Hard-Drives have gradually increased in size over the past year. With this steady growth, their prices have exponentially declined. Good news for the consumer? Yes, but when and how do you know if you're getting a good deal compared to the average going rate? In this brief article I'll be covering Parallel ATA, Serial ATA and External USB 2.0 hard-drives (no SCSI
Parallel ATA hard-drives are the most common and the cheapest. While not the fastest (133mb/s compared to Serial ATA's 150mb/s), there are always weekly deals on multiple PATA drives. Never buy a PATA drive that costs more than $.50/gigabyte. A year ago, $.50 was very decent, now, it's nothing. Anything under $.40/gb is decent (especially if no rebates are involved). $.35/gb is where I set my buy line (more than $.35 = no, less than $.35 = yes). $.35/gb is not very hard to achieve, however it may require the use of coupons, rebates, price-matches, etc. Anything under $.30 is a definite bargain and I would highly recommend purchasing a hard-drive for this price, whether or not you need it at the moment. Not very often does a drive come around retailing for less than $.30/gig and if you really do not expect to use the hard-drive, you can always make a bit of cash unloading it on eBay.
Serial ATA hard-drives are the fastest (sans SCSI) drives on the market, however, not all SATA drives are the same. There are two kinds of SATA drives: the regulars and the Western Digital Raptor. There are currently two versions of the Raptor out, a 36.7gb and a 74.0gb (a 200gb one is due out in the future). The Raptors have one feature the other drives do not, 10,000 rotations-per-minute (compared to the standard 7,200). This added speed is costly and will probably not be noticed by the normal user. The MSRP for the 36.7gb version is almost $4/gig and $2.5/gig for the 74gb model. The Raptors are about 33% faster than the 7200rpm SATA drives, but most users will not notice or benefit from the difference in speed. If you must have the added speed now, it is very common to use the Raptor as your primary OS drive and use either PATA or regular SATA drives for extra storage. Bargains are not very common with the Raptors, so a deal would be $2.20/gig for the 36.7gb and $2.00/gig for the 74gb. For the run of the mill SATA drive, the average going price is $.60/gb. Anything under $.50 is a deal and anything under $.40 is a bargain.
Last, we get to external hard-drives. While it's more cost efficient to buy a PATA drive and a $30 USB enclosure, external hard-drives are becoming more and more popular. Even though they offer the slowest transfer speed and are the most expensive (not including the Raptor). The going rate for a USB 2.0 external hard-drive is about $1.20. Anything under $.70 is a good deal, anything under $.55 is a bargain.
Other factors to look at when buying a new hard-drive is brand reliability, warranty (Seagate is the only company who offers 5 year warranties) and rebates. A couple great resources to start your bargain hunting experience include FatWallet Hot Deals Forums
. Also pay attention to Office Max's, Office Depot's, Staples', etc. Sunday ads. Happy Bargain Hunting.