NAS vs external hard drive

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you.
Please check the Affiliate Disclaimer for more information.

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, storage is crucial. We need lots of it 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 capacity.

For laptops, sometimes you can 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 drive.

There are different external hard drives available in the market. Once you attach it to your computer through a USB or any other 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 Storages) are devices that provide external storage over a network.

NAS vs external hard drive

In this article, we will provide a comparison between NAS and external hard drives. You can learn about the advantages and disadvantages of both and decide which option is better if you are in the market for expanding your computer storage.

NAS vs external hard drive

Number of computers

NAS: If you happen to have two or more computers, a NAS might be a better solution. Why? NAS will be connected to either your home or office network. 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 an external hard drive might be a better solution for you. That way, you can plug in the storage device to your computer and access the data whenever you want.


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 some room.

External hard drive: External hard drivers are slim and light-weight, which means they can easily fit on the side of your table.

Data access from different computers

NAS: NAS provides you access to your data regardless of the computer you are using, as long as you are connected to the same network.

External hard drive: If you have multiple computers, it can be a hassle to plug and unplug the external drive each time you have to access the data from different computers.


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. If you are traveling and you need to access your data, you have to upload everything you want to a cloud-based storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

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. So if it comes to portability, an external drive is a better choice than NAS.

NAS vs external hard drive

Storage capacity

NAS: NAS has different storage options, and it is designed so that it has different bays. If you require extra storage, you can purchase additional hard drives and attach them to the network using the bays. A NAS can have as many as eight bays.

External hard drive: If you run out of space in your external hard drive, the only ways to make room for more files are either freeing up some space 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 disk with a brain. They come with their operating system and RAM. The RAM in NAS 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.

External hard drive: External hard drives are also known as “dumb” storage devices. They are simple storage devices that can be connected to any device. There are not a lot of possibilities beyond storage in external hard drives.

Data security

NAS: NAS 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 your NAS.

External hard drive: External hard drives are also secure devices as long as you connect them to your computer. However, NAS devices are far more secure as compared to external hard drives. Additionally, be aware 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.

NAS vs external hard drive

We recommended the following NAS and external hard drives, you purchase online on Amazon:

Some external hard drives that you may consider buying are:

  1. Seagate Portable 2 TB External Hard Drive
  2. Toshiba 4 TB External Hard Drive
  3. Western Digital 5 TB My Passport External Hard Drive

Some NAS devices that can serve your storage needs:

  1. Seagate Personal Cloud 5TB NAS
  2. Western Digital 6TB My Cloud Home Personal Cloud
  3. BUFFALO TeraStation Desktop 16 TB NAS

Wrap Up

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

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

External 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 hard drive might well serve your storage needs.