StorageStorage: Guides

Flash Drive vs. External HDD And SSD

flash drive vs external hdd and ssd

The eternal SSD vs HDD debate has many factors to it. In this article, we’ll discuss the merits of a flash drive vs. SSD, and that of an external hard drive vs. flash drives.

Drives can be categorized into two types: the boot drive and a secondary drive for storage. Both desktops and laptops – and the latter in particular – have moved on from HDDs (hard disk drives) in favor of SSDs (solid-state drives). In fact, only budget laptops use HDDs nowadays. Most computers, especially in the case of a desktop, can have both an SSD (boot drive) and an HDD (a storage supplement with more capacity).

Let’s see how they stack up against each other.

What is a Flash Drive?

A fully portable USB drive and in a small size is known as a flash drive. The best flash drives have great read/write speeds, secure data storage mechanisms, and excellent in build quality and size. This means that they’re small in size, sturdy in build and safe in data security and file recovery.

Flash drives are used externally; they’re connected with the USB port and are often plug-and-play. Flash drives aren’t a replacement for the storage or boot disk in the laptop or computer itself.

External Hard Drive vs. Flash Drive

External hard drives are different from flash drives, and even external solid-state drives. An external hard drive is mechanical and has moving parts. The best external hard drives that are reliable can cost a lot of money when compared to a flash drive. However, the cost is still lower than external SSDs.

When is a Flash Drive Better?

Portability is the main factor in the external hard drive VS flash drive debate. In fact, it may be the main reason to go for a flash drive over an external drive. A flash drive can be as much as 512GB and retain reliability, good security software, and features.

Also, you won’t have to lug around a big block of hardware with you (although to be fair, external HDDs and SSDs are getting smaller every day). This is what makes flash drives convenient for everyday data and having something to transfer files to and from different places, such as from your work computer to your PC.

Flash drives are also more customizable than they once were. The external designs can be as fun or professional as you want them, as well as having hooks, hangers, or keychain-like features to keep them safe on you. Although this has nothing to do with performance, those that like aesthetically pleasing tech may consider this fact important.

When is an External Drive Better?

Flash drives also aren’t comparable to external hard drives when it comes to much how much storage they can have; external HDDs can easily be as large as 5TB. The most expensive flash drives, even in prototype, are 4 TB in size by comparison. In reality, cost-friendly flash drives are between 8GB and 256GB.

Solid State Drive Vs Flash

The external SSD runs on flash memory instead of physical hardware. As mentioned at the top, they can be used in conjunction with HDDs, but computers – and specifically laptops – can easily run off SSDs.

The flash drive vs. SSD debate then just comes down to a storage space problem and speed. SSDs are faster than HDDs, so, you now have an idea of a hierarchy in terms of your needs and requirements. At the same time, the file sizes for storage are usually smaller than HDDs. In terms of file size, HDD > SSD > flash drive is the principle.

If you just want to store a few basic files (e.g. documents or music), then a flash drive is more than capable. However, if you are planning to run entire programs through an external storage device or streaming 4k video, then an SSD will provide you with the required performance.

One useful tip here is to connect your external SSD through USB-C, since a standard USB port will almost certainly bottleneck the SSD and lead to slower speeds. If your computer does not support USB-C, you may not fully enjoy all of the benefits of an external SSD.


In terms of a checklist, an external SSD ticks a lot more boxes than a flash drive or an HDD, but it still depends on what you want. An SSD won’t give you a lot of storage for your money, and at the same time, it is not worth the money if you want to save just a few files.

For smaller files, a flash drive is ideal, and for larger files, an external HDD is better. However, an external HDD is “louder” when in use (the moving parts make a lot of sounds) and they’re slower than an SSD. Do remember that due to its moving parts, an external HDD is less durable than either a flash drive or an SSD.

Simply put, go for an SSD if you value performance above all else. Otherwise, opt for an HDD or a flash drive depending on your storage needs.

About author

A finance major with a passion for all things tech, Uneeb loves to write about everything from hardware to games (his favorite genre being FPS). When not writing, he can be seen in his natural habitat reading, studying investments, or watching Formula 1.
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