NAS vs External Hard Drive

NAS vs external hard drive

NAS vs External Hard Drive – what are the main differences between both? In this article, we’ll be focusing on everything you need to know about NAS and External Hard Drives.

Storage is among the essential things in our digital lives these days. Be it desktop computers, laptops, or mobile phones. We need lots of storage to keep our pictures, documents, and other important files.

There is another good reason to expand storage in our computers: to keep backups of our important files and folders.

There are different ways to expand storage for laptops and desktops. In desktop computers, the addition of a larger hard drive is a straightforward and feasible way to improve storage and backup capacity.

For laptops, sometimes you can add an additional internal hard disk drive or an SSD, but it might be a little bit more complicated than desktops – the reason being the smaller size and compact nature of laptops.

While you have the above-mentioned ways to increase your computer’s storage, the most convenient way to do so is through an external portable drive.

There are different external hard drives available in the market. Once you attach it to your computer through a USB port with any compatible cable, you’ll instantly get additional storage.

However, as convenient as external hard drives are, they come with the cost of taking up space on your table. Besides, they also take one USB, thunderbolt, or other compatible port of your computer.

On the other hand, NAS (Network-Attached Storage) is a device that provides external storage over a network. With the NAS server, you get storage capacity that is central and easily accessible from any network-connected device.

People generally prefer external SSD drives because they are familiar with its technology.

NAS is a new concept of storage. Many people are still unfamiliar with it, which makes it a little less trusted choice by consumers.

But we want our readers to make an intelligent and informed choice. A purchase that suits best to your needs and fits well to your demands.

NAS vs external hard drive

This article will compare NAS (network-attached storage) and external hard drives. You can learn about the advantages and disadvantages of NAS drive and external HDD and decide which option is better – if you are in the market for expanding your computer storage.

Table of Contents

  1. NAS vs External Hard Drive
    1. Number of computers
    2. Compactness
    3. Ease of data access from different computers
    4. Portability
    5. Storage capacity
    6. Possibilities of usage
    7. Data security
    8. Data backup and recovery
    9. Cost
  2. Recommendations
  3. Wrap Up

NAS vs External Hard Drive

Number of computers

NAS: It is mainly perceived that a NAS drive is explicitly designed for office or corporate usage. In reality, it is not. If you happen to have two or more computers, a NAS might be a better and more viable solution.

This is because a NAS device is like an umbrella, bringing together all your computers under it. That way, you will be able to access the NAS data using any of the computers on the network. All you need are the credentials to log in and access the data.

External hard drive: If you have a single computer, getting a hard drive might be a better solution. That way, you can plug in the storage device to your computer and access the data whenever you want.

You may connect two computers to an external drive at a time, but that again depends on two factors.

The first one is the physical proximity of computers to each other and from the drive itself. The second is how many USB ports your hard drive offers.


NAS: NAS is not precisely a “compact” storage solution as it requires plenty of space to set up. You need fixed storage space alongside a designated router and network, which takes up a lot of space.

A NAS solution itself is a complete infrastructure that needs a proper setup, physical connectivity, and space.

External hard drive: External hard drives are small, slim, and lightweight, which means they easily fit on the side of your table. Their compact designs and small sizes make them ideal for carrying along while you travel or move.

Ease of data access from different computers

NAS: NAS, as mentioned earlier, is a centrally attached storage box. All the devices connected to a NAS share mutual storage.

This way, you can also access all your data regardless of the computer you are using. The only catch is that you must be connected to the same network.

NAS has gained much of its popularity because of this easy-to-access data and attached storage feature.

Another feature a NAS drive offers is remote access, just like any regular cloud storage service. This means that if you are traveling and might need access to your data, you can access it from your NAS.

You only need to remember your account settings and then access your NAS remotely. With with, third-party individuals can also access your data without owning a NAS device of their own. They merely need a device with internet connectivity.

However, to enjoy this remote access feature, you have to make an account on your NAS server. Set up an account, and you are ready to own a personal cloud storage service of your own that too without a fee.

External hard drive: An USB hard drive works just like a regular internal drive i.e., one computer at a time.

You cannot access an external hard drive from multiple computers. If you have multiple computers, it can be a hassle to plug and unplug the drive each time you have to access the data from different computers.

External hard drives do not support remote access. You always need to access the USB drive via physical connectivity. This is the reason that they are also referred to as direct-attached storage or DAS.

NAS vs external hard drive


NAS: NAS is comprised of different boxes which are placed in a fixed position. This means that you can’t carry your NAS alongside you in your travels. Moreover, a NAS server requires a continuous power supply and internet connectivity to function. So, it is explicit that you cannot carry a NAS box along while traveling.

