All hard drives on laptop and desktop computers run on the same technology: they save data on magnetic-coated platters that spin and record data.
If you have an old laptop, you may decide to repurpose its components and use them in other setups.
You may want to know if you can use your laptop’s HDD on your desktop computer.
Although they have the same technology, are there any limitations that don’t allow you to use a laptop HDD on a desktop PC?
Will A Laptop Hard Drive Work On A Desktop? (Everything To Know)
Yes, you can, but there are many compatibility issues to consider.
To make sure you can use your laptop’s hard drive on your desktop computer, it’s better to know how they compare.
Laptop HDDs VS. Desktop HDDs
While hard drives for laptops and desktop PCs work with the same technology, they’re different in several ways.
A hard drive has several disks that spin and store data on the magnetic platters.
These non-volatile storage components can be external or internal, directly attached to the motherboard.
Here are the main differences between a laptop and a desktop HDD.
1. Storage Capacity
A hard drive’s storage capacity depends on the number of platters spinning on it.
Since a desktop hard drive has more platters, it has more storage capacity, reaching over three terabytes.
However, the highest capacity offered so far is 20 TB.
On the other hand, a laptop drive has fewer platters and lowers storage capacity that may reach up to one terabyte in high-end devices.
One of the main reasons that a laptop’s HDD can’t reach the capacity of a desktop HDD is the size limitations.
Since a laptop has to remain as compact and thin as possible, there’s not much chance for the HDD to grow in capacity.
Since desktop computers have a better cooling system, they can use a much bigger and stronger HDD with platters that spin very fast.
A typical hard disk in a desktop PC runs at 7,200 rotations per minute, while some can run at 10,000 rotations per minute, which creates a great deal of heat.
On the other hand, laptop hard drives spin at 5,400 rotations per minute to reduce the resulting heat, noise, and power consumption, decreasing HDD performance.
This lower speed affects the entire performance of the system, leading to a lowered speed of the computer since the drive needs to spin more to retrieve the data.
Historically, hard drives were 5.25 inches, but with the advances in technology, they grew smaller.
Generally speaking, the hard drives used in desktop PCs are 3.5 inches, while those used in laptops are 2.5 inches.
A desktop HDD is approximately 4” wide, 5.8” long, and 0.8” thick, while a laptop hard drive is typically 2.8” wide, 4” long, and 0.4” thick.
These dimensions make a laptop-grade hard drive around ¼ the size of a desktop HDD, making it much lighter, too.
While a 2.5-inch HDD weighs 0.2 pounds (90 g), its 3.5-inch cousin weighs 0.9 pounds (400 g).
While both laptop HDDs and desktop HDDs do a good job of storing data, the latter has better performance due to its size and larger capacity.
You can rely on them to store data, load games, videos, and other applications in a very short time.
However, since desktop HDDs have more platters and are bigger, they have a faster performance in loading all these applications, especially games that are heavy and have a long loading time.
However, the less memory-intensive tasks such as browsing the web or checking emails aren’t different in the two HDD types.
Are Desktop And Laptop Hard Drives Interchangeable?
Sometimes, you may decide to use a laptop’s HDD for a desktop computer to save power or decrease the heat that desktop HDDs are notorious for.
Alternatively, you may consider using a desktop HDD for your laptop for better performance and speed.
Desktop HDD In A Laptop
As mentioned earlier, one of the main differences between a laptop and desktop HDD is the size.
That’s one of the main constraints that may make them non-interchangeable.
Since a desktop HDD is much larger than its laptop counterpart, there’s no way to fit it into a laptop PC.
However, a laptop HDD can easily fit into a desktop computer because there is plenty of space.
A laptop HDD can go into a desktop PC, size-wise.
Plus, a laptop HDD uses less energy since the device runs on a battery.
Still, you can use it externally using a USB cable to connect it with the laptop computer.
However, there are some other considerations.
The most important one is the type of interface they use for the connection:
A. IDE Connectors
Older devices use IDE (Integrated Device Electronics) cables to connect the hard drive to the motherboard.
They feature three connection points: one for connecting to the motherboard and the other two for connecting two HDDs or other pieces of hardware to the computer.
Depending on the cable used in the connection, IDE connectors can transfer data at a speed of 16 to 133 megabytes per second.
B. SATA Connectors
On the other hand, newer computer models, both laptop and desktop, use another type of interface called SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment).
Unlike IDE drives, SATA doesn’t have the master-slave relationship between the parallel drives.
Instead, each drive connects to the motherboard through its own adapter.
They have a much faster transfer rate and are much cheaper than EDI connectors.
Plus, they have the hot-swap feature that allows you to connect or replace devices without turning off the whole system.
They’re also slimmer, easier to manage, and take much less space, making them a better choice over the IDE type.
Their most important advantage is their fast transfer rates: while IDE cables can transfer data at a maximum rate of 133 MB/s, SATA’s speed is up to 600 MB/s.
Here’s a YouTube video showing the difference between the two connector types:
Using A Laptop HDD On A Desktop PC
If you have an older laptop model, chances are it has an IDE-type connector.
In any case, you need to make sure the laptop and the desktop computer both have the same connector types so you can connect the hard drive to the motherboard.
That said, you can still use some adapters to convert IDE connectors to SATA types.
For example, this converter, available on Amazon, offers a wide variety of connection types that you can use for many different purposes.
