13 Types of Computer Drives (With Pictures)

Welcome to a guide and list of the different types of computer drives – Floppy drives, hard drives, optical drives, flash drives, and network drives. Computer storage media and technology have evolved a lot over the years, and there are a ton of different gadgets for storing data these days. Just how many are there, and which is which? Read on to find out in this guide!



Floppy Drives Hard Drives Optical Drives
Network Drives Misc Drives Bays & Interfaces
Useful Bits The End




In the dark ages of computing before mobile devices became popular, floppy drives used to be the mainstream external storage device. For you guys who have not seen a floppy disk before, it is basically a “magnetic paper” wrapped in a piece of plastic…



The ancient relics – Floppy drives. Source: Wikipedia

Popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Floppy drives are pretty much an industry standard, and it comes in 3 different flavors – The very ancient 8″ floppy drive, the ancient 5.25″ floppy drive, and less ancient 3.25″ floppy drive. Of course, these are relics of the past now and kept by some collectors as a part of a museum display.



The Bernoulli Box. Source: Brutman

Popular in the 1980s, the Bernoulli Drive (or otherwise known as the Bernoulli Box) is invented Iomega, and the “god-level” storage device in the cyber ancient times. Each one of these Bernoulli disks can easily hold up to 10 times or more of the amount of data than a standard floppy disk.




The Zip Drive. Source: Wikipedia

Following up with a hunger for more storage space, Iomega came up with the Zip Drive in 1994, replacing the Bernoulli Drive. The Zip Drive became pretty popular but was soon taken over by writable compact discs (CDR).



The SuperDisk Drive. Source: Wikipedia

A contender to the Zip Drive, but sadly not very popular. Took over by CDR and SuperDisk drives ceased production in 2003.



Hard disk drives are what we usually have in the computer for permanent data storage, and they are the longest surviving devices in the history of computer storage.



Hard disks basically work by storing data in magnetic platters and using read/write heads to access it. This is why we call it a mechanical hard disk, as it involves the movement of several parts.

Even though the connectors and technologies of the hard disks (PATA, SCSI, SATA) have changed over the years, the 3.5″ and 2.5″ hard drives have endured the test of time, even evolved to what we know as “external hard disks”.




The solid-state drive is also a hard drive, but using a different technology. Traditional hard disks work by spinning data platters, but SSDs are straight-up “one piece of circuit board”. No motors, no read/write heads. This has proven to be a popular design for mobile and desktop devices, as it is totally shockproof and the read/write speed is a lot faster than the traditional hard disks.


7) M.2 SSD

The M.2 SSD is still a solid-state drive, just smaller in footprint. Yep, the race for even smaller and thinner devices goes on. A typical M.2 drive is about the size of a stick of gum.



Floppy drives and hard drives work by using magnetic technologies to store data. Optical drives, on the other hand, uses light to store data.



Wildly popular in the 1990s and 2000s, optical disk drives come in many “versions”.

  • Compact Disc (CD) – The early version of the optical discs.
  • Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) – The later “improved version”.
  • Blue-Ray Disc (BD) – The current “common Joe” optical discs.

But as of the start of 2010, the rise of the Internet, mobile devices, flash drives, and memory have overshadowed the use of optical discs.




Welcome to the information age, and a few options for network storage rose along with the wireless technology boom.



Once upon a time, sharing a file either requires a lot of complicated settings on a computer, or we just have to copy it into a disc. Today, a NAS drive will take in one or more hard drives, and after a one-time setup, this network drive is available for everyone who connects to it. Magic.



A cloud drive is not a physical device per se. It is actually storage space that you get on the Internet, and here are some free options.



Finally, these are drives that don’t quite fit into any categories…



Remember from earlier that there are memory and permanent data storage on a computer? Well, when we create a virtual hard disk using memory, that is what we call a virtual drive or memory drive.

This virtual drive will act just like a normal hard disk, but the read/write speed is extremely fast because it is memory… But of course, the data within this virtual drive will perish once you shut down or restart the computer because it is memory.




You should have seen these everywhere. These convenient little gadgets are otherwise known as pen drives or thumb drives.



A Tape Drive. Source: Wikipedia

Tape drives use magnetic tapes to store data. Although slow, tape drives can store a lot of data, which makes it perfect for server backups.



Now that we are done with the types of drives, let us go into some of the basics. This section will walk you through some of the common interfaces and drive standards.



In the world of computing, there are 2 things that you must know when it comes to data storage:

  • Memory generally refers to quick volatile data storage that perishes once you switch off the power. This is good for temporary data storage, usually used by the processor to hold data for immediate computation.
  • Data Storage refers to the permanent storage of data, even when you switch off the device.

So what is a drive? A drive is simply a computer device that is used for permanent data storage, be it internally enclosed within the device, or an external device that you plug in.




When it comes to internal drives, there are 3 standard sizes.

  • 5.25″ – Gotten a lot less popular with the “everything small” mobile technology.
  • 3.5″ – The standard size for hard disks.
  • 2.5″ – The standard size for laptop/tablet hard disks.

But these “standard bays” are also disappearing in this age in favor of “even small and thinner” form factors.



As with the many types of drives, the interface that connects the drives to the computer has changed over the years. These are the few common ones that you should be aware of.

  • Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment (PATA) – The once-upon-a-time de facto standard when it comes to internal drives. Now obsolete and taken over by SATA.
  • Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) – Another once-upon-a-time common standard used for hard drives in servers.
  • Serial Advanced Technology Attachment  (SATA) – The modern-day standard connector when it comes to hard disks.
  • Universal Serial Bus (USB) – You should know this one, the modern-day common Joe when it comes to all sorts of plug-and-play devices.



That’s all for this guide, and here is a small section on some extras and links that may be useful to you.





Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that this has helped you to better understand computer drives, and if you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and happy computing. May the cyber force be with you.

7 thoughts on “13 Types of Computer Drives (With Pictures)”

  1. Susan Stevenson

    Extremely helpful for widow of computer geek. Catching up slowly but surely. Very clearly written. Like the visuals. Thanks!

  2. I want a laptop for both school home and work and one that is highly adaptive to upgrading softwares and high storage capacities.Which models should l look for? Thank you.

  3. Thank you sooooo much for putting this together, was just exactly what I was looking for 🙂
    Interesting to see it all in one place, as I have been working with computers since about 82, ha, so ive seen and used many of these drives, and sometimes I miss not having the option to look at some old disk hehee, Im thinking of building my own unit and this was helpful, all the best to you sir :))

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