NAS Hard Drives vs Regular Hard Drives – Comparison

Do you NEED NAS Hard Drives, Really?

 Hard drives are not exactly new technology. They have existed in one form or another for over 20 years in the consumer market, all the time getting bigger in capacity and smaller in physical design. That should not come as a surprise to any of you. Such is the way of technology that no sooner have we got used to the way things are, then a brand of manufacturer will turn around and bung on a new connector, introduce a faster and more expensive version, or worse, the entire industry changes it’s mind overnight and all our old technology becomes useless. Most tech buyers feel like ships in the sea, at the whim of the sea and its currents.

However in data storage, one of the biggest upsets came a few years ago in the rise of Network Attached Storage (NAS) when two of the biggest HDD brands, Seagate and Western Digital, announced they were releasing a series of NAS server tailored Hard Drives. Moreover, they were telling people who it was bad to populate your Synology NAS or QNAP NAS with ordinary desktop hard drives – which was odd because the week before it was fine! Now in 2019, the market as a whole seems to have accepted this as a fact – however, there are a still a few of you out there that are still unconvinced. Is the ‘NAS HDD’ badge just a big con to make you pay more for drives? Are they just the same hard disk drives with a different sticker on them? More importantly, will it actually damage your NAS or your data to use bog standard hard drives in your 2 or 4 Bay NAS server device? And why hasn’t the data storage industry just made 1 kind of hard drive that is perfect for EVERYTHING?!?!?! Let’s discuss.

wd blue hard drives for desktop pc mac hard drive disk use seagate barracuda desktop pc mac hard drive disk wd red range for NAS hard drives disks seagate ironwold nas hard drive disk

For Desktop PC Use

See the rest of the rest of the ahrd drive range series to buy

Seagate Barracuda HDD

For Desktop PC Use

See the rest of the rest of the ahrd drive range series to buy


For NAS Use

See the rest of the rest of the ahrd drive range series to buy

Seagate Ironwolf HDD

For NAS Use

See the rest of the rest of the ahrd drive range series to buy

Why Make Different Hard Drives?

 Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of what makes certain hard drives different, it is worth highlighting that we are going to focus on WD Red NAS hard drives, WD Blue Desktop Hard drives, Seagate Ironwolf NAS Hard drives and finally, Seagate Barracuda Desktop Hard drives. There are of course others available (Toshiba NAS HDD, HGST Deskstar NAS, etc) but it will be better to make like-for-like comparisons. I should probably lay my cards on the table early on, I DO NOT believe NAS hard drives are a con. After using, testing and on a few occasions, repairing hard drives of both NAS and Standard drives, I am confident that they are very different drives. Moreover, I can see the reasoning for different drives being specialised to different tasks rather than 1 drive for everything. For a start, the drive would be insanely expensive to be able to fluctuate between tasks. Take a look below at some typical examples of Hard Drive use:

  • Surveillance – HEAVY writing of data, but less than 1% reading of data. Kept in a RAID array.
  • NAS – Mixed Read and Write, but left of for days, weeks and months at a time. Normally in a RAID
  • Desktop PC – Mixed Read and Write, but only on for hours at a time. Single Drive use.
  • Cold storage – Idle for most of the time, but when accessed, requiring enormously fast response and speed. As well as in some cases requiring temperature protection. Normally in drive numbers of 12, 24 or higher RAID arrays
  • Data Centers – CONSTANT read and Write, as well as a SAS 12GB/s connection and in multiple drive arrays

IIs there ONE Good Hard Drive for Everything?

Just those 5 Hard Drive uses alone (and there are hundreds more HDD applications) would result in a drive that would need to be insanely rugged, an onboard controller equivalent to a dual-core x86 CPU, a fan to keep it and the CPU cool, a warranty of at least 5 years, a connection that suited SATA, SAS and PCIe, and a whole extra small chassis to put it in! In case you are wondering, this Super-hero Hard Drive exists. It is called the OCZ RevoDrive. However, it costs over £1 a gigabyte (current drives are less than 2-3 pence/cents a GB) so £1000+ for a terabyte. The result, no one wanted it because it was expensive, power exhausting and awkward as hell.

Thunderbolt 2 NAS different kinds of storage HDD SSD M.2 and PCIe

So, I hope you see why the need for individually tailored hard-drives is important and required. Still not convinced? Ok. Here is an easier way. Go into your kitchen and open the cutlery drawer. Look at all that cutlery! Big spoons, small spoons, bread knives, Steak knives (if you are posh), dinner knives… you already have different tools for different jobs! You could have 1 tool for ALL of those tasks (a swiss army knife perhaps), but you would need at least 1 or 2 per person – wouldn’t that be more expensive? Wouldn’t it seem clumsy to use for ice cream AND steak?! Sure you can get by on the rare occasion using the wrong tool for the job (we have ALL attempted to open a pack of plasters with a bread knife) but it is hardly safe, stable or sensible. I am gonna move away form the subject of cutlery before I get too bogged down – but you get the point.

