Can a Laptop Hard Drive Be Used in a Desktop?

Though there are some limitations, and you may experience lessened performance, laptop hard drives can almost always be used in desktop computers.

Most of most of my life has been spent using, working with, and fixing computers. My knowledge of the systems and their internal workings is what allowed me to understand the relationship between laptops and desktop computers.

This article goes over that topic by looking at why laptop hard drives can be put in desktops, the benefits of doing so, and what that process looks like.

Key Takeaways

  • While desktop hard drives are too big to fit into laptop ports, laptop hard drives are able to be put into desktops if needed.
  • As desktop hard drives tend to be larger and come with more capacity, they are usually much more powerful than laptop ones.
  • When connecting a laptop hard drive to a desktop you can either plug it in via a USB device or connect it directly to the motherboard.

Switching Hard Drives

There are thousands of computers in today’s market, all with their different specs, traits, and characteristics. However, no distinction is larger than laptop vs. desktop. Having a portable machine versus one you have to plug in is a big deal.

While both computer types are different in look and function, they tend to be similar internally. They operate in almost exactly the same way and use the same components. That can make them cross-compatible in certain situations, especially when it comes to hard drives.

The part is a critical piece of any computer. It affects speed, power, and memory all at once. The better or more equipped one is, the more efficiently a computer will run. That’s why switching them from one to another can be a bit of a tricky process.

Even so, it’s more than possible to take a laptop hard drive and put it into a desktop if your computer becomes damaged or needs extra space. It just depends on a few key factors.

The Differences Between Laptop and Desktop Drives

Laptop hard drives can go into desktop computers, but desktop models cannot go into laptops. That’s due to the differences between the two components. 

The first discrepancy is size. Desktop computers used to have extremely large hard drives that now measure down to 3.5 inches. That size and weight makes them unusable in laptops, which can only hold drives that measure 2.5 inches or less.

In addition, desktops have much more efficient cooling systems. Their hard drives run roughly 7,200 rotations a minute, while laptop ones spin at 5,400. Desktop drives, as they are larger than laptops, come with more storage capacity as well.

Those differences are important, but the most critical one is that desktops tend to have better-performing hard drives than laptops as a result of their added size and capacity. They load more quickly, have more power, and tend to run much faster.

While it’s possible to use a laptop hard drive in a desktop, you’re going to take a bit of a hit by doing so. You’ll still get a working computer, but expect performance to drop a bit during the exchange.

How to Switch Your Hard Drive

While laptop and desktop hard drives are inherently different, it’s more than possible to switch them in and out with a few simple tools. There are two ways you can make that happen.

First, you can hook up the hard drive via a USB device. That includes an external hard drive enclosure, docking station, or USB adapter. All of those will allow you to plug the device right into your computer without having to do too much work.

Just be sure to check your cable’s compatibility before doing that step, as you don’t want to get something that doesn’t work. For example, a 3.0 port on a desktop computer needs to match up with a 3.0 USB adapter.

Besides that, you can hook up the hard drive through the motherboard. This method is much more involved than using a USB device, but it still gets the job done as long as the two devices are compatible with one another.

Always look at the interface first. There are two types, IDE connectors and SATA connectors, and both computers need to have the same one or you need to buy an adapter that can convert IDE to SATA.

Once that’s done, turn off your desktop and open the CPU case. Plug the hard drive into the adapter and PC motherboard. Check for the connected hard drive in BIOS and change the first boot device in order to mount the laptop hard drive as a non-bootable storage device.


These are some of the biggest questions users ask about laptop hard drives in different situations.

What Can You Do With an Old Laptop Hard Drive?

There are a few things you can do to make use of an outdated hard drive. That includes repurposing it, creating a magnetic block, using it as storage for archived files, or even making it into a portable drive.

Can You Use a Laptop Hard Drive as External Storage?

Older internal hard drives and SSDs both serve as great options for external storage. They are easy to convert, and allow you to increase your general capacity without having to shell out a ton of cash.

Can I Remove My Hard Drive Before Recycling My Laptop?

It’s always a good idea to remove or take out your hard drive before disposing of your old laptop. Doing so keeps your information protected and ensures nothing falls into the wrong hands.

Final Words

Hard drives are a key part of any machine. While it’s typical to use the one that comes with your device, switching a laptop drive into a desktop can be done in a pinch. It’s a good fix and can go a long way in the right situation.

Have you ever put a laptop hard drive into a desktop? Why did you do it and what were the results? Let us know below!

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