External hard drive: External hard drives are small in size and can easily be carried in your backpack. Some external hard drives can even fit your pocket.

An external SSD drive does not demand a power supply or Internet connection either. You can plug and play these drives anytime, anywhere without any external connectivity.

So, if it comes to portability, an external drive is a better choice than NAS. However, there are some external hard drives with colossal storage capacities that do require a power source. Only then, these drives can be plugged in into your computer ports.

Storage capacity

NAS: NAS has different storage options. It features a flexible design to accommodate several drives by offering different bays.

A NAS box offers eight bays by supporting up to 8 hard drives at a time. If you require extra storage, you can purchase additional hard drives and attach them to the network using the bays.

You may use these drives either as a single hard drive or combined giant HDD using a RAID array.  Some NAS boxes even feature USB ports.

That way, you can add some more additional storage by plugging in an external hard drive. You can even utilize these USB ports to connect any other external devices like a printer and use these mutually.

External hard drive: External hard drives, on the other hand, have rigid designs and definite storage. They do not support any storage addition in any form.

If you run out of space in your external HDD, the only ways to make room for more files are either deleting the existing files or purchasing a new hard drive. There is no other way to add storage to an external hard drive.

Possibilities of usage

NAS: NAS is sometimes referred to as a hard drive with a brain. They come with their customized operating system and RAM. The RAM in the NAS unit is also expandable, and NAS also offers support for third-party applications that enhance usage possibilities. Due to that, NAS can be used for tasks other than storage.

The additional tasks that NAS can perform include communication, surveillance entertainment, and backup recovery services. In compliance with today’s technology, NAS hard drive is intelligent storage.

External hard drive: External hard drives are also known as “dumb” storage. They are simple storage devices that can be connected to any machine. They can only store your data, but neither can manage it nor process it for you. There are not a lot of possibilities beyond storage in external hard drives.

NAS vs external hard drive

Data security

NAS: NAS system offers secure data storage, with some models providing system-level encryption, user access controls, data access protection, and file-level encryption.

You must follow the instructions entirely while setting up your NAS so that you take care of all the security protocols required by it. As NAS is on a network, there are chances to get attacked by some external threat.

External hard drive: External HDDs are also a kind of security device as long as you connect them to your own computer. However, a NAS is far more secure and sound as compared to an external hard drive.

Additionally, be wary when you are connected to the Internet by taking precautions against ransomware and malware attacks. Make sure that you have installed proper Internet security software on your computer to guard your valuable data.

Data backup and recovery

NAS: All data needs a backup, so there is not any chance of losing it. With NAS, you can store your data and prepare a backup of it.

Many NAS devices use RAID configuration to store and manage your data. Some of these configurations automatically backup the data already stored in NAS. This means that half of your NAS storage stores your data, and the other half backs up the same stored data.

If you lose any of your drives to a fallout, you can quickly recover the data from its backup. This nifty feature makes your data virtually eternal. To learn more about this, we have covered a detailed article on NAS and subsequent RAID configurations.

External hard drive: External hard drives do not offer any automatic data backup features. This means that it only stores data. If you want to backup data stored in an external drive, you need to keep it somewhere else for recovery.

If your external drive experiences any fallout, you will likely lose all of its data without any recovery or backup.


NAS: Owing to its latest technology, advanced features, and colossal setup, NAS proves to be more expensive as compared to traditional or conventional data storage methods.

However, if you look at the sustainability and features it offers, the cost can be overlooked. After all, NAS saves you from buying additional storage and buying cloud backup subscriptions.

External hard drive: External hard drives, on the other hand, are less pressing on your pockets. They are available in a wide range of sizes and can easily accommodate any budget range. The external solid-state drive is pocket-friendly and readily available in the market.


Below we’re listing our recommended NAS and external hard drives available for purchase online.

Some external hard drives that you may consider buying are:

Some NAS devices that can serve your storage needs:

There are other reputable manufacturers like Synology NAS among others that may be worth looking at.

Wrap Up

Both external hard drives and NAS are excellent devices that you can use to expand storage in your computer. NAS offers more flexibility as compared to external hard drives.

They are intelligent drives, and they can be used for tasks other than data storage and are also more secure than regular hard drives.

External hard drives are portable, and you can carry them wherever you go.

The choice is yours, though.

If you are looking for a storage solution for multiple computers, NAS is the way to go.

However, if you own a single computer, using an external or USB hard drive might serve your storage needs well.

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