Hard Drive Noise – Seagate vs WD vs Synology and Toshiba

How Noisy Are Seagate, WD and Synology Hard Drives?

If you have ever been in close proximity to any modern large capacity hard drive, you will be well aware that despite their attractive high capacity, that they generate a fair amount of ambient noise. Hard drives have changed substantially over the last decade or more and in order for them to facilitate the high speeds and high consistent performance that end-users demand, a great deal of work has gone into the internal mechanics of the modern hard drive. Whenever I recommend a NAS solution to Prosumer and Business users, I always make a point to highlight that the more industrial the data storage setup, the more noise the drives will make. It isn’t just the capacity either, with some brands having dedicated in-house hardware techniques on their product lines resulting in the same capacity on different HDD brands sounding noticeably different. Over the last year, I have conducted numerous sound tests on the most popular hard drives used in NAS and below I have detailed all of them. So if you are on the verge of buying a network-attached storage device and are slightly worried about how much noise these systems will generate because of those mechanical hard drives, this is definitely the article for you.

Hard Drive Noise – Why Should You Care?

It is a valid question, as most hardware in the world seemingly makes some kind of noise, from the light electric hum of a light bulb to the internal combustion of a car. Why is noise on a hard drive any more/less important? Here are the most common concerns of a noisy hard drive:

My Hard Drive Sounds Broken, But Is It?

This is the most common reason for many to query the noise of a hard drive. Particularly in a larger capacity and therefore more expensive drives, when installed, many users hear unusually high-pitched whurs of the disc or remarkably abrupt clicks. In fact, a lot of the most recent 16TB and 18TB hard drives on the market sound not unlike a broken hard drive sometimes, as the industrial internal hardware flicks between actions internally on the fly. Many users worry that the new expensive hard drive or larger RAID array is broken on day one because of noises like these. Here is an example of a Healthy 3.5″ Seagate Hard Drive at 8TB:


and HERE is an UNHEALTHY WD 3.5″ Hard Drive:

As you can tell, if you know what to listen for, they suddenly become very distinct.

Video & Photo Editors Care About Hard Drive Noise

If you are editing photos and video on a NAS over the likes of thunderbolt or sometimes in a direct 10Gbe environment, then you will be all too familiar with the irritation of noisy hard drives. This extends to more than just NAS drives and RAID, as it also applies to those of you that use particularly large external DAS hard drives from the likes of LaCie (who uses Seagate HDDs) and GTech (who use WD and UltraStar). If you want to edit photo or video in this way, then you are going to be in close proximity to the data storage enclosure. Unless you are using pretty good noise-cancelling headphones to edit your work, the spins, hums, whurs and clunk noises will be a constant irritation that only amplifies as your storage enclosure grows too. 


A Noisy NAS and/or Hard Drives Ruining Your Media Enjoyment

Finally, there is the effect of noisy HDD populated storage enclosures like NAS or DAS whilst watching your own personal multimedia at home. Most help users have a NAS directly connected to the router at home (being far too small a network hardware environment to justify a network switch purchase). However, those same people when having the internet service provider hardware installed in their home likely have the router in the same room as their sofas and a big TV (as it will be connected to their TiVo box, media streamer, Smart TV, etc). Those same users who want to access media from their NAS and watch it on the big screen will suddenly be disturbed during the heavier plot moments of their favourite show by what sounds like a hard drive having a fit in the corner of the room. This can be especially galling as most users who buy a NAS for home media will want to ‘futureproof’ their storage capacity up and then buy even larger hard drives to make sure the system lasts as long as possible as their collection grows, therefore the noise generated will be suitably increased as well.

