What Kind of Hard Drive Do I Need for My Computer?

By Contributing Writer

Hard drive upgrades are one of the most common modifications made to computers. This is because most computers don't come with a large capacity hard drive to begin with. Before you upgrade your hard drive, you should first decide on what type of hard drive you need.

Desktop Hard Drives

If you are upgrading a desktop computer hard drive, you will need to purchase a 3.5-inch drive. 3.5-inch drives are common. More than likely, they even have them at your local department store.The next thing that you will need to find out is how your existing hard drive connects to your computer. Common connection types are IDE Ultra ATA, SATA and SCSI Ultra. There is about a 99 percent chance that your hard drive will use a SATA interface. However, you will want to double check to make sure. You can contact your computer manufacturer, and they will tell you what type of hard drive you have. Also, try looking on the tech specs sheet that came with your computer, if you still have it. This documentation will list hard drive specs, as well as all other things about your computer. If you do not have the sheet, try looking on the box that your computer came in; specifications are commonly printed there as well. Your last option is to open up the case and check for yourself. Opening the case will involve removing one of the sides. Most commonly, there is a latch that allows you to slide away one side. After you have it open, you will see a sticker on your hard drive. Read it, and see what type of drive it is.

Laptop Hard Drives

Laptops use a 2.5-inch hard drive. 2.5-inch hard drives also are common and easy to find if you are looking to upgrade. Some common interfaces for laptop hard drives are: ATA-6, IDE Ultra and SATA. Most likely, your laptop uses a SATA hard drive. However, you will need to double check to make sure. To find the hard drive connection type for your laptop, you should look at the spec sheet that came with your computer as well as the box. Often times, manufacturers will print hard drive information in these places. If your hard drive specs are not listed in those two places, you should contact the manufacturer or your local computer repair shop. These places should be able to tell you what kind of hard drive you have. If you feel comfortable opening up your laptop computer, then you can check for yourself. All laptops are built differently. So, you will need to get the user's manual to your computer and find the section on hard drives. This section should tell you where the hard drive is on your laptop, and how to access it.

Other Types of Hard Drives

Some newer computers such as the MacBook Air and many netbooks use an even smaller drive then standard laptops. For example, the MacBook air uses a 1.8" 5mm- thick PATA drive. These drives are often integrated deeply into ultra-portable laptops. In turn, you should not attempt to change these drives yourself unless you are very good with computers. Also, choosing to mess with these hard drives will often void any warranty that you have. If you need to upgrade a 1.8" PATA drive, you should seek advice from the manufacturer.

External Hard Drives

If you are using an external hard drive with your computer, you can easily identify what type of hard drive you are using. Just check the box that it came in. Most of the time, external hard drives use a SATA connection type.If you have a large external hard drive, then there is a 3.5-inch desktop hard drive inside the casing.If you have a portable external hard drive, then there is a 2.5-inch laptop hard drive inside the casing.Often times, external hard drive such as the Western Digital My Book are difficult to upgrade yourself. Manufacturers do not recommend opening up these drives yourself. If you need more external hard drive space, it is recommended to add another external hard drive.

Doing A Software Hard Drive Check

You can also determine your hard drive type by using your operating system. If you are using Windows, navigate Start - programs - accessories - system tools - system information. Next, click the + sign located next to the components label. This should now show your hard drive information.If you are using Mac, click the Apple sign in the upper left hand corner and navigate to "About this Mac." Next, click "More Info." Under the hardware list you should see a listing for "Serial-ATA" or "IDE." Select it, and it will tell you all of your hard drive information.