The post-flood decline of hard drive prices is slowing

After chronicling the fall of SSD prices, it’s time to turn our attention to the mechanical world. Hard drives used to be dirt cheap, with even multi-terabyte models routinely available for under 100 bucks. Then, last fall, Thailand was hit by massive flooding that swamped numerous industrial parks. Many of the facilities responsible for making hard drives and their component parts were submerged under several feet of water. Overall production slowed, big PC makers reportedly had trouble securing drives for their systems, and prices rose sharply.

Ever since the flooding, we’ve been waiting for the good old days to return. Indeed, we’ve been tracking mechanical hard drive prices since the flooding sent them skyward. Now, with a little help from the folks at Camelegg, we have even more data on the state of hard drive prices. Camelegg tracks prices at Newegg, which should be representative of the state of the market as a whole.

There’s too much data to combine all the drives in a single graph, so we’re going to break things down by manufacturer and model. All of the graphs use the same scale for easy comparison. The data goes back to the beginning of 2011, though a number of the drives haven’t been available for that long. We’ve limited ourselves to tracking only current-generation models that are in stock now.

Samsung is up first, in part because our favorite desktop hard drive is the Spinpoint F3 1TB. There’s also a 500GB version of that drive. Both Spinpoints rotate their platters at 7,200 RPM, while the EcoGreen F4 is a low-power model with a 5,400-RPM spindle speed.

Before the November flooding, prices were largely stable for months. The Spinpoint F3 1TB and EcoGreen F4 2TB both shot up after the flooding hit, but the 500GB Spinpoint wasn’t affected until February of 2012. That’s interesting, especially since its price has yet to decline substantially. The other two have dropped considerably, although they’re still priced much higher than they were before the flood. Our favorite Spinpoint’s price is more than two times higher.

Samsung’s mechanical storage business has been bought by Seagate, and Hitachi’s division has been acquired by Western Digital. How have the Deskstars fared?

Similarly. The Deskstar 7K3000 2TB has been around for the longest of the three drives we’re looking at, and its price was stable before the flooding, too. The 7K1000.D 1TB arrived just before prices began their climb, while its 500GB sibling didn’t come out until well after the flooding exacted its toll.

That 500GB model has only recently received a hefty price cut. The cost of the others has fallen more steadily, though prices have risen on occasion. In fact, the 7K3000 has increased in price twice over the past two months. It now costs 60% more than its pre-flood low, while the 7K1000.D 1TB is priced 54% higher than it was last October.

Seagate has more horses in this race. The low-power Barracuda Greens were around long before the flooding, while their simply named 7,200-RPM counterparts are more recent arrivals. Let’s start with the terabyte Green, which stubbornly clung to its peak flooding price until only recently. The 2TB variant has received numerous price cuts since the flooding hit. Its price has remained fairly consistent since March, though.

The standard Barracudas are leveling off, too, but their flat-lining didn’t begin until April. Prices had declined steadily until then, for the most part. As with the Samsung and Hitachi drives, anything that was available before the flood costs substantially more today. In some cases, the difference is more than 2X.

Thanks to its premium Caviar Black line, WD has the biggest selction of drives. Almost all of ’em were available before the flooding, giving us a good look at its impact. We’ll begin with the low-power Caviar Greens, whose prices have stagnated recently. They’re still falling, slowly, but the rate of decline has definitely petered out. The 3TB model costs only 37% more than before the flood, while the 1TB and 2TB versions ring in 52-58% higher.

The Caviar Blue line is targeted at mainstream desktops, and it hold a surprise. The terabyte model peaked in February and March, long after the flood waters had receded. Its price has been slashed since, and like the 500GB model, things have largely leveled off over the last couple of months. The Blues still cost at least 80% more than their pre-flood lows.

The flagship Caviar Black line hasn’t been hit quite as hard; it’s only 53-60% more expensive now than it was before last November. Interestingly, the 500GB and 2TB models peaked much later—the latter as recently as May. Only the terabyte version has seen its price fall consistently.

If we focus exclusively on drives available before the flooding, current prices are an average of 74% higher than before. That’s a huge margin, and it’s narrowing more slowly than ever.

Where are the best deals if you absolutely must buy a drive now? Let’s consider the cost per gigabyte of each drive using the average price over the last week.

Higher-capacity models clearly offer the most value on this scale. The 3TB and 2TB drives cost the least per gigabyte, while the terabyte models sit in the middle, and the 500GB variants below them. Unless you’re really strapped for cash, there’s no reason to settle for anything less than a terabyte.