So, as you can see there are plenty of reasons why the noise generated from as little as a single hard drive to an entire RAID enabled configuration is worth getting worried about. So let’s talk about each of the brands, their hard drives and how much noise each one makes. Each Drive mentioned below includes a video demonstrating which includes the noise of each HDD spinning up, performing a consistent right action and performing a consistent read action. I have also included a decibel metre and include typical megabytes per second performance for each action. Tests were performed using an external Sabrent USB 3.2 Gen 1 silent dock, with a microphone at no less than 30cm. For sensitivity reasons and in order to better distinguish the drive noise from any potential ambient noise, the db(A) Meter includes a -10 dbA difference. Let’s take a look/listen at how each drive sounds and performs below:

WD Red NAS Hard Drives – Quiet but SMR & Low Capacity

1-6TB, 5400RPM, 64-128MB Cache, 180TBW, 3yr Warranty $50-180   

Almost certainly the drive that most people have used over the last few years in their NAS, the WD Red hard drive series is one of the quietest drives on the market for NAS. Aside from the concerns of SMR and CMR disparities on this more affordable series, this is advised for quieter but consistent/steady home use. However, if you are looking for a dedicated PMR/CMR drive in a larger capacity, you may wish to skip this.

+ Affordable Price Tag

+ Low Noise and Power Consumption in 24×7 Use

+ Good base level of Capacities Available

– Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR)

– Performance is fairly average in the smaller capacities


Seagate Ironwolf NAS Hard Drives – Little Noise, Good Capacity, Data Recovery

1-12TB, 5900-7200RPM, 64-256MB Cache, 180TBW, 3yr Warranty, Rescue Data Recovery Services Included $50-480  

The quietest hard drive for NAS in the Seagate portfolio, only fractionally noisier than WD Red (though 10-14TB are noticeably louder), these arrive in larger capacities and are all CMR/PMR. They are also the best price per terabyte of any drive in this list.

+ Excellent Price Point

+ Rescue Data Recovery Services

+ Seagate Ironwolf Health Management

+ ONLY CMR/PMR Drives in their NAS Range

– Max Drive Capacity is 12TB


WD Red Plus NAS Hard Drives – Quiet in Smaller Capacities, All CMR/PMR

1-14TB, 5400/7200RPM, 64-512MB Cache, 180TBW, 3yr Warranty, WD Red Plus 1-14TB (CMR) $50-400  

The WD Red plus series is is the CMR/PMR alternative to standard WD Red DM-SMR drives. Still a very quiet drive, it also arrives in larger capacities. Although it is is a fraction more expensive than the standard Seagate Ironwolf.

+ Affordable Price Tag

+ All WD Red Plus are CMR/PMR

+ Low Noise and Power Consumption in 24×7 Use

+ Good base level of Capacities Available

– Noise is Higher in Larger Capacities


Seagate Ironwolf Pro NAS Hard Drives – Fast But VERY Clicky When in Operation

4-18TB, 7200RPM, 256MB Cache, 300 TBW, 5yr Warranty, Rescue Data Recovery Services Included $80-560  

Seagate Ironwolf Pro hard drives are designed for larger storage arrays, are available all the way up to 18TB (and soon HAMR 20TB drives) and unfortunately, it is at this point where hard drives start to get noticeably noisier. They arrive with free Data Recovery Services much like the standard version, but due to their more industrial design and larger storage capacities, this is a noticeably noisier hard drive. This is especially noticeable at spin-up

+ Excellent Price Point vs Ironwolf NON-Pro in the Portfolio

+ Rescue Data Recovery Services

+ Seagate Ironwolf Health Management

+ ONLY CMR/PMR Drives in their NAS Range

– Smallest Drive Capacity is 4TB

– Noticable Boot Up Noise


WD Red Pro NAS Hard Drives – Noisiest WD Red Drive but also the Fastest and Largest

2-18TB, 7200RPM, 128-512MB Cache, 300TBW, 5yr Warranty $99-600  

Much like the Seagate NAS Pro drive, WD Red Pro is there industrial hard drive that is available in a larger storage capacity than any other WD Red drive, is a few degrees quieter in general operation than the Ironwolf Pro (still loud though), but is also noticeably more expensive as you look at greater HDD capacities in the range. Still, it’s a very good, reliable and rugged drive.

