A User-Friendly Guide To The Different Types Of Hard Drives

Types Of Hard Drives

Published on March 16th, 2021

Hard drives and storage devices haven’t been left out of the technology revolution. Whereas you use to get a hard drive that sounded like a jet engine ready for take-off, you can now find absolutely silent storage devices that produce the most minimal heat possible. They’re also thousands of times faster than they were in the early 2000s.

But between normal hard drives, enterprise drives, solid-state drives, what do the different types of hard drives mean, and how is each utilized?

Here is your complete guide to understanding the different types of hard drives.

1. Hard Drives

Whereas you might only think about hard drives as the storage device in your computer and nothing more, these devices have evolved to encompass data centers, surveillance centers, and have even started to merge with SSDs to create a hybrid drive.

2. Compute Hard Drives

Computer hard drives are for personal usage. These are the drives that you’ll find on your personal desktop or laptop and will hold most of your bulk when it comes to pictures, documents, and games. These are slowly being fazed out though because of their nature to not perform as well as SSDs.

3. 2.5-Inch Drives

The 2.5-inch hard drive is a small form factor hard drive that you will find in either tiny cases or more commonly, laptops. You can get up to a 2 TB hard drive in this option, but there is not enough space to accommodate any more storage, making them limited.

4. 3.5-Inch Drives

3.5-Inch drives are much more common and are what you would find in normal desktops. The 3-5 in hard drive will consist of all the different types of hard drives, rather than being limited to the computing type.

These hard drives have come a long way in the last 20 years that computer has been mainstream. Whereas in the mid-2000s, a top-of-the-line hard drive would cost thousands of dollars for only 750GB, today, that is your entry-level hard drive. Most products out there now start at around 1 TB for around $50 and can have up to 14 TB for a compute drive.

These drives do top out at around 190 MB/s read speeds. This makes them the slowest of all the drive types available.

5. NAS Drives

NAS drives, network-attached storage drives, are used as a mass storage server for individuals or companies that want a central location to hold their files.

These hard drives are meant to be constantly spinning and being utilized, which makes them sturdier. They also handle vibrations better than their compute counterparts.

For these drives, you can find them up to 18 TB and will be much more expensive. Companies will often buy these devices in bulk and utilize them for the foreseeable future.

Do note that these drives are not meant to be fast and should be used for bulk storage, rather than lightening fast network speeds.


Solid-state hard drives are a hybrid drive introduced by Seagate to include a portion of SSD technology into the widely used hard drive space.

They take a portion of the allotted storage space and put a node that is used for SSD applications, and the rest is all HHDs.

These are promoted as a way to get games and programs to load faster thanks to the SSD portion, while still maintaining the bulk storage that an HHD offers.

These hard drives perform well on regular usage of the programs and games, rather than loading into one the first time.

The hard drive caches the game into the SSD after the initial load and will have faster load times than what normal HHDs will be able to handle. These drives are being fazed out though because SSD technology has become cheaper over the years.

7. Surveillance Hard Drives

Surveillance drives offer a unique perspective to the storage game. These drives focus on surveillance centers that need to monitor video footage 24/7.

They focus on being able to process video data and keep it high quality, while also focusing on upkeeping the lifespan of the hard drive itself.

These differ slightly from NAS drives, as they focus on media data, rather than any type of data. These drives have started to implement AI into them to help process and upscale media that otherwise would have been unrecognizable.

8. External Hard Drives

External differ from internal hard drives by giving you the option to be portable and hook up to multiple computers. These are hard drives that exist outside of the computer and plug in through a USB port.

External hard drives are not the same as flash drives, as flash drives simply flash data and can’t handle large amounts of reading and writing, whereas external drives can.

External drives are also adapting to include solid-state drives. These pieces don’t have any moving parts, making them much sturdier and less prone to random mechanical failures.

External drives are more prone to fail because they are constantly being moved around, which is why SSDs have gained popularity as an option for them.

9. SATA Solid-State Drives

SATA solid-state drives are hard drives that have no moving parts but still plug into the SATA ports in a computer.

These drives are more expensive than mechanical hard drives but offer protection when it comes to portability. Because the drives are 2.5-inches, these are the laptop hard drives that you can expect to find.

They offer faster speeds as well, going up to over 550 MB/s read speeds. This almost triples the speeds of a normal HHD.

They have recently dropped in price as they become more mass-produced and the technology evolves to be cheaper and faster.

SSDs do come with a negative though. They have to deal with a limited lifespan. While these lifespans are quite large, they can only read and write so much data before becoming corrupted.

This limit rarely gets reached unless you’re utilizing extremely heavy data like 8K footage.

10. NVME M.2 Solid State Drives

NVME M.2 SSDs are the way of the future. Rather than plugging in through a SATA port on the motherboard, these SSDs plug directly into the motherboard through an M.2 slot or through a PCIe slot.

These allow for the fastest storage options around, being able to now get upwards of 5000 MB/s of read speeds and around 4400 MB/s write speeds.

These high read speeds do come with one problem. They produce extreme amounts of heat and typically need a heatsink of sorts to function properly.

But the small amount of space that the piece of hardware takes up and the lack of moving parts allows laptops and motherboards to provide more cooling, allowing everything to even out.

11. Gen3

Gen3 SSDs have become the standard for high-end devices. They offer read speeds up to 3400 MB/s and will have your computer or laptop up and running within a matter of seconds.

There are no wires with these options, rather you utilize the slots that are built into motherboards and all you need is a single tiny screw.

Thanks to these high speeds, major computer manufactures as Lenovo has completely switched to them for all of their major laptops. Head over to to see their wide selection of laptops and desktops.

12. Gen4

Gen4 M.2 SSDs are the newest generation of NVME SSDs and are completely wiping the floor with any previous generation.

It has now got to the point in loading times that you would not be able to tell the difference between a Gen3 and Gen4 SSD.

Where you will find the difference is in rendering speeds. Those that are working with high amounts of data like 8K footage and want to edit in the highest quality available will want to utilize Gen4 SSDs. With lower read and write speeds, you’ll need to scale down the footage to properly edit.

These high speeds are perfect for those looking for a server that people can edit and work off of. Most data centers and companies have opted for these drives because they offer fewer failure rates.

Though NAS drives are still the go-to option for storage, as you can get so much more storage space for a much cheaper price.

While these drives are the fastest, they are also the most expensive. For each tier you go up, you end up paying around $50 more than the previous tier for the same amount of storage.

A 1 TB hard drive will cost around $50, the SATA SSD and Gen3 NVME will cost around $100 – $120, and a Gen4 will cost around $150.

The Different Types of Hard Drives Each Have Their Own Purpose

When deciding between the different types of hard drives, keep in mind that each has its own usage. An SSD offers the best load times, making it great for operating systems and applications.

HHDs offer bulk storage which makes it great for storing photos, games, and documents.

If you want to learn more about how tech has evolved and will continue to evolve, then check out the rest of the blog. Know someone confused about hard drives? Be sure to send this article to them to help them out.