The Advantages & Disadvantages of Compact Flash Drives Vs. Hard Drives

Hard drives are an essential part of any computer. Hard drives come in two different versions: internal and external. Internal hard drives run the day-to-day activities of the computer. External hard drives provide additional data storage for a computer. Flash drives are also a kind of external hard drive, but rather than connecting to an external power source, they run off the computer’s power source through a USB port. Both kinds of drives have their advantages and disadvantages.

Storage Space

External hard drives typically can hold larger amounts of data and files than flash drives. This is mainly due to their larger size. More storage space fits inside a hard drive, which is why it can typically hold more data. However, some flash drives can hold almost as much as hard drives. All computers do need some kind of hard drive to operate, and a flash drive is not yet capable of booting a computer or hosting an operating system.

Physical Size

Hard drives are much larger than flash drives. This size differential has advantages and disadvantages on both sides. The smaller size of a flash drive makes it easier to transport from one place to another. However, it can also get lost much easier, and if it is left inside a pocket, it might get laundered, which can damage the system. The larger size of the hard drive makes it harder to lose but much more difficult to transport from one place to another.


Hard drives require an electrical source to turn on and process information. A flash drive works from the electric connection present in the computer. While a flash drive cannot work without connection to a hard drive, some external hard drives can work without the presence of an additional computer.

File Transfer

It is easy to transfer files back and forth from a hard drive to a computer, and from a flash drive to a computer. In most situations the transfer rate is exactly the same for both formats. However, flash drives are harder to access through a network connection. Hard drives are easier to set up with a network connection because they are more permanent fixtures to the computer. Some networks may not recognise the presence of a flash drive.

Other Considerations

Hard drives typically last longer than flash drives if they are cared for. The fact that flash drives are small and portable also increases the chance that the flash drive will get destroyed or damaged, causing loss of data. Flash drives are usually less expensive than hard drives. Both hard drives and flash drives are excellent ways to store data because the information they store cannot get scratched or dusty.

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About the Author

Brenda Priddy has more than 10 years of crafting and design experience, as well as more than six years of professional writing experience. Her work appears in online publications such as Donna Rae at Home, Five Minutes for Going Green and Daily Mayo. Priddy also writes for Archstone Business Solutions and holds an Associate of Arts in English from McLennan Community College.