Quietest 500GB 5400rpm notebook hard drive?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Jottle, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. Jottle macrumors 6502

    Oct 17, 2003
    I've done a search for this topic and opinions vary. Has anyone tried multiple 5400rpm HD's in their unibody macbook pro 15''? I have the 320GB 5400rpm Hitachi drive in mine. It is extremely quiet, but I can still hear the high pitched whirring of the platters in a mostly quiet room. I know this is normal, but the Hitachi just sounds too loud for my tastes. This is mostly to do with the thin piece of aluminum between the right palm rest and the inside of the macbook pro. So, who here has switched from the Hitachi to another brand HD (preferably 500GB and 5400rpm) and has noticed a significant reduction in whirring noise in quiet environments? I'm thinking about trying the WD Scorpio Blue and the Samsung Spinpoint in my macbook pro as a test. I'm willing to bet that these drives idle at different decibel levels. The Hitachi drive is very quiet, but the spinning of the platters makes a slightly high pitched noise that's grating for someone with sensitive hearing. I've confirmed this by running my mbp without the hard drive. Please share your experiences with replacing a Hitachi 5400 with another brand 5400rpm drive.
  2. Thunder82 macrumors 6502

    Jul 16, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    I have the 500GB 5400RPM Western Digital drive right now and it is *almost* silent. It is certainly quieter than the Hitachi and Seagate drives I've had in the past. The drive is also very quick.. I am quite happy with it.
  3. neilhart macrumors 6502


    Oct 11, 2007
    SF Bay Area - Fremont
    Samsung is my choice

    Okay I upgraded the original 250 GB hard drive in my Unibody MBP to a Samsung 500 GB 5400 RPM (from NewEgg) back in late October or early November. The drive is quick and I can only hear it if I put me ear on the right palm rest. This drive is now available for $95. I carry around about 300 Gigs of stuff, so this drive makes sense.

  4. entropy1980 macrumors regular


    May 14, 2003
    Canyon Country, CA
    I have the same drive just loaded in mine. Whisper quiet.
  5. rickeames macrumors regular

    Mar 12, 2008
    Hmm. I had that one in mine and it made this horrible CLICKS all of the time when it was parking the heads. Would jolt me in a quiet room. I took it out.
  6. ntvf84 macrumors newbie

    Mar 16, 2009
    I got the same WD 500gb - same noise and Clicking... I want to switch to another one..
  7. Jottle thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 17, 2003
    So here's a follow up on my own question for those of you who are thinking of going with an aftermarket 5400rpm 500GB hard drive for your unibody macbook pro.

    Bottom line: each of the aftermarket drives has tradeoffs that you have to decide are worth it for your particular application. My main concern was not necessarily drive performance; instead, I was interested in getting a bigger 500gb drive that was just as quiet or quieter than the stock drive. I'm extremely sensitive to noise, so this was priority one for me. Given that there are manufacturing differences among all drive makers, my experience isn't necessarily generalizable for all of the makes of drives out there on the shelves. It's quite possible that I just happened to get slightly louder drives, though it's also not likely.

    Note: As you've all noticed, the unibody macbook pro hard drive sits right beneath a very thin piece of aluminum on the right handrest. If you put your hand on top of this area in a completely silent room, you'll note that the whirring sound of the hard drive is dampened considerably. Because aluminum resonates more than plastic and the fact that our computers are very thin, hard disk noise is more apparent once ambient noise around you is gone. This is also the case for faster 7200rpm drives that may cause more vibration in the unibody. So my comparisons are for environments that are very quiet where hard drive noise is obvious. Anyways, I'll compare the replacement drives I tried below. The following is a key for my observations:

    IDLE NOISE: Sound that the drive makes when not under any load and spinning at idle. This sound is the constant whirring (like an ocean) that the drive platters make.

    HEAD PARKING: This is the somewhat aggravating ticking sound that drives make (usually more often under OSX) when the heads are parking to save energy. This sound is like a random (usually 5-10 second) apart ping pong ball type, single "tick" sound. It only presents itself when the drive sits at idle. Some drives are louder than others with respect to this sound. Stock apple drives are just awful when it comes to this. An OSX application called HDAPM (http://mckinlay.net.nz/hdapm/) can eliminate this sound entirely but with the downside of possibly decreasing battery life. Use at your own risk.

