I’m sure you cannot imagine using a computer, whether desktop or laptop, without a hard disk.
No matter what brand of computer you buy or what combination of hardware you select for your computer, you are bound to have a hard disk installed in the system.
These days, hard disks generally come in two form factors: 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch. By the way, the form factor of hard disks denotes the diameter of the disk platter inside the hard disks.
Both form factor hard disks have differences between each other.
In the following text we will discuss the prime differences between a 2.5 vs 3.5 HDD.
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10 Major Differences Between 2.5 and 3.5 Hard Drive
We have selected the following as the glaring differences between 2.5 and 3.5 HDD.
1. Physical Size
This is the most obvious difference between the 2.5-inch HDDs and the 3.5-inch HDDs, with their form factor being used as their identity.
2.5-inch HDDs are normally around 3 inches wide, whereas the 3.5-inch HDDs are around 4 inches wide in diameter.
On the whole 2.5-inch HDDs are smaller in length, width and height than the 3.5-inch HDDs. They are also designed to be compact so that their thin dimension can be put to maximum advantage where less space is available.
Consequently, the weight of the 2.5-inch HDDs is much less than the 3.5-inch HDDs.
It will be useful to note that hard disks have been decreasing in size over time and 2.5-inch HDDs are newer than the 3.5-inch HDDs.
Also, only these two form factors exist by and large in the HDD market and the older and larger HDDs are now obsolete.
2. Applications of Use
The difference in size between the 2.5-inch HDD and the 3.5-inch HDD makes them more useful for one application of the hard disk or the other.
In general, 2.5-inch HDDs are used in Laptops, obviously because of the space constraints of Laptops and the smaller, more compact size of the 2.5-inch HDD.
The 3.5-inch HDDs are used in Desktops and Servers comfortably and without much hassle.
However, this does not mean that 2.5-inch HDDs cannot be installed in Desktops. Since they are smaller in dimensions than the 3.5-inch HDDs what you require is an inexpensive adapter available from the market, which allows the 2.5-inch HDD to be “converted” so that its interface is like that of a 3.5-inch HDD.
By connecting the 2.5-inch HDD to the adapter, it can be installed inside the desktop.
2.5 inch HDD have plenty more applications other than being used in laptops.
- It is the standard size for large capacity SSD drives
- It is also the standard size for portable external HDD
Related: Here’s How To Store Digital Photos
3. Power Consumption
One major difference between the 2.5-inch HDDs and the 3.5-inch HDDs is their power consumption or power rating.
The 2.5-inch HDDs having smaller mechanical parts to be moved, allow them to consume less power than the 3.5-inch HDDs. This makes the 2.5-inch HDDs very suitable for Laptops.
The read/write power rating of 2.5-inch HDDs is around half of the read/write power rating of 3.5-inch HDDs with similar specs.
Of course, power consumption is not such a major concern in Desktops and so 3.5-inch HDDs are used in Desktops without any restraint with regards to their power consumption.
Basically a 2.5 inch HDD can be operated via USB port connection with your PC. A 3.5 inch HDD requires a separate power connection to the wall.
4. Cache Size
The Hard disks are equipped with cache in order to make the data transfer in and out of the hard disk much more efficient and allowing for low data access time.
The HDD cache is also known as disk buffer.
3.5″ HDD generally have a higher cache size as compared to 2.5″ HDD for the same price tag.
RPM stands for Revolutions Per Minute and is a measure of the speed of rotation of the disks inside the HDDs.
You can also call it the spin speed of the disks. The HDDs generally use standard spin speeds of 5400 RPM and 7200RPM.
There is also a spin speed of 5900 RPM, for example, but that is less common.
The higher the RPM, the faster would be the performance of the hard disk to put it bluntly.
Although both 2.5-inch HDDs and 3.5-inch HDDs support both the mentioned RPMs, it is more easy for 3.5-inch HDDs to have greater spin speeds than 2.5-inch HDDs because of their higher power consumption and physical dimensions.
It is also not uncommon to find 3.5″ HDD with even higher spin speeds like 10,000 or even 15,000 RPM. These are utilized in servers and mainframe computers.
6. Maximum Storage Capacity
When it comes to large storage capacities, 3.5-inch HDDs are able to have far greater range of storage capacities.
As an approximate comparison, the maximum storage capacity available in 3.5-inch HDDs is around twice the maximum storage capacity that 2.5-inch HDDs offer.
7. Data Transfer Speed
The data transfer speed is measured in Mega Bits/second or MB/s.
This is a measure of how fast the data can be read from the HDD or written to the HDD.
The 3.5-inch HDDs can achieve greater data transfer speeds than the 2.5-inch HDDs. One reason is that the 3.5-inch HDD can hold more sectors per track on the disk platter.
So, if the spin speed is the same, 3.5-inch HDD can read more sectors than 2.5-inch HDD and hence transfer more data.
Related: How To Clone A Laptop’s Hard Disk
8. Price Comparisons
The 2.5-inch HDDs are more expensive as compared to the 3.5-inch HDDs.
By virtue of the greater physical dimensions, less concern of power consumption and easier manufacturing of the 3.5-inch HDDs, the are available at much cheaper rates.
Alternatively, a tighter and smaller construction of the 2.5-inch HDD as well as aiming for lower power consumption makes its design more expensive.
9. Shock Resistance
The shock resistance of the HDDs is measured in ‘G’s in relation to the earths gravitational pull as being denoted as G or 1G. 3.5-inch HDDs are less shock resistant than the 2.5-inch HDDs.
Of course, Laptops need to be equipped with HDDs that are more shock resistant. The 2.5-inch HDDs are specifically designed to be shock resistant.
The 2.5-inch HDDs may also be equipped with accelerometers which can detect that the HDD is dropped and immediately cause the HDD to park its heads to minimize the damage from shock.
The final important difference to note as a consumer is that while 2.5 inch HDD can be used on a 3.5″ chassis using adapters, the same cannot be done with a 3.5 inch HDD.
In others, you cannot install a 3.”5 HDD in a slot reserved for a 2.5″ HDD but you CAN install a 2.5″ HDD in a 3.5″ HDD slot.
So Which One Should You Go For?
Well the answer to this question is fairly obvious, it all depends upon the use case.
For laptops and for portable hard disks, 2.5 inch is the way to go.
On the other hand, for desktops and servers, 3.5 makes perfect sense. They are cheaper, have a much larger capacity and also much higher speeds.
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.