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WD Red vs. Black: Key Differences to Know Before You Buy

SMR vs CMR Hard Drives

WD Red vs. Black: Key Differences to Know Before You Buy

Key Points

  • The WD Red and Black hard drives are excellent options for those in need of a new SATA hard drive or SSD.
  • The WD Red drive is designed for network-attached storage (NAS) and file sharing, while the WD Black drive is targeted towards resource-heavy users like gamers and graphic designers.
  • The WD Red drive has a slower disk speed of 5,400RPM, while the WD Black drive has a faster disk speed of 7,200RPM, resulting in faster data transfer.
  • The WD Red drive consumes less power and has a three-year limited warranty, while the WD Black drive consumes more power and has a five-year warranty.
  • The WD Black drive is louder than the WD Red drive, but both have noise levels that are not high enough to be a concern.

If the time has arrived to look at a new SATA hard drive or SSD, the WD Red and Black drives are excellent options to investigate. Western Digital has a set of hard drives and M.2 SSDs that are color-coded for easy identification and differentiation between the Blue, Green, Red, Black, Purple, White, and Gold products.

The WD Red and Black hard drives are a great place to start. While WD manufactures both drives, each has distinctly different uses when installed on your computer or NAS. Understanding the difference between the two drives and selecting the correct drive is vital to your success. In this article, we’ll examine the differences between the WD Red and Black hard drives to assist you in making the best selection for your computing needs. Let’s jump in!

WD Red vs. Black: Side-by-Side Comparison

RedBlack
Primary UseNetwork-attached storage (NAS) is used for file storage.An enterprise-grade solution for gamers, graphic designers, and other resource-heavy consumers.
Price$62.99 – $109.99$32 – $387
Maximum Drive Bays8 baysNot a server HD
Capacity2 – 6 TB500GB – 8TB
Cache64 – 256 MB64 – 256 MB
Form Factor3.5 inch3.5 inch
InterfaceSATASATA
Transfer RateUp to 210MB/sUp to 227MB/s 
Disk Speed5,400RPM7,200RPM
Warranty3-year limited warranty5-year limited warranty
Largest Gaming HDD
Western Digital 8TB WD Black Performance Internal Hard Drive HDD
  • Max RPM: 7200
  • Cache size: 256MB
  • Form factor: 3.5-inch internal HDD
  • Warranty: 5 years
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WD Red vs. Black: What’s the Difference?

Western Digital designed the WD Red drive for network-attached storage (NAS), file sharing, and Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) configurations. A NAS drive allows centralized data storage, file sharing, and computer backups. However, a NAS drive isn’t a good choice for a gaming hard drive.

The WD_Black is targeting resource-heavy users. Thus, graphic designers, gamers, and video editors will find that the WD_Black meets their needs quite nicely. There are several different WD_Black configurations, and we’ll look at each of them.

Now that we have a rudimentary understanding of the capability and performance variances, let’s delve into the key performance differences between WD Red and Black.

Capacity

WD Red hard drives are available in 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, and 6TB. The range of sizes allows for targeted storage needs. There’s no reason to purchase a 6TB drive if you only need 3TB. The ability to select the right size drive for your project equates to extra cash in your pocket.

WD_Black hard drives are available in 6TB, 8TB, and 10 TB. The larger drive size is a perfect choice for data-intensive projects. In addition, the WD_Black has a variety of configurations.

WD_Black Configurations

WD_BlackNVMeGame DriveExpansion Card 
TypeSSDHDDSSD
Capacity1, 2, 4TB5TB1TB
In/OutInternalExternalExternal
PurposeGamingGaming, PC, PlayStation, XboxXbox X/S
Best for Desktop
WD_BLACK 2TB SN850X Internal SSD
$139.95
  • Predictive Loading, Adaptive Thermal Management, and Overhead Balancing features 
  • Up to 7,300MB/s
  • Game Mode 2.0 
  • Features WD's dashboard to monitor your SSD's health and control your current RGB style.
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01/17/2024 03:35 pm GMT
Gaming Drive
WD_BLACK 5TB P10 Game Drive – Portable External Hard Drive HDD
$134.99
  • Able to hold as many as 125 games
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Features a sleek, metal form factor
  • Includes 18-inch USB-A to USB Micro-B cable (5Gb/s)
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01/17/2024 03:35 pm GMT
Best for Xbox X|S
WD_BLACK 1TB C50 Storage Expansion Card
$149.99
  • Supports Quick resume and Plug-and-play
  • Comparable performance to the Xbox' internal storage
  • Officially licensed by Xbox
  • Sleek aesthetic to match your Xbox
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01/17/2024 03:41 pm GMT

Disk Speed

Slower RPM hard drives have slower data transfer speeds than HDDs with faster spinning platters. To increase the rate of data transfer, the disk spins faster. The faster the disk (aka platters) rotates, the quicker data bits can move past the read/write head. The result is faster data transfers with faster-spinning HDDs. Typical RPMs in HDDs range between 5400 and 7200.