    LOAD NOISE: This is the sound the drive makes when something is written to it or it is being accessed by the OS. This sound is usually a muted clicking noise that tends to be almost inaudible unless the task is heavy on disk access. You should be familiar with it.

    SPEED: I wasn't interested in this, but I ran some tests using SpeedTools utilities. This is the same suite of test programs used by barefeats.com.
    Comparison below:

    1. Stock Hitachi 320GB 5400rpm Hard Drive:
    IDLE NOISE: This drive, believe it or not, is still the quietest of the bunch.
    In a completely silent environment, idle noise is whisper quiet. You can hear it from about 2 feet away. It's not entirely unpleasant. The whirring is constant with an almost imperceptible high pitch whine. I have pretty good hearing, and this drive's idle whirring noise is only audible when the room is completely silent (rare). It barely makes more noise than the virtually silent fans at 2000rpm.

    HEAD PARKING: This is where stock apple drives just suck. The Hitachi drive makes a pretty loud "tick" sound when it parks its heads at idle. This sound bothered the hell out of me until I found the hdapm application. Some people are more bothered by this sound than others, but the Hitachi made this noise more frequently and more audibly than the other two drives in my comparison.

    LOAD NOISE: This drive is also pretty quiet under load. You can hear some slight clicking when it's working, but it's nothing that would distract you.

    SPEED: Quickbench clocks this drive at 51mbps average read/write. Pretty sucky :)

    2. Seagate Momentus 500GB, 5400rpm Hard Drive:
    IDLE NOISE: This drive is perceptibly louder than the Hitachi. You can hear the drive from about 3 feet away in a silent room. The whirring isn't too high pitched, so it blends into the environment as white noise very quickly. I did perceive a slight whine, but I acclimated to it quickly. If I had to choose a 500GB drive, I'd probably choose this one based on idle noise and speed benefits alone. Again, this 500GB drive is louder than stock though. So don't go thinking you'll get a quieter drive.

    HEAD PARKING: Worlds better than the stock Hitachi drive. I actually could not hear any head parking "tick" sound using this drive. Seagate has done a great job making this drive virtually silent in this respect.

    LOAD NOISE: None that I could hear. Quieter than stock.

    SPEED: Clocks in at 76mbps average read/write. Nice.

    3. Western Digital Scorpio Blue 500GB, 5400rpm Hard Drive:
    IDLE NOISE: I wanted this drive to knock my socks off acoustically, but it just didn't. I didn't hear any whine from this drive's platters, but the idle whir was noticeably louder than the Seagate, and it tended to oscillate its volume randomly. This actually drew attention to the drive and made it hard to tune out. It sounds similar to ocean waves coming and going. The drive gets louder and softer over and over again. No good at all.

    HEAD PARKING: Like the stock Hitachi, this drive had a very perceptible head parking noise. It did not present itself as often as the Hitachi's (thank God), but it was particularly noticeable when it happened regardless of ambient noise. I would probably use HDAPM on this drive as well.

    LOAD NOISE: A little louder than the Seagate. I'd say on par with the barely perceptible noise the Hitachi makes when under load. It's fine according to my standards.

    SPEED: Quickbench clocks the drive at 74mbps read/write. Still faster than the sucky stock drive.