+ Top Tier NAS Drive Performance

+ 300TB/Y Workload

+ Build for up to 24-Bay Servers

– Certainly Noiser than non-Pro equivalents

– More Expensive than the Seagate Pro Option


Synology HAT5300 NAS Hard Drives – Loud, but a Data Center Drive at a Pro Price

8-16TB, 7200RPM, 256/512MB Cache, 550TBW, 5yr Warranty, Synology System ONLY, Firmware Control on Synology DSM $250-450  

Synology has its own range of first-party hard drives in the HAT5300 series, which although equally as noisy as most other industrial hard drives, benefits from numerous Synology brand extras like easy firmware updates and 550TBW, well as arriving with a price tag that is comparable to WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives, despite its data centre class build. A good drive but definitely at the noisier end of the spectrum.

+ Enterprise Drives at a PRO class Price

+ 550TBW on ALL Capacities

+ Drive Firmware can be Updated from within the Synology DSM GUI

– Using them in not Synology NAS Hardware is not Supported

– Performance is a pinch lower than WD Red Pro (5-15MB/s)


Western Digital Ultrastar Data Centre Hard Drives – Highest Performance, but Cover Your Ears!

1-18TB, 7200RPM, 256-512MB Cache, 550TBW, 5yr Warranty, FIPS and SED Options, SATA, SAS and U.2 NVMe SSD Options $70-550  

The Western Digital Ultrastar data centre class hard drive is easily the noisiest of all the drives that are mentioned today. They have the biggest capacity, the largest range of interfaces and encryption methods supported, but definitely are the noisiest drive on this list and are not advised for use in close proximity. This is truly a data center class drive and designed specifically for use in a rack cabinet, far away!

+ Consistently High Performance

+ Well Establish HDD Drive and Brand

+ Numerous Interfaces, in-Drive Encryption Systems and Choices

– DEFINITELY one of the most confusing product ranges

– Noticeably Noisy at boot


Seagate EXOS Data Center Hard Drives – Big, Loud but Surprisingly Affordable

1-18TB, 72000RPM, 256-512MB Cache, SAS & SATA Options, 550 TBW, 5yr Warranty, $80-460   

The EXOS series is the Seagate data centre class drive and is certainly a noisy one at that. Not really designed for close proximity, much like the Ultrastar class, it arrives with numerous interface options in SATA and SAS, as well as numerous encryption methods supported. Though not quite as noisy as the ultra star series, they are still quite high on decimals when in use but are a degree lower in price than Ultrastar and Ironwolf Pro.

+ Huge Range of Architecture Options (FIPS, Military Encryp, 4KN, SED, SAS and more)

+ Constantly Evolving (Mach 2 versions, x14, x16 & x18 etc)

+ Comparatively Lower in Price vs Ultrastar

– Range Can Be Confusing

– Noisy!


And there you have it, a breakdown of the current popular hard drives on the market, the noise they make and whether they provide a good noisy vs price vs capacity balance. If you need still need help choosing the right storage media, feel free to take advantage of the COMPLETELY FREE and NO REGISTRATION NEEDED advice section below. Sorry to put that last bit in capital letters and in bold, but I really do offer this service at no charge and people just like these things clear! This is a free service manned by myself (with a little help along the way) and if you can just let me know the storage requires below, your budget (no necessary, but allows me to scale it a bit to your needs and not destroy your budget) and I will get in touch as soon as you can.


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    61 thoughts on “Hard Drive Noise – Seagate vs WD vs Synology and Toshiba

    1. Thanks for this article. Are the videos for the Pro and non-Pro Seagate Ironwolf drives meant to be identical? The Seagate part number popups at 0:19 are the same, as are sound levels and transfer speeds (e.g., ~250 MB/s transfer rates for both).

    2. call me old or nostalgic, but i love the noise of a good hard drive.
      I do love the speed in gaming of an ssd, but big hard drives are still magical to me, thats why i still have an optical drive in my new desktop…it is a blueray drive though.

    3. I would appreciate a table with noise measurements, and comparison to other drives. Without the comparison it doesn’t make sense.
      I do have 10 Exos X14s and they are REALLY noisy, while on your test they don’t produce any noise.

    4. I tried the same but with the 18tb exos drive… When I put it in my powered HDD enclosure I hear a beeping sound in a stable timing. Is it the power that is too low? If yes, what external enclosure do you use?

