Hard drive prices falling… slowly

Last year’s flooding in Thailand affected 65 of the country’s 77 provinces, claimed more than 800 lives, and caused tens of billions in damage. The surging waters flooded numerous industrial parks, decimating the supply chain that feeds the hard drive industry. Thai factories are responsible for the drive motors behind most mechanical hard drives, and both Seagate and Western Digital have facilities located in the country. Western Digital’s factories were hit particularly hard by the flooding, which submerged one plant under six feet of water.

With production compromised, it didn’t take long for hard drive prices to rise. The supply shortfall affected everyone from big-name PC vendors to individual enthusiasts, and we’ve heard that the industry could take up to a year to fully recover. We tracked the increase in hard drive prices back in November, and it’s high time for an update. The graph below illustrates the Newegg prices of numerous hard drives since the beginning of October. To make things manageable, we’ve only pulled pricing data from the Monday of each week.

As you can see, the surge started around the middle of October. Some models were affected faster and more severely than others, but all have seen their prices rise substantially due to the flooding. Thankfully, things have gotten a little bit better since our last look at the issue. Prices started trending downward toward the beginning of December, although they’re still far away from pre-flood levels.

Of the eight drives we’re tracking, half cost 50-71% more now than they did at the beginning of October. The other half are still priced at double their pre-flood levels, with the Caviar Black 1TB ringing up for three times what it cost before the disaster. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to which drives have been affected most, although I’m sure demand from major PC builders factors into things.

Hard drive prices are falling too slowly to give me much hope that we’ll soon return to the days when 2TB drives were widely available for about $80. Right now, I’d be happy to see a terabyte selling for that cheap.

Comments closed
    • gmskking
    • 8 years ago

    There never really was a shortage. They just want us to stop Torrenting so much so they figured they would take away our storage. 🙂

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Behold the hunker down state of HD manufacturers as they start to enter the bread and butter age SSDs with no actual game plan besides ride it out.

    Kudos on the random data collection btw Geoff.

      • Krogoth
      • 8 years ago

      SSDs aren’t replacing HDDs. They are only replacing the 10K-15K RPM HDD. For bulk data storage, SSDs are a long-way from making HDDs obsolete.

        • ImSpartacus
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah, SSDs have a purpose, but they really aren’t that impressive in other areas.

        • TheEmrys
        • 8 years ago

        They aren’t in system manufacturers, but for individuals building new systems they have to an extent. When I had the choice between $150 for a 1 TB high performance mechanical HD and $120 for a 120 GB SSD, I went SSD. $/GB didn’t matter as much as overall cost as I could use my old Spinpoint F1 for a secondary drive.

        • Spotpuff
        • 8 years ago

        Is there a point where SSDs will hit a storage limit as with magnetic HDDs?

        Right now SSDs are using 22nm processes; what’s the physical limit for silicon? Is there some issue w/ quantum physics where the electrons start “leaking out” of the silicon due to the HUP?

          • just brew it!
          • 8 years ago

          Well, eventually the memory cells get small enough that you can’t store enough electrons in them to reliably represent digital data.

          That said… the flash chips themselves are already quite tiny, and represent only a fraction of the volume occupied by a typical SSD. I imagine we could increase capacity quite a bit simply by packing in more flash chips. Or even move back to 3.5″ form factor for the highest capacity models.

          A laptop form-factor hard drive has a volume of approximately 65,000 cubic mm; a desktop drive is 376,000 cubic mm. A SDHC memory card has a volume of only 165 cubic mm. If you assume that we pack 3/4 of the volume of the drive with 32 GB SDHC cards (to leave room for electronics, interconnections, cooling, mounting holes, etc.) and run the numbers, you discover that we can (in theory, at least) build a 9 TB 2.5″ SSD, or a 55 TB 3.5″ SSD. And that’s with flash tech that exists *today*. (I’m disregarding cost, of course… the 55 TB model would cost as much as an expensive car… or a really cheap house!)

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        Seeing as SSDs have been increasing by about 1.5 to 2x in density every year, this doesn’t seem all that realistic. SSD production and refining is still ramping up as well, as it’s still a relatively new tech.

          • Krogoth
          • 8 years ago

          Barring some limitations, it will still take some time for SSDs to match HDDs on a GiB/$$$$ basis.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            HDDs will continue to increase in density as well. I expect them to remain the “go to” technology for bulk data storage for years to come. Manufacturing high density magnetic platters is a fundamentally cheaper/easier thing to do than etching bleeding edge silicon chips, so I’m not convinced SSDs will *ever* catch up in GB/$.

