Thu. Jun 13th, 2024



Key Takeaways

  • Refurbished hard drives are much cheaper than new ones. You should expect 30-50% discounts.
  • Professionally refurbished drives can be reliable and last for years without an issue.
  • Always make multiple backups of your most important information.


Need a lot of storage for cheap? Buy a refurbished hard drive instead of a new one—you could save yourself hundreds. Here’s what you need to know about used hard drives and where to buy them.


Why Buy a Hard Drive Instead of a Solid-State Drive?

Hard drives aren’t the latest and greatest tech anymore, but they still have some advantages over solid-state drives (SSDs).

Foremost among these is cost. Though prices vary, hard drives are still much cheaper per gigabyte (or terabyte) of storage than solid-state drives, especially if you’re talking about the latest NVMe PCIe SSDs.

Conventional hard drives are also better than SSDs for long-term “cold” storage.

In this case, cold doesn’t really refer to temperature. It just means that the drive will be kept off until the data is needed.


Mechanical hard drives are very sensitive to drops or any kind of violent physical movement, whereas SSDs don’t really care unless the hit is hard enough to crack the PCB, a solder joint, or directly damage a component.

You Should Buy Refurbished Hard Drives

Refurbished hard drives should always be much cheaper than the equivalent new drive. If they’re not noticeably cheaper, you should stay away—something is amiss. I conducted a very informal survey of refurbished or recertified drives and found that you should expect to see discounts ranging from 33% up to about 50% off. That works out to about 1 dollar for 90–120 gigabytes of storage, depending on the size of the drive you buy, of course.

To get the best bang for your buck, look for drives in the 12-16 terabyte(TB) range. The largest drives available at the time of writing are about 22TB, and they tend to be a worse value proposition than smaller drives because you’re paying a premium for the higher data density.


Professionally refurbished drives can be quite reliable, and will likely last you for years. I have two HGST 4TB drives that have been running continuously in a game server for about 4 years without a hitch and a single 12TB drive in my desktop that has been in use for about a year.

But how do you know a refurbished drive you buy is legit? You have to buy from a reputable dealer.

Where Should You Buy Refurbished Hard Drives?

You can get refurbished or recertified drives from most retailers that sell computer equipment, but my favorite place is ServerPartDeals.

Since they deal in enterprise equipment, they sell both SATA and SAS hard drives. If you’re a home user, you definitely want to buy a SATA drive instead, since SAS drives require special equipment.

They sell manufacturer recertified drives and seller refurbished drives. Manufacturer recertified drives generally come with a two-year limited warranty, while seller refurbished drives come with a 90-day warranty. Seller refurbs tend to be a little cheaper. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy either, but if you want peace of mind, opt for recertified instead.


Their packaging is also superb, which is a huge bonus when you’re talking about equipment that can be easily damaged by drops and bumps.

If you purchase a refurbished drive from Amazon or Ebay, be extremely cautious about which seller you buy from. There are an alarming number of scammers that charge more for an older refurb than it cost when it was new.

How Long Do Refurbished Hard Drives Last?

Refurbished or recertified mechanical hard drives are likely to last for years if you buy them from a reputable source. That means you should probably pass on that suspect random drive you find sitting at a local yard sale.

The failure rate of hard drives tend to follow a “bathtub curve,” so named because the graph is higher at both edges than it is in the middle, resembling a bathtub. In other words, if your hard drive is going to fail, it is likely to fail at the very beginning of its life or after many years of use. Drives that fail early typically do so because of manufacturing defects of some kind. Once those defective drives are gone, most drives will continue to spin along happily until wear and tear from use begin to cause an increase in failure rates.


Of course, there are no real guarantees with these things. A drive can die at any time and without warning. You should always make multiple backups of important data and store those backups in different locations to ensure



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By John P.

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