Is laptop hard drive same as desktop?

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The hard drive houses the hard disk, and it’s responsible for storing all your information within the computer. It holds the data within the stacks of the disk within the solid encasement. This is for both laptops and computers.
So is there any difference?
Yes. Laptop hard drives and desktop hard drives differ in many aspects.
First, size. The hard drive of laptops usually is 2.5 inches wide (2.5″ drives). But you may find them as 1.8-inch wide. By contrast, desktop drives are 3.5-inch wide.
A laptop is comparatively smaller than a desktop. It was built for portability that explains the compactness of its hard drive.
In line with the size, a laptop you can use a laptop HDD on a desktop (with adapters), but you can’t use a desktop hard drive on a laptop. It’s obvious; a desktop HDD needs a large space, which laptops cannot offer. However, SSD is similar in both cases.
Second, a desktop HDD will serve you longer than a laptop HDD. So that means you’ll frequently replace your laptop’s hard drive.
Third, laptop hard drive is much slower than that of a desktop. Basically, desktop drives are more powerful thanks to higher cycle rates resulting in an increased speed.

Is laptop hard drive same as desktop
As laptop hard drive same as desktop

How can you differentiate between a laptop hard drive and a desktop hard drive?

There are various ways you can differentiate between a desktop and a laptop hard drive. Here are the ways:


Desktop hard drives are 3.5-inch wide, whereas laptop drives are 2.5-inch wide. An increase in the capacity of a drive increases its thickness – to accommodate more platters. For instance, a 1 TB laptop hard drive is 9.5mm thick, while a 4TB hard drive is 12.5mm thick. 

Ideally, laptop HDD is a small form factor, i.e., more data density to achieve density technologies such as Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR).

Revolutions per minute (RPM)

Mechanical hard drives have moving parts, which spin the platters to perform random read/write operations. 

Laptop hard drives come at 5400rpm and 7200rpm. However, some old laptop drives have 4200rpm. On the other hand, desktop hard drive supports 4800rpm, 5200rpm, 5900rpm, 7000rpm, 10000rpm, and a whopping 15000 rpm on top of 5400rpm and 7200rpm. That makes them all-rounders. 


Currently, both support up to 8GB; however, initially, laptops had a caching capacity of 8MB while desktop had 148MB.


These devices offer varying types of connectivity for data exchange between the drive and other components. 

For instance, SAS and SATA-Express are available in Desktops mechanical drives only while ZIF and ATA-6 are exclusive for laptops.


A desktop hard drive can hold a massive 2,000 GB of data, and they incredibly easy to install. Best of all, they can read data at more than 131 MB/sec, and they are very affordable. 

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Connect Laptop Hard Drive to Desktop without Adapter

The physical components of desktop and laptop hard disk drive vary in size and other factors. The hard disk drive falls into three categories for laptops- SATA, IDE, and solid-state drives (SSD & SSHD). 

The major problem lies with the desktop motherboards – Desktop motherboards do not offer an option to connect the hard drive to them. A motherboard needs to have at least IDE and SATA to connect laptop hard drives. 

But the good news?

You no longer need those converters or cables since most PCs have two SATA power cable and SATA Data cables. 

If your laptop’s DVD drive is connected with SATA ports, simply open the cables form within it and connect it to your laptop’s hard disk.

The desktop has a drive cage, which won’t hold the 2.5-inch laptop hard disk drive; that means using adapters or USB. 

Otherwise, you’ll need to use adapters like IDE Hard disc drive Adapter. To find an adapter that also connects to the power supply. Most importantly, ensure that the adapter should have the right specifications.  

After installation, change the first boot device priority or the jumpers on the hard drive to mount the drive as a non-bootable storage device.

Laptop HDD Adapter for Desktop

Laptop drives have four interfaces, and SATA is the most popular. In most cases, only two types of adapters are commonly used. They are:



There are lots of USB to IDE or SATA laptop hard disk drive adapters. But what you need depends on your hard drive’s interface. 