            What we *will* see is a few years from now, SSDs will match the GB/$ of HDDs we have *today*. But by then we’ll probably have cheap 10 TB disk drives.

            • clone
            • 8 years ago

            I don’t believe SSD’s have to match the cost of a conventional hdd, I’d argue that by the time SSD’s are selling for $100 – $150 in 500gb capacities HDD will become lost into a tiny market segment that won’t matter to most.

    • Draphius
    • 8 years ago

    i got very lucky, purchased my caviar black 1tb a month before the floods. i wanted to buy another but at this point ill wait or invest in an ssd. cant believe the caviar green 3 tb is lower the then black 1tb

    • kilkennycat
    • 8 years ago

    Before publishing, you needed to look just a bit further at the current Newegg prices for the 1TB Caviar Black….

    Look here for the current price on the SATA 3Gb/32Meg version. You might smile a bit more with the extra coupon code through 2/1…..

    [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136284[/url<] Here is the current Newegg price for the 6Gb/64Meg version:- [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136533[/url<] Both still have 5-year warranty according to Newegg.

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      The Black series never did drop their warranty period.

      • Aloeus
      • 8 years ago

      that coupon code made me smile a lot

    • blacksteel
    • 8 years ago

    I’m waiting on the prices to go down too, thought that my 1TB would be enough, nope, probably need a 2TB at least.

    • BLToday
    • 8 years ago

    Don’t care about regular hard drive prices anymore. I need SSD to drop to under $1/GB.

    • Dposcorp
    • 8 years ago

    Looking at the data, one needs to remember that the big dips that occurred around 11/28 are probably black Friday related, and should be given less relevance, imo.

    Looking from 11/14 and then jumping to 12/12 shows us what seems to be a more accurate price history.

    • Deanjo
    • 8 years ago

    I bought quite a few drives this weekend and extremely cheap. BB has the Hitachi Touo 2TB external drive (USB 2.0) on for $99. The specs on the box sad 5400 RPM/32 Meg cache. I needed it just to back up some stuff. Well when I got it home I plugged it in and checked the model number. They contained a far better drive inside them, the HITACHI Deskstar 7K3000 HDS723020BLA642 which is a 7200 rpm 64 meg cache drive. These things sell for $219 on newegg on sale. I went back and picked up another 7. All the same thing. After verifying that they were working I popped them from the cases and used them as internals and they are just as fast as the WD Blacks.

    All of the drives were manufactured pre-flooding as well.

      • Dposcorp
      • 8 years ago

      Doesnt opening up the case void the 3 year warranty? Just curious.

        • Deanjo
        • 8 years ago

        The external drives only have a 1 year warranty. If you go to Hitachi’s website however and check the warranty status on the raw drive it shows them with 3 years warranty and the serial shows as a valid raw drive serial.

          • continuum
          • 8 years ago

          Wow, that IS good to know– and very surprising that the raw drive SN shows up as good with a 3 year warranty!

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            Ya the plan is to pick up Zacate board and a couple of port multipliers (since AMD chipsets support them) and build another NAS unit. 16 TiB for about $1000.

    • emorgoch
    • 8 years ago

    Anyone have any information about the enterprise hard drive market?

    We purchased a new EMC VNX SAN around mid november, and the pricing we got for the drives (600GB 15K SAS) was around $675. Expanding with a few more drives, we’re now getting quoted at over $1250 per drive. I’m curious how much of this markup is because of thigns like the flooding vs. a general increase.

      • Xylker
      • 8 years ago

      I have no idea what EMC’s normal prices are, but historically, I would say that the new prices are about in line with what I had previously seen. Maybe the initial prices were discounted to entice you?

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      [url<]http://h30094.www3.hp.com/product/sku/10196915/mfg_partno/516828-B21[/url<] This works in SANs up to hundreds of TB, and are around your previous quote. I smell Salmon.

    • DPete27
    • 8 years ago

    Even after supply has fully recovered, prices will still remain inflated to make up for lost revenue. Also, with the extended period of high drive prices, I doubt we’ll see prices drop to what they were in the beginning of October. Consumers won’t be able to hold out forever, and by the end of 2012 when prices are forecasted to return to “normal,” paying more for drives compared to 1 year before will be “part of life.” Unfortunately, at that time, it will just mean more money in the pockets of hard drive manufacturers.

    • ew
    • 8 years ago

    There is a good Firefox extension for tracking prices like this. [url<]https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/the-camelizer-price-history-ch/[/url<]

    • Derfer
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve noticed many users looking to pick up a drive have simply delayed their purchases. They’ll wait for prices to revert. PC manufactures though can’t wait. They have to keep the supply moving.