That’s because desktop HDDs are larger than laptop HDDs, and they can’t fit in without help.
Another alternative is to use an enclosure to turn the laptop HDD into an external USB drive.
This way, you don’t need to change the inside space of your desktop PC, and you can use the hard drive for different PCs.
For example, this adapter, which you can get on Amazon, allows you to connect your IDE hard drive and attach it to your PC through a USB port.
Most adapters come with a power plug and a USB cable because you need to connect them to a power source before using them.
How To Install Your Hard Drive
Installing a hard drive is pretty straightforward, but you should consider some safety standards to avoid damaging your hardware.
Here are the main points:
1. Unplug All Connected Devices
Turn off your system through the Windows shut-down option before opening the case and touching anything inside it.
Then turn off the power switch at the case’s back.
Now, hold the power button for several seconds to drain any powder residue.
2. Protect From Shock
The next thing you should protect against is the electrostatic shock that the static energy built up in your body can create.
You transfer this energy to the hard drive’s metal case as soon as you touch it.
Although most hardware comes in anti-static bags and built-in anti-shock technology, it’s better to take precautionary measures.
So, ground yourself by wearing an anti-static wristband or touching the metal case of your computer after discharging the motherboard.
3. Connect The Cables
Now, it’s time to connect your hard drive using the two connectors: one of them is a power cable, and the other (usually red) is for data.
You need to have a PCIe slot on your motherboard.
If you don’t, you’ll need a PCIe SATA adapter.
However, different brands of laptops and desktop PCs have different configurations.
It’s better to do a YouTube search and find the best way to disconnect the hard drive from your laptop and connect it to your desktop PC.
4. Configure The Hard Drive
If you’re adding the hard drive for extra storage, your current setup may recognize it.
In this case, if you have a bootable operating system stored on your hard disk, remember to reformat it because it may damage your Windows as soon as you connect it.
If it doesn’t, you need to configure it:
Type “Disk Management” in the Windows search box and find your new drive.
You’ll see the new hard drive, unallocated, on a separate row.
It’s either “Unknown” or “Not Initialized.”
To initialize the hard drive:
Right-click on the drive and choose “Initialize Disk.”
If your HDD is smaller than 2 TB, select “Master Boot Record” and select “GUID Partition Table” if your drive is larger than 2 TB.
When the device gets initialized, right-click the allocated space and choose “New Simple Volume.”
Allocate the “Volume Size” based on your needs.
If you want the entire drive, choose the default allocation.
Otherwise, partition the drive as you wish.
Choose a drive letter in the drop-down menu.
Choose a file system, which is better to be NTFS if you have Windows 10.
Add a “Volume Label,” leaving the “Perform a quick format” option unchecked.
Now, Windows 10 formats the hard drive and allocates a new partition, making it ready to use.
HDD Vs. SSD
If you want to crank up your PC storage, you may be wondering whether to use your old laptop’s HDD or get a new SSD.
How are they different, and which one is better for your purposes?
What’s An SSD?
Like a hard drive, a Solid-State Drive stores data, but it has a different structure.
Rather than having a series of magnetic-coated metal platters, an SSD features interconnected flash-memory chips to store data without needing the power to flow through them.
Since they don’t need spinning disks, SSDs can be as small as a stick of gum or a postage stamp.
In addition, they have the standard 2.5-inch form factor, making them a perfect alternative for the traditional HDD in laptop and desktop computers.
1. SSD Storage Capacitates
Since SSDs are generally more expensive than hard drives per gigabyte of storage, they’re not available for consumers in large capacities.
The highest capacity you can find is 2 GB, which can be costly.
Depending on your storage needs and budget, you could choose 128GB, 256GB, 500GB, or 1TB units.
Speed is the biggest advantage of SSDs.
While a hard drive requires a couple of minutes to get the OS up and running, this time is less than a minute on an SSD-equipped PC.
You can rely on an SSD to boot your PC, transfer files, and launch and run apps much faster.
SSD stores data in integrated circuits, which don’t move, unlike hard drives.
In addition to reduced size and higher flexibility, the non-spinning parts make the SSD more durable.
This way, you can rest assured that possible physical damages are less likely to lead to data losses.
That’s especially helpful for users who are always on the go or are rough on equipment.
4. Noise And Power Consumption
Even if you get the quietest hard drive, you’ll get some noise because of the spinning parts.
As the HDD gets faster, it gets noisier, too.
SSDs don’t have this issue since they’re not mechanical.
They’re also more efficient because their energy doesn’t get wasted on spinning, producing noise and friction.
Therefore, you’ll have less power consumption, leading to longer battery life for your laptop.
The Verdict: SSD Or HDD?
The choice between an HDD and an SSD depends on your needs and budget.
You can find both storage devices with a wide range of capacities. For example, you can find SSDs of up to 2TB and HDDs of up to 20TB.
HDDs are the winner here in terms of cost per capacity, but they won’t stay on top much longer since SSD prices continue to drop.
Plus, SSDs let you get more work done due to their higher reliability, less noise, higher capacity, and faster speeds.
If you’re a graphic designer or photo editor who needs to retrieve your saved data every day, SSDs are a better choice for you due to the higher speeds.
However, if you’re a general user who needs storage for your personal photos or downloaded movies, you can rely on your HDD and even use your laptop’s hard drive for your desktop computer.