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A surveillance hard drive is a great way to store surveillance footage, but what if you need a new hard drive for your desktop?

You can use a surveillance hard drive in a desktop setup. However, surveillance hard drives and normal PC hard drives have different construction and as such offer contrasting functionality. So, it is best to use a surveillance hard drive in security systems and not in an everyday computer.


What is Special About Surveillance Hard Drives?

Surveillance hard drives are storage drives that store a vast amount of data inside a surveillance system. Be it for home security systems or commercial level security, you will find this sort of hard drive at the center of it all.

To understand why surveillance hard drives are engineered differently, you need to understand the purpose they serve.

Surveillance hard drives are specifically built to fit in high-tech security systems, where you will find multiple security cameras or CCTVs. These cameras record gigabits or terabits of high definition (HD) footage and send it to a storage unit.

Now, this recording process has to be perpetual, or else the integrity of the security system is put at risk. Because a failure to capture footage for even just a few seconds or minutes can have massive implications. You can lose pivotal information about a crime in just those few short moments.

And this is the demand that a proper surveillance hard drive has to suffice. It has to store the constant stream of data 24/7, without dropping any frames. And it has to be reliable enough to offer this service day after day.

Hence, manufacturers have to follow a different protocol and consider the specific demands of a security system, both of which are different from a personal computer. This results in two similar yet divergent pieces of hardware.

Surveillance Vs Desktop HDD

To the untrained eye, a surveillance HDD and a desktop HDD will look interchangeable. Not least because both of these hard drives share a similar appearance as well as name. But if you were to take a closer look, you will see some careful considerations have gone into the production process to make these drives function differently.

The first and most obvious point of difference is the amount of work each drive is subjected to. A typical desktop hard drive has to work for 8 to 9 hours. Even if it runs for longer, there is usually a period of respite where you turn the PC off. After all, working on your computer continuously is not a healthy lifestyle.

But a surveillance hard drive has to work tirelessly throughout the day and then repeat this process for the next day and so on. It cannot take a breather for even a second unless you turn off the entire security system for maintenance. That is the workload any surveillance hard drive has to withstand as a minimum.

The other aspect that separates the two is the specific function they perform. You see, the tasks that the hard drive in your computer performs can be divided into three major categories – reading, writing, and transmission.

Writing is where the hard drive takes the data from a system and stores it in the form of binary codes (zeros and ones). Reading is when the hard drives analyze the stored data and then use it to perform various tasks. Finally, the hard drive can exchange data between different parts of the system as well as other storage drives.

A desktop or a laptop hard drive can perform all three of these tasks and they often do so simultaneously. In contrast, about 90 percent of the time, a surveillance hard drive is engaged in writing data i.e., storing the data in binary.

The remaining 10 percent is for reading and data transferring, which is when you view the footage from last night or make a copy of the stored information. These tasks are no doubt important but you will need to do this once or twice a day. Unless there is a particular situation arising, you will not find the need to view the back catalog of data.

This need to continuously record data means that a surveillance hard drive has to function at a much higher rate than regular PC hard drives. And the results back this up. On average, a standard surveillance hard drive will outspeed a desktop HDD in most scenarios, be it reading or writing. Of course, there are several factors that can alter this difference.

Additionally, a surveillance HDD consumes less power than a similar-level desktop HDD. This is also beneficial for a security system, as it means that you can work even when the power gets too low. This can be particularly useful during nighttime surveillance.

Can Surveillance Hard Drive be Used in Desktop?

Despite the differences we just mentioned, a surveillance hard drive is still a hard drive. Even though it is proficient in storing data and that is the role it serves for the majority, it is still capable of performing like a regular hard drive. You can still read the data on a surveillance hard drive as well as make duplicates of it or send it to another system.

So, a surveillance hard drive will be able to store, read and transfer data inside a desktop computer. You can even connect multiple in a RAID configuration, which is a pre-tuned feature of a surveillance HDD.

However, similar to most tools in this world, there is a particular setup where a surveillance hard drive excels at.

Every year, people invest a substantial amount of money in setting up a security system for homes, warehouses, hospitals, shopping malls, dinners, etc. In return, these monitoring systems are a vital part of preventing crimes and potentially saving the owners thousands of dollars.

So, a dedicated surveillance system should also have a dedicated hard drive that perfectly matches that system. And a surveillance hard drive will do that for you.

If you put a surveillance HDD inside a regular desktop, you are not really getting the most out of the device. Similarly, putting a desktop hard drive inside a surveillance setup is wasting the full potential of that hard drive, no matter its quality level.

Most PC owners do not need to keep their computers on for the entire day. So, a standard desktop HDD will suffice their needs perfectly.

Final Verdict

You should use a desktop hard drive for your computers and a surveillance hard drive for your security system. It is generally best not to swap their role as manufacturers do put in effort in making them different for a reason.

Best Surveillance Hard Drives on the Market

Now, let’s look at some of the best options available for a surveillance hard drive. Factoring in performance, reliability, and cost, these are the hard drives we feel will perfectly suit your security purposes:

Seagate Skyhawk Surveillance

For surveillance and desktop hard drives, Seagate is an ever-reliable name. The Skyhawk HDD is specifically geared towards surveillance use as it can connect up to 64 HD cameras simultaneously. It can offer up to 180 TB per year with over eight thousand power-on hours.

WD Purple Surveillance Drive

Another popular brand in the surveillance hard drive industry, the WD purple drive is a top-notch option for anyone looking to set up their security system. Western Digital has optimized these drives to record several IP cameras 24/7, even in rough conditions without losing footage or consuming too much power.



Dedicated surveillance hard drives are essential in establishing an air-tight security system. Hopefully, with the insight we provided in this article, you can optimize your security and PC by employing the right tool for the right job.