Desktop and Laptop HDD: 6 Differences

By Puja Chatterjee on August 16, 2020

The Hard Disk Drives come with moving platters and an actuator arm inside them to read, write and store data and information in them. This means that the purposes of the HDDs, whether it is used for a desktop or a laptop computer, is the same.

Still, there are quite a few significant differences between these two variants that are good to know if you want to make a choice. And, for that matter, this article will prove to be very useful if you are not aware of the differences already.


6 Differences Between Desktop and Laptop HDD

laptop hdd vs desktop hdd

Though they are used for the same purpose. They both have different performance and specifications.

1. Speed

HDD is used to write and read data using the platters. The platters spin very fast in desktop computers. The hard disk runs the speed of 7200 rpm (revolution per minute).

It uses a lot of heat and power consumption. Therefore desktop computers have a better cooling system which helps in cooling the computer.

The laptop hard drive runs a little slower than the desktop hard drive. It runs at 5400 rpm(revolution per minute) which is less than the desktop hard disk drive.

This also decreases the speed of the computer. It happens because the rotation speed decreases. Also, because the spinning is done for a longer period of time.

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2. Size

Previously, the hard disk drive in the desktop computers used to be 5.25 inches. But as technology has advanced now the desktop computers use hard drives which are a little smaller.

Like the 3.5 inches drives. The drive that has  3.5 inches has many internal platters leading to an increase in the storage space. It becomes very bulky and heavy. And cannot be used in portable computers because of its weight and size.

The hard disk in laptops is 2.5 inches. It uses less energy and is not heavy and is lean. Because of the laptop’s size which is very thin. The hard disk drive used in laptops is very lean in size. The hard drives are 1.8 inches.

3. Storage

Desktop HDD has more storage capacity than the laptop HDD. The size which is 3.5 inch in the desktop computer has more platters leading to more storage. For desktop hard disk the storage ranges to more than 3TB or terabytes.

While the laptop HDD is smaller in size like the 2.5 inch drive. With fewer platters, the storage capacity in the HDD also becomes very less. The high end HDD also ranged to 1TB or terabyte.

Even though the advancement of the drives takes place. Due to the laptop’s compact size, the storage capacity of the laptop HDD has fewer chances to outperform the storage capacity of the desktop HDD.

4. Compatibility

The desktop computer has enough space for a smaller HDD like the laptop HDD. One can use a 2.5 inch drive and install them as internal storage. Because many SSDs are manufactured as the same size in the market.

While for the laptop computers the 3.5 inch HDD does not fit internally in the laptop as internal storage. But one can attach or utilize the 3.5 drive as external storage.

For the laptop computer one can use a USB cable which helps in connecting the 3.5 inches (desktop computer HDD) with the laptop computer.

5. Performance

Desktop HDD can be used for many purposes like storing data, movies, videos, applications, games, and many more.

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Many games take a lot of time to load but in the desktop HDD, the loading time is very less. It is because of the several platters. Games that take a lot of space, the loading time can be of 30-50 seconds.

Laptop HDD is also used for many purposes like storing, watching videos, movies, playing games, and many more.

But the load time in the laptop HDD is more than the desktop HDD. It is because of the fewer platters. Which consists of load time ranging from a minute 1 minute to 1.5 minutes.

The loading time is for games that use more storage. The day-to-day usages like browsing the web, checking emails, and many more, the performance of both the drives is the same.

6. Better Alternative

In the last few years, desktop computers have started replacing the hard disk and using SSD or Solid State Drives. The SSD is a new type of disk which stores information on flash memory. It consists of individual memory cells.

The cells store bits which are assembled by the controllers instantly. It is also faster than the Hard Disk Drive. The SSD can be thought to be a larger USB drive. It uses the same based technology as the USB drive.

It also loads faster for games, applications, and other programs. The copying process in the SSD is quick and takes less time. Some high end desktop computers include both SSD and HDD. The SSD is used for its high speed.

The programs of the OS or the Operating System are stored in the SSD. And due to the HDD being a bit slower than SSD. HDD is used to store huge files where speed is not a necessity.

For laptops, it’s either the SSD or HDD drive. Due to the laptop’s compact size. It does not fit two storage drives in the same device. Some high end laptops have hybrid drives also known as SSHD or Solid State Hybrid Drive.

It has a large storage space and, on the other hand, the SSD can be used for better speed.

Which is Better – Desktop or Laptop HDD?

This question is irrelevant, quite naturally, if you already have a laptop or a desktop computer because you will have to choose either a laptop or a desktop Hard Disk Drive, as the case may be.

When it comes to choosing one between the two before buying the system, the list of differences will surely help.

But, if you want some further assistance and make the right choice, these additional facts and information may prove vital.

The HDDs used in a laptop are not upgradable as the desktop variants.

Also, the desktop HDDs tend to consume much less power than a laptop HDD and therefore generate less heat.

This eventually means that these drives are less vulnerable to damages and performance problems due to heat related issues and will also last longer than the laptop HDDs.

And, most importantly, you can use a laptop HDD in a desktop computer by plugging in the SATA data and power cable.

However, whether you should is a different question. Ideally, it is not recommended if you are looking for performance and value especially.

On the other hand, it will not work the other way around because the laptop computers do not support the 3.5-inch form factor of Hard Disk Drives.

So, now that you know it all, it is over to you, your preferences, system and computing needs to decide which between these two HDDs you would invest in.


Both can be interchanged and do not give the user the understanding that both have the same speed and performance.

These two HDDs do the same tasks but one is restricted due to space and the other is very heavy.

Therefore, these HDDs are quite affordable and people who have a tight budget can always buy HDDs.

It is inexpensive and offers a lot of space, unlike SDDs.