We bet you want to add more disk space to your computer and you’re wondering if you should get an internal hard drive or an external hard drive. There’s pros and cons to both. While most experts would tell you external is the way to go, since they’re easier to install, there are downsides to external drives. We wrote this article to tell you the differences between internal and external HDDs and which option is best for you.
First off, the main difference between an internal drive versus and external one is this: internal hard drives are installed within the body (laptop) or tower (desktop) of your computer; external hard drives connect to your computer via USB or fire wire. In tech-free terms: internal hard drives work inside your computer; external hard drives work outside your computer.
The device itself is relatively similar. Both write data to a magnetic disk by spinning it against a magnetized arm. Internal and external drives do the same thing as well, they store your files and retrieve them when needed. Hard drives are essential to using a computer—and you can’t have a computer that doesn’t have at least one internal hard drive.
External hard drives offer a wealth of conveniences. They’re easy to install—simply plug them in, and you’re ready to save files directly to the new external drive. It works almost identically to a USB flash drive. External hard drives are also convenient for transferring files from one device to another. Need to get all your movie files onto your Playstation 4? An external hard drive allows you to accomplish this with ease. Finally, they’re a great back up to the internal drive. You can have all your files stored on a second device in case your laptop ever gets lost or stolen. If you back up your files to a separate machine, you can rest easy knowing that you have two copies of everything.
Internal hard drives have benefits over external ones. Internal HDDs are faster at pulling up and saving files, since their working directly with your motherboard and the files aren’t “traveling” through a cable. If you can install another hard drive on your machine, do it. However, most computers (laptops in particular) can’t install a second hard drive. There’s no space for it. Getting a second internal drive probably means upgrading your first one and using the new one instead. And even if you can get a second one, you need to be comfortable with opening up the shell or tower of your computer. Most people would prefer not to do this. This makes the choice pretty easy.
There are downsides to external hard drives. They’re more expensive than internal ones because the technology they use is newer and somewhat-harder to manufacture. Externals are slower than internals, since they connect over a cable instead of getting installed directly in the machine. Externals break much easier, as you’ll be carrying them around in a bag and they’re not protected by the shell/tower of your computer. And here’s something most people don’t consider until it happens: external hard-drives are way easy to lose. They’re small, you’ll be bringing them around to different places, and they aren’t inside your computer. If you lose your computer, you lose your hard drive; however, an external hard drive is really easy to misplace, especially during a move. All of this isn’t to say you shouldn’t get an external hard drive—we bring up these points simply to show that externals do have downsides compared to internals, even though it doesn’t seem to be the case initially.
It’s important to realize that the decision between internal and external isn’t an either/or scenario. In fact, you can only get an external hard drive in addition to the internal one you’re using right now. Having a variety of storage options insures your files are safe, easy to share, and easy to access. An external hard drive is a great investment—think of it as a really big USB flash drive. Likewise, you might even consider getting a cloud service to store files online. There’s a variety of options when it comes to file storage, and a mix between internal, external, and cloud storage is your best option.
In conclusion, the difference between internal and external hard drives is exactly what the name implies: internal goes inside your computer, while external is outside your computer. Internals are faster and cheaper, but you usually can’t install a second one on your machine. Getting a variety of storage options is the best choice to make sure your files are safe and secure.