Low-power drives like the Barracuda Green, Caviar Green, and EcoGreen lead the way overall. Seagate’s 7,200-RPM Barracuda is right up there with them, although only at its highest capacities.

Comments closed
    • asdzxc57
    • 7 years ago

    Yuan has increased 8% during that time period, but is starting to drop a bit.

    • ET3D
    • 7 years ago

    Amazing that external drives are significantly cheaper. It’s currently possible to buy a 3TB USB 3 Seagate external on Newegg for $126 with free shipping. That’s about the price of a 2TB internal.

      • Rand
      • 7 years ago

      The last drive I bought was actually an external drive that I opened the case and just stuck the drive in my system.
      It’s far cheaper here (Canada) to be the same drive external then internal, and pretty much all drives have external variants these days not just the cheapy 5400RPM variants.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    Mechanical HDD’s are only good for media storage these days anyway, and the internet is rapidly replacing the need for media storage.

    I dread the days when I have to do stuff on a machine with Applications and OS running off a spinning disk.

      • Flying Fox
      • 7 years ago

      As long as speeds and bandwidths are capped the switch to online storage is not going to happen as fast as you think.

        • Chrispy_
        • 7 years ago

        It happened, about two years ago for me, but then again, parts of Europe have had 100Mbit internet for a decade.

        It’s not that I don’t have mechanical storage, it’s that I don’t use it anymore because there’s no need. Once I’ve watched a season of some TV show I just delete it. I can download it again in an hour if I really need to watch it again at some point in the future.

        • rrr
        • 7 years ago

        This is not the main problem with online storage.

        It is inherent insecurity of data being stored there. Remember what happened to Megaupload? Or even Gmail data loss?

      • Krogoth
      • 7 years ago

      I rather have a local copy of my data then rely on online sources.

        • flip-mode
        • 7 years ago

        Having both is ideal.

      • ET3D
      • 7 years ago

      Not if you like games. Even a small number of modern games can fill a 128GB SSD in no time. Max Payne 3 alone takes 35GB. If you have boatloads of money then sure, a big SSD is the way to go, but otherwise a HDD plus SSD caching is a more reasonable solution.

        • travbrad
        • 7 years ago

        Max Payne 3 really is an exceptionally large game though. There are very few games that are even half that install size. I think you can get by with 128GB for most games. Obviously bigger is better, but 128GB isn’t that limiting unless you keep every game you’ve ever played installed for some reason.

        Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to focus on just a few games at a time, and usually have 5-6 games installed at a time. I keep the installers/images on my PC too so re-installing is fast if I ever get the urge to play a game I’ve uninstalled.

          • ET3D
          • 7 years ago

          I’m sure some people are like you and other are more like me (or even more me than me). I don’t play a lot but I keep a lot of games on my disk. I drop into Everquest 2 and City of Heroes on a reasonably regular basis, but I also keep DC Universe Online and Aion because I played a little and plan to drop again (don’t know when). I keep quite a few games I played a little and stopped and I plan to continue (one of these days). It all mounts up.

          Even if I didn’t a 128GB drive wouldn’t have been enough for both system and games. Just the system gets close to filling 100GB over time, and that’s with most apps installed in another partition. I imagine that people who reinstall often or have a limited amount of software on their system that’s not a huge problem. I use a 60GB for a system + software drive on my HTPC and I think it will be enough.

          • ET3D
          • 7 years ago

          By the way, while Max Payne 3 is indeed larger than most (all?), games certainly are getting big in general. Microsoft Flight takes 30GB for the full install, and many games these days are around 15GB (Modern Warfare 3, DiRT Showdown, …). Six 15GB games take 90GB of space. If you’re very frugal and have very little else on your system you may be able to fit an OS and such games together on a 128GB disk, but I find that using a PC becomes less fun when you keep worrying about running out of space.

    • PsiAmp
    • 7 years ago

    Manufacturers are not the only to blame. Retailers play a huge role in high HDD prices. In Eastern Europe Samsung F3 HD103SJ goes ~$85-90 on average. While on Newegg it sells for $110. And we have very greedy retailers here and when I look at Newegg prices I can only wish we had such low prices here. Same applied to pre flood HDD prices.

    Pretty sure Newegg can sell this model for $80 with good profit. But they want more.

    • xii
    • 7 years ago

    Those prices are still merciful, compared to what hard drives cost in Northern Europe… I think that before the flood the prices raced to the bottom, and since the flood, the manufacturers are artificially keeping prices high with a large enough margin – breathing space, if you will. Current prices are still double the pre-flood prices, and that’s not counting any natural decline they should have experienced due to technological progress.

