If you’re planning to build a new device, Network-attached Storage (NAS), or upgrade the hard drive (HDD) on your system, it’s important to understand the differences between 5400 and 7200 RPM hard drives.
The performance of a hard drive is measured in the speed that data can be transferred from the platters storing the bits to the computer (known as data throughput), and typically the higher the density of the platters and revolutions per minute translate in higher performance. However, it doesn’t mean that drives 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.
Traditional rotating platters hard drives that operate at 7200 RPM offer fast reads and writes speeds, and they’re more suited to run an operating system, execution of programs quicker, and transfer files.
The caveat is that they can be costly. They generate more heat, they consume more power, they can be noisy, and their 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’re less expensive. While immediately, most people will ignore these drives, they are a good choice for storing large files.
Although 7200 RPM hard drive 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’re trying to decide, consider that both drives are virtually identical with the difference that a 7200 RPM drive is around 20 percent faster than a 5400 RPM drive.
If you’re really looking for performance, then you should consider the 7200 RPM hard drives. However, if you’re simply looking to store files (for example, on a NAS or lower power server), then you should consider the 5400 RPM drives.
Choosing hard drive
As for capacity and the brand that you should get, it’s totally up to your preference and what you’re trying to accomplish. However, a few popular brands include Western Digital and Seagate, and each brand offers different hard drives for each situation.
For example, if you want to add more storage, or you’re trying to build a new system, you may go for one of these hard drives:
If you’re looking to build a NAS, or you’re 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’re planning to build a lower power server, it’s best to use 5400 RPM drives.
These are just some recommendations, but there are a lot of manufacturers, capacity, and technologies that you can choose from. You can see more drives at Amazon.
We’re focusing this guide on traditional rotating platters hard drives as the focus here is on drives to store large amount of data. Of course, hybrid drives and Solid State Drives (SSD) offer better performance, but they don’t offer as much capacity, and they’re still quite expensive.