Best hard drive for a media center

What's the best hard drive for a "build-your-own" media center?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer

A good question in today's Hardware 2.0 mailbag:

You talk a lot about "best kit" but I don't think I've seen you answer the following question - What's the best hard drive for a "build-your-own" media center? Thanks!

Western Digital Caviar Green
There are a lot of great drives out there, but if I was building a media center today I know exactly what drives I'd use - Western Digital's Caviar Green 1TB (WD10EADS) or, if I wanted even greater capacity, the 1.5TB model (WD15EADS). The 1TB flavor retails for around $1.5 while the 1.5TB drives is around $160. If you're really mad and want to put 2TB on a single driven then there is an even bigger drive (WD20EADS) but that'll set you back a lot of notes ($300).

Why pick the WD Green drives for a media center? Well, they're very quiet, even during start up or under quite heavy load, and they use less power than a regular drive (about 4 to 5W less) so they're also cooler. These are two features that you are looking for in a good media center drive.

While I like these drives and think that they are great for media centers, they're niche drives. I'd be reluctant to fit them into a desktop PC because performance isn't brilliant (so if you've loading large game files or huge Photoshop images, you'll be waiting longer with these drives). WD doesn't give a spindle speed for these drives (because they're each individually tuned at the factor to something between 5,400RPM and 7,200RPM) so performance is not only lower than a regular hard drive, but it's also hit-and-miss. I'm also not all that convinced that saving 4 - 5W of power per drive amounts to much.

Note: Here's what WD have to say about the eco-friendliness of these drives:

WD Caviar Green drives yield an average drive power savings of 4-5 watts over standard desktop drives making it possible for our energy-conscious customers to build systems with higher capacities and the right balance of system performance, ensured reliability, and energy conservation. This power savings equates to reducing CO2 emission by up to 13.8 kilograms per drive per year - the equivalent of taking a car off the road for 3 days each year*. By using environmentally-conscious PCs with our WD Caviar Green drives on board, large organizations with many desktop computers can minimize their carbon footprint and save real money on electricity costs.

*Assumes that a car produces 1.60 CO2 pounds per Kwatt/hours/year. Calculation of automobile emissions depends on the car's g/km emission levels and km/year of driving.

But for a media center, these drives are brilliant!

Keep the questions and comments rolling in - while I don't have time to respond to everything, I do read all m email!

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