HDD recommendations (acoustics / cold storage!)

What kind of (mechanical) HDDs would you recommend for the following use case:

  • mostly cold storage! I.e. read/write performance is secondary
  • large amounts of data (data in use will be promoted to a faster media, by a cache SSD or manually)
  • HDDs will be physically close to the user (me). Acoustics are of paramount importance!
  • Long-term reliability (not 24/7 usage; HDDs will go to sleep when not in use)
  • Cost is a factor, but secondary / tertiary. Not wanting to go overkill, either.
  • I already have a setup using SnapRAID and think of expanding on it (with a 8TB drive).

I’m currently looking at 8TB drives from the Seagate Barracuda lineup or WD Red (non-Pro ones). As I’ve understood all 7200RPM drives tend to be a lot louder than 5400RPM drives.

Speaking of which, I can find currently ST8000DMA04 and ST8000DM004, out of which the former is quite a bit more expensive, but there is no information about it, no specs on seagate.com or elsewhere. Does anyone have an idea, what are their differences?

Any good recommendations for Helium-filled drives for this kind of use? Are they more quiet?

p.s. internet is borken, trying to find information searching will bring up link aggregators and ai-generated stuff!

p.s. Feel free to add recommendations for other use cases in this thread, too! I.e. post a comment describing your use case and drives you’d recommend!

I’d look at the Toshiba X300 desktop line, 12TB or larger.

I don’t have personal experience with the X300, but I was recently able to compare the similar N300 NAS variant, along with a drive from the MG08 enterprise line, to equivalent category drives from WD and Seagate side by side (all helium). The Toshiba drives had noticeably nicer acoustics, and the N300 was the quietest by far.

The X300 is tuned for desktop, while the N300 is tuned for 24/7 NAS, but based on the Toshiba datasheets I’d expect them to have extremely similar acoustic profiles. Only the 12TB+ models in these lines are helium and quieter than the non-helium models.

It’s possible there are some SMR archive-tuned drives that’d have better acoustics, but I haven’t had a chance to hear any of them in person. The performance characteristics of SMR tend to have some significant limitations for general use though.

I wouldn’t put too much weight on RPM; 5400 drives have different acoustics, but are not automatically quieter. It’s entirely possible (and likely) that 5400 RPM drives in the same manufacturer line will have better acoustic tuning than their 7200 RPM equivalents, but I have older 5400 RPM drives that are louder than many new 7200 RPM drives, especially while active.

The ST8000DMA04 is just the retail SKU corresponding to the ST8000DM004 bulk SKU.

Anandtech has a decent spec roundup article of the main large-capacity drive from the 3 current manufacturers. Their entire analysis is based on the spec sheets, not actual reviews/experience, so take that with a grain of salt — but it is a nice presentation of all the specs in one place.

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NOT barracuda. I’d recommend Ironwolf.


Ironwolf are loud AF, based on what I’ve red (no personal experiences). I could use them If I could put them in a NAS far away from me or in a closet, but this is not possible where I live at the moment.

I’ve ordered the Toshiba X300. The first thing I will do is for sure to power it on, if the noise is unbearable, returned it will be!

Ever listened to 2.5 Admins? https://2.5admins.com/ It’s my podcast. I record every episode less than four feet away from eight 12TB Ironwolf in a 4u chassis. Sometimes, the pool is actively receiving incoming backup streams as I record.

And you can’t hear 'em.


Thanks for your input, but I really don’t trust anecdotal experience. Someone speaking in a recording will mask the HDD noise, which will make such a recording useless. Also, I don’t actually trust judging any recording myself, as mics don’t really capture what a HDD will sound like in real life. There are two “filters” in play when making recordings, which will make judging the sound profile useless - the mic and whatever one is reproducing the sound with (their irregularities in their frequency response may mask or even emphasize a HDD sound).

What I’d appreciate if someone was making objective measurements and doing comparisons (i.e. like the good olden days silentpcreview used to do, with a silent room and spetrographic data to find spikes in the profile, which is much, much more important than dB readings), but no one does such comparisons these days, despite the fact that it can not be taken for granted that a mechanical HDD is silent (enough). A few years ago I did quite a bit scouring around the net to find out that the 5200RPM WD Reds are silent enough for me.

Moreover, the most annoying part in HDDs is their constant sound just from spinning. If their head movement can be heard at all, they will not be usable in my current setup.

I should probably point out that I really, really want my computer to be near-silent. This means there is not a single fan going over 800RPM (actually I prefer a lot less, if possible). I’m even considering replacing my PSU because if has a hexagonal fan grille, which causes it’s fan to be noisy even on it’s lowest setting, when it starts running (my components take too much power so a passive PS is out of the question).

