Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive – Which One is The Best?

Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive is commonly asked by a lot of people. Before buying the external device, you must have a basic knowledge of USB vs. external hard drive.

If you are unable to figure out the difference between an external SSD or HHD drive and a flash drive, then read on to understand the difference between these devices.

#1. What Are Flash Drives and External Hard Drives?

A flash drive is popularly known as a pen drive, or a USB is a small drive used for storing data externally. It is a mobile storage device with no physical drive and uses flash memory as a storage medium.

On the other hand, an external hard drive popularly known as the mobile hard disk is used for storing large capacity data from the computer. It is a portable data storage hard drive and contains large storage space.

Generally, USB Type-C and USB Type-A interface is used in flash drive. This feature allows you to directly plug in the USB in the PC or laptop and exchange data. Hence, USB makes it easy to exchange data because the pin used in USB is generally compatible with any computer model. 

However, in the case of an external hard drive, you must use the cable that goes with your computer. It is important to use a compatible cable in order to exchange the data from the computer to the external hard drive.

However, it is not hard to find a matching cable because most external hard drives use USB Type-C and USB Type-A interfaces. 

Now, you may think, what about external SSDs? Well, the features of external SSDs are similar to a hard drive which is why we have included it in the category of the external hard drive rather than a flash drive.

In this article, we have classified Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive (which also includes SSD drive). Read further to know the use of each drive and the difference between them.

#2. Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive

Many reasons justify the comparison between flash drives and external hard drives. Read below to know the reasons. 

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Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive – Capacity

In terms of the capacity of USB vs. hard drives, external hard drives surely outcast flash drives. As mentioned earlier, the storage capacity of the external hard drive is much greater than the flash drive.

We all know that a flash drive or pen drive uses flash memory as a medium for storing data. The other external hard drive uses a magnetic platter as a medium to store data.

SSDs also use flash memory as a medium to store data. It is widely known that the cost per GB of flash memory is more than the magnetic platter.

Hence, the manufacturer prefers producing magnetic platter external hard drives more because of its popularity. You get a large-capacity storage device for a comparatively low price which is the best deal. 

Expert Tip: In terms of power consumption, a mechanical external hard drive takes extra power while a pen drive or USB does not. 

Plus, external SSDs drives have more storage capacity than a flash drive. If you search online, you will find 2TB of USB or flash drive. On the other hand, you will easily get at least 4TB of external hard drive online. The two reasons behind the external SSD’s large capacities are as follow.

  • The first reason is the larger amount of flash memory chips. External SSDs have 32 NAND chips, while flash memory is just equipped with one or two flash memory chips. A large amount of flash memory chips indicates the higher capacity of the drive.
  • The second reason is that they both are used in different ways (we will cover this reason later).

Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive – Performance

Till now, you would have known that due to the large capacity of the external hard drive, the performance of this drive automatically increases compared to a flash drive. If we compare a normal external hard drive and a flash drive, then the speed of storing data is much higher. If you want to store small bits of data, then a flash drive is a resourceful device. However, in the case of a large data size, you need an external hard drive.

Therefore, in terms of the performance of Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive, external hard drive undoubtedly wins. If you want to know what makes external SSDs better performers than flash drives, below are the four reasons.

1. Transport Protocols 

If you search online, you will see that many flash drives are still using the USB 2.0 version protocol while most of the external hard drive has switched to the USB 3.0 version protocol. USB 2.0 can only transmit up to 480 Mbps bandwidth (up to 60 MB/s). On the other hand, the transmission bandwidth of USB 3.0 can go up to 5.0 Gbps (up to 500 MB/s).

2. Master Control 

Similar to SSDs, the master control used by external SSDs is of excellent quality. On the other hand, the master control of the USB is worst than external SSD.

The external SSDs generally use multi-channel mode to read and write memory. It enables master control to manage various memory chips parallel through various channels (similar to RAID 0). With the help of SSD master control, SSDs could increase up to 4 or even eight parallel channels. While flash drive master control can only bear parallel channels up to 1 or 2.

Furthermore, there are certain technologies that the main control of the flash drive is missing, which directly affects the lifespan and performance of the USB.

