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Keep it Simple and Sane: How to Find Cheap Laptop Hard Drives

When your laptop hard drive fails, replacement is one of the simplest options, and let’s face it, you want things to be simple, quick, and easy.
Before you can replace your laptop hard drive you need to find one and that means undertaking a search that may leave your head swimming with facts and figures; memory size, speed, compatibility, and price. Don’t despair! You can find cheap laptop hard drives if you follow these simple tips (and a couple do’s and don’ts).

Know the Details

Before you can do a search for a cheap laptop hard drive, you should know what you’re looking for; the specifications on the listings for hard drives typically read like cyborg love letters, but once you’ve read through this section of the article, you’ll have a cheat sheet you can use to get the right hard drive for your laptop.

There are two major types of laptop hard drives: IDE (PATA) and SATA (Serial ATA).

• IDE (PATA) is the old standard for hard drives, which in technological terms means that it is and nearing the end of its reign. IDE, or “integrated drive electronics”, has two or three rows of 40 pins that allow it to connect the hard drive device to the laptop. Each of these pins has a different purpose; some are used to carry data between the devices, and some are used as a ground to prevent direct contact with potentially fatal voltage if the insulation fails. Four of the 80 to 120 pins are strictly used to power the IDE drive.
• SATA, or serial AT attachment, is an interface used to connect adapters to hard drives. SATA is the new face of hard drive data transfer. The SATA hard drive uses a total of 22 pins; 7 pins are used for data transfer, and 15 pins are used for powering the drive.

The major difference between IDE and SATA is that the SATA drive is capable of transferring data at a much faster rate.

You will also need to know if the hard drive you want to replace is SSD or HDD; solid state or hard drive disk. A HDD drive is the traditional magnetic disk drive that uses a spinning disk and other moving parts to operate (store data). The moving parts of the HDD make it susceptible to shock damage and failure due to wear and tear. An SSD drive doesn’t use any moving parts, which means that it is more resistant to shock. Unfortunately, because it can only write and rewrite data a limited amount of times, the typical lifespan is 2-3 years, whereas the HDD can enjoy of lifespan of 5 years. Fortunately, while this may be true now, advancements in SSD technology will increase lifespan (and costs) across the board. Truth be told, if you can afford SSD, get an SSD, but if you’re looking for a CHEAP laptop hard drive, you might want to go with HDD.

The next thing you’ll want to consider when looking for a cheap laptop hard drive is storage capacity. Most laptop hard drives use 250GB up to 1TB of storage. If you’re only using your laptop for word processing, you can go with a 400GB hard drive which has enough space to hold your documents, program files, and your temporary internet cache (cookies) with enough left over to hold pictures, music, and other odds and ends. If your laptop is for gaming, you’ll need a larger capacity so you have room for the large files most games require; a 750GB or higher would work perfectly.

TIP: when buying based on storage size, use your common sense. If a 250GB is going for the same price as a 400GB, buy the 400GB. Also, if you use 250GB of storage, you can go with a cheaper, slower hard drive and still get maximum use.

Other hard drive specifications you may want to know include: data access, disk speed, and cache size.
Data access is how fast the hard drive can retrieve and process data, which is directly related to disk speed. Disk speed can be anywhere from 5400 to 7200 RPM. The disk speed determines how fast the disk can rotate and get the required information into place where it can be read/written. Logically, the faster the disk speed, the shorter the wait time and the faster the data can be accessed. Keep in mind that when we’re talking about disk speed, we are talking about the HDD drive which utilizes a spinning magnetic disk. The SSD (solid state), doesn’t spin and therefore doesn’t have a disk speed. The SSD drive uses transfer rate, which can reach speeds of 500 MB/s – 10 times faster than most HDD drives.
The cache size is how much data can be temporarily stored for easy retrieval. Think of it as a retention tank where files that are currently being used (accessed) are held until the program is closed and the data can be sent back to the hard drive for hard data storage. An example would be when you have a document open in Word; every time the document is automatically saved, the saved data isn’t sent all the way back to the hard drive, it is sent into the cache (retention tank) where it will continue to tread water until you close the document completely and the saved data is transferred to hard disk. The larger the cache size, the more temporary data that can be stored before your computer has to ‘buffer’ in order to send the cached data to the hard drive and make space in the cache.

You will also need a hard drive that will physically fit into your laptop, which means it should be 2.5 inches.

Now that you know a little more about what you might need, let’s move onto the actual finding process.

One of the quickest ways to find a cheap laptop hard drive is to visit a website that provides you the going rates for hard drives all in one place. is a ‘compare and buy’ site where businesses are always trying to outsell each other by offering their products at the lowest prices. If you visit the site and do a quick search for hard drives, you’ll be amazed to find a huge list that includes drive type, storage capacity, and cost. Be aware that the lower the numbers across the board, the cheaper the hard drive will be, but make sure not to short change yourself and get a hard drive that is ‘cheap’ but not up to the task.


You can take your search for a cheap laptop hard drive to where the world converges to sell their goods. You can, once again, type in exactly what you’re looking for and get a list of sellers, what they’re selling, and the current cost.

Go Shopping

You can stop by your nearest Best Buy and ask the Geek Squad what they would suggest. They’ll either show you a product they have in stock, or they’ll tell you where to go to find exactly what you need. Keep in mind that they are trained to upsell, so be aware that they might be trying to get you to buy more hard drive than you really need. Go into any buying situation with the knowledge that if you only use your laptop for documents, you can sacrifice disk speed and still get a great hard drive that meets your needs.
Laptop hard drives are a dime a dozen. There are millions available online and in electronics stores. The trick to finding the right one is knowing what you’re looking for and the best places to find it. Well-armed with the detailed information on the specifications of lap top hard drives, and a short but useful list of where to start your search, you can undergo your search for a cheap laptop hard drive with confidence.


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