I'm adding a 7200rpm 3TB data drive to my desktop. I have a long list of drives with 64MB cache and SATA-3 connectors, but what I really want to know is which will be quiet – in particular the read/write crane movement. I've had everything from drives that sound from the other side of the room like marbles rattling around in a cement mixer to drives so quiet that I have to press my head against the case to hear that the heads are moving. Since there are a large number of makes and models of drives that satisfy my performance specs, how can I select ones that are likely to have quiet R/W performance?
It's a bit tough finding exact decibel ratings on different hard drives, in general the dbA is not listed under the hard drive's specifications. But I did find one site where sound measurements were taken. The only issue is, it may be a little outdated (October 2014 was it's last update). But, if we assume that the manufacturers and model types are similar in sound to the ones on this page, it seems that Seagate Barracuda's make the least noise. There are also some other options if we go by the chart I linked to above, so if the Barracuda isn't a good fit, you could go by some of the other ones listed.
That being said, I also did find some HDD "silencers" which would effectively allow you to use any HDD you'd like, although it would take a little bit more fuss. I found a very nice looking one here. There are also other dampeners from the same site here.
On further research I found several claims that 3.5" 7200rpm drives are a lot harder to keep quiet than sub-6000rpm drives, and that there is no longer a significant performance benefit from the higher platter speed (I suppose because data density is so high that the linear speed under the head is no longer a limiting factor?).
So I expanded my search to 5900rpm drives and found an $80 Toshiba DT01ABA300V that includes "low acoustics" under its design features.
I put it in my chassis and have been running it for a few days and haven't heard a thing. So for quiet this does the trick! (How is its R/W performance? Well I use a SSD for O/S and programs, so I don't know if I would notice even if it were markedly deficient....)