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Buyer's Guide: Hard Drives for Mac Pro

Last updated 2009-11-04 - Send Feedback
Related: Macs, Storage, Mac Pro, System Setup

Be sure to see Optimizing Photoshop for insights on high-performance systems. Hard drives and solid state drives are improving rapidly.

Don’t forget that a solid state drive is an option, especially for a boot drive. See Solid State Drives.

Choose your vendor carefully

Especially for hard drives, buy only from a vendor that accepts exchanges, in case you encounter an issue with a brand or model of hard drive.

I once had to “eat” a 15% restocking fee, which I negotiated down to 10% by ordering replacement drives of another brand. Hard drives are such low margin items that there usually is a restocking fee from cut-rate vendors. It’s not worth saving a few bucks given the possible hassles involved.

Replacement guarantee

Our recommended vendor and site sponsor OWC includes a 90 day bad-drive replacement guarantee, which is an especially Big Deal if a hard drive is to be part of a RAID. Always purchase an extra drive if you’re making a RAID, so that you can swap out a bad drive of matching model/capacity.

Recommended hard drives

This keeps changing, so always check the latest reviews on this site. As of March 2011, my recommended drive is the Hitachi 7K3000.

See more choices at OWC. For performance, always go with the largest drives, even if you don’t need the space.

Different-brand eSATA (external SATA) cards and/or drive firmware versions and/or different versions of the Mac Pro can all contribute to varying performance. Results might also be slightly different using the Mac Pro’s internal ports as compared with an eSATA setup.

Try other brands/models at your discretion, but assume nothing: always test your setup with DiskTester to verify performance and reliability (see Setting up Your Mac).

Larger drives are faster

Be sure to read Why you need more space than you need and Larger Hard Drives Are Faster Than Smaller Ones.

RAID-0 striping

Hard drive choice is especially important with striped RAID; a single drive might perform well on its own, but not as well in a RAID. Reliability is also worth considering, especially when moving to 3/4/5/6 drive striped RAID.

Avoid mixing different brand or models of hard drives for RAID; performance or other glitches can occur.

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