Are Laptop and Desktop Hard Drives the Same?

You know how important the hard drive is to a laptop or desktop because this is where you have to store the important files that you need for your operating system to boot and for some of the other important files and data that you will be using when you are using your computer. But while laptops and desktops alike do have hard drives, are the hard drives in laptops and desktops the same?

Technically, yes, laptop and desktop hard drives are the same but not always. If you are talking about a SATA 2.5-inch drive, then they are the same. However, some desktops may be using larger and more power-hungry SATA 3.5-inch hard drives that cannot be used for laptops.

This is where the answer “it depends” comes in because it really depends on the hard drive that we are talking about when it comes to determining whether or not a laptop and desktop hard drives are the same. And now that we already have that out of the window, let’s now talk more about laptop and desktop hard drives and what makes them the same and different.


Are laptop and desktop hard drives the same?

Computers come with different important components that each have their own functions. In the case of the storage drive, which can come in the form of a hard disk drive or HDD, the purpose of this component is for the storage of all of the different files and data that is being used by the computer’s operating system as well as the different software that you use on a regular basis. In short, it serves as the place where you store files and data that are more or less permanent.

In that regard, both laptops and desktops have hard drives that they use for storage. While we know that laptops and desktops have components that can be quite different due to the sheer size and power differences between the two, you might be wondering whether or not their hard drives are actually the same.

So, technically, both laptop and desktop hard drives can actually be the same. That’s because, regardless of whether you are talking about a laptop or a desktop, the hard drives in these machines use the same technology, which comes in the form of spinning magnetic platters that are capable of storing data. This is something that you cannot always say about the other components that laptops and desktops come in as they do have different sizes and power requirements whereas the hard drive is something that can be universally used for both computers.

But, as you would know later, it is not always true that laptop and desktop hard drives are the same. It really depends on what kind of hard drive we are talking about here as the hard drive that is used for some desktop computers can be quite different from the one that is used in laptops.

What makes laptop and desktop hard drives the same?

As mentioned, laptop and desktop hard drives can be the same but are not always the same. But what are the reasons that actually make laptop and desktop hard drives the same?

Well, for starters, we have mentioned that the same tech is being used in a hard drive regardless of whether it is used for a laptop or a desktop. This essentially means that the same tech is applicable for both of these computers as there are no differences in the tech even though the form factor and power capabilities of both the laptop and the desktop can be different from one another.

In that regard, if we are talking about the form factor here, the one type of hard drive that can be used for both laptops and desktops is the 2.5-inch SATA hard drive. A 2.5-inch hard drive is used for both of these computers precisely because it comes at the right size that will fit both a laptop and a desktop. Moreover, 2.5-inch SATA drives only require a max of 5 volts, which both the laptop and the desktop can easily supply.

So, as you can see, this is the reason why laptop and desktop hard drives can be technically the same as the 2.5-inch SATA hard drive can be used for both of these computers. Meanwhile, there is also something that we call the 3.5-inch SATA hard drive, which is bigger and has a larger capacity. Technology-wise, it should be usable for a laptop but, for convenience and portability reasons, a laptop cannot use it.

This leads us to our next topic.

Are there differences between laptop and desktop hard drives?

As mentioned previously, there are still differences between laptop and desktop hard drives not in terms of technology but in terms of size. Again, all SATA hard drives incorporate the same technology but they can differ in terms of size because of how size becomes a factor in determining the storage space of a hard drive.

In that regard, the 3.5-inch SATA hard drive is what makes laptop and desktop hard drives different from one another due to their sheer size and power requirements. Size-wise, you may still be able to use a 3.5-inch drive on a laptop if you could construct one that is large and heavy enough for this drive. However, no one would want a laptop that comes with the kind of size and weight that will allow it to accommodate a larger hard drive because it defeats the purpose of what a laptop should be, which is a portable and convenient machine to carry around wherever you go.

Then again, there are also the power requirements that we have to consider. Again, a 2.5-inch SATA drive only needs 5 volts of power. That is something that the laptop’s battery can provide to the hard drive.

However, on the other hand, a 3.5-inch SATA hard drive requires 12 volts. Laptops are not made and designed to be able to provide 12 volts to their hard drives. As such, this means that you can only use a 3.5-inch SATA drive on a desktop, which is capable of providing its components with all of the power that they need.


I'm Rob, the founder of I’m a Marine Corps vet with a master’s degree in Information Systems and have been working in the technology field for over a decade.

Recent Posts