Hard Drive Compatibility Checkup with the Computer’s Motherboard

I know when you open the datasheet of any Hard Disk Drive and the list of specification goes on and on, and you just can’t be able to find anything useful in the document. But if you do know about some important specs, buying a hard drive for yourself gets as easy as buying a keyboard or mouse for your system.

In every Drives Datasheet, you only need to look for some couple or more specs and that’ll do most of the work for you and you don’t need to go through every single spec.

If you’re not familiar with any single spec, then I’ll suggest you to read this “How to Buy A Perfect Hard Disk Drive?” article first, and then get back to the compatibility part.

Hard Disk Drives come in various sizes and compatibility. Not all HDD supports all types of motherboards. But if the HDD and motherboard don’t have the same connection standard then the problem could likely be solved through adapter cards. This article discusses HDD issues in detail. let’s start with;



#1st Compatibility Check-up: Physical Size

Sizes of HDD denote the physical sizes of data platters. It doesn’t refer to the storage potential of HDD. It is astonishing to note that the first HDD of IBM was of the size of two large refrigerators! It was reduced to 14 inched sizes which took many years to achieve.

Buy these days there are only two variations of hard drive sizes are available:

  1. 2.5 inches HDD: 2.5-inch HDD are usually used for laptops which don’t come with a CPU. They also spin slower when compared to the larger HDD. The data transfer speed of 2.5-inch HDD is low which also denotes a low capacity of data storage. They are costlier while measured in gigabytes. It means that the cost of one gigabyte in smaller HDD would be higher and not economical.

Merits:

  • 2.5 Inch Drives comes in different height sizes, like 7mm (which is the thinnest and used in most of the laptops and can be convertible to 9.5mm by using a case), 9.5mm (which used in old laptops) or 12mm/15mm (which mostly used in compact NAS and Servers, yet it’s often too thick for laptops.). Tip: To know the right size which suits your laptop, you can check the height of your OLD Hard drive.
  • As they are smaller, they could be used in portable devices like notebook and laptops.
  • They come with greater seek times due to the lesser distance covered in smaller HDD.
  • They are energy efficient as they require little power to do one spin. They could charge themselves with laptop batteries and doesn’t need an external power supply.

However, this smaller HDD has a lower cache, lower capacity, and lower angular velocity.

  1. 3.5-inches HDD: These type of hard drive discs are comparatively longer and hence suitable for usage in computers or those devices which are situated at a fixed place.

Merits:

  • They have a higher cache and provide high capacity.
  • They can store larger data. Some modern 3.5-inch drives can store up to 12 TB of data with having 256 MB of cache memory in it.

However, the drawback of this type of HDD is that it comes at the cost of higher energy costs. It also needs an external power supply to operate and is not suitable for laptops, but works great in Desktops, Servers, NAS, Datacenters.

The rule of thumb is that 3.5-inch HDD is suitable for desktop motherboards, while 2.5-inch HDD is optimum for motherboards operating in laptops.

Yet, it should also be noted that the wrong size of HDD can be made compatible through the use of adapters and brackets to make them fit. But this comes at an additional expense.

Suggested Link: How to Fit or Install 2.5 SSD or HDD in 3.5 Bay into The Desktop Casing?

Before buying an HDD ensure that you go through the specifications mentioned in the label. It is easy to notice that 2.5-inch HDD are very thin and are smaller compared to its counterparts which are not only wider, but also larger.

#2nd Compatibility Check-up: Interface

Compatible HDD finally comes down to the controllers used on the motherboard. The controllers are of three types. Each type of controller on motherboard needs a separate kind of HDD.

  • Small Computer System Interface/ Serial Attached Standard: SCSI or SAS is usually applicable to servers. The unique advantage it offers is that it could support more than 15 hard drive disks or HDD in a single system. SAS succeeded SCSI while the former became obsolete. Hence a single server can make use of multiple numbers of HDD thus ensuring flexible operations. The data transfer rate in SAS is also higher than SCSI. Mac historically used SCSI which was replaced by IDE in later stages.
  • Integrated Drive Electronics/Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment: IDE or PATA is comparatively older which was used in the earlier computers. But modern motherboards use this controller to ensure legacy device support. The devices which use IDE/PATA has a low data transfer rate compared to modern controllers. They can’t be connected to more than two hard drive discs. SATA is widely replacing IDE/PATA controllers. They were used in windows historically.
  • Serial ATA (SATA): SATA supports both forward and backward compatibility and is a multi-generation connection. International organizations evaluate SATA as a shareholder of 99% of the market. The probability is so huge that SATA is most likely to be the compatible controller of your motherboard. It is preferred because it allows your recently purchased device to utilize the advantage of high-speed data transfer. They use a single wire cable which connects to the motherboard. Nowadays interface isn’t that must of a big deal because most of the new computer comes with SATA 3.0 interface where the old ones only support SATA 2.0 which contains half of its bandwidth speed. To check the SATA compatibility, you can look at the specification page of your laptop or desktop (or maybe the Motherboard’s Model Number, if assembled). Even if you have SATA 2.0 compatible motherboard in your computer, that doesn’t mean you can only use SATA 2.0 drive in your system. I’m only saying this because you can plug any 3.0 drive into any 2.0 slot and it will work just fine. And it always better to buy a drive with the latest technology, so it can be able to use it in future.

Thus, it is paramount to learn about the compatibility of the HDD to your motherboard or devices before buying them. This information is available on the label of the HDD boxes. The controller details on your device could be found through the inbuilt system information window. It could also be found in Belarc advisor which is a 3rd party windows utility too.

It’s all upon you to buy which one, in case you need some extra help. Here is a list of articles which I update monthly just to make your shopping more worthful;

Some more suggested Articles:

“That’s all for now, thanks for sticking with the article, and you know it will always good to let me know about the article, in the comments down below.” 🙂


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