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Internal vs. External Hard Drives

By Edited Mar 30, 2014 2 2

When purchasing a new drive, you are faced with deciding on an internal vs. an external drive.  You may choose one or the other for various reasons.  Both accomplish the same thing, but have some differences which should be understood before deciding which type to go with.

Look at the Names

It is pretty obvious that an internal drive is called so because it is connected to your machine on the inside.  Due to this, once you install the drive you will not be able to remove it very easily.  On the flip side, having your drive in the case means it has virtually no risk of being misplaced or damaged from typical use.

In contrast, an external drive is one that is connected to your pc externally.  It will be on the outside of the tower.  This means that it is more portable but it also means that it is more easily lost or harmed.


Technical Expertise

With regards to user aptitude, the innate drive requires more technical skills by far.  To use this type of drive one must be able to confidently and safely install it in their machine.  Plus, you have to identify the interface type on the motherboard to see what drive interfaces it supports.  Some people are simply terrified of opening up their computer let alone trying to hook up something inside it.  Quite frankly I don’t blame them.  Computers are costly.  Therefore, you should consider your skills before buying an internal drive.

The extraneous drive is a lot better for those looking for simplicity.  You simply hook it up with the required cable and there’s not much else to it really.  Most connect with a USB cable which is found on pretty much any modern computer.  Even if you’ve got an old machine, it’s likely you have at least one available USB port.

Cost Comparison

After quickly browsing through some popular computer sites I’ve found that there is not a huge cost difference between the two types.  Usually you can get either type with the same storage capacity for about the same price.  I strongly advise you not to base your decision on the type you get just by price.  There just isn’t a large enough difference to justify doing so.

Size Availability

Either drive type provides a multitude of storage amounts.  You can get common drives from roughly 30GB to 3TB.  Even bigger or smaller than those numbers I’m sure.  In the case of storage amount you don’t have to worry much with either one.

My Recommendations

Here are some drives that I'd recommend.  The first is a Western Digital 1 TB desktop drive. 1 TB is a good upgrade size.  It will give the typical user plenty of space on their machine without overkill.  I've had quite a few of the Western Digital brand drives and never had a problem with them.

For an external drive I'd give a thumbs up for Western Digital My Book Home Edition 500 GB external drive.  The nice thing about this one is that it can be connected via a variety of interfaces and has backup functions.  Definitely worth it.



In short, you can get many of the same features and benefits whether you get an internal or external drive.  You just need to decide what works best for you by doing your homework before buying.



Oct 17, 2012 7:59am
A good article that is well thought out.

I disagree slightly that you need technical intelligence to install an internal hard drive; but then I am currently developing a range of guides that are aimed at teaching absolute beginners just how easy it is. That is just my personal view though and quite often I will have vein bursting rant-bates (that's two people debating with lots of raised voices - usually) about computer subjects.

Jan 17, 2014 9:00pm
Good information for people not sure what to do. Personally I have an internal drive. Plus I have two external drives which we back up all our stuff on.

We try to have a double back up. Which has not always been kept up with (our fault) especially with movies that we have taken as they take so long to copy. But at least if you have a hard drive failure you still have all your files and photos etc safe with the backup.
As to installing internal hard drives. My mum and dad used to pull old computers apart and rebuild them for less fortunate kids. They loved doing it. As long as you know how to do it there is not a problem. Always use caution though as you can also cause damage to some components in the process. Good article.
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