      • Madman
      • 8 years ago

      Or they’ll get SSD drives. That’s what I did.

      I needed HDD for work reasons ASAP, and factoring price vs performance vs actual storage demands, SSD was a clear winner.

        • Deanjo
        • 8 years ago

        That all depends on the user. Capacity is still king for my uses. I can wait another 20 seconds for my OS to come up since I only reboot maybe once every 6 months to install the newest version of openSUSE.

          • Madman
          • 8 years ago

          You haven’t tested an SSD drive, right?

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            Nope I have tested several, even have a few. They are fine for a boot drive, where you often reboot (in my case I use them as a boot drive for the XBMC boxes) but way to small for any of my other storage uses. Even if they were large enough they don’t offer much advantage over a conventional, let alone a raid 0 setup on non-compressible data other then access time.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            I hear you. My main desktop systems (both home and work) only get rebooted to install Linux kernel updates. Most apps load quickly enough as it is (typically only a couple of seconds), so the incremental benefit of switching to a SSD would be pretty small — do I care whether it takes 2 seconds or 1 second to launch an app? Not really.

            Having enough RAM to allow your OS’s disk cache to work effectively goes a long way towards making a system feel responsive. With DDR3 so cheap these days, 8 GB really ought to be the minimum amount of RAM considered for any new build.

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            Yup, the way I actually have my HTPC’s configured the SSD loads the OS, copies the media db to a ramfs, writes that db back to the ssd on shutdown. The result is blazing speed in XBMC in browsing media that is far faster then any SSD. Like you say ram is super cheap now days and other then the initial boot offers nothing really beneficial for my uses on the but I can always use more TiBs of storage.

            • Vivaldi
            • 8 years ago

            Would you be willing to share any intricate details of how you pulled this off, like the OS you’re using, tools you rely upon, scripts you’d be willing to share, any blogs or DIY HTPC guides that you relied upon, etc. If it’s lengthy, perhaps you could open a thread in the forum?

            I know aspiring HTPC experts like myself are interested! It sounds like a super smooth setup!

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            Sure no problem. I’ll be putting together 3 systems here in the next month or so. A new workstation, a new HTPC and a new NAS box and I’ll document those builds. The operating system is always openSUSE.

            • Vivaldi
            • 8 years ago

            Fantastic! Looking forward to them. 🙂

            • Madman
            • 8 years ago

            Weird, after booting windows it takes few minutes for disk to stop churning, opening anything new that’s not yet into cache is pure pain, as it’s fighting with AV, and other apps for I/O.

            Launch, say, browser with 10 tabs, or office app…

            Even if you don’t reboot, launch a heavier game and it still trashes everything to HDD, Which leads back to painful load times and trashing.

            And that’s on a box with 4GB RAM. SSD simply makes everything smooth, and quiet.

            • Deanjo
            • 8 years ago

            Your problem has more to do with the amount of crap you have to load with a windows system.

            Linux system, from cold start to usable desktop ~30 seconds with an ordinary mechanical drive. Items like a browser with 10 tabs….. no problem. Also games that seem to cache a lot do seem to run better in wine then they do on windows as well.

            • ludi
            • 8 years ago

            [quote<]Your problem has more to do with the amount of crap you have to load with a windows system.[/quote<] Right, exactly like the overwhelming majority of PC users. With an Intel 320 SSD as my Windows/boot drive, from the moment the UEFI BIOS screen clears to the moment I have a fully loaded Win7 desktop is a bit under 20 seconds (plus however long it takes to type my login password). This doesn't just affect boot times, it also shortens the wake-from-sleep times, and applications just pop open, even when loading large image files from the SSD (I've been editing a large, scanned collection of old drawings so this does matter). I have no doubt this same behavior can be replicated by creating a suitable RAMDISK in the fashion you described, but for both cost and implementation reasons, that's not practical for the majority of users who otherwise can use Windows on an SSD exactly like they would in any other system with an HDD.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            Crucial differences between my setup and yours: A) I don’t run Windows; B) I don’t game; and C) I have 8 GB of RAM.

            Total boot time from start of POST to a fully usable (responsive) desktop is under 30 seconds. The worst application in terms of load time among things I use frequently is probably OpenOffice, and even that only takes about 6 seconds if it isn’t in cache (if it has been used recently it loads in under a second).

