External vs Internal Hard Drives | Prices, Capacities, Differences

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You may be considering an upgrade to your current computer, or just looking for space to store your photos. We know it can be hard to choose what to buy. Two of your main options are external hard drives and internal hard drives. It takes a bit of careful thought to decide which is better for what you have in mind.

In this article, we will take a look at each of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as prices. Let’s start with the key difference between internal and external hard drives.

External Hard Drives vs Internal Hard Drives

What are Internal Hard Drives. Well, to answer the question What are Internal Hard Drives, it is a hard drive that takes up space inside your computer. It’s internal because it’s part of your computer and not an external hard drive that you would put into a USB port or connect to using Firewire or other removable connectors. What are Internal Hard Drives are traditionally used with desktop computers but now more than ever they are being installed in laptop computers.

This technology was first created by IBM back in 1956 when the first experimental magnetic core memory devices were built. The idea came from working on something called RAMAC whose main purpose was to record numerical data then play them back later for auditing purposes.

What is the difference?

Internal hard drives reside inside the cover of your computer or laptop. They are basically part of your machine and are wired up straight into the motherboard and the internal power source. It is necessary to have at least one internal hard drive in any computer. This is how the machine stores information, and it will not run without one.

On the other hand, external hard drives are stored outside of your computer and are connected through a data transfer wire. Most use a normal USB connection, and the newer ones get their power through there as well. Older ones can have an extra cable for power.

Once you install your internal hard drive, you basically never have to think about it again until it fails or you want to disassemble your computer. It just sits inside the shell of your PC, and stores the things you put into it. Because of the initial installation, however, if you don’t know much about tech, it can be confusing to set up.Compared to internal hard drives, external hard drives are a lot easier to set up.

All you have to do is plug it in and use it. The vast majority of these use only one wire and don’t even need installation. The only downside of this is that you need to connect every time you want to save to it, whereas the external hard drives stay connected.

Use in Desktop Computers

If you have a desktop PC, then chances are, you have tons of unused space inside the case. For this reason, it might be a better option for you to use an internal hard drive. Whether it is because the disk that came with your computer has finally filled up, or because you want to replace it altogether, internal hard drives are a good choice.

The only thing you compromise with these is the portability that external hard drives will give. If gaming is your objective, then it is worth mentioning that the internal hard drives have a guaranteed, constant connection. This means your hardware will not fail you at the critical moment, and data transfer is much faster.

Using an external hard drive with a desktop PC also makes sense. If you don’t have the know-how or the motivation to install an extra hard drive, then external is the way to go. Portability and zero set up time are major pros for this kind of hard drive. Also, you can have as many as your house can hold!

Use In Laptops

Laptops typically come with their own hard drives already inside. That said, there are many reasons why you would need to swap the existing one out or add another. If you are looking to swap out your old one, you’ll need to get an internal hard drive anyway, but you’ll not have many choices.

Laptops can only be fitted with hardware that is compatible with what is already inside. You will also have concerns with space inside the case, which is at a premium.

For a laptop, the easiest, most convenient way to get extra storage space (or a backup) is to use an external hard drive. It connects to the port at the side of your laptop and is ready to go within seconds after. We used to use hard drives (HDDs) in laptops, but nowadays we use SSDs instead – this is because HDDs can cause a slow laptop or computer.

Since laptops have no space for a second internal hard drive, if the goal is more space rather than a swap of the internal HD, then there really is no option but an external hard drive. An added bonus is that these hard drives are very light. They weigh a few grams, especially the newer they are.


Typically, it is much cheaper to purchase an internal hard drive of for example 1TB than it is to buy an external hard drive of 1 TB. For example, a 1 TB internal hard drive going for around $40, and the same size external for $50. Not a huge difference, but the more space you want, the bigger the difference.

You can buy them from amazon, but be careful to buy from a credible supplier, as old, worn or dropped hard drives are a ticking bomb for your files. It is best to buy brand new hard drives, whether you are getting an external or an internal hard drive.


Internal hard drives are made to have enormous capacity these days. If you are looking for HDD type hard drives, then they go all the way to 10TB. Internal SSD drives go to max 2TB at the moment, but this technology is on a roll, so you might see much bigger within the next year.

External hard drives of HDD type currently go to about 4 terabytes, tops. External SSDs are similar to internal in that their max range that the moment is 2 TB. So, we see a substantial difference between internal and external HDDs, but not so much in SSDs.


External hard drives win the security category. Since you can detach them from your computer and store them in your bag, they are not constantly networked. There is much less chance for your data to get corrupted by a virus. It is safe from most attacks that your internal hard drive can suffer. This makes them a great choice for backup files as well.

With proper virus protection and browsing know-how, though, internal hard drives rarely suffer from security breaches. If, however, it does happen that your data is stolen, it will surely be from your internal hard drive, and not from your external, which is right there in your pocket!


Internal hard drives are necessary for any computer, but you can swap it out for an upgrade. For this, you will need another internal hard drive. If you have space inside the case of your computer, an internal hard drive has more space and is faster after initial set up. For laptops, if you’re not looking to replace your internal hard drive, then external is definitely the way to go!

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