Large external HDD noise levels

Apologies if this isn't the right community to ask in, I figured folks who use them would know, but if there is a better place to ask, please let me know!

So - I need to buy some external storage, and looking at prices and with the long run in mind, I was leaning towards a 18TB WD Elements or 16TB SEAGATE Expansion, but after looking at the reviews I am concerned about the noise levels, since I have sensory processing disorder, making me really sensitive to noise and this is going right by my bed and will hopefully function as an active backup, so will be always on.

Apparently there's a thing called Preventative Wear Levelling which will cause the drive to rev up every few seconds, and all drives (HDD anyway) do it, but it's the size of the drive that affects how much sound it makes, is that right?

If that's the case, is there a size drive where the noise becomes noticeable that I should stay under, or is it a case of trial and error and "my mileage may vary", and actually any drive could end up being noisy?

Alternatively, is there a quiet but affordable (in terms of ££ per TB, I wouldn't buy a significantly smaller SSD for the same price as those I mentioned, for example) alternative?



The sound is determined by what kind of drive it is. Consumer drives are for in-home use and are usually quiet. Enterprise drives are for dedicated server rooms or data centers and can get loud because it’s loud in there already.

I would recommend sticking with consumer level HDDs if this is a concern. The cost per TB isn’t as good.

I bought a 14 TB Seagate Exos and put it in a Fractal R5, which is a very good noise insulating case. I can hear clicking from anywhere on the same floor as that machine if I listen for it.

You could maybe pair two consumer drives together in JBOD to get the space you want, but that’s more expensive.


Thanks for the info

consumer level HDDs

Is this a size limit, or more to do with the actual hardware?


There’s no hard limit or standard, but I think 14 TB might be the largest you could find in a consumer HDD. The WD EasyStore goes on sale pretty often and sells for a good deal. Those should be quiet and already come in an external case. Look for reviews about it before buying.


Thanks, will definitely give it a look!


My computer is a fanless Celeron in the living room and I can hear the HDD when I’m in the bed at 2am in the complete silence. If you’re concerned with noise you need to find another position, far from the bed


Well, what HDD is it that you have? Because the idea is to figure out which I can use (which I know is some, since I have a few smaller HDDs attached to my desktop already), not just give up on the idea altogether...

wolfshadowheart avatar

I can't speak to what you're looking for specifically, however I can give you an idea of the level and type of noise you could expect.

With a local server I built with 3 standard 8TB HDDs, the "noisiest" part of the whole computer is the fans itself - it's very quiet compared to say, a fanned air purifier on full or maybe even half power. I've never actually heard my hard drives from any of the computers I've built in the last 6-8 years, and I'm usually right by them. If I listen very closely I may hear some ticking/spinning if they happen to be ramped up.

So under load, there may be a chance of hearing some of the spinning disks in a quiet room, however I haven't actively heard an HDD since 2012 - though the size you're going for could be different as you mentioned. I can't speak for the 18tb sizes. As for the smaller external HDD's, I have 3 6TB ones running in tandem and it's pretty much the same, I've heard them ramp up slightly but it's nearly silent even under load it's more of a gentle hum. If there were any noise sources like music it would be unnoticeable. But again, the size may play a factor.

You mentioned it's right by your bed but would your active hours align with the backups? I.e. if you run them overnight from 2a to 8a, you'd already be asleep for the backup. If it's noise that prevents you from sleeping that may help.


I appreciate the through reply, thanks! But as you say, you're experience is with smaller drives, and I'm hoping to get one larger one to save on space, hassle, and money, though it looks like I might not be able to do all of those at once, and some compromise will have to be made!

Great tip re back up times, I already have my current routine set up to work at night, but probably 9 times out of 10 I'm still awake to see it start, so I obviously need to work on the times it's set to lol

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