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Are “Green” Hard Drives Really All That Green?

Question: How much of a difference do “green” drives actually make in a system build? Do you save enough power for it to be worthwhile, or is it just a marketing gimmick?

When a drive is “green,” the designation usually just means that it runs on the slower side—5400 rotations per minute, as opposed to the more ubiquitous 7200 RPM. But in some cases, this slowdown can translate to drives that are quieter, cooler, and less power-hungry. We’re not talking the same power savings as, say, switching to fluorescent light-bulbs from incandescent ones. But there are a few watts to be saved here, which makes green drives a decent choice for a platform that will see a lot of use, but doesn’t necessarily need to be high-performance. (If you’re really looking for power savings above all else, though, the absolute best option is a solid-state drive.)

The three features that are touted the most often by manufacturers of green drives, as we said, are their relatively quiet and cool operation and their lower power consumption. These specs are measured in decibels, degrees Celsius, and watts, respectively, and can usually be found on fact sheets for various drive models on the manufacturer’s website (here’s a Western Digital sampling) or from third-party benchmarks, if you don’t trust Big Data Storage.

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