Which One Should Buy: External Hard Drive vs. Flash Drive

Sometimes, people may plan to buy an external hard drive or a flash drive for various reasons. For this, they need to have some general understandings of external hard drive vs. flash drive. If you don’t have an idea of the differences between external hard drives and flash drives either, this post will be helpful.

Brief Introduction to External Hard Drive and Flash Drive

Flash drive (also known as thumb drive and pen drive) is a kind of miniature and high-capacity storage device, which does not require a physical drive, but uses flash memory as its storage medium.

External hard drive is a hard disk storage that has good portability and large-capacity data storage as well as exchange between computers.

The flash drive can be connected to computer by plugging it directly into the USB interface of a computer. However, the external hard drive needs a cable to connect it to computer.

Comparison of External Hard Drive vs. Flash Drive

  • Capacity

In general, external hard drive has larger capacity than flash drive, because flash drive just uses flash memory while external hard drive has other ways.

To be specific, external hard drive can be classified into two sorts: external HDDs (use magnetic platters as storage media) and external SSDs (use flash memory as storage media). Many manufacturers would like to produce large-capacity storage device because the flash memory is higher than magnetic platter.

  • Performance

As far as the performance, external hard drive is better than flash drive in general.

External HHD vs. flash drive: external hard drive is much faster in bulk data transfer. Flash drive will be faster in small bits of data transfer.

External SSD vs. flash drive: when it comes to the performance of flash drive and external SSD, the latter one is better due to the following 3 reasons.

1. Transport protocols: If you search online, you may find many USB flash drives are still using USB 2.0 protocol (maximum 60 MB/s), however, most of external hard drives are using USB 3.0 protocol (maximum 500 MB/s).

2. Master control: External SSD uses master control with excellent quality. On the contrary, master control of flash drive is bad quality.

In addition, SSD master control enables SSD to increase the number of parallel channels to 4 or up to 8, while flash drive master control only allows 1 or 2 channels.

3. Cache: Cache is used to balance the high-speed and low-speed devices, such as memory and hard disk. It can temporarily save data that is used frequently to reduce disk operation. Thus, the speed of disk read and write will be faster.

External hard drives are generally equipped with cache, while flash drives are not.

  • Lifespan

In general, the lifespan of flash drive is shorter than that of external SSD. Many flash drives have only one or two years lifespan if writing data is frequent. But this case hardly happens on external hard drive on account of some reasons.

  • Durability

In terms of durability, USB flash drive is much better than external HDD and SSD. This is because they have accurate mechanical parts, which are easy to break down. However, flash drives don’t have.

  • Portability

Obviously, flash drive is more portable than external hard drive due to its smaller size and lighter weight: 3.5 inch desktop hard drive, 2.5 inch notebook hard drive. Flash drive is wins definitely.

  • Price

To sum up, external hard drive is more expensive than flash drive owing to its advantages in several aspects. But some flash drives also have high price, because their performances are comparable to external SSDs.

Manage External Hard Drive and Flash Drive with Partition Wizard

1. Manage Your Drives Better

If you are trying to manage your flash drive with Disk Management, you will find it is difficult to manage it, except for some basic operations. Some operations like Shrink Volume are not workable.

Under this circumstance, MiniTool Partition Wizard, a professional partition manager, provides you with more options. Just download and install it. Right click the flash drive to get the following picture.

With this software, you can make use of Move/Resize feature to shrink or extend a partition. Besides this, there are many other practical features to manage your drive.

2. Make Backup with External Drives

If you intend to back up your computer data to an external drive, MiniTool Partition Wizard will help you do that with ease. You can just choose Copy Disk Wizard to back up the files to the destination external drive. 


The characters of external hard drive vs. flash drive have been analyzed above from different aspects. If you need a storage device to store or back up important data, external HDD is recommended. If you just need a storage device to create portable operating system, external SSD is suitable. Choose a proper one according to your requirements.

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