    5. Your test is not correct. You calibrated your “sound meter” down to 6-10 dB which is impossible in a normal environment. You will be hard pressed to find an environment thats under 20 dB. You talking shows ~30-40 dB which is not correct, its more like 45-60 dB. Its not exactly wrong, one can add ~+20 dB to your results and get a real picture of how much SPL is there since the ratio is still correct. In any case, do not equate “silence” to your ears to 0 dB, it is not. We cant really hear under 10 dB so if you have “dead silence” in a room you are probably in the range of 10-20 dB SPL depending on the frequency.

      Im an environmental protection engineer and i specialize in noise measurements.

    6. I am not really sure how calibration of any amount is going to make any difference. The drive noise will still be relative to the background level, which in your room very likely was 20dB on that meter. The calibration would have just calibrated ALL the readings down by the same amount…… Also, noise inside an enclosure, including any resonance, is important.
      With that said, I have found the WD Red Plus drives to be fairly quiet when compared to the Pro drives when used in real world installs in Synology NAS devices. The spin-up generally is quite reasonable, but the noise from the steppers driving the heads is quite loud on Pro level drives I have used when compared to the Plus.

    7. Thanks for this video, i was worried about my 16tb wd red, it’s in a fractal brand computer case and the drive ebay is a bit loose so it makes a lot of rattling noise each time it wakes up from sleep mode, the drive is steady secure screwed in the sliding tray but the tray vibrates in the drive bay slot and makes a lot of metal noise.

    8. Thanks for posting up this video. I was curious about the EXOS because their price is really fantastic but am unsure because of the spin up/down as well as noise. My supermicro platform IS in my basement storage area but I would worry that if we moved and that was not an option that the server would become fairly unusable because of said noise.

      As of this posting(3/23/22) exos 14tb on Amazon are $237 whereas 12tb wd red plus are $239. I may sacrifice the 2tb for the lower noise and 2yr less warranty considering.

    9. I just replaced two 4TB Seagate IronWolf drives with 2 16TB Exos drives in a DS220+ and wow these are WAY louder. I could barely hear the IronWolf’s, but when these are working there’s much more audible “clicking” and “thunking” noises going on. I’m guessing it’s due to the drastic size and platter differences on the drives.

    10. Enterprise drives like Exos are significantly cheaper than the home/NAS drives, where I am, in Norway. For instance, the price of the Exos X18 16TB, is slightly lower (US$409) than the cheapest large “NAS” drive I can find, WD Red Plus NAS 14 TB (which is on sale for 24% off). I’m very sensitive to noise (and limited placement options), so I’m afraid I have to go with the Red Plus anyway. The Exos supports something called PowerBalance, which I think is likely to reduce the seek noise at the cost of performance. There’s a command to enable/disable it in SeaChest tools. Doesn’t say what the default is, I suspect it’s probably “ON”. @NASCompares, any idea about that?

    11. Since it’s a nas compares topic I’d actually appreciate the comparison: sata vs sas, exos vs wolf and so on. It’s sometimes said that sas runs as a server room itself

    12. Well, it will be interesting how the exos 16TB will do in my synology until summer when i’m gonna get a 18TB or 2 for a nas i will build myself with unraid 🙂

      Also, which program did you use to share the screen of your phone?

    13. Bless you for doing this work, so those of us just looking for a few HDDs don’t have to learn the hard way

    14. Hi – the title mentions comparison against Toshiba but then doesn’t talk about any Toshiba drives. Does this just mean the Synology drives made by Toshiba? Do you have any Toshiba branded N300 NAS drives to compare against – I’d really like to know how they stack up?

    15. Thanks for the video, I was thinking that my drive is broken because of all that noises but it’s seems is just normal. I like how you are so knowledgeable about hard drives, there are a lot of information on your videos in general.
      You deserve more subscribers, keep up the good work.

    16. This is a great video, HDD noise is very often overlooked by reviews, and it’s a shame, because noise is very important for desktop computers, especially for quiet/silent builds.

    17. bought a WD Red pro 16tb for my Zapitti…..not too bad when i play my SD tv shows….. prob is when i play my larger 4k movie files….. knocking noise can be heard across the room>>.,,,, getting most annoying???….