Which is Safer? NAS Drives or Normal Hard Drives?

 Choosing which drive is safer for your data is purely based on the environment that you are going to use it in. Using a regular hard drive in NAS RAID array is not advised. Notwithstanding that a NAS can be on for days at a time (whereas a desktop PC regular hard drive is designed for is only on for hours in a single day and not designed to withstand the heat, vibration and sporadic read write, instant spin up via LAN/internet), there is the question of RAID.

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) means that several drives are installed in a NAS or DAS device and seen as 1 giant drive to your connecting host device. Data is spread across the multiple drives and choosing the right RAID can save your bacon if a drive breaks/fails. However, the RAID configuration only works if the drives in use are stable and desktop drives are NOT designed for RAID 5 and more, so you could risk data loss very early on or have a RAID that runs incredibly slowly/inefficiently because the drives are not designed to be working in a group. So, just remember:

  • In a NAS, use NAS Hard Drives (duh!)
  • In a Desktop PC, use ordinary drives
  • In any situation where there is RAID, use a NAS Hard Drive#
  • In any situation that requires CONSTANT read/write access, use an enterprise HDD or Enterprise NAS HDD

What Costs More? Normal Hard Drives or NAS Hard Drives?

An interesting myth about NAS hard drives and Ordinary Hard drives is about the price. Namely that NAS hard drives are a con to make us spend more money. Well, good news. That is NONSENSE! The price difference between NAS and ordinary Hard drives is less than 1-2% in most cases and (rather surprisingly) not always in the favour of NAS drives. Only in the case of the very latest releases (where early adopters may pay a little more towards research and development) will you find the price difference being any wider. Even then it is never higher than 8-9%. The myth that NAS drives are more expensive is based on the reaction at the time of release when the development of NAS hard drives was still comparatively experimental.

WD Red vs WD Gold vs WD Purple vs WD Black – WD Hard Drive Guide

Therefore, as highlighted earlier, their price factored in the research and development of this new kind of NAS hard drive. Of course, this was relatively short-lived and now the drive prices have levelled substantially. So, yes, on the whole, NAS Hard Drives are more expensive, but by no means at a threshold that should prohibit buying them. The Additional handful of pounds, dollars or euro that they cost is more than recouped in the extra year warranty, larger cache, greater meantime between failure (MTBF) and NAS tailored firmware onboard (controlling vibration, heat, power use and more) meaning that to populate your NAS with a NAS designed drive is actually BETTER value than using ordinary drives.

Which uses more Power? Normal Hard Drives or NAS Hard Drives?

There are actually two ways to look at power consumption with a hard drive. Much like any household item’s electricity consumption or a road vehicle fuel consumption, power is consumed at different rates at start-up and at sustained use. So in a like for like PC start-up and use situation, ordinary hard drives will use less power, by around 30%. However (and most Hard Drive manufacturers will highlight this fact, but leave out the 2nd bit), in a NAS Server 24×7 situation, NAS hard drives will use less power BECAUSE they have better control of idle time. A NAS may be on for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, but it is not always accessed.


The result is that in these quiet time between access, the NAS and NAS Hard drives will reduce spin and power access to idle mode. In this mode, power consumption drops drastically to below a watt. IN ordinary hard drives, the idle switch is much different and though they have a similar automatic switch, it does not dip as low. Nor does it spin back up as fast as a NAS Hard drive. The result is more power being used on the whole over a day or weekly environment – exactly how a NAS behaves. So, in a NAS environment, a NAS Hard disk will consume less power. But in traditional 1 disc PC desktop use – a normal Hard disk is fine for the best power consumed.

Regular Desktop Hard Drives or NAS Hard Drives for Constant Use?

Possibly the most important factor in choosing between a traditional all-round standard hard drive and a NAS drive is sustainability, durability and longevity. This is another point that is based around the usage of the drive. In a like for like comparison, the NAS Hard Drives will certainly last longer if both are left on indefinitely – once again that’s to the 24×7 nature and sporadic access resistance of their firmware and physical build. However, further from that there is the fact that traditional basic desktop hard drives generally arrive with 2 years of manufacturers warranty (e.g. WD Blue and Seagate Barracuda), whereas NAS hard drives, for the most part, arrive with minimum 3 years of manufacturers warranty (WD Red and Seagate Ironwolf) and even arrive in professional enterprise versions too with an even more rugged and durable design. These drives arrive with 5 years of manufacturers warranty. The last point to factor in is regarding RAID again. If you end up with drives running in a RAID environment, you should not think that adding more drives equals more safety. In terms of the % of the drive failing, you are actually increasing the likelihood – as RAID results in drives working a little harder and being on for longer.