WD’s Red hard drive has a disk speed of 5,400RPM. In contrast, the WD_Black has a RPM of 7,200RPM. This higher RPM will result in roughly 33% faster data transfer on the WD_Black compared to the WD Red. The slower disk speed of the WD Red makes it an ideal choice for data backup and data sharing. The faster disk speed of the WD_Black makes it the preferred choice for applications that require more immediate data access. Having a faster RPM (7,400) will allow faster data storage and retrieval.

Power Efficiency

As expected, the higher RPM WD_Black consumes more power than the WD Red.

WD RedWD Black
Read/Write4.8W9.1W
Idle3.1W5.8W
Standby and Sleep.6W1.0W

The power consumption is less on the WD Red than on the WD_Black. The lower RPMs contribute to the reduced workload. Remember that the ideal WD Red application is a 24/7 operation. The practical application of the WD_Black is sporadic intense data transfer followed by power down. You may use less energy in total with the WD_Black than with the WD Red. It all depends on how you use the WD drives.

Warranty

The WD Red has a three-year limited warranty, and the WD_Black has a five-year warranty. The extended warranty period of the WD_Black is indicative of a drive that isn’t churning through data read/write operations 24 hours a day for 7 days a week.

Noise Level

WD Red (dBA)WD_Black (dBA)
Idle2329
Seek (average)2736

The WD_Black is louder than the WD Red. 20dBA is similar to the wind whispering (softly) through tree branches. 30dBA is the level at which you’d be straining to hear if two coworkers were whispering a few feet away. 40dBA sounds like the hum of a refrigerator.

The noise level of either WD drive isn’t high enough to warrant concern. The WD Red is roughly 6dBA quieter than the WD_Black at an idle state. When the HD seeks, the WD_Black is 9dBA louder than the WD Red. Note that 10dBA is the sound of breathing. So long as neither drive has a death rattle, you won’t notice much difference between the noise level of the drives.

The History of WD Red and Black

Western Digital has been producing color-coded hard drives since the 2010s. The color lets users know which hard drive to purchase to match their computing requirements.

The WD Blue is a good “all-around” standard desktop hard drive. WD Red is targeted at read-orientated NAS servers. WD Gold drives are targeting enterprise-class hard drives. The WD Purple drives are ideal for write-orientated videos. The WD Green drives have evolved from slower 5,400RPM drives to the Blue Drives in 2015. Today the WD Green drives are SSDs.

Color coding of hard drives has become quite common. Seagate and Toshiba (2018) now color code their drives. Sadly, the color codes between the three disk manufacturing companies don’t match. A glance at the chart below reveals that the same color equates to different drive configurations for each company.

Color CodeWDSeagateToshiba
BlueStandard desktop PCsvideo surveillanceVideo streaming
BlackGaming
RedNAS systemsNAS systemsStandard desktop PCs
GreenEco Friendly/ Light useStandard desktop PCsVideo surveillance
GoldEnterpriseNAS systems
SilverGaming
OrangeGaming
PurpleVideo surveillance
WhiteDatacenter

WD Red

Network Storage
Western Digital 2TB WD NAS Internal Hard Drive HDD
$99.49
  • Max RPM: 5400
  • Cache size: 256MB
  • Form factor: 3.5-inch HDD
  • Supported workload rate (per year): 180TB
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 03:41 pm GMT

Western Digital released their Red HD lineup in 2012. The product line began with conventional magnetic recording (CMR) and (very quietly) transitioned to SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) in 2019.

CMR

When CMR is used, data is laid side by side on the drive surface. Small gaps are placed between the tracks to avoid data overlap. The use of gaps impacts the areal density (think in terms of GB per square inch.) More gaps mean less data storage. Data can overwrite tracks if it doesn’t impact the neighboring tracks. A CMR drive can easily handle random writing operations.

