you get an SSD instead. It’s also worth noting that if you have the money, this isn’t necessarily an either-or situation. You could buy a small SSD to enjoy its benefits with your OS and a few of your favorite games, then buy an HDD for your other games and your media storage. At least, you can do this with desktop PCs. This usually isn’t possible on laptops and gaming consoles.
SSDs are much more affordable these days – prices have changed quite drastically in just a couple of years’ time, so it’s up to you if you want to make the switch to SSD or not.
Which HDD is right for you?
Hardcore gamers should get the 2TB Seagate FireCuda. Period. It’s the best gaming hard drive. It is literally the only hard drive in this list that has the features of both an SSD and an HDD. While the 1TB FireCuda is enough, the 2TB FireCuda should give you a fair amount of breathing time to save up and spend on other hardware components. Overall, this is great for long-term use or future-proofing as well.
Even though the Barracuda 3TB doesn’t have the hybrid features that the 2TB FireCuda boasts, it does have solid real-world speeds, it’s actually faster in quite a few situations. So, not only do you have the speed you need for a quality gaming experience but you also have a hefty 3TB at your disposal.
If you’re a casual gamer, however, we highly recommend you get the 1TB Seagate FireCuda. If you have the cash, by all means, go with the 2TB version. This should give you the speeds you need to enjoy the quality gaming experience we all crave, with no compromise in space.
If you’re a gamer who does a lot of video editing and streaming, our natural recommendation is the 14TB Ultrastar from Western Digital. It not only boasts an enormous 14TB of space, but it also has a 512 MB cache which is great for all-around usage. Combining these 2 features gives you a really efficient, powerful hard drive solution. It is also ideal for NAS setups.
If you’re a console gamer or perhaps you want to upgrade your laptop storage, we strongly recommend you either get the 1TB or the 2TB FireCuda SSHD since these are 2.5-inch drives that should fit perfectly well. Lastly, if you’re on a really tight budget, make sure you get the Western Digital Blue 500GB. Compared to the rest of the HDDs in this price range, this has a speed of 7200 RPMs.
Related storage pages
If you are still looking for guides on the best storage devices for gaming, check out some of our other guides below.
Best hard drive (HDD) for gaming FAQs
Is SSD or HDD better for gaming?
When it comes to gaming, you want to ensure that you have the best possible storage drive. A storage drive that features fast loading times is essential. If you have the choice between an SSD or an HDD for gaming, we would definitely recommend purchasing an SSD.
Overall, SSDs are much quicker and more responsive. They provide faster and better performance. The loading times are a lot quicker in comparison to an HDD. Solid-state drives have far better read and write speeds, and the majority of games will favor SSDs when given the choice.
However, HDDs still provide good performance on the whole. They are efficient enough to use for gaming, but they do have slower read and write speeds on the whole. They do tend to have a more extended lifespan in comparison to SSDs though.
Does SSD increase FPS?
Any gamer will know that FPS is important. The higher the number of frames per second a game is running at, the better the overall quality and picture will be. The better the fps is, the less likely you are to encounter things such as tearing and lag.
While SSDs do improve things such as loading times and the overall speed of your gaming laptop or PC, it does not actually improve the frames per second in any way.
Some people may assume that it improves the fps because it does help to smooth out gameplay ever so slightly. However, this is the SSD simply improving the loading speeds to help prevent stutters, rather than it improving the fps.
It is the GPU that controls the overall fps. If you have significantly lower fps when benchmarking and during gameplay, the only way you can truly resolve this is by upgrading or replacing your existing GPU.
Is 1TB HDD enough for gaming?
The amount of memory that an HDD will need depends on how many games you want to play, and store. In addition to this, the types of games you are saving will also need to be taken into consideration.
If you are playing older games, these typically use up far less memory in comparison to newer, next-gen games. Given this, if you are playing smaller or older games, a 1TB HDD is more than enough for gaming.
When it comes to modern gaming, and larger AAA games, while a 1TB HDD is a sufficient amount for many gamers, it will run out over time if you do not remove games you have completed.
On average, a next-gen game typically uses anywhere up to 100 GB of memory. When you take this into consideration, a 1TB HDD does not seem to be awfully large. However, it will still allow you to save a good amount of games on it.
For those who are not looking to game seriously, a 1TB HDD is a significant amount to have. If you are looking to take gaming more seriously, you will likely benefit from a larger storage capacity and an SSD instead of an HDD too.
Is SSD faster than 7200RPM?
When comparing the speed of an SSD to 7200RPM, there is no real competition. The SSD will always come out on top in all aspects of gaming.
An SSD has far better access times, many of which can be around 100 times better, which means that the 7200RPM just cannot compete with it.
The 7200RPM speed of an HDD is good, but over time has not really been improved upon. In comparison to this, the specifications of SSDs keep getting better by the year and their performance is far better on the whole.
The boost time of SSD tends to be twice as fast as the 7200RPM. While the 7200RPM is reasonable it just cannot compete with the likes of an SSD and its newer technology.
Does SSD reduce lag?
While an SSD does not completely reduce lag, it certainly does improve it to an extent. This is due to its very fast loading speeds. While the speeds may drop slightly in the first few seconds of using an HDD, this is not the case when using an SSD.
Ultimately, everything comes down to what fits your budget and your needs. We have covered the best hard drives (HDD) for gaming here and tried to ensure we cater to everyone’s specific requirements. If you’re squeezing performance per dollar to the max with a budget build, go with the Western Digital Blue (500GB).
If you’re still performance-per-dollar oriented but want some decent storage, go with the Seagate FireCuda (1TB). It offers a reliable 1TB of storage for under $50. If you want faster loading times without severely sacrificing storage space, opt for one of the two Hybrid drives. Seagate FireCuda 2TB and Seagate FireCuda 1TB will both serve you well in that regard.
If budget isn’t a concern and you just want room for all of your games, buy the Seagate Barracuda 3TB. It’s a massive 3TB drive and should suit your needs fine. Lastly, if you need large amounts of storage space, there is no better choice than the Western Digital 14TB Ultrastar.