What Is a Hard Drive? The Different Types

Hard Drives are disks that hold data written by a magnetic head which saves the data onto the disk. It allows the user to store data in the form of movies, music files, photos, and game files. It is also very crucial for a computer to have a storage system so it can store the operating system of your devices, such as Linux and Windows 10. The right hard drive is different for everyone. For media producers and video editors, it would be wise to buy more storage, while a journalist would not have to rely on too much storage for their files. This article will highlight the differences between internal hard drives and external hard drives, HDD, SDD, and cloud storage to help you find the best storage system to use.

Internal Hard Drives

Internal hard drives will use either a Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) or an Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) interface to allow communication between the hard drive and motherboard. When you purchase an internal hard drive, it is recommended to purchase SATA over an ATA. SATA is considered as the successor of ATA with faster data transfer speed for images, videos, and even video games. It also has a longer cable length to avoid any length issues when building a computer. SATA also has a longer lifespan when compared to an ATA. So if you are given an option between the two for an internal hard drive, SATA would be the best option. 

internal hard drive sitting on a table

External Hard Drives

External hard drives are like internal hard drives where it acts as a data storage system for files. But the key difference is that external hard drives are meant to archive data and backup data from your internal hard drive. External hard drives were built for archiving. They are easy to remove and install with a simple USB. They should also last longer than internal hard drives since they are not running as often as internal hard drives. This results in a longer lifespan when comparing it to internal hard drives. 

With that being said, external hard drives should not be used as internal hard drives. Not only are external hard drives slower than internal when it comes to processing data, but it may also lead to the corruption of data. The corruption of data happens when there is a sudden system shutdown. This can happen very easily if you improperly disconnect the external drive. If this happens, then the only way to possibly recover the data is through data recovery. This can be very tedious and not worth the time in the long run. However, this can often be avoided by disconnecting the drive properly. 

samsung external hard drive in hand


When comparing Solid-State Drive (SSD) to Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA), it is almost like comparing SATA improvement to ATA. Overall, SSDs are a huge improvement when comparing it to SATA technology. When it comes to data transfer speed, SSDs can be a huge improvement. Video games will load faster on loading screens and 4K videos and photos will render much quicker. Not to mention, putting your operating system on an SSD will allow it to boot up faster. HDD’s are hard drives that save data on a platter with a magnetic head that spins to store data. SSD’s on the other hand is a non-volatile integrated circuit assembly to store data. Not only are SSD’s more reliable than HDDs, but they are also more durable and can process data at much faster speeds.

SSDs and hard drive sitting on a desk

Cloud Storage

Technology has advanced to the point where internet download speeds are comparable to transferring data from one hard drive to another. Because of this, companies such as Google and Dropbox are offering cloud storage services. With cloud storage services, companies are essentially making external hard drives a thing of the past. One of the main problems with external hard drives is that there are still risks of a hard drive failure. This again can lead to corruption/loss of all your data stored on the hard drives. With advanced companies such as Google offering a cloud service, there is a far less chance of losing data as it is their job to make sure your data is safe. It is also much more convenient to transfer data. This is because you will not need an additional physical drive present with you.

Final Thoughts

Overall in the last two decades, technology has been rapidly advancing with SSD’s replacing SATA like how SATA replaced ATA. Soon, I believe cloud storage will replace the need for external storage as it becomes more inexpensive to maintain. If you are looking for a hard drive, I would recommend an SSD. However, if you do not have room to install it into your computer cloud storage or an external drive is your next best option.