WD Red or WD Red Pro – What is the Difference?

The hard drive uses a marker known as MTBF – Mean Time Between Failure. MTBF (mean time between failures) is a measure of how reliable a hardware product or component is. For most components, the measure is typically in thousands or even tens of thousands of hours between failures. For example, a hard disk drive may have a mean time between failures of 300,000 hours. The desired MTBF can be used as a quantifiable objective when designing a new product. The MTBF figure can be developed as the result of intensive testing, based on actual product experience, or predicted by analyzing known factors. The manufacturer may provide it as an index of a product’s or component’s reliability and, in some cases, to give customers an idea of how much service to plan for. The MTBF on a WD Red is considerably higher/longer at 1,000,000 hours.

Recommended Desktop PC Hard Drives?

So now you know the key differences between regular hard drives and the NAS hard drives, as well as their best-intended usages. What about which drives to go for? Well although there are a large number of Hard Disk manufacturers out there, we at NASCompares recommend sticking with the Western Digital and Seagate hard drives, as they are a good balance of reliability, cost and availability. Click the links below to find out more about best desktop hard drives available for your data storage needs. Remember, these are NOT suitable for a RAID array and we wouldn’t recommend them in a NAS environment.

wd blue hard drives for desktop pc mac hard drive disk use seagate barracuda desktop pc mac hard drive disk

For Desktop PC Use

See the rest of the rest of the ahrd drive range series to buy

Seagate Barracuda HDD

For Desktop PC Use

See the rest of the rest of the ahrd drive range series to buy

Recommended NAS Hard Drives?

We highly recommend WD Red and Seagate Ironwlf for the best NAS Hard Drives, as they provide the best balance between price, warranty, support and capacity in 2019 – though in a pinch, you can use the Toshiba NAS Hard Drive range, though they can be noisy at the larger capacities.

wd red range for NAS hard drives disks seagate ironwold nas hard drive disk

For NAS Use

See the rest of the rest of the ahrd drive range series to buy

Seagate Ironwolf HDD

For NAS Use

See the rest of the rest of the ahrd drive range series to buy

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    21 thoughts on “NAS Hard Drives vs Regular Hard Drives – Comparison

    1. Ugh I like tech stuff, but I’m only amateur and there are all these different setups and acronyms. Things are always changing; it can be hard to keep up with if your not immersed in it all the time. Until I started looking to get a new internal drive for desktop, I’d never heard of NAS. lol

    2. What would you recommend for a PC running RAID 1 but used as a Blue Iris server? I know solid state is the best but not affordable in 2TB. I was looking at a Seagate BarraCuda 7200 256MB ST2000DM008. Only running 5 cameras but the drives I’m running now are 5400 and cuts off much of the video.

    3. This guy talks too much and is not correct. I Have 4 nas setups that I’ve had running for 6 + years 24/7. The WD Reds are marked NAS and they are only 5400 RPM. They are SLOW but run cooler and are cheaper to make.
      Most nas drives are 5400-5900 rpm they run coolers but are not ENTERPRISE server drives.

      I have a 5TB raid 1 Hitachi 7200 RPM drives that way out perform official nas drives. They have been up 6+ years 24/7. My first drives to go bad were the WD Reds not the 7200 RPM drives.

      I think its mostly marketing you can put any HD pair in a NAS and they will run fine. I have not found WD Reds to last any longer than any other HD and less than say Dell Enterprise SAS drives.

      The vibration stuff is hogwash too, ive not found a issue with non nas drives. I have put NAS drives in a Dell server to test and they were dog slow vs the 7200 RPM enterprise drives and way slower than the 10,000 and 15,000 RPM sas drives. Again My SAS drives are all raid (LSI controller) and are on 24/7 for years. My home PC is on 24/7 I never turn it off and my 4TB 3TB 7200 rpm and SSD are all fine. 3 years 24/7. I leave all my PCs on never turn them off. Its harder on the components to turn ON/OFF/ON/OFF all those heating and cooling cycles does more harm than leaving it on.

      I think a good compromise is the Iron Wolf 5900 NAS drives they perform around 180MB/sec which is decent.