The best internal hard drives can be a perfect way to give your PC or laptop a little boost. This is especially true for artists, designers and other creatives, who are likely going to have a lot of sizeable project files to store. And this goes double for photographers and video editors, who are going to have even greater storage needs.
An internal hard drive is also a fantastic way to protect yourself against the utter disaster of a total computer crash. We hear a lot about the importance of backing up, and while the best cloud storage services are great for having your files accessible everywhere, there’s something to be said for having an offline storage solution too.
There are loads of internal hard drives on the market – and if you’re not much of a computer person (no shame in it) they likely all look the same. So how to choose between them? We’ve picked out the best internal hard drives for our comprehensive buyer’s guide. With models at different price points, boasting various storage capacities and transfer speeds, there should be hard drives to suit all users on the list. If you want to read a bit more about what to consider, then jump to what to look for in an internal hard drive
If you're after an external hard drive instead, you should definitely check out our best external hard drives post.
The best internal hard drives
Hard drives aren’t like digital drawing tablets or cameras – flashy features aren’t necessarily a selling point. All you really need from a hard drive is for it to do the simple job of storing your data for a good price, and the Seagate BarraCuda passes that test with flying colours.
In terms of gigabytes on the dollar, it’s the best-value hard drive out there. The spin speeds of 7,200 RPM ensure fast enough performance for most purposes, certainly enough to be a time saver.
As we’ll see, there are hard drives on this list with greater storage, and there are also hard drives with more impressive transfer speeds. But the SeaGate Barracuda wins out because it does a good job of storing lots of data for a reasonable price – and very few people need a hard drive to do anything more than that.
The Western Digital Blue is actually on the low end of the firm’s internal hard drive offering – it’s outstripped in terms of speed and capacity by the Black hard drives, which we’ll get to shortly. However, just like the Seagate BarraCuda, the Western Digital Blue is more than enough for most users, and provides great value, too.
Its rotation speed of 5,400 rpm means it’s not the fastest on the block, and then there’s also the limited cache of 64MB. However, in terms of capacity it outstrips the BarraCuda, coming in 3TB and 4TB variations. This is an impressive amount of space for the price, and is likely plenty for handling high-resolution image files or things of that nature.
As it’s a Western Digital drive, the Blue also comes with free access to the Acronis True Image software, making it easy to copy data between drives. This makes the Blue extra handy to keep as a general-purpose backup drive.
The Toshiba X300 is both fast and able to carry a lot of storage, so it's well worth your consideration when choosing the best internal hard drive for you. Add to that the Toshiba X300 comes at a reasonable price, and you've got a potential star here.
Performing at 7,200 rpm, all your secure data can be accessed really quickly –whether that's a large project file that you need to back up, or a quick game save. And there are iterations that go up to 16TB, which is quick frankly massive, and perfect for professional computing, or if you love to rinse your games.
Can't decide between the high speeds (but high cost) of an SSD and the lower cost (but lower speeds) of an external hard drive? This hybrid device offers you something close to the best of both worlds.
There's 1TB-2TB of hard drive storage for data that you just want to store, and don't need to access quickly. Plus for large files that you might need at a moment's notice, there's a small 8GB of SSD storage.
The device learns which data you use most, so you can access those files most quickly. It's a very creative solution to keep your costs down, and as long as you don't have more than 8GB of files you might need immediately, it works brilliantly in practice. (It's also worth noting that the main part of the drive, which spins at 7,200rpm, is pretty nifty as it is.)
The Western Digital Black is a little more expensive in terms of bits on the dollar than the Blue that we’ve already included. However, it is both faster and more capacious, making it definitely worth considering if you’re going to be transferring and storing a lot of large files.
The Western Digital seal of quality assures that the Black drive will be highly reliable – though if you aren’t the trusting sort, it also comes with a five-year warranty that should provide a little extra peace of mind. It can get a little noisy sometimes when the motor really gets going, and the FireCuda is faster, but the Western Digital Black drive is an excellent choice for heavier users than the Blue.
If you’re running a business with a small creative team that share project data on a daily basis, then you’ll need a network attached storage (NAS) system. This enables all authorised users in your network to share and access the same data, which makes your team’s project workflow faster and more seamless. Enter the Toshiba N300 14TB NAS internal hard drive, whose 10TB to 14TB storage capacity should be plenty to share among your team members. Yet, the best part is that you essentially have centralising data storage, forgoing the need to constantly ask a teammate to send this Illustrator design or that Premiere project.
With a cache size of up to 256 MB and 7,200 rpm speed, this best internal hard drives pick won’t slow down even with multiple users accessing it. And, because it is your business, this NAS system comes with features to help safeguard your data, making it one of the best internal hard drives if security is a priority.
Small businesses with limited budgets will be happy to know that they won’t have to spend the big bucks for their NAS device. The Seagate Exos X16 delivers just as excellent a performance and as fast a speed as its rivals – not to mention, just as much storage space – but at a much lower cost. Plus it comes with a much longer warranty than the more popular NAS drives.
This internal hard drive has SAS models, which are faster and more reliable, but its hyperscale SATA model has also been tuned for speedy large data transfers. For added protection, Seagate gave its next-generation helium side-sealing, which should protect it from leaks and hard bumps. For added data security, on the other hand, it comes with Seagate’s Secure encryption technology. That’s a lot of features for less.
What should you look for in an internal hard drive?
As we mentioned earlier, the best internal hard drives come in a variety of shapes, sizes and price. They also differ in read/write speeds and connector types. Before you click that buy button, consider these factors when deciding the one that’s best for your needs.
First and foremost, think about the actual space you’ll need. As a creative professional, you might opt for 2TB to 4TB of space, as you deal with very large files. Though if you’re using the internal hard drive as your temporary storage for when you’re in the field or traveling and you’ve got a higher capacity drive at home that serves as your primary storage, a 250GB to 500GB should suffice.
Consider also how fast you need that hard drive to be for your workflow. Especially if you’re a video editor, you’ll want faster read/write speeds as well as a speedy connection. The SATA III connection currently offers the fastest transfer speed.
What is an internal hard drive?
If you’re unfamiliar with computer terminology, a hard drive or HDD is a computer’s storage device. That means that its primary function is to store all your computer files, from Word documents and Excel sheets to images, videos and designs. It also stores a computer’s operating system as well as the applications that run on it.
An internal hard drive is simply a hard drive that exists inside of a computer or laptop, and it acts as its primary storage – unless you specify otherwise. Like their external counterparts, internal hard drives come in many different storage capacities, ranging from as little as 128GB to 8TB – although there are bigger storage capacity ones on hand.
They also vary in read and write speeds. A hard drive contains a spinning disk whose job is to store and read your data. The speed in which a hard drive’s disk spins determines how fast a hard drive is when reading and writing your data.
Naturally, internal hard drives differ in price tags as well. Typically, the more storage space and the faster the speed, the pricier an internal hard drive is.
If you're also after a new computer, don't forget to check out our best laptops for graphic design.