What Is the Difference Between an Internal Hard Disk Drive and an Internal Flash Drive?

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What Is the Difference Between an Internal Hard Disk Drive and an Internal Flash Drive?

The world of personal computing can be a bit of a mystery for even the most avid user. Individuals who spend entire days working at their computers to make their living are not always the people who understand how the magic box works inside where the hardware is. On the other hand, computer technicians who handle the nuts and bolts of the machines can quickly tell what's inside the case without blinking an eye. Some of the more common questions asked about personal computers is, "what are drives and what do they do?" A little research needs to be conducted in order to learn such bits of information as what the difference is between internal hard disk drives and internal flash drives.

For computer owners who want to get as many years out of their devices as possible, knowing what the internal components are and how they operate can save money over time. They can either buy and install items themselves, or they can educate themselves about what the tech at the repair shop is going to do. When it comes time to purchase the components for their devices, individuals can also benefit from understanding how eBay can help.

Internal Hard Disk Drive

An easy definition of what an internal hard disk drive is that it is a data storage device which allows access to blocks of data on demand and is installed as part of the standard hardware package for a computer's central processing unit, or CPU.. The physical size of a hard drive is dependent on the computer's design; many desktop computers use the 8.89 cm (3.5-inch) hard drive, while laptop computers use the 6.35 cm (2.5-inch) hard drive. There are larger and smaller drives available. Data storage space is varied as well, and this is price and processor dependent. For the most part, drive space is measured in gigabytes and even terabytes (1,000 gigabytes), with the larger storage space equalling a higher price. However, the larger the internal hard disk drive, the longer the user can archive data without needing to add an external hard drive. 

Internal hard disk drives were introduced by IBM in the late 1950s for mainframe computers that were monstrous in size, literally filling entire rooms. Today, the internal hard drive is a standard part of all computers and is a must if the user plans to archive programs and files.

Internal Hard Disk Drive Components

An internal hard disk drive is a complex and precisely made component that handles all of the data saved to the computer. There are six basic components to the standard internal hard disk drive, namely, read/write head, read/write actuator arm, head actuator, spindle, platter, and disk controller.

Hard Drive Component


Read/Write Head

Located on the actuator arm, reads data from the disk platter

Read/Write Actuator Arm

Much like the stylus on a record player,, the arm holds the read/write head, placing it on whatever part of the disk platter needs to interact with, based on commands from the operator

Head Actuator

Controlled by a servo motor, the head actuator drives the arm


Hold the disk platters in place

Disk Platter

Made from aluminium, ceramic composite, or glass, then coated with magnetic media, the platter holds all the data saved on the drive

Disk Controller

Attached to the motherboard,, the controller holds all mandatory instructions for the drive's operation

As mentioned, disk drives come in various sizes to accommodate different types of computers. However, they have the same basic set of components, all of which have to operate properly.

Internal Hard Disk Drive Performance

For many people, performance is the main concern when it comes to a computer's internal hard disk drive. Put another way, the question is, how fast can data be accessed? This is measured based on how fast the disk platters spin and how quickly the actuator arm can place the read/write head on the part of the platter that contains the data that is wanted or on a blank space to write new data. The time delay, or seek time, is measured in milliseconds, with averages between 3-15 milliseconds from the mouse click to the opening of the data.

Internal Hard Disk Drive Replacement

Unfortunately, since internal hard disk drives are mechanical devices, they can malfunction; when this happens, it is not only costly but also frustrating. It can be downright catastrophic if the user has not backed up data on a backup drive. An external hard drive is recommended as a backup drive. Not only does using one help keep the internal hard drive free of clutter, but having a copy of all the pictures, videos, music, and personal and business files when the internal drive crashes is also vital.

When it comes time to replace an internal hard disk drive, consult the owner's manual for the computer, and investigate the size and brand of hard drive that was installed at the time of manufacture. Then decide if an exact replacement is the right option, or if an upgrade makes sense. This choice should be based on the age of the computer, overall condition of the other components, and the cost of the new hard drive, as compared to simply replacing the entire computer.

Internal Flash Drive   

Internal flash drives are commonly known as solid-state drives (SSD) or electronic disks. While an internal flash drive is a mass storage device, the similarities to internal hard disk drives end there. Internal flash drives have no disk platter or other writable/readable media, and they have no moving parts; rather, they use integrated circuit assemblies for persistent memory storage. Additionally, their construction without moving mechanical parts, along with a solid case, makes them extremely shock resistant. This makes internal flash drives very popular for laptops used by the military and law enforcement. They are also used in rural job site computers by linemen, loggers, and contractors as well as in locations such as mining operations and archaeological dig sites.

Components of an Internal Flash Drive

With no moving mechanical parts, the only components making up the internal flash drive are the memory store and the controller. These components are held together and installed in the computer as the design allows. This is not a job for the novice. If upgrading to an internal flash drive, the job should be completed by a professional computer technician.

Head-to-Head Comparison between Internal Hard Disk Drive and Internal Flash Drive

Internal hard disk drives and internal flash drives perform similar functions but have major differences that make one or the other better suited for different types of computers. For many, flash drives provide faster data retrieval because there are no disks to spin up and read, so data retrieval times are cut significantly. They do however, have issues with repeated read/write/rewrite functions and can degrade faster than traditional hard disk drives. Other differences include start-up time, which is immediate for flash drives, but can take several seconds for disk drives. Data transfer with flash drives can reach speeds of 600 MBps, and for hard disk drives, it tops out at around 140 MBps and runs slower as the arm searches the disk.

Buying Internal Hard Disk Drives and Internal Flash Drives on eBay

Computer components can be costly when repairs are needed. Often, repair technicians charge high prices for the components you need. One way to save on repairs and upgrades is to purchase your own components on eBay.. If you are looking for internal hard disk drives and flash drives,, then you may begin by entering either one of these search terms at the top of any page on eBay. When the results page opens, you can narrow the search by selecting one or more of the filter options available. Be sure to look closely at the individual item information, including additional charges for shipping and handling.

When looking through the many offerings available on eBay, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which one of many like items suits your needs. Instead of taking out pen and paper to make a written list, send the items you are interested in to your personal list and then go back and compare like items to make a decision.

Always factor in the reputation of the eBay seller before you make a decision to purchase an internal hard disk drive or flash drive. You can do this by reviewing the seller feedback from other customers.


Unless one is into technology in a big way, learning about the hardware components in a personal computer is probably something that one is really concerned about. However, when something goes wrong, and a component such as the internal hard disk drive or the internal flash drive needs to be replaced, knowing what to buy can help save a lot of money. In order to understand what one needs, it is a good idea to get familiar with what each drive can do, so that the right one is purchased.

eBay is a great resource where one can find a range of product offerings related to computers. When looking on eBay for internal hard disk and flash drives, it is important to read all the available information on listings to ensure that the right drive for a computer and operating system is chosen. By doing adequate research into the product as well as the seller, it is possible for a shopper on eBay to find just the right kind of drive at the right price to enhance a computer's performance.

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