The answer is yes; you can use a laptop hard drive on a desktop computer. But before you start cracking open your computer, there are a few things you need to know.
While the technology both hard drives use is essentially the same, there are some critical differences between them, and this is what I will talk about in this article. I will start from the basics, like what an HDD is and how it works, then move on to more specific questions like how to connect a laptop HDD to a desktop computer and its pros and cons.
What is an HDD Drive?
HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive, and it is a type of computer storage that works by storing data on spinning disks (or platters), with each disk having a read/write head that accesses the data. The disks spin at high speeds, and as they do, the read/write head moves across the surface to read or write data.
HDDs on desktop computers and laptops use the same basic technology, so you can use laptop HDDs on desktop computers. The main difference is their size, speed, and capacity, but I will talk more in-depth about that later.
The transfer protocol they use is also something important. The most common protocols are SATA, which most desktop computers use, and PATA (or IDE), an older technology. Just like with the HDD technology, both laptop and desktop hard drives use the same protocol (usually SATA), so you can connect a laptop hard drive to a desktop computer without any problems.
Related Article: Can I Upgrade The Graphics Card In My Laptop?
What is the SATA Protocol?
The SATA (Serial ATA) protocol is a bus interface that hard drives and other devices use to connect to a computer. It is the most common interface used in both laptop and desktop computers and has replaced the older PATA (Parallel ATA) interface. The most recent version that is widely used is SATA III, which has a data transfer speed of 6 Gbps.
When it comes to the size, there are two main form factors for SATA hard drives: 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch. The 2.5-inch form factor is used in laptops, while the 3.5-inch form factor is used in desktop computers.
2.5-Inch Form Factor
The 2.5-inch form factor is the smallest and is used in laptops because of its small size and lower power consumption. The actual diameter of the spinning disks inside the hard drive is 2.5-inches, which has given the name to this form factor.
3.5-inch form factor
The 3.5-inch form factor is used in desktop computers because it can hold more data and perform faster than a 2.5-inch hard drive. The actual diameter of the spinning disks inside the hard drive is also 3.5 inches.
Laptop HDDs VS. Desktop HDDs
As you now know, there are certain differences and similarities across laptop and desktop HDDs. In this paragraph, we will examine some of them in more detail so that you can get a better understanding of how they work.
A hard drive’s capacity is measured in gigabytes (GB), indicating how much data the drive can store. The average capacity for a laptop hard drive is 500 GB to 1 TB, while the average capacity for a desktop HDD is 6.7 TB. The capacity of an HDD is determined by the number of platters inside the drive, with each platter being able to store a certain amount of data. Desktop HDDs tend to have more platters than laptop HDDs because of their larger size, which is why they have a higher capacity.
The speed of a hard drive is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM), indicating how fast the disks inside the drive spin. The average speed for a laptop hard drive is 5400 RPM, while the average speed for a desktop HDD is 7200 RPM. This happens because desktop HDDs tend to be larger, more powerful, and spacious and can accommodate faster-spinning disks.
If you consider that desktop HDDs are larger, have more platters, and spin faster, it is no surprise that their performance is better than laptop HDDs. This is because all these factors contribute to the speed at which data can be read from or written to the hard drive.
Desktop HDDs are also more likely to have a cache, a small amount of memory used to store data that the hard drive is frequently accessing. The cache can be anywhere from 8 MB to 64 MB, and it helps the hard drive access data faster.
The size of an HDD is measured in inches, and as we mentioned before, there are two main form factors: 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch. The 2.5-inch form factor is smaller and is used in laptops because of its smaller size and lower power consumption. The 3.5-inch form factor is larger and is used in desktop computers because it can store more data and perform faster.
Related Article: How Many NVMe Slots Do I Have? [Solved]
So, can I use A laptop HDD on A desktop?
Yes, you can use a laptop hard drive on a desktop computer, but it will have a lower capacity and slower speed than a desktop HDD. As long as the technology and the connectors are compatible, you should be able to connect a laptop hard drive to a desktop computer.
Using a laptop HDD on A Desktop
Now that you know that you can use a laptop HDD on a desktop, you may be wondering how to do it. There are two ways to do it: you can either install it into the Desktop’s HDD bay or connect it to the desktop using an external hard drive enclosure.
Installing A Laptop HDD Into The Desktop’s HDD Bay
The first option is to install the laptop hard drive into the desktop’s HDD bay. It is a bit difficult if it is your first time doing it, but not that much. The first thing to do is see what kind of connector your laptop hard drive uses. The most common connectors are SATA, which I am going to talk about today.
If your HDD uses the SATA interface, you will need two cables: a SATA data cable and a SATA power cable. SATA cables are the same for laptops and desktops, so you should not have any problems. They are also backward compatible with SATA III, SATA II, and SATA I ports.
The SATA Data Cable
The SATA Cable is the cable that connects the HDD to the motherboard. Its job is to transfer data between the two. It is usually red and has two connectors: one for the hard drive and one for the motherboard. Both connectors are the same, L-shaped, and easy to connect. These cables come with the motherboard, but you can buy one if you don’t have a spare one.
The SATA Power Cable
The SATA Power Cable is the cable that connects the HDD to the PSU (Power Supply Unit). Its job is to supply power to the hard drive to spin the disks and function properly. One side of this cable is attached to the PSU, and the other has a 15-pin connector that you should connect to the hard drive. These cables are part of the PSU, so you will probably have a spare one.
Related Article: What Does A SATA Cable Look Like?