3. Flash particles

We all know that there are mainly three kinds of flash particles, namely TLC, MLC, and SLC. Each particle has a different storage capacity per unit. Each storage unit of TLC can store three data bits. In comparison, MLC can store two data bits, and SLC only one data bit. This means that TLC flash particles contain more bits in each unit compared to the other two flash particles.

Furthermore, this allows manufacturers to produce larger storage unit products with fewer flash memory chips. However, it also has consequences, like fewer flash memory chips mean slower drive speed. Flash drive uses TLC, while external drive uses MLC and TLC.

4. Cache

The cache is a DRAM memory chip that maintains the difference in the speed of the devices. It controls low-speed and high-speed differences in the devices, for instance, hard disk and memory. The disk memory is first temporarily stored in a cache that helps in reducing the actual work of disk operation. This process increases the disk speed to read and write memory faster than usual. 

In terms of disk speed of USB vs. hard drive, external hard drive (including external SSD) incorporates cache while flash drive does not. It is responsible for the performance of USB and external hard drives.

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Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive – Lifespan

It is quite evident which drives will have more lifespan in Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive. Obviously, the answer is an external hard drive because of many reasons. You can only use a flash drive for one or two years.

On the other hand, external hard drives can work for many years. The following reasons are responsible for the larger lifespan of external hard drives. 

1. Few External Hard Drives Are Made Up of HDDs

HDDs can store data at the same speed all the time until and unless it does not confine by technical issues. While external SSD and flash drive wore out once it reaches the limits of several writes. Due to NAND flashes, the number of writes is limited in external SSD and flash drives.

2. The Flash Drive Master Control Lacks Wear Leveling Technique

Only a few blocks are updated in NAND flash while others remain the same. Due to this, the frequently updated blocks get drained out quickly, which ultimately affects the lifespan of these devices. However, external SSDs contain wear-leveling technology while pen drives do not.

The wear leveling is responsible for updating each storage block averagely, which helps in increasing the life of the drive. It prevents the overuse of a few blocks and properly updates the data in each storage block.

Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive – Durability

In terms of the durability of USB vs. hard drive, USB takes the lead. The mechanical platter of external hard drives makes it vulnerable to technical problems while flash drive does not have this problem. This makes external SSDs more durable than external hard drives. However, the performance of external SSDs is still lower than a flash drive. 

Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive – Portability

Flash drive or USB comes in smaller size and weight compared to external hard drives. Therefore, USBs are more portable than hard drives. There are three types of external hard drives in terms of sizes, namely desktop HDD with 3.2 inches, HHD notebook with 2.5 inches, and mini HDD with 1.8 inches.

However, external hard drives are still larger in size and weight than USBs. On the other hand, you can easily put a USB in your pocket or purse.

Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive – Price

In terms of the price of Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive, the external hard drive is costlier. Larger capacity and better performance make the hard drive more costly than flash drives. However, few flash drives have storage capacity and performance similar to the external SSD. These types of flash drives cost more than other usual flash drives.

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#3. How to Manage External Hard Drive and Flash Drive with MiniTool Partition Wizard?

Disk management of the flash drive does not allow you to manage the drive completely. You can only format or delete some files from it. If you open the Disk management of the flash drive and right-click on the flash drive partition column, you will notice many options are grayed out.

However, MiniTool Partition Wizard makes it easy for you to manage the drive. Download MiniTool Partition Wizard and right-click on the flash drive partition option. This software allows you to resize or move the flash drive partition and even shrink or extend the partition. 

How to manage external hard drive and flash drive with MiniTool Partition Wizard

Back up Data with HDD

MiniTool helps you to back up your large data size in an external hard drive. So, if you download MiniTool, you can select Copy Partition Wizard and back up a huge amount of data on an external hard drive.

Back up data with HDD


In this article, we have provided you the detailed information in terms of Flash Drive vs. External Hard Drive. If you still have any problems or facing other issues in this matter, tell us in the comment section below.



Ten years of experience in information and computer technology. Passionate about electronic devices, smartphones, computers, and modern technology.