Difference between Flash Memory and Hard Drive

In the past, you did not have much of a choice when it came to what type of storage your new laptop, camcorder or computer had. These days, there is a choice. Depending on your needs, you can choose between flash memory and hard drive for your storage needs. Just what is the difference between these two? This article will help you decide which one will suit you best.


SSD drive
SSD drive using flash memory

Flash Memory is a data storage device in a computer that uses flash memory chips that can keep data intact even when they are supplied with no power. These chips can be permanently embedded in the computer’s motherboard or they can be built into a box that can be used in place of a hard drive.

hard drive
Open hard drive

Hard Drive is a storage device in a computer that is non volatile – data in it does not ‘go away’ even when the computer is switched off, the way system memory does. It stores data by means of the use of spinning metal platters. The platters have a magnetic coating that stores the data.

Comparison Chart

Flash Memory Hard Drive
Expensive to manufacture Relatively cheap
Not yet fully available as of 2015 Abundantly available
Fast operating speed Slow operating speed
Lasts a long time Short lifespan
Small in size Large in size

Flash Memory vs Hard Drive

What is the difference between flash memory and hard drive? The difference is in their size, cost, longevity, operating speed, and their availability.

  • Flash memory storage devices such as SSDs (solid state drives) are far more expensive than hard drives. This is because of the cost of manufacturing flash memory storage devices which are still new in the market compared to the established technology used in making hard drives.
  • Devices that run on flash memory perform faster than those that run on hard drives. A computer equipped with flash memory in the form of SSD will boot in seconds, will retrieve data quickly, and copy or move files and folders faster. A hard drive takes time to pick up speed for normal use. Again, due to the issue of fragmentation that hard drives have, flash memory devices are inherently faster. A hard drive has an arm with a head that reads data from a platter that is constantly moving. As data piles up, it gets scattered on the platter causing fragmentation, a problem that flash memory devices do not come with.
  • Since flash memory devices do not have physically moving parts, they last longer. A hard drive is likely to eventually get damaged since it has a head that is constantly moving over the metal platters. Accidental dropping of a hard drive might lead to serious damage for the same reason, unlike a flash memory that does not have the physical means of accessing the stored data.
  • Since flash memory devices are just on the entry stage in the market, hard drives are more plentiful. It is expected that flash memory technology will be more and more abundant, but hard drives are and will remain more available for the next few years.
  • Hard drives keep data on metal platters thus limiting the size to which they can be made. Flash memory technology has no metal platters and the chip in them can be manufactured in very small sizes.


Attached is a video of a comparison between a hard drive and an SSD for more information: