Last updated: July 1, 2020

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Can you imagine losing all your photos in an instant? All the files and documents stored on your computer are gone because of a hard drive failure? Or simply not being able to store everything you need because the space available is too limited? Choosing the right internal hard drive can help you avoid these unpleasant problems.

This hardware is one of the most essential components of a computer or any other electronic device with storage capacity. The internal hard drive is their memory, the element that enables you to store photos, music, video, games, presentations, work documents, and much more. Are you ready to learn more about this vital component?

Key Facts

  • The internal hard drive is a piece of hardware designed to store all data and software found in a computer. It is built directly into the motherboard, which is another essential element of any electronic device.
  • This component generally consists of several plates connected to a spindle that writes and reads the elements through its heads when spinning at high speed. This speed is variable and will determine how fast the reading and writing are.
  • The storage capacity of an internal hard drive is measured in gigabytes or terabytes – the largest amount of stored data available. This is the factor that most influences the decision of buyers.

Our Selection: The Best Internal Hard Drives on the U.S. Market

In the following section, you will discover our selection of some of the most interesting and attractive internal hard drives currently available out there. This will help you get a better idea of the features and prices on the market before you invest your money. In addition, you may learn about technical characteristics you weren’t familiar with.

Best-Selling Internal Hard Drive

Experts and the wider public recommend the Seagate BarraCuda if you’re looking for an internal HDD. This 3.5-inch model integrates a Serial ATA-600 interface with a speed of 7,200 revolutions per minute. This specific hard drive offers 2 terabytes (TB) of storage and a cache of 256 megabytes (MB). In addition, it comes with a two-year warranty.

Best Internal Hard Drive for Gaming

Here is another model by renowned manufacturer Seagate, and this one is specialized for gaming purposes. The FireCuda is a solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD) that will give you the speed and level of performance required to play video games intensively. It is five times faster than standard HDDs and offers a larger storage capacity (2TB) than SDDs. Five-year warranty included.

Best Internal Hard Drive: Amazon’s Choice

With thousands of high ratings and positive reviews from past buyers, the WD Blue is a high-quality 3.5-inch internal hard drive that has now become Amazon’s Choice in the category. With a capacity of 1TB and a speed of 7,200 rpm, it comes with a SATA 6.0 GB/s interface and a cache of 64MB. The manufacturer offers a two-year warranty with this HDD.

Best Budget-Friendly Internal Hard Drive

Last but not least, this SDD by Kingston is a best-selling model and the most affordable product of our selection. Measuring 2.5 inches and providing a storage capacity of 240GB, this internal hard drive has a SATA 3 interface. In addition, it is capable of reaching read and write speeds of up to 500 and 450 megabytes per second, respectively. This model offers incredible value for money.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Internal Hard Drives

In the section below, we will delve into the most relevant technical and mechanical aspects of internal hard drives, as well as the characteristics that define their operation and performance. We believe that knowing a product is the very best way to make a successful purchase. Choosing hardware components for your computer always requires a certain level of technical knowledge, and that’s why you are here.

Internal Hard Drive

The internal hard drive is one of the most essential components of a computer or any other electronic device with storage capacity.
(Source: Rawpixel: 109637832/ 123rf.com)

What is an internal hard drive exactly?

This piece of hardware is built into electronic devices for which it performs storage functions. The primary task of an internal hard drive is to save files and programs and to allow them to be read later. This is different from external hard drives that are generally connected to your computer using a USB cable.

Nowadays, internal hard drives are present in virtually all electronic devices: computers (desktop and laptops), cell phones, tablets, TVs, and video game consoles, among others. This is why they are designed to store a wide variety of files, from photos, videos, and audio files, to software and video games.

What types of internal hard drives are there?

We can generally identify two main types of internal hard drives. On the one hand, you will find hard disk drives (HDDs or magnetic disks); on the other hand, we have solid-state drives (SDDs). The main difference between the two is that the former create a physical storage, while the latter do so through flash memories.

For this reason, their structure and components are also distinct. HDDs have one or more disks linked by a spindle and heads that write and read the contents as the spindle moves. SSDs, on the other hand, have no moving element; instead, they store data in non-volatile memory, without heads or other mechanical components.

Internal Hard Drive-2

Nowadays, internal hard drives are present in virtually all electronic devices.
(Source: Adrianhancu: 26967114/ 123rf.com)

How does an internal hard drive work?

As we briefly explained above, the functioning of your internal hard drive will depend on the type you choose. In the case of HDDs, the reading and writing processes occur through the rotation of the disks, which in turn move the spindle that unites them. This causes the needles to rest on the disks while writing or reading.

Since they lack any kind of mechanical element, solid-state drives store data in microchips with flash memory. Instead of the heads found in HDDs, they integrate a processor that executes the reading and writing functions, increasing the efficiency and avoiding potential mechanical failures.

How is the speed of the hard drive determined?

The speed of the hardware, when writing and reading data, is another factor that users often pay attention to. Once again, the difference between the two types of internal hard drives comes into play. In HDDs, the speed is measured in revolutions per minute (rpm), which indicates the number of rotations of each disk in that time span.

Solid-state drives, on the other hand, are much faster as they don’t rely on a mechanical component. In that regard, the speed is expressed in megabytes per second (MB/s). Since there is no rotation to measure, this value corresponds to the speed with which the data passes through the interconnected microchips of the disk. This is typically how flash memories operate.

Internal Hard Drive-3

This piece of hardware is built into electronic devices for which it performs storage functions.
(Source: Rawpixel: 85968775/ 123rf.com)

What is the hard drive interface?

If we want to simplify this concept, we can describe it as the form or method of communication between the internal hard drive and the computer or the electronic device to which it is connected. The proper functioning of the hardware depends on this.
Keep in mind that every internal hard drive isn’t compatible with all devices.

The two most common interface types are the Serial AT Attachment (SATA) and the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe). There are multiple variations of the SATA interface, whose technology has evolved over time. Therefore, you can find SATA 1.0, SATA 2.0, and SATA 3.0 models, the latter being backward compatible with older devices and offering higher speeds. The PCIe interface guarantees an even faster speed.

What is an internal hard drive cache?

The cache or buffer of the internal hard drive storage is the space that the hardware dedicates to the files or archives that you open most frequently. They are those that you or the computer itself will access almost every time during its boot. It is also the list of data waiting to be written or read.

Measured in megabytes, this technical characteristic varies within a reasonably wide range. Again, you will notice significant differences between internal HDDs and SSDs. The former will offer anywhere between eight and 256 megabytes, while the latter generally start around 32 megabytes of cache memory.

Internal Hard Drive-4

The speed of the hardware, when writing and reading data, is another factor that users often pay attention to.
(Source: Rawpixel: 85862647/ 123rf.com)

How can I know if an internal hard drive is compatible with my device?

Before you can buy an internal hard drive to replace the one currently in your computer, it is essential that you check whether or not the product is compatible with your device. You should consider three main factors: the size of the hardware, the type of connection, and the operating system of your computer.

Size can be extremely restrictive and is often decisive since it is all about space: it either fits or it doesn’t. The other two factors are more flexible, in the sense that a SATA 3.0 disk is compatible with a PC that doesn’t support that interface as long as it supports SATA 1.0 or 2.0. That being said, note that the performance will not be optimal, and you won’t be able to make the most of your internal hard drive.

Comparison of internal hard drives

In the following table, you can view our comparison of the main characteristics of the models from our selection. That way, it will be much easier for you to determine which product is most adapted to your needs:

Model Seagate BarraCuda Seagate FireCuda WD Blue Kingston SA400S37
Type HDD SSD HDD SDD
Storage 2TB 2TB  1TB 240GB
Interface SATA 6.0 Gb/s SATA 6.0 Gb/s SATA 6.0 Gb/s SATA III
Cache 256MB 64MB 64MB N/A 
Size 5.79 x 4 x 0.79 inches 3.95 x 2.75 x 0.28 inches 5.8 x 4 x 1 inches 3.94 x 0.28 x 2.75 inches

Shopping Criteria

We have now answered the most frequently asked questions regarding internal hard drives, and we have introduced you to some of the most popular models currently available on the market. Before we end our article, let’s delve into the features that you need to take into account when making your purchase. These vital shopping criteria will help you identify the model that matches your needs and meets the characteristics of your computer:

Storage Capacity

As we mentioned at the beginning of our guide, this is often the first factor that people analyze when choosing a new internal hard drive. It is also a good tie-breaking criterion if you are hesitating between several similar models. This will directly influence the number of files and programs that you can store on your device, which is why you cannot overlook the storage capacity.

Storing photos, Office documents, and basic software and programs isn’t the same as having video games, movies, and other large files such as presentations or works in design programs. For this reason, this criterion is linked to the type of user and device – computer, tablet, or gaming console, among others – in which you will add it.

Internal Hard Drive-5

Size can be extremely restrictive and is often decisive since it is all about space: it either fits or it doesn’t.
(Source: Rawpixel: 100101853/ 123rf.com)

Size

As we have just mentioned, size is particularly crucial if you are looking for an internal hard drive to integrate into an existing device. It won’t matter as much if you are building your computer from separate components as you can adjust it to your liking. Internal hard drives come in different sizes and physical forms that may prevent you from installing them in your device.

Keep in mind that the size of a hard drive in a desktop computer (mostly 3.5 inches) differs from that of a laptop computer (2.5 inches). Besides, the models found in the most popular video game consoles also generally measure 2.5 inches. Don’t hesitate to consult the manufacturer of your electronic device if you have any doubts.

Compatibility

The compatibility between the internal hard drive and your device is absolutely critical. As we discussed in the previous criterion, the size is a factor of compatibility that you need to evaluate. However, it isn’t the only one. Besides the size, there are two other vital aspects: the operating system with which your device operates, and its connectivity.

If you need a hard drive to add to an old computer, for instance, a Serial ATA III model will be of little use to you. While it should work without any problem, you will never be able to take advantage of its reading and writing speed with a device that was built during the SATA I series era. Regarding operating systems, on the other hand, most internal hard drives are now compatible almost universally.

Internal Hard Drive

Closeup of computer hard disk drive

Reading & Writing Speed

This factor will determine how long it takes for your internal hard drive to store and read files when you access them. This is essential because we are no longer used to waiting for our electronic devices to perform these tasks as they are becoming faster and faster. As you now know, the measurement parameter varies depending on the type of model you opt for.

In the case of HDDs, the speed is measured in revolutions per minute (rpm) – 7,200 being the most common value on the market. You should aim for a model that matches or exceeds this value. Since SDDs use flash memory, the unit of measurement is the megabyte per second (MB/s). As you can imagine, a higher speed also means a higher price.

Cache

Also known as the buffer of the hard drive, the cache is the space reserved for the storage of the digital files that you access most frequently. In that sense, you have to take into consideration the types of files you open more often.

Knowing the range of values is key to picking the cache that you need for your electronic device. The higher the capacity is, the more information you can store in the buffer. In the case of HDDs, the cache will generally range between eight and 256 megabytes; for solid-state drives, it starts at 32 megabytes.

Summary

Throughout our article, we have tried to synthesize the most relevant information regarding the essential piece of hardware that internal hard drives are. We have explained the primary technical characteristics and compared the leading models available on the American market. Our last section introduced you to the shopping criteria to keep in mind when looking for the perfect model.

We hope that you found our shopping guide on internal hard drives helpful and informative. If that’s the case, feel free to give us your opinion by leaving a comment in the section below. You can also share this article on your social media for others to learn more about this essential hardware component.

(Source of featured image: Vladimir Arhipov: 77232903/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Brett Holmes Technology Geek
Brett is a keen observer of the latest technology trends and knows his way around the industry because he runs an electronics store. He writes about it in his spare time and wants to help others learn more about the technology industry.