How to get the Best Prices on Hard Drives [Updated for May-June 2012]

The technique I outline here for finding the best hard drive prices is timeless, but the specific models and prices I’ve listed are good for only a few days.

Whenever I need a new drive, I shop around online for prices, but like most people, I’m quickly overwhelmed with the plethora of offerings (Thank Goodness for Competition!!!!).  There are so many models, with so many different characteristics (speed, capacity, interface, internal/external, brand, warranties, store, taxes, shipping, reliability, etc…) that I always fear that no matter what choice I ultimately make, I’m making a HUGE mistake by not getting another drive from another place that’s significantly cheaper, or faster, or with more storage capacity, simply because there’s not enough time for me to research them all.

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So, I’ve come up with a technique to help me greatly speed up my research and have a reasonable confidence that the choice I make is close to the best available, even if not the absolute best deal ever.

Here’s what I do:

First, I make a simple spreadsheet.  It doesn’t matter which spreadsheet program or online spreadsheet you use.  Pick your favorite, then follow along.

  1. Create a spreadsheet in your favorite spreadsheet app.
  2. Add columns for source (a link to the product page of the drive), capacity, & price.  Feel free to add more columns like Make, Model, Interface, RPMs, etc…
  3. Add a calculated field for price/capacity.  The formula for row 2 should look like:  =E2/D2 if column E is your price per drive column and column D is where you’re holding your drive capacity.  Make certain you use the same units for capacity for all drives.  For example, if you write Gigabytes for one drive, don’t put Terabytes for another or your calculations will be wrong (by a THOUSAND FOLD!!!).  Choose either Gigabytes or Terabytes, but don’t mix and match.
  4. Go to your favorite online store and search for hard drives, filtered to your needs (for example, maybe you’re only interested in external drives, so filter by that).  Use that online store’s feature to sort by cheapest first!
  5. Start entering the data into your spreadsheet.  I recommend to NOT add columns that aren’t critical to your decision.
  6. Once you enter a drive with a certain capacity, ignore any drives later in the list that are smaller in capacity because they’re a worse price/GB (since you’ve sorted by price).
    1. This part is important to the whole process.  Pay special attention to this part!  Since you’ve sorted by cheapest first, the first drive of say 500GB you come across will be the CHEAPEST 500GB drive.  If you run into LOWER capacity drives, just skip them.  Scan ahead in the list until you find a drive that’s BIGGER than 500GB!  THIS is how you significantly reduce time browsing the site!
  7. Go to another online store and repeat steps 4-6 at a different online merchant.  Continue this until you feel you’ve shopped enough online stores and have enough data to make an informed decision.
  8. Now, sort your spreadsheet by your calculated column.  The cheapest price per GB will be at the top.

Below, is a screen shot of my spreadsheet with affiliate links to and plain old links to  Click the image to be taken to my actual Google Docs spreadsheet with the actual data in it and links to each product.  Keep in mind though that hard drive prices change on a daily basis, so this data is only relevant for a couple days, but the technique I outlined here should save you hours of research and hopefully save you lots of cash too, as well as give you confidence that when you do make your decision, that it’s well informed.

May-June 2012 (below)


February 2012 (below)


Oh!  One more thing:  I strongly encourage you to avoid buying a hard drive until the last possible moment that you need it.  Why?  Because hard drive prices are ALWAYS falling and capacities are ALWAYS getting bigger.  The later you wait, the better deal you’ll get.

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