    18. In regard to the Western digital ultrastar DC HC550 16 TB, idle and operating noise level is actually higher than what is state in the specification. And most irksome of all is the high pitched whiny noise it makes. Personally the 16 terabytes UltraStar is just too noisy to be used in a personal computer especially when sitting within several feet from the hard drive.

    19. Western digital specification states noise level at idle is 20 decimal, and is 36 decibel while operating. However, the 16 TB UltraStar DC HC550 also makes klunking movement noise about 45 to 50 decibels once every 5 seconds 3/4 of the time, and once every 10 seconds 1/4 of the time. This noise is way too loud when sitting within two feet of the hard drive. Personally I think it is just too loud being within 5 ft of the hard drive. Is this repeating noise once every five or 10 seconds present in all of Western Digital internal hard drive. Which hard drive series has this noise and which doesn’t?

    20. That noise at 5:19. I get that a lot in my Synology NAS (DS920+). I have it sitting next to my Nvidia Shield which is on a small shelf under my TV. When watching movies this noise is quite noticeable and is quite irritating. Is there anything that can be done to avoid it given that it doesn’t appear to be a Read/Write issue according to your test. My previously built custom server (which I’ve started dismantling since purchasing the NAS) never had this issue although it was using different HDDs, 8TB HGST Enterprise filled with helium apparently. Unsure if that makes a difference. Current NAS drives are 12TB Seagate Ironwolfs.

    21. what are these regular dull bang sounds? i never heard this from a disk.
      i know “clicky/screechy” seek sounds and “clacky” write sounds.
      but this “boom …… booom ….”

    22. my 3yr 3mo old 12TB IronWolf (non pro) just started throwing bad sectors. a couple thousand worth of bad sectors. bleh – running the extended smart test now. for a good laugh, I was hoping for some seagull noise. cheers mate!

    23. I bought a cheap $100 ZyXEL NAS326 and threw in a moderately silent 8TB WD drive. Somehow, it amplified the sounds made by the drive 25x. I can literally hear the damn thing through the wall which is completely unacceptable given that I couldn’t hear it when the drive was in my PC.

    24. Brought two ironwolf 8tb’s today, my existing drives are all 5400rpm.

      Oh boy these are super noisy, its not vibrations/seeks, those are barely audible, as they are drowned out by the whirring of the high 7200rpm.

      Its sad there is no 5400rpk 8tb NAS drives :/

      I am not sure how you found these only a little more noisy than 5400rpm drives.

      They sitting in a drive rack which is sitting on top of my spare pc case, if I plonk a cardboard box over them the noise becomes semi acceptable, so basically going through cardboard its still noisier than a exposed 5400 rpm drive.

    25. I bought a 6TB Ironwolf Pro and returned it assuming it was broken… It was very loud in general both read/write, had some similar noises like in the video but also some small “scratch” type of noises, reminded me of old drives back in the 2000s lol. My PC is also on my desk and the HDD made the whole desk slightly vibrate… after ~30mins of usage my hands felt like I had just mown the lawn haha. Wish I was joking, but yeah lesson learned about NAS drives. I have a 2TB Hitachi from 2011 that is starting to make a little noise but it’s still nothing compared to how bad this NAS was. I’ll try a WD Black next, hopefully it will be more quiet.

    26. I just tried out 4 drives, Seagate Barracuda, Seagate Exos 7E2, Exos 782, and WD Gold (all 2TB for home PC drive replacement). The fastest and most quiet was the newer Seagate Exos 7E8 (up to 250MBs), the regular Barracuda was also quiet but tested speed was 212MBs. The WD Gold and Exos 7E2 were the loudest.

    27. I recently setup 8x 4tb hgst sas drives in raid 6. I wanted to check of the sound they made was normal or drive failure since they are used drives. And im new to sas drives. They get pretty loud spinning up together

    28. Hi. I was wondering… Has reliability evolved on air-filled ultrastar hdds since hitachi was acquired by wd? For example, is a dc hc 300 series just a more dense evolution of the 7k3000 or have they changed on other ways and become more reliable than the old drives were? Thanks.