Do Chromebooks have hard drives? Take a wild guess…

By | 01/03/2017

Do Chromebooks have hard drives?


This is a common question for people that have just heard about, or are considering purchasing a Chromebook.

 

The quick answer? No. They don’t.

The detailed answer? It has a drive, but it’s not the type of hard drive you’d expect from a computer.

 

To understand why this is, we need to look back at the beginning when Chromebooks first came out. The Chromebook is a cheap and affordable laptop designed by Google and made by a variety of manufacturers- including HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and even Haier.

These laptops are known for their speed and fast boot times (which is due to the storage drive itself, more later). The typical Chromebook boots in just seconds and tackles many tasks very efficiently and quickly. This is because al Chromebooks run Chrome OS, which is Google’s open source operating system. Chrome OS is lightweight and super fast, which contributes to the overall performance of these laptops. Compared to Windows, Chrome OS is many times faster performing the same basic tasks.

Here’s a list of features that you can expect from a Chromebook:

  • Fast boot
  • Fast performance
  • Automatic updates
  • Cheap and affordable
  • Integrates with Google products seamlessly- Docs, Drive, Gmail, etc.
  • Easy to use and intuitive

This is just icing on the cake. We’re here to talk about hard drives and I’m kind of getting off-topic. Feel free to read more about the benefits of Chromebooks. Or you can see my thoughts on them after switching from Windows. I had to do this little intro because it ties into the main topic.

Anyway, onto hard drives.

I’m sure you’re anxious by now to discover what they actually have.

Chromebooks don’t have hard drives- they have SSDs

Chromebooks don't have hard drives (left). They have solid state drives (right).

Chromebooks don’t have hard drives (left). They have solid state drives (right). See the difference in size?

All Chromebooks come with flash storage, which can also be called SSD storage. This is a relatively new type of storage that’s becoming more and more common in laptops.

But…is it a hard drive? No, not really.


It’s a storage drive that doesn’t have any moving parts, so you can’t call it a hard drive, which works with a spinning platter. SSDs are called that because they’re Solid State Drives, which means it’s literally just a piece of hardware that stores your data and doesn’t move. Because of this technology, it can read and write data much, much faster compared to traditional hard drives. SSDs also are much smaller than their counterparts. This is the type of drive that all Chromebooks have.

 

Is this is a good thing? Or is it a bad thing? It’s both really.

The good thing about using SSDs on Chromebooks is that it keeps the laptop performing super fast, which is a contributing reason to why Chromebooks are so fast to boot and launch apps and perform tasks. They’re also smaller in form factor, which allows for smaller and thinner profile designs that save space. But most people recognize these drive for their speed. This is what I was mentioning earlier in the small introduction to these laptops.

The bad thing about SSDs is that they’re small in storage capacity. Most Chromebooks generally have only 16GB of storage capacity, which is very small compared to a typical Windows laptop running a traditional hard drive. If you plan to store all your stuff on your laptop, such as images, videos, and Internet downloads, you’ll run out of space quickly.

However, you can easily fix this issue by using Google Drive, which is a cloud service that saves pretty much anything you upload to it and you can access your stuff on any device that can access Drive- your smartphone, Chromebook, desktop, or even Windows devices. Google designed the Chromebook to be a cloud-based device, so they expect you to use Drive. New Chromebooks even come with a free 100GB of Drive storage, so they’re really pushing their cloud storage.

If you’re not comfortable with saving your stuff on the cloud, you can just purchase any external hard drive and plug it into your Chromebook via USB and save your data that way. Or you can use thumb drives, and even MicroSD cards as well. SSDs are getting cheaper anyway.

 

Here’s a video demonstrating the speeds of an SSD vs HDD:

You don’t get a lot of storage space, but it’s for good reason

Some Chromebook models have 32GB or even higher amounts of SSD storage, so you have the option to upgrade to more local storage if you’d like. Choosing SSD storage keeps the laptop fast and also keeps manufacturing costs low, as a small SSD is a lot cheaper than a big traditional hard drive. Both of these tie into what makes Chromebooks fast and cheap at the same time. It benefits the consumer.

So, does that answer your question? These laptops have local storage, but it’s not a hard drive. It’s a solid state drive.

Does it save your stuff? Yes.

Is it faster than a typical hard drive? Yes.

 

Does saving stuff work exactly the same as a regular hard drive (from the user’s perspective)?

Double Yes.

 

So, you have nothing to fear. You’ll be able to save your files and data on your Chromebook- just not a lot of it. But you can fix that issue easily. SSDs offer plenty of benefits over hard drives. The only drawback is cost. SSDs with a lot of capacity are many times more expensive, so that’s why the new wave of laptops running SSDs typically have very small volumes.

Desktops, on the other hand, generally have much larger SSDs. If you need more space to save your stuff, you have workarounds that are easily affordable. Flash storage is already used in smartphones, which is a reason why they’re generally much faster than desktops or laptops. It only makes sense that manufactures started using this technology in computers.


Is this good or bad? There are pros and cons. But does it improve user experience? Most definitely. I think this is the right move for computers (and Chromebooks) to be making.

Want to learn more about Chromebooks? Check out this introduction to them.

About Andy Z.

Andy is a casual-hardcore Chrome OS fan and contributes to the site regularly. He likes computers, tech, sports cars, videogames, and of course, Chromebooks. Thinker. Introvert. Geek. You can find him on Twitter (@platytech), or send him an email (platy@platypusplatypus.com).

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