Now, if you want to connect a laptop hard disk drive to a desktop, you have eight options:

  • SATA to IDE
  • IDE to IDE
  • SATA to USB
  • IDE to USB
  • SATA to SATA
  • SSD to IDE
  • IDE to SATA
  • SSD to SATA

Note that all connectors that support IDE hard drive must be of a minimum IDE 2.5. But if the motherboard supports IDE, then it should be compatible with IDE 3.5. Otherwise, the process will be faulty once you connect. 

There are various reasons to connect a laptop disk drive to a desktop. If it is for data recovery, use a powerful tool such as Remo Recover for data restoration. Some third-party applications are incompatible with connected drives. Each type of hard drive has specific software.

Laptop HDD vs. Desktop HDD Power Consumption

Power consumption is one significant difference between the laptop hard drive and desktop hard drive. A 2.5″ (laptop) mechanical drive consumes much less power because it has smaller and lighter discs within it. 

In essence, its motor doesn’t need much torque/oomph to spin the discs. That is why a 2.5″ mechanical drive consumes less than ~ 4-5 watts.

SSD consumes much less power when reading data. The power consumption can be as low as 1-2 watts. However, writing data to flash memory can raise power consumption up to 5-10 watts. This is still manageable. 

Remember, laptops draw their power from Li-Ion battery. This battery max at 65W. For the sake of good battery life, laptop hard discs consume minimal wattage. On average, a high quality 7200rpm laptop hard drive runs at 7.5W while a desktop of similar RPM uses about 25W. 

Desktops operate power supplies, which range from 150 to 1000 watts. This is an extremely high power consumption than laptops.

Consider their large disks – they need much power to propel them. 

How to Install Laptop Hard Drive into Desktop

Laptop and desktop hard drives are almost similar except for size and a few other things. A desktop hard disk drive occupies 3.5 inches while that of a laptop occupies 2.5 inches. The difference is to save space and to make a laptop much lighter and portable. 

Since the laptop HDD is small, you cannot correctly fix and lock it within a desktop system. However, with a special mounting bracket for 2.5-inch drives, it becomes more feasible. So purchase and install the bracket first in the bracket bay, and after that, install the 2.5-inch drive into the frame.

Other methods include: 

  • Using a removable case: this case features SATA and power connectors. So, place your hard drive into the case. And then use a USB cable to connect the hard drive to the computer. A casing is essential in two ways: making it easier to connect the HDD to the desktop and protect it from damage if it falls.
  • Using adapter: there are lots of adapters to connect a 2.5-inch hard drive to a USB connector. The adapters normally come with SATA and power connectors.
  • Using docking station: this option allows connecting multiple 2.5 or 3.5-inch drives simultaneously. But it’s a costly method.

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Desktop Hard Drive

Your desktop hard drive is hardware responsible for the storage of all kinds of digital data. This includes programs, documents, music, pictures, application preferences, videos, and operating systems.

As earlier stated, a desktop hard drive is 3.5 inches. That value stands for the width/diameter of the HDD platters. Since these hard disk drives are larger, they come with high power consumption, incredible spin speeds, a range of storage capacities, and a larger cache size than the laptop hard drives.

It’s true; a hard drive is an indispensable hardware on any computer. Without the HDD, your computer won’t run. While most desktops computers use external hard drives, it is also possible to use an extern hard drive. 

HDD stores data in the form of files, measured in file size, typically in megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB) as well as terabytes (TB). The document usually has a small file size, but videos and music are very while pictures are moderately large.  

One critical aspect of desktop hard drives is speed. Yes, they have higher speeds than laptop HDD. But for a desktop, you need a hard drive that spins even faster. That will help you locate files faster while searching for them on your computer.  

You can notice a big difference between different RPM when running larger applications and files. In this case, a 7,200 RPM hard drive trounces a 5,400 RPM hard drive hands down. However, or smaller files, the difference is negligible.  

Connect Old Laptop Hard Drive To New Laptop

Your old laptop hard drive still can be useful. You can simply turn it into an external hard drive, where you can use it as secondary storage. If not as a backup drive, plug it in your router to act as network-attached storage (NAS).

Since it will be portable, you can carry it easily in your carry bag to any destination. However, if you can’t use it in any of the two ways above, keep it in an accessible place. It may become hand one day. 

How do you connect your old laptop hard drive to your new laptop?

You need an enclosure. This is a casing that serves two purposes – protecting the drive in case it falls and bridging the gap between USB and the SATA interface (the one inside your new laptop).

Best news: the enclosures are highly affordable, and their installation is pretty straightforward.  

But first, determine the type of drive you need. Begin by looking at the particulars. Obviously, it is a 2.5-inch drive and might be a SATA drive. So buy a 2.5-inch SATA drive external enclosure. For the external aspects, look for USB 3.0 or 3.1.

How to Connect Laptop Hard Disk to another Laptop

A Hard Disk is a disk within the drive. 

It is almost certain that your laptop drive is a SATA drive, and there are various ways to create a connection. Follow the steps below to have your connection pretty easily: 

First, identify the type of hard disk – SATA or IDE. Proper identification helps you identify and purchase the right enclosure with a USB connection.  

You can purchase enclosures online, and they are really affordable. Once you purchase, stuff your hard drive within the enclosure and just plug it into your laptops USB port. That’s it.

If you simply want to transfer files, you can do it while the hard disk is still in the other laptops for Windows 7 or Mac OSX.

How? Use an ordinary Ethernet cable to connect the two laptops, and then share the data you want to share. However, you’ll need to ensure that you set permission so that everyone can see and edit. After the transfer, remove the permission, i.e., everyone, on that folder. 

Alternatively, pull out the hard drive from your laptop, and hook it up to a USB 2.0-SATA adapter cable such as, or any other compatible adapter. After that, plug it into the other laptop – it should mount automatically. 

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How to Connect Hard Disk to PC

The installation of any hard drives follows a somewhat similar procedure. However, the exact steps depend on the precise type of hard drive – PATA, SATA, SSD, or SCSI. 

SATA is the most common in modern computers and offers speeds of up to 600Mbps. However, the latest computers come with SSD hard drives or at least motherboards supporting SSD. They are much smaller and significantly faster than SATA.  

The general installation procedure is:

  • For PATA, configure the drive as either master or slave.
  • Shut down and unplug your computer from the power source.
  • Remove the computer panel and remove the old hard drive.
  • Mount your new drive into the chassis 
  • Connect all data cables to your drive and the interface – PATA, SATA, SSD, or SCSI
  • Connect the power cable to the new drive. 

Before installing the hard drive:

Restart the computer system and run the BIOS Setup. Take note of the computer’s current configuration – those SATA ports are in use, as well as descriptions.  

Remember, your computer may use a fixed drive bay – it’s part of the chassis. In this case, you can install a hard drive in two ways.

First, slide the drive into the bay, and then secure it by inserting screws across the chassis into the drive.

Secondly, slide the hard drive and rail assemble into the channels within the chassis. 


A hard drive is an integral part of any computer – desktop or laptop. It is responsible for the storage of all the digital files, including the operating system.

While a desktop and laptop hard drive has similar functions, they have some glaring differences. Ideally, they differ in the platters’ size, power consumption, caching size, and the number of rotations per minute. 

Ideally, a desktop hard drives offer incredible RPM; it’s bigger, last longer, and has higher caching power. This only means you get better services. By contrast, a laptop HDD has exemplary power consumption, and you can find them in higher RPM.

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Luis Gillman
Luis Gillman

Hi, I Am Luis Gillman CA (SA), ACMA
I am a Chartered Accountant (SA) and CIMA (SA) and author of Due Diligence: A strategic and Financial Approach.

The book was published by Lexis Nexis on 2001. In 2010, I wrote the second edition. Much of this website is derived from these two books.

In addition I have published an article entitled the Link Between Due Diligence and Valautions.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information published on this website is accurate, the author and owners of this website take no responsibility  for any loss or damage suffered as a result of relience upon the information contained therein.  Furthermore the bulk of the information is derived from information in 2018 and use therefore is at your on risk. In addition you should consult professional advice if required.