How To Install The Laptop HDD To The HDD Bay?
Now that you have all the cables, it is time to connect them. First, locate the SATA ports on your motherboard. They are usually located near the 24-pin power connector, are L-shaped, and have a small notch on one side. Then, take the SATA data cable and connect one end to the hard drive and the other to the SATA port. Just make sure to connect it to the fastest port, as motherboards have more than one SATA port.
After that, take the SATA power cable and connect it to the HDD.
After connecting the cables, it is time to place the HDD into the HDD bay. The HDD bays are designed for desktop HDDs, so they are 3.5-inch. This means that your laptop hard drive will not fit. But don’t worry, there is a solution. You can buy an adapter to make your HDD fit in the bay.
The next thing to do is screw the HDD into the bay. Just don’t overtighten the screws as this can damage the HDD.
Finally, connect the power cable to the PSU and turn on the computer. The computer will boot up if everything is connected correctly, and you can use your laptop’s hard drive.
Related Article: What Power Supply Do I Have? [Solved]
Connecting A Laptop HDD To A Desktop Using An External Hard Drive Enclosure
The second option is to connect the laptop hard drive to the desktop using an external hard drive enclosure. This is way easier as you don’t have to open up the computer.
An external hard drive enclosure is a housing for your hard drive that allows you to connect it to the computer using a USB cable, just like an external USB drive. It will provide both the power and data connection your hard drive needs.
They come in different sizes, so you will need to make sure to get one compatible with your hard drive. The most common size is 2.5-inch, the size of most laptop HDDs. But there are also 3.5-inch enclosures for desktop HDDs.
The only drawback of this method is that you won’t be able to use this HDD as a boot drive, but it is the best option if you want to use it just for storage.
Once you have an enclosure, all you need to do is place the HDD into it and connect it to the computer using a USB cable.
Is It A Good Idea To Use A Laptop HDD In A Desktop?
To be honest, it is not such a good idea to use a laptop hard drive on a desktop. This is because laptop HDDs are way slower and less powerful than desktop HDDs. Also, desktop HDDs are very cheap, so there is no reason to use a laptop drive when you can get a new desktop HDD dirt cheap.
On the other hand, if you already have a spare laptop drive and don’t want to buy a new one, you can use it. Just be aware that you won’t be able to get the full potential out of your computer.
Are Desktop And Laptop Hard Drives Interchangeable?
No desktop and laptop hard drives are not interchangeable. While you can use a laptop hard drive in a desktop computer, you won’t be able to use a desktop hard drive in a laptop. This is because desktop HDDs are big and don’t fit into the laptop.
Desktop HDD In A Laptop
As I told you, you can’t use a desktop hard drive in a laptop. But there is a workaround; by using an external hard drive enclosure.
Like you did with the laptop HDD, you will need to get an enclosure compatible with your hard drive. After placing your desktop HDD into the enclosure, connect it to the laptop by using a USB cable.
While this method will work, you won’t be able to use this HDD as a boot drive.
What About SSDs?
We have covered using your laptop’s hard drive in a desktop computer. But what about SSDs? Before answering your question, let me first explain what an SSD is.
What is an SSD?
An SSD is a Solid State Drive. Unlike a traditional hard drive, it doesn’t have any moving parts. This means that it is much faster and more durable. It works by storing data on interconnected flash memory chips, so there is no need for spinning disks and large magnetic read-heads.
Related Article: Does My Motherboard Support Nvme SSD?
HDDs vs SSDS
Let’s see what the main difference between an HDD and an SSD is:
SSDs are much faster than HDDs, and this is their main advantage. They can boot up your computer in seconds and instantly load applications.
HDDs, on the other hand, are a lot slower. This is because they need time to spin up before starting reading and writing data.
SSDs are more costly than HDDs per gigabyte of storage. They are a newer technology and not as widely available. This is why when it comes to capacity, they are behind HDDs. But this is changing quickly, and SSDs are becoming more and more common.
When it comes to performance, SSDs are the clear winner. They are much faster and more durable. But they are also more expensive.
While HDDs come in two form factors, 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch, SSDs only come in one form factor, the 2.5-inch form factor.
Which One You Should Get?
Now that we know the main difference between HDDs and SSDs, it’s time to decide which one you should get.
The answer to this question is that you need both. You should get an SSD to boot your OS and load your applications and an HDD to store all your data.
Can You Use A Laptop SSD In A Desktop?
Yes, you can use a laptop SSD in a desktop PC. SSDs not only use the same technology and communication protocols but are also physically compatible. Modern desktop PC cases have mounting points for SSD drives, so you can install your laptop SSD in your desktop without any issues.
Are SSD Drives Interchangeable Between Laptops And Desktops?
Yes, SSD drives are interchangeable between laptops and desktop computers. As I said before, they not only use the same technology and communication protocols, but they are also physically compatible. So you will be able to install your laptop SSD in your desktop without any issues.
Now you know if you can use your laptop’s HDD in a desktop computer and vice versa. You also know the difference between laptop and desktop HDDs and how to plug your laptop HDD into your desktop. Finally, you have learned about SSDs and how to install a laptop SSD into your desktop. So if you ever need to upgrade your computer, you will be able to do it without any problems. Thanks for reading!
Nick Ryley is a computer architect and the owner of The Pc Geekz.
His love for playing games got him interested in computers in the first place. He wanted to be able to build a gaming PC that could run all the latest games at max settings, and this has him pursuing a major in computer architecture!
He started this blog to help people out and answer some of the most common questions about computer building