SMR

Shingled Magnetic Recordings write tracks wider than read tracks. Data is written sequentially onto the track. The subsequent data write partially overlaps another data track. The data overlap creates a pattern similar to shingling a roof on the house. Lacking the gaps of a CMR HDD, the SMR HDD has higher data density capabilities. SMR can only write to empty areas of the HDD. The SMR needs “free time” to reorganize data and delete unnecessary segments. With reorganization time, the SMR HDD will operate at its full potential.

Cleaning Up

Consumers began to notice that their WD Reds (with SMR) were underperforming in late 2019 and early 2020. With continual NAS operations, the WD Red had no time to reorganize the HD. Performance suffered. By the middle of 2020, WD had taken steps to clear up confusion. The basic “Red” platform is an SMR configuration. The Red Plus uses the CMR configuration.

WD_Black

In 2010, the WD_Black SATA hard drives hit the market. The drives are designed for gaming, high-end graphics, and high-performance computation. The WD_Black has higher RPMs, faster seek times, and quicker read/write speeds than other WD hard drives. This made it an instant hit among gamers, designers, and other users who required a drive for heavy use.

High-Speed HDD
Western Digital 4TB WD Black Performance Internal Hard Drive HDD
$139.99
  • Max RPM: 7200
  • Cache size: 256MB
  • Form factor: 3.5-inch internal HDD
  • Warranty: 5 years
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 12:06 am GMT

WD Red vs. Black: 7 Must-Know Facts

  • WD Red hard drives are ideal for data backup and file sharing.
  • WD Red is often used as a central data server with 24/7 data access.
  • WD Red uses CMR read/write technology, which may not suit 24/7 NAS operations. Consider a WD Red Pro.
  • WD_Black is a Western Digital high-end consumer hard drive. It has higher RPMs and shorter seek times than other WD HDD series.
  • WD_Black is primarily geared toward gamers, graphics editing, and video editing.
  • WD_Black HD also has an SDD configuration available. We’re big fans of SDD over HDDs, so we suggest that you take a look at this option.
  • WD_Black carries a five-year limited warranty. We found some chatter that WD is honoring the warranty from the date of manufacturing, not the date of sale. However, we didn’t find this accurate when viewing the WDs warranty support site.

WD Red vs. Black: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

We recommend using the WD Red for NAS storage if you have time for the drive to reorganize each day. We recommend the WD Red Pro if you’ll be pounding the WD Red with data tasks 24/7. Its performance is slightly slower than the WD_Black, but that’s because it has a different purpose. A good fit for the WD Red is NAS or RAID.

We recommend using the WD_Black for gaming, video editing, or hard drive-intensive projects. The WD_Black has a higher RPM than the WD Red. Therefore, WD_Black read/write and seek times are better than those of the WD Red.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Western Digital Red better than Black?

These drives have different purposes. The WD Red is targeting RAID and NAS operations. The WD_Black is a high-end consumer-grade hard drive for gamers, graphic editors, or other high-use hard drive applications.

What are WD_Black Drives used for?

WD Black drives are used to juice up your PC gaming. Higher capacity WD_Black models have 256MB of DRAM cache for highly responsive gaming and quick file access when designing.

Can you use a WD Red as a normal drive?

Absolutely, but we’d recommend that you don’t use it as a primary boot drive. We’d suggest an SDD as a primary boot and a WD Red as a secondary drive. The WD Red will be happiest, and so will you, when it’s used in a NAS or RAID configuration.

What is Western Digital Red used for?

The primary purpose of a WD Red is in a Network Attached Storage (NAS) system. The WD Red Pro series is geared up for 24/7 work. WD’s Red series is good for a NAS that won’t be busy 24/7, as it needs time to optimize the disk.

Can you use WD_Black as an external hard drive?

There are several different configurations of the WD_Black and you can use two of them externally. The WD_BLACK Game Drive, a portable external HDD, can be used with the PlayStation, Xbox, PC, or Mac. In addition, the WD_Black Expansion Card for Xbox can be used (only) with the Xbox Series X|S.

What do the WD Colors mean?

Good question! WD Blue is an excellent basic PC HD. WD Red is for NAS servers. WD Black is for high-performance gaming. WD Purple is for video surveillance. WD Gold is for enterprise-class hard drives. (An enterprise-class hard drive will operate at total capacity 24/7. Other hard drives, like the WD Blue, might operate 8 hours a day, five days a week, at twenty percent capacity.)

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