Seagate IronWolf vs. WD Red: Which One Should You Buy?

NAS hard drive storage

Seagate IronWolf vs. WD Red: Which One Should You Buy?

Key Points

  • The Seagate Ironwolf and WD Red are high-performance hard drives intended for use in NAS setups.
  • The Seagate Ironwolf outperforms the WD Red in terms of read and write speeds, capacity, workload rate limits, and general reliability.
  • The Ironwolf has a maximum capacity of 22TB, while the WD Red caps out at 6TB.
  • The Ironwolf has a workload rate limit of 550, while the WD Red has a limit of 180.

Which hard drive wins between the Seagate IronWolf vs. WD Red? Both of these are high-performance hard drives intended for use in NAS setups. However, there is one clear winner that will be revealed later on.

Network access storage has a set of demands that are wholly different from what you would expect of a typical hard drive or SSD. It would be best if you had something that can withstand the strain of pushing huge amounts of data between multiple users at the same time.

Standard hard drives might be up to the task but often falter. You need specialized hardware for such a task, which is where both Seagate’s IronWolf and Western Digital’s Red hard drives enter the equation.

Seagate IronWolf vs. WD Red: Side-by-Side Comparison

Seagate IronWolfWestern Digital Red
Type of DriveMechanical hard driveMechanical hard drive
RPM7,200 RPM5,400 RPM
Maximum Capacity22TB6TB
Size3.5 inches3.5 inches
Intended Use CaseNetwork access storage or RAID arraysNetwork access storage or RAID arrays
Diagnostic SoftwareIncludedIncluded
Gas in DriveHeliumAir

Despite their intended use case, both of these drives have some very striking differences between them. The specs behind both are wildly different, with the IronWolf coming across more as a serious hard drive while the WD Red seems more like an upgraded consumer-grade drive.

Seagate IronWolf vs. WD Red: What’s the Difference?

Both the IronWolf and Red are meant for network access storage. However, in real-world deployment, they fare quite differently from one another.

It would seem not all hard drives are made equally. This is especially true when going off the previous reputations of Seagate and Western Digital.

Seagate seems to have pulled quite a reversal and is the clear winner in multiple categories when directly comparing these drives. Nonetheless, these comparisons are important to make an informed decision.


The Best Pick
Seagate IronWolf 10TB NAS Internal Hard Drive
  • 550 WRL
  • 7,200 RPM
  • Up to 22TB of capacity
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11/25/2023 04:45 pm GMT

Right out of the gate, the IronWolf is the better performer. It has better overall read and write speeds, which makes for a world of difference in actual deployment scenarios. Both drives utilize the SATA interface, so there is an inherent maximum ceiling for throughput.

The IronWolf doesn’t falter, even when pushing large files across to multiple users. Testing has shown it can handle massive files being pushed across a network without skipping a beat. You run the risk of the connection being lost before the hard drive itself actually fails.

The Red has a lower internal rotation, which translates to lower read and write speeds. It performs adequately, but not on the same level as the IronWolf. This is quite a shock, as in previous years Western Digital was the manufacturer of choice for mechanical drives of all sorts.


The IronWolf has a maximum capacity of 22TB. You typically only see capacities like this for pooled network storage or other bespoke solutions for hard drives. You could potentially slot multiple 22TB drives into a NAS enclosure and get 100s of terabytes of space in a fairly compact package.

The WD Red caps out at 6TB, which is a bit disappointing, all things considered. The price is considerably lower for the Red. However, you’d need close to four of the highest capacity drives to come close to a single Seagate IronWolf in terms of capacity.

Now, 6TB should be plenty for most hobbyist use cases. Generally speaking, avid home users aren’t going to be purchasing enterprise-grade hard drives for their NAS setups.

When you start factoring in the read/ write speeds, it is somewhat difficult to imagine going with the WD Red aside from perhaps cost reasons.

Workload Rate Limits

Great for Home PCs and Small Businesses
Western Digital 4TB WD Red NAS Internal Hard Drive
  • Speeds up to 5400 RPM
  • SATA 6 Gb/s
  • 256MB cache
  • 3.5-inch drive
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11/26/2023 01:46 pm GMT

Before discussing the WRL of these hard drives, it is important to understand what it is. WRL refers to workload rate limits. This metric is used to measure just how much data can be read or written to a hard drive before performance starts to degrade.

As you can imagine, a higher number denotes a more reliable hard drive. This is a crucial metric to consider when looking at hard drives intended for NAS or RAID solutions. These hard drives are meant to live hard and grueling lives, after all.

The higher the WRL, the better the hard drive, plain and simple.

The Seagate IronWolf runs away with this one, with a WRL of 550 on average. The WD Red is far behind, measuring in at 180. This effectively means that the WD Red will start to see drive faults and failures far earlier than the IronWolf.

When considering the expense and time taken to configure a NAS enclosure, you want hard drives that will go the distance. The IronWolf is the winner in this category, hands down.

General Reliability

All of the spectacular performance behind the IronWolf translates to a generally more reliable hard drive. Users and critics alike have noted the extreme performance, capacity, and speed of this particular hard drive.

When you consider where a NAS might be deployed in a business environment, it makes sense to invest in a better product. These are drives that are meant to be put through rigorous workloads, one that fails early just isn’t worth it.

Now, this isn’t to say the WD Red will fail in the same capacity. However, going off the specs, actual performance, and other metrics, it might be better suited for use in hobbyist NAS enclosures.

The general reliability of these drives just isn’t up to par when considering the needs and demands of a business-grade hard drive. When you consider a failed drive is downtime and lost revenue for your business, you’ll want to opt for something with a more proven track record.

Seagate IronWolf vs. WD Red: 6 Must-Know Facts

  1. The IronWolf is filled with helium gas to reduce internal operating temperatures for longer life.
  2. The IronWolf has a higher rotational speed at 7,200 RPM.
  3. The IronWolf comes in capacities up to 22TB.
  4. The WD Red comes with a maximum capacity of 6TB.
  5. The WD Red is closer to a consumer-grade hard drive in terms of actual performance.
  6. The WD Red has the lower WRL between these two hard drives.

Seagate IronWolf vs. WD Red: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Choose?

So, as you can probably tell from this shootout, there is a clear winner. The Seagate IronWolf triumphs in all conceivable metrics. You could realistically run the WD Red under the same workloads, but you’ll be swapping hard drives out far sooner.

Enterprise-grade storage solutions demand a certain degree of reliability, which the IronWolf has in spades. If you’re after a NAS hard drive that will stand up to a beating for quite a while, then the IronWolf is the only choice to make.

Hobbyists who love configuring their own data-hoarding NAS arrays will do well with the WD Red. They’re relatively inexpensive, and have adequate read/write speeds when considering consumer-grade hard drives.

However, if you want the best of the best, the Seagate IronWolf is tough to beat. It is more expensive, but you’ll find the extra cost is worth the savings you’ll reap down the line when it comes time to replace drives.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes the IronWolf such a solid hard drive?

It has an absurdly high WRL, great read/write speeds, and outstanding capacity.

Is the WD Red usable?

For consumer use, it should fit the bill just fine. If you’re planning on sharing massive files between workstations on your enterprise network, it might not be the best fit.

Is WRL important for hard drives?

It is possibly the most important metric for a hard drive. The workload rate limit acts as a gauge to see how far the hard drive can be pushed before you start experiencing hard drive failures.

Is the WD Red hot swappable?

No, it lacks hot-swappable functionality.

Is the Seagate IronWolf hot swappable?

There is no literature supporting any idea of the IronWolf being hot-swappable. You’ll have to shut down your NAS or RAID enclosure to swap drives out.

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