            Here’s my home desktop booting up: [url<]http://youtu.be/W_2MRwB_wVc[/url<] - At the 1 second mark you can hear the startup beep from the motherboard. - Post completes (and OS actually starts loading) at about the 9 second mark. - The desktop appears at the 28 second mark. - To demonstrate that the desktop is already responsive and fully usable (minimal disk thrashing occurring in the background), at the 31 second mark I click the button to launch OpenOffice. (The OpenOffice logo is off-center because this is actually a dual-head setup... the logo gets centered on the extended desktop, not on the primary monitor.) - At 37 seconds, the OpenOffice document window is up. Boot device is a pair of 7200 RPM Seagate drives, configured for software RAID-1.

            • Draphius
            • 8 years ago

            I think alot of people could benifit from the hybrid drives that are starting to roll out or if u have a z68 system using intels smart response technology. a tiny ssd can improve performance quit dramitically once it figures out what it needs to cache. i have a 20gb ssd cacheing my 1tb and i load windows in about 30-40 seconds, and some games i play have such short loading screens its impossible to read there hints or random advice and stuff cause it loads new areas in about 1-3 seconds. for the price atm i think i would go the hybrid route till ssd’s get down to about 20 cents a gigabyte

    • Farting Bob
    • 8 years ago

    On a few sites i was looking at before the flood the 3TB WD green is only about £30 more now, although stock levels are still low. I was planning on getting one before xmas, but prices rocketed and i put it off. I should hold until about march/april time before i really start running short of space on my fileserver, hopefully they’ll be close to where they were in October.

    • sschaem
    • 8 years ago

    Some data to chew on:

    WDC revenue in oct-dec 2011 : 2.0 billion on 28.5 million units
    WDC revenue in oct-dec 2010 : 2.5 billion on 52.2 million units

    Revenue dropped 20%, while shipment dropped 45%

      • k00k
      • 8 years ago

      Hmm. This kinda reminds me of big oil companies–higher prices on raw materials translated to even higher, record earnings (at least in the case of Exxon Mobil a few years back)

      It seems a perception of supply constraint or scarcity is playing its role very well here, at least for the hard drive-making industry. Even if average selling prices increase, they ramp up the pricing, using the supply/logistical constraints caused by the flooding as “justification”. Genius.

      It doesn’t help one bit that middlemen and retailers are in the game–but also collectively shooting themselves in the foot by way of reduced total numbers of shipped PCs during the last quarter of 2011. 😛

        • ludi
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]It seems a perception of supply constraint or scarcity is playing its role very well here, at least for the hard drive-making industry.[/quote<] You may have missed the part where the industry lost 20% of its global manufacturing capacity for several months, which is pretty much the definition of supply constraint and scarcity.

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Revenue =! Net profit.

      • Arclight
      • 8 years ago

      Yes, but how much will they pay to restore their factories? I have a feeling that despite the higher products costs they will pay a lot more to restore their production capability.

      • TurtlePerson2
      • 8 years ago

      No way, those greedy corporate robber barons. They raise prices when supply drops. They should sell their product for whatever it costs to make it not whatever market forces dictate.

        • Vivaldi
        • 8 years ago

        That’s offly utopian of you. Be sure to remember that ideology when you’re running a large corporation and in charge of returning results to your shareholders!

          • Buzzard44
          • 8 years ago

          I was under the impression Turtle Man was being sarcastic, but I could be wrong.

      • clone
      • 8 years ago

      the unanswered question being how much profit they took in off the 28.5 million units vs the 52.2 million.

      if it cost $20.00 to produce a hard drive and ship it then:

      28.5 million X 20.00 =’s 570 million – 2000 million =’s 1,430,000,000 in revenue.

      vs

      52.2 million X 20.00=’s 1044 million – 2500 million =’s 1,456,000,000 in revenue.

      which would make 2010 the more profitable year despite the increased cost of producing & shipping additional units….. just sayin.

      on a side note I stopped looking at Hard Drives and won’t be until 500 gb’s is selling for $50.00 or less again.

      SSD is just a more compelling purchase nowadays let alone using flash sticks as backups.

      • Krogoth
      • 8 years ago

      HDD manufacturers are hurting because their big money maker, enterprise customers are switching over to SSDs.

      The profit margins on customer-grade drives is razor-thin, it is part of the reason why warranties have been getting cut in recent years.

      • Peldor
      • 8 years ago

      Gross margin: 648 million up from 475 million
      Charges related to flooding: 199 million up from 0 (Whoops!)
      Operating income: 162 million down from 240 million
      Net income: 145 million down from 225 million

      Really not too bad for having your factories under meters of water.

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