Why are internal drives more expensive than externals?

Seeking some insight. It seems all internal hard drives are more expensive per TB than externals. Are the manufacturers just keeping their cheaper drives for their externals while only selling their more robust drives as stand alone items?

Basically this. The warranty is inferior as they aren’t meant for intensive use.

Or this. The warranty is inferior because you aren’t getting the ‘extended warranty’ that bare enterprise drives enjoy. Same drives, you’re just taking on the self insurance cost yourself for years 3-5. Allows for more competitive ‘consumer’ pricing.


But the crazy thing is, they’re spending more money. Drive + enclosure + power supply + usb cable costs them more than just Drive. I’d rather just get some of the drives by themselves at an even lower price and I’d think they want to oblige.

aurelius and Fuzeguy’s comments are correct, but even if the drive inside is identical (and often could be RMA’d past enclosure warrantee in any case) there is another factor.

Only 30% of HDDs produced are sent to the retail market. The rest are sold to corporate entities like external drive manufacturers many of whom enjoy cheaper wholesale then retail vendors.

Rough guestimate; the drive you pay $400 for probably cost the retailer something like $250 while the manufacturer might pay as little as $175.

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Selling me a WD 14tb external drive with the enclosure, USB cable, and power supply costs the manufacturer more than just selling me a WD 14tb drive, same for the retailer (i’d assume), yet, the external drive is much cheaper. I could literally buy a WD 14TB external drive, rip out the hard drive, throw away all the other pieces and it’d cost me less than just buying an internal WD 14tb drive by itself.

I still don’t see why that makes sense.

These three items are purchased in bulk at very, very, and I meam very low cost…at most a couple $$. A 3 yr extended warranty coverage could cost a whole drive, if they needed to replace it under warranty.

Fun fact, I was the IT guy for a cable imported/distributor years ago. He bought cables of all types for pennies, they landed at his door in containers from Asia. He was buying/trading a new sports car (Porsche/Ferrari…etc) every couple months (he let me drive some :laughing:). Why? Because he was young, raked in so much profit, because his business had crazy & exorbitant markups. Yeah, just cables. Same would be the case for other little trinkets needed for an ext. drive.

First is warranty cost.

Second is usage. An external drive is usually used much less intensive than an internal drive. Many would just plug in the drive occasionally for backups or cold data.

Third is model consistency. WD can put any 14TB drive in the factory into the same case and sell as the same model number. For example, the 14TB drive you are buying, actually has 2 different models, one from 14TB another from 18TB. The 18TB drive may not pass quality check and may have a bad head or platter, effectively making them 16 or 14TB usable. WD will just hide the bad part of the drive, and sell them as 16 or 14TBs.
If you sell internal drives, you’d have to distinguish between those 2 models. For example, Seagate Exos has X16 16TB and X18 16TB, where X18 16TB is actually a 18TB model with 1 less platter visible. Now the market has 2 models, and you have to prepare and ship 2 models to shops and customers, etc.
But for externals? Just toss any variant and call it 14TB external and that’s it.


I think people do exactly this (but I’m not completely sure)


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The cheapest internal drive isn’t more expensive than an external one of the same capacity - at least at my location.

done that in the past with Lacie external HDDs … they hold WD HDDs and was cheaper to buy those lacie ones than internals… now I do have to say a nightmare to open those external HDD cases


Some are a nightmare to open. Others are so easy to open you can reverse the process and put the drive back in afterwards!

You’re not a common case. Most people who buy hard drive keep them intact. Ask around to see if anyone has shucked a drive before and you’ll get weird looks, probably.

You have one case, no matter the number of TB. So you’re spread the case cost over many TBs. Consider the price of an external casing that you’d buy separately, compared to the cost of the drive, the cost of shipping, the cost of retailing, the cost of marketing, etc. and put it into perspective of the most common customer of those drives, and you will see why it makes financial sense to sell them that way.

And even if you don’t understand it from your perspective, keep in mind that if they do it that way, it’s because it works - it makes money.

I get what you’re saying overall.

I don’t know about that part. I mean, isn’t Intel losing market share/money because they’re jerks to gamers and enthusiasts all because they wanted to bifurcate the market when it comes to their CPUs while AMD just powers through it and offers people massive levels of cores, threads, and PCIe lanes? I feel like this may be a similar situation. I wonder if drive manufacturers like WD are too obsessed with some underlying logic that may be contradicting their profit like Intel. I think even Linus on Linus Tech Tips has spoken of this with regards to Intel.

A big part of the cost of selling to consumers is marketing and distribution. A HDD case isn’t worth much when we buy it for our own drives, so it’s safe to say it won’t cost much for the manufacturer either. When it comes to the overall budget for making an external drive, I don’t think the case weighs a lot more than a few dollars. That’s not exactly the same as AMD vs. Intel because CPUs are hundreds of dollars.

I read a while ago, externals get priced cheaper as otherwise they just don’t sell well.

Infact, I can get internals cheaper than externals, but i put that down to so many buying externals for things like this so sellers pushing the price up.

Sure, you get a worse guarantee with externals, but if a drive lasts 2 years and its properly looked after I reckon it’ll prob live another few without issue.

Economies of scale are obviously. a big factor as well. You have a user base who just wants to get external storage, plug it in and start backing up files without much fuss. Us Desktop builders/crypto nuts are very much in the minority these days outside of the enterprises needing large 3.5" drives. Without that core customer WD/Seagate will literally have millions of extra hard drives sitting in warehouses. Better to take a bit less per unit than leave dead stock laying around generating nothing.

A few years ago I met a young kid who said he had never used a desktop before, laptops/tablets or phones only. I felt like a dinosaur. He will likely never buy a bare 3.5" drive for personal use, but chances are once he starts his family and needs to backup terabytes worth of photos/videos that’s where something like these large externals can come into play.

Assuming he doesn’t already have the highest tier iCloud plan.

External are drives that couldn’t pass the benchmarks to be used as internals. In other words, junk.

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