    There you have it. If you want a faster drive with more space, I'd go with the Seagate (assuming you don't want an even faster 7200rpm drive). Ultimately, I wanted to compare the 500gb drives to my stock 320gb. I don't need the space now, and I ended up sticking with the stock Hitachi drive because it's so very silent. Your requirements and hearing will likely be different. But if you prize as quiet a laptop as possible, you probably will sacrifice a little silence for a faster/larger aftermarket notebook drive. Again, manufacturing tolerances will vary for the macbook pros and aftermarket hard drives. So take my observations as one person's opinion among many possible. It is likely, however, that your computer may sound the same with these drives in it. And lastly, everyone has different hearing levels/sensitivities. So you might not notice or care about half the points I mentioned above. I hope this helps some of you who are thinking of going to 500GB but don't necessarily NEED the space right now :)
  8. pdxflint macrumors 68020


    Aug 25, 2006
    Oregon coast
    I guess it is all about how good our hearing is, how sensitive we are to various sound frequencies and maybe some product sample variations. My experience with the WD 500 Scorpio Blue 5400rpm is more like Thunder82's, I find it almost silent in a normal environment. I have it in an external enclosure at the moment (aluminum) and when I put my ear down toward the drive, I can become aware of it, but it doesn't really project itself to me in a way that bothers me. I have booted up with it, and left it as the main boot drive for a day at a time, just to test it. I've only been aware of the characteristic head-parking "click" when shutting down, or unmounting the disk. Normal idling hasn't shown the regular every 15 sec. "click" that others have experienced, so I don't have anything to say about that. My overall impressions are that it feels smooth, not whiny or mechanical thrashy like some older drives.

    Tomshardware.com gave it a review (check out the comparison charts on performance and energy consumption,) but it didn't compare to the Seagate 500gig - don't know why. But generally it seems like the WD 500gig 5400 drive performs better than most 5400 drives and consumes less energy doing it. I'd be interested in seeing this article updated with the Seagate 500gig Momentus 5400 included.
  9. xoggyux macrumors 6502

    Dec 4, 2008
    If you think the hitachi HDD is quiet (somehow you managed to later contradict yourself :p but anyway) then you must be deaf.
    I do not know what particular HDD is quieter than the stock hitachi (i can predict it should be the WD since the technologies they announce they have, though maybe all other brands have the same things with different names) I do can tell you the Hitachi HDD is VERY VERY noisy so much ago that I had to turn the computer completely off to be able to sleep with it in the room, no long ago I switched to SSD and put the Hitachi HDD into an external enclosure, not surprisingly the hitachi hdd was louder (actually I am being nice with it, its like 4,000 times more loud, though in the plus side is a bit faster) than a seagate go external hdd (also 5400, I do not know what model is inside just know the speed.)
    If quietness is your main concern then you probably should look at SSD, they are the quietest thing you can get (in fact they are as silent as a brick of aluminum can be) and the only thing you will eve hear are the fans and they will usually be at the minimum doing average work (2000rpm, almost inaudible)
  10. Jottle thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 17, 2003
    Where did I contradict myself? All my remarks are relative. Check my first post. I could still hear the hard drive in a silent room. Only SSD's are completely quiet. I definitely want to go this route when they actually become reasonably priced. But anyways, thanks to the beauty of the internet people can post whatever they want. My opinion is that the Hitachi is extremely quiet compared to the other two drives. My first post was before I heard the new drives, so you can imagine that I've settled with the sounds of the Hitachi. Your opinion differs. Again, if you read my post I noted that manufacturing tolerances vary. But given that I'm very sensitive to noise, I would note if the Hitachi were any louder than the other two drives. There is also the chance that you got a louder Hitachi than I did. Anyways, thanks for calling me deaf and making the forum a wonderful place.
  11. Jottle thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 17, 2003
    Just to take a similar one sentence quote out of context like you did for me. No. You really don't know which drives are quieter because you didn't actually compare it to other similar drives.
  12. xoggyux macrumors 6502

    Dec 4, 2008
    Right here:
    Can you read?:
    Why do you repeat why I just said???
  13. Jottle thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 17, 2003
    Again, relative means in relation to. I "thought" (past tense) having not compared it to any other drives at the time, that the Hitachi was too loud regardless of it being extremely quiet. However, now that I've compared it relative to other drives, it is the best I've found so far outside of SSD's. Saying that you don't know which drive is quieter and "predicting" it is the WD isn't really useful as I actually have heard the WD and offered up my opinion. There's no point in predicting which drive sounds quieter. How is that helpful? I'm not going to respond to you in this thread anymore as you're not adding to the info in this thread.

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