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      Yep. I am running a couple of machines that are stacked to the gills with 2TB drives, most of which I bought at less that £50, and most of them are a few years old at least

      • Krogoth
      • 7 years ago

      I suspect the current problems with the Euro is playing a significant role for your case.

    • Convert
    • 7 years ago

    Elsewhere people were speculating about price fixing, I’m starting to believe it.

    As for people saying the manufacturers are being hit hard by SSDs in the enterprise, that’s not the trend I am seeing. A lot of places are still leery about SSDs, those who aren’t only use them for very specific tasks, the rest of their servers still run standard SAS drives. In real world environments I see far more SSD drives being put into desktops than servers and the amount of drives that SSDs are replacing in the enterprise are extremely small (net loss of spindles).

      • Krogoth
      • 7 years ago

      Doesn’t sound likely, as prices already have dropped near their pre-flood levels within 8 months. The original fear was that it have would taken a few years. If price fixing were the case then prices would have taken much to return to their pre-flood levels, in addition HDD manufacturers would be making record quarterly revenues.

      SSDs are slowly, but surely are replacing 10-15K HDD units. The most conservartive datacenters can’t overlook the fact that SSDs are much faster than 10-15K HDDs in areas where access speed and I/O performance are king. They are getting HDDs more for bulk data storage and archives.

        • Convert
        • 7 years ago

        “Doesn’t sound likely, as prices already have dropped near their pre-flood levels within 8 months.” – I don’t call 37-74% higher to be near pre-flood levels. Also, what xii said, natural progression should have helped keep the prices low over that time period as well.

        “The original fear was that it have would taken a few years.” – No it wasn’t.

        “SSDs are slowly, but surely are replacing 10-15K HDD units.” – Yes they are, key word is slowly.

        Krogoth, you don’t know. You don’t work in a data center, you don’t work around a data center and you don’t know people who work in data centers to be making this kind of claim. You are guessing. Also, you can’t just replace the word enterprise with data centers and attempt to prove a secondary point.

        • Yeats
        • 7 years ago

        You didn’t read the article?

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    Why would the big boys want to price a-la Pre-flood levels? They know folks will buy regardless of the price, whether they’re buying a new PC, their HDDs just got full of torrent files, or their HDD died on them. Even at their highest, the price of an HDD is still just a fraction of the cost of a whole system so it’s probably not enough to deter buyers from buying when they really want to.

    • l33t-g4m3r
    • 7 years ago

    I bought my storage drives pre-flood. I would like a [i<]cheap[/i<] SSD though. Any recommendations?

      • A_Pickle
      • 7 years ago

      Dunno what kind of capacity you’re seeking, but there’s a 120 GB Corsair Force Series GT at Newegg for $119, and $89.99 after a mail-in rebate.

      • ludi
      • 7 years ago

      Your options for a [i<]cheap[/i<] SSD include soemething like an OCZ Vertex or Mushkin Calisto in the 30-40GB range for about $50. OCZ, Mushkin, and Adata then have several options for 60-64GB drives the $60-65 range. On the other hand, the sweet spot for value is currently sitting at the 128GB and 256GB models, of which the Crucial M4 and Samsung 830 can be had for less than $1/GB if you wait for the right sale.

        • l33t-g4m3r
        • 7 years ago

        I’m looking at the 240-256 range. Hopefullly the bugs have been worked out by now.

          • Voldenuit
          • 7 years ago

          My recommendations would be for a 256GB Samsung 830 or Plextor M3/Corsair Performance Pro/Crucial M4.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 7 years ago

    There’s never been a better time to jump on the SSD wagon.

      • Arclight
      • 7 years ago

      Until next month and the month after that and probably the month after that also.

    • Anvil
    • 7 years ago

    New Normal gentlemen and ladies?

    New Normal.

    • Voldenuit
    • 7 years ago

    Just had my Seagate Barracuda 3 TB drive which I bought from newegg delivered for $149.99. That works out to $0.05/GB.

    • Krogoth
    • 7 years ago

    ITT: Spoiled geeks or kiddies who don’t remember that high-end customer grade HDDs used to start at $399+.

    I suspect part of the reason for the increased pricing is due that the fact that remaining HDD manufactuers no longer are making as much revenue from their enterprise customers (they have much higher profit margins) since SSDs have rendered 10-15K HDD obsolete. On top of that, HDD manufactures have to pay for all the damages for the factories that were flooded and ever-weakening USD and Euro.

