If you plan to build a Network-attached Storage (NAS), new computer, or upgrade the hard drive (HDD) on your system, it is important to understand the differences between 5400 and 7200 RPM hard drives.
The hard drive’s performance is measured in the speed that the data can transfer from the platters storing the bits to the computer (known as data throughput). Typically, the higher the density of the platters and revolutions per minute translates in higher performance. However, it doesn’t mean that storage spinning a lower RPM should be completely ignored.
5400 RPM vs. 7200 RPM
Although nowadays, you can find hard drives spinning up to 15000 RPM, the most popular drives for desktops and laptops are between 5400 and 7200 RPM.
Historically rotating platters hard drives that operate at 7200 RPM offer fast reads and writes speeds and are more suited to run an operating system, execute programs quicker, and transfer files.
The caveat is that they can be costly. They generate more heat, consume more power, produce more noise, and lifespan can turn out to be shorter than drives that spin at lower revolutions.
Then there are the hard drives that spin at 5400 RPM, and as expected, they offer slower file transfer speed, but they use less power (therefore less heat and quieter), and they are less expensive. While immediately, most people will ignore these drives, they are a good choice for storing large files.
Although 7200 RPM hard drives are without a doubt faster than 5400 RPM drives, 5400 RPM drives offer an average of 100 MB/s read and writes speeds while 7200 RPM drives deliver an average of 120 MB/s read and writes speeds. If you are trying to decide, consider that both drives are virtually identical, but with the difference that a 7200 RPM drive is around 20 percent faster than a 5400 RPM drive.
If you want performance, then you should consider the 7200 RPM hard drives. However, if the goal is to store files (for example, on a NAS or low-power server), you should consider the 5400 RPM drives.
Choosing hard drive
As for capacity and the brand that you should get, it is up to your preference and what you are trying to accomplish. However, among the popular brands, you can find “Western Digital” and “Seagate,” and each brand offer different hard drives for each situation.
For example, if you want to add more storage, or you are trying to build a new system, you may go for one of these hard drives:
Also, according to Amazon, the Seagate BarraCuda 2TB is the best-selling 7200 RPM internal hard drive, and it’s priced only at $55.
If you are planning to build a NAS, or you are trying to add more capacity to your system to store files long term, you should consider getting these hard drives:
In the case that you plan to build a low-power server, it’s best to use 5400 RPM drives.
These are just some recommendations, but there are many manufacturers, capacities, and technologies that you can choose from. See more drives at Amazon.
We are focusing this guide on traditional rotating platters hard drives as the focus here is on drives to store a large amount of data. Of course, hybrid drives and Solid State Drives (SSD) offer better performance, but they do not offer as much capacity, and they are still quite expensive.