Which Is Cheaper – Hard Drive Storage Or Optical?

Two 2TB hard drives are currently available on NewEgg for a flat $79.99 with free shipping:


Because the price is truly flat, that translates to $0.04 per GB.

The cheapest way to buy optical media is by 100-pack spindle, and the most rock-bottom price on that is $18.99 (note that the third choice below has free shipping, and shipping must be included in cost):


100 DVD-5’s is 470GB worth of data storage, and the cost-per-gigabyte of storage you buy here is also $0.04 per gigabyte.

If you were to use non-rounded numbers, here’s how it fares out with the prices listed above:

HARD DRIVE: $0.039995 per GB
OPTICAL: $0.0404042553191489 per GB

Yes, this means the hard drive is just a smidge cheaper than optical is.

So? What’s the big deal here?

The big deal is that no one ever thought it possible that hard drive storage would actually be cheaper than optical. Hard drives after all are much more complicated compared to discs, yet there it is – the drive is cheaper than the disc.

The whole point of buying discs to begin with is because it was the cheapest way to store your data. Now that hard drives are actually cheaper at doing the same task, you’re losing money every time you buy discs.

Yes, I know, it is very difficult to grasp the fact you actually lose money buying discs over drives now. At present it’s a very tiny amount, but as drives dive even cheaper, that gap will grow wider and wider.

No, I’m not telling you to stop using discs, but if you store a lot of data and go through a lot of optical media routinely, you now save money by buying a hard drive instead. Granted, a hard drive isn’t as portable or convenient as optical discs are, but you do get more for the money.


  1. It is not always the case that a hard drive is the better deal. If all you need to store for example is 10 Gigs, then the optical disk is less expensive since it does not require spending $80 for a 2TB hard drive or paying for far more drive space than you need. The price per GB is all over the place as seen here right below the price…..http://computers.pricegrabber.com/hard-drives/p/11/st=filter/layout=list/popup20%5B%5D=1:394/popup40%5B%5D=30:392/sortby=rating/popup60%5B%5D=1:109 Four cents per Gig is one of the lowest prices per Gig that can be found.

    The thing is, you are not going to find a low capacity hard drive anywhere near four cents per Gig. This is caused by lack of economies of scale at that small size. See here….http://computers.pricegrabber.com/hard-drives/p/11/st=filter/layout=list/popup20%5B%5D=1:394/popup40%5B%5D=30:392/sortby=rating/popup60

    Of course, ones time is worth something as well and to have to burn 20 disks for example instead of buying a single hard drive to store the same amount of data would be a waste of ones time.

  2. Well, you said it at the end…the whole point of buying disks isn’t that it’s cheaper, it’s that it’s portable and easier to store than a hard drive. But it is interesting that HDD pricing is dropping.

    • More interesting than most people realize. HDD prices are falling faster than the price of discs. While it’s roughly a tenth of a cent advantage with HDD over optical, it will probably be as wide as 10 to 25 cents by the end of 2011.

      What’s even more interesting is that it may be totally possible that a 100-pack spindle of DVD-5’s will drop to 5 bucks by that point as well. This is both good and bad. The good is the price drop, the bad is that when bought online, the shipping will cost more than the media itself just to turn a profit from the store’s end of it. When you see a 5-dollar 100-pack spindle of DVDs with a 7-dollar shipping charge, don’t be surprised. 🙂

  3. You should also factor in the savings on physical space — one 2-terabyte hard drive is a lot smaller than the equivalent stack of 400 DVDs.

  4. Optical media are undependable as hell. One decent scratch on the disc and you’re screwed. I stopped using DVDs and CDs a LONG time ago. Good riddance.

  5. I think the main reason for optical media would be to burn stuff to disc to give away to people whether personal or for work. Would you give a hard drive to a friend, customer or co-worker when you could give them a cd/dvd/bluray or even a sd card ?

  6. I’m not so sure that optical is more portable. A spindle take up more space than a HDD. If you have one of those USD to SATA cables/adaptors, you can easily hook up your internal HDD from the outside very easily.

    Old data you store on DVD/CD you don’t need anymore are basically junk, and you have to throw it away, but not with HDD, just delete the old stuff and have extra space for newer stuff, thus saving alot of cost

Speak Your Mind