    I’m actually more surprised that prices have already return close to their pre-flood levels. I figured that it would have taken at least another year or two.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 7 years ago

      The first hard-drive that I purchased (after hours of checking all of the prices in Computer Shopper) was a 47 MB Seagate ST157N… for the low-low price of $450 + shipping.

        • Krogoth
        • 7 years ago

        That was $450 1980’s USDs 😉

          • UberGerbil
          • 7 years ago

          In the 1980s it was [url=http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7251/7465276906_e22f29ee4c_z.jpg<]even more[/url<] than that (they threw in the controller card at least). But still cheaper per MB than [url=http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2160/2374284961_3d73eea044_b.jpg<]what passed for an SSD[/url<].

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            Hardcards FTW!!!! Kind of funny how a lot of the early harddrives were attached to the controller back then and then plugged into the slot. 20 years later and it is coming full circle again.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 7 years ago

            The host adapter was another two hundred dollars.

            • Arclight
            • 7 years ago

            Nice, thanks for sharing.

      • mesyn191
      • 7 years ago

      I don’t think its a case of spoiled youngsters. That the hard drive prices are significantly higher than they once were not too long ago despite the fact that the manufacturing issues from the flooding disasters have been fixed for a while now is pretty irritating to me. Especially when you consider the drastically reduced warranties offered now too.

      And yes I do remember when 1GB hard drives cost around $1K and when having a hard drive at all was considered a luxury of sorts.

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 7 years ago

      Seagate was barely affected by flood damage.

        • Krogoth
        • 7 years ago

        *- Citation needed

        Secondly, Seagate is hurting the most from the significant decline in enterprise sales. SSDs are putting the pressure on HDDs manufacturers on the enterprise-front in areas where I/O performance matters. They are still safe for bulk data and archival storage.

          • ludi
          • 7 years ago

          *- Citation needed

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      There is another factor as well, manufacturers realized that they are still selling them even at inflated prices. They are in no hurry to drop the prices again.

      • shank15217
      • 7 years ago

      High end customers don’t buy ssd. SSDs are not making that much inroads due to cheaper ram in recent months.

        • rrr
        • 7 years ago

        You have to plug them in first.

          • shank15217
          • 7 years ago

          yea i bet you do, thanks for the insight.

      • rrr
      • 7 years ago

      So not liking prices being jacked up for the same or worse (because of eg. cut warranty periods) product suddenly makes you spoiled? Trolololo.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 7 years ago

    If I were building a comp now (I’m waiting till Dec/Jan), I would be tempted to get a discount 240 GB SSD for $140 and then re-use a HDD from an old computer to store media.

    I do want more space for capturing video game footage in 1080p but luckily my upload speed is so bad its not worth the trouble.

    • Anarchist
    • 7 years ago

    several years back when internet boom gave way to emails the paper industry nearly collapsed as demand for paper fell. Since then paper industry have consolidated with weaker ones dying out and bigger ones buying up one another to reduce competition. Now if you go to local staples you see a rim of paper with price-tag of $12! Normally this would arouse attention of justice department into possible price collusion but we live in time where government exist to aid corporations profit margin.

    The long winded rambling is to point to my feeling that something similar will happen to hard drive industry. As it stands we now have two drive manufactures standing. They will do what they can to keep the price high to compensate for ever falling demand.

      • Krogoth
      • 7 years ago

      Please take economics 101.

      • ludi
      • 7 years ago

      Per the Staples website right now, a [i<]ream[/i<] of 20lb, 96-brightness copy paper is $7.80. Same thing at OfficeMax is currently discounted from $7.50 to $6. Interestingly, both are advertised as acid-free, which wasn't always the case. It does make sense, as many uses of paper are now deliberately archival, while back in the pre-Internet days a lot of general correspondence was destined to spend a day on someone's desk before hitting the inevitable circular file. There were more weights and brightnesses to choose from and acid-free wasn't guaranteed. So, a lot of that cheap paper you remember was also of a cheaper quality because nobody was planning to hold onto it for posterity.

      • Malphas
      • 7 years ago

      Except there is no falling demand for hard drives; quite the opposite in fact, and that trend will probably continue for a long time still. A few enthusiasts using an SSD as a boot drive isn’t going to count for much against the ever-growing demand for storage – in the enterprise and in devices like PVRs ,etc. as well as just in consumer PCs.