This is just some information to make sure we are on the same page on the standards of noise I’m looking for. I will take a barracuda any day if they are less noisy than an ironwolf, despite being less reliable (as a bonus they cost less). Backups exist for a reason and important files will be backed up off-site.

First you said:

Ironwolf are loud AF, based on what I’ve red (no personal experiences).


Thanks for your input, but I really don’t trust anecdotal experience.

You started with anecdotal experience. Kinda weird to say you want nothing to do with anecdotes now.

You aren’t going to get significantly quieter than ironwolf in a mechanical hard drive. From the sound of it–pun not intended but cheerfully claimed–you really shouldn’t be looking at mechanical drives at all. If you’re as rabid about ambient noise as you say, nothing but SSD storage is genuinely going to satisfy you.

And bulk solid state storage is honestly pretty affordable these days.

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The point here is: there are (very) little objective measurements out there. I take everything else with a grain of salt. I still have to do with whatever information is out there. I don’t mean all subjective experiences are worthless - but it’s the best thing we can find (*)

But the thing is: if someone out there says a HDD is loud, then it probably is (in my standards). If someone says it is quiet, then… well, I can’t really say, people have different standards. Maybe, maybe not - but a positive (as in: finding a HDD loud) is more likely to be my opinion, too, provided I get my hands on the same drive, than a negative.

Also, if someone out there says X is louder than Y, I give a bit more weigh on that since the person (albeit a subjective opinion) has had a chance to compare.

I’ve red in many places Ironwolf is louder than Barracuda, but yeah… it’s still a subjective opinion.

  • ) … aside from manufacturers dB ratings, in case they have given any (it’s often hidden somewhere, and still a raw reading not telling anything about the spectrum/spikes); add more complexity by the fact the same lineup on many manufacturers may actually be different depending on size and the actual part number/revision/date of manufacture…

In my (limited) experience, the enclosure makes a bigger difference for noise than the drives themselves. I don’t know what to look for in an enclosure for minimizing noise, though.

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It looks like the Dutch site hardware.info still does comparative dB measurements in their reviews. They don’t get all the models, but seem to have a fairly decent sampling.


As you mentioned, WD Red (especially the Plus models) drives are reputedly very quiet. If you read reviews on Amazon, (anecdotal) reports on Reddit, and decibel measurements on other sites, they are among the quietest drives available. Many people use them in NASes in their TV/living room and do not really hear them. You lose some performance relative to an enterprise drive, of course.

That said, 2.5" drives are even quieter, with the caveat that they are generally SMR at a sufficiently high capacity, which will degrade performance, especially for random writes and resilvering. However, many 2.5" drives are effectively as quiet as SSDs (to me, though I am not very audio sensitive). The usual advice is to avoid them for ZFS, of course, especially the Seagate models, largely due to potential resilvering issues.

SSDs will be the quietest overall but potentially cost prohibitive.

FWIW, in the end I went with a WD Red 12TB (WD80EFAX), based on experiences red elsewhere (I could not find any reliable comparisons / reviews on the noise for current drives). All my HDD drives are WD Reds.

The most annoying sound characteristics of WD Red HDDs is the characteristic humming caused by them spinning. Luckily, it is a steady noise, so less likely in that regard to become an issue than a constantly changing noise. The seek noises can not be heard, unless I concentrate really hard (so not an issue).

Perhaps a bit unsurprisingly, it seems there is a roughly (by-ear) linear dependency on capacity and size; the larger the disks, noisier they are. It seems that the fact the 12TB disk is the only helium-filled and a 7200RPM one, is of lesser significance (all others drives I have are 5400RPM and air filled). But this is “just another anecdotal, subjective experience”; my test sample N=1 (for the 12TB drive).

The 3TB disk is the quietest, and 4TB disks (x2) are nearly silent (4TB disks emit a lower pitched hum, I can hear only if I concentrate), but I can definitely hear the 8TB and the 12TB is the loudest. OTOH I’ve red the non-helium filled, current higher capacity drives (from WD Red lineup) are much louder (the same applies to all manufacturers)!

The 12TB is not far from unacceptable by my standards (it doesn’t break my concentration), so it is sill a keeper. FWIW I would prefer 5400RPM drives if they were made in a larger capacity, for my use case (I don’t mind the slower speeds). Anything louder and I would split my data into smaller, 5400RPM drives (or consider alternatives, such as some cloud - or somehow figure out where I could put a NAS)!

I do spin them down when not in use. (before someone comments in spinups ageing the NAS-oriented drives: these are indeed for “cold-ish” storage, and the spindown time will be high. Also, I’m willing to trade some longevity for quietness).

Thanks for all the replies!