    • Dposcorp
    • 7 years ago

    Geoff, every time i see one of these price posts, I always chime in how a lot of makers have lowered their warranties as well as raised prices, which means they make more money since support will cost less as it ends earlier.

    With mechanical storage being one of the main things that fail in a modern PC, we should not over look the shortening of OEM warranties, which to me also implies possible lack of faith in long term reliability.

    The prime example for me is the 2TB Seagate green drives I bought midway last year, before the floods, with the 5 year warranty, that now have 1 or 2 year warranties. Newegg charges around $15 per additional year of warranty.

    Basically, if you buy one of my drives now, you get 4 years of warranty left, at a much cheaper price then a new drive, and with a lot more warranty. Heck, you can use them for 2 years, sell them again, and still have 2 years of warranty left for the next guy.

      • Decelerate
      • 7 years ago

      Nice example at the end. I’m surprised no [i<]black/gray market[/i<] appeared with some party buying old drives by the truckload.

    • Ushio01
    • 7 years ago

    I wouldn’t get my hopes up of either Samsung or Hitachi HDD’s returning to pre-flood levels as after there buyout’s production is probably winding down.

    • sschaem
    • 7 years ago

    amazon seem to have seagate 2TB drive for 108$ with free shipping (no rebates)
    – Barracuda 7200RPM 2 TB SATA 6 GB/s NCQ 64 MB

    amazon also carry WD 3TB (with enclosure) for $149

    Both dont seem outrageous for what you get.

    • Shambles
    • 7 years ago

    Screw you Seagate, screw you Western Digital. I will never touch any of your SSD products and will smile the day that both of you become obsolete as SSD prices continue to plummet.

    • sircharles32
    • 7 years ago

    Artificial inflation at its best.
    Seagate’s CEO bragged about hard drive prices staying higher from now on. Looks like it’s becoming a reality.
    There is no more competition. The industry is down to 2 main players, and they get to call all the shots. There is no doubt, the consumer looses out on this deal.

      • thill9
      • 7 years ago

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. It’s just like gas prices pre and post hurricane Katrina. We’ll use a natural event as an explanation for price gouging. And once the crisis is over, manufacturers will ensure that prices will never reach parity again.

      In this case of storage, the industry fortunately/unfortunately had SSD’s waiting in the wings. Finally a catalyst to move consumers to the next, more costly solution. (But I do appreciate the SSD cost slide and what the SSD demand did to its pricing).

      • clocks
      • 7 years ago

      If you can’t bet them, join them. Buy the stock, it pays a >4% dividend.

      • shank15217
      • 7 years ago

      No its not, there really is a tremendous demand for hard drives from the enterprise sector as people are shifting to online storage. Those drives use the same materials but provide much higher profits. Manufacturers are shifting their focus to enterprise storage and the consumer is paying for it in higher prices, and you know why.

    • hiro_pro
    • 7 years ago

    has anyone noticed the WD 3.5″ 2-3TB 7200 rpm hard drives are out of whack price wise? i was forced to buy a seagate rather than pay the 30% WD tax.

      • DeadOfKnight
      • 7 years ago

      The WD tax is justified by better reliability, in my experience. This is just like Intel with their SSDs.

        • A_Pickle
        • 7 years ago

        [citation needed]

          • indeego
          • 7 years ago

          There’s no citation required for experience? Unless this citation needed crap is a new meme that is making it’s way around the net I’m unawares of. I’m kinda happy when I’ve discovered what passes for memes and clever catchphrases these days, admittedly.

            • Thue
            • 7 years ago

            Lots of tech people have a HDD manufacturer which they swear they will never use again. The manufacturer seems to vary person to person. Unless you have some actually statistics, I will consider your HDD manufacturer opinion just more noise.

            • Convert
            • 7 years ago

            Claiming superior reliability for brand X of hard drives is an old meme.

            • flip-mode
            • 7 years ago

            I’ve personally never experienced an OCZ SSD issue. They must be perfect.

        • rogue426
        • 7 years ago

        I paid $120 for my latest Black 1TB. The Spinpoint was $110. I’ll gladly pay more for a Western Digital than a Seagate. I have a stack of Seagate drives that failed before their time. I havent tried the SpinPoint over the Blacks due to my good fortune with WD over the years. Somewhere I still have 2 540 MB Western Digitals that still work, I’d say they beat their MTBF of 250,000 hours

    • JustAnEngineer
    • 7 years ago

    Isn’t it time to measure cost in $ / TB instead of $ / GB ?

      • superjawes
      • 7 years ago

      Then SSD’s would come in over $1000/TB o.O

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