what-is-a-bare-or-oem-hard-drive-00

When you are shopping around for a new hard-drive for your computer or laptop, you may run across the terms Bare and/or OEM, but are they actually that different from other hard-drives or are they the same? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answers to a confused reader’s questions.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of Asten (Flickr).

The Question

SuperUser reader Pankhuri Gupta wants to know more about ‘Bare’ and ‘OEM’ hard-drives:

I am looking for a new internal hard-drive for my laptop and found terms like ‘Bare’ hard-drive and ‘OEM’ hard-drive when looking online.

I researched the terms and found that ‘bare’ hard-drives do not come with cables or manuals. But I am still confused about one thing. Do they have the connector chip on them? Everywhere I looked online I saw images of ‘bare’ hard-drives displayed with exposed spindles and platters.

I do not believe that I will need any cables or other ‘accessory’ parts to replace the old hard-drive in my laptop.

What do you actually get with a ‘Bare’ or ‘OEM’ hard-drive?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors Journeyman Geek and Fiasco Labs have the answer for us. First up, Journeyman Geek:

There is little practical difference between a retail or ‘OEM’ hard-drive for consumer systems. For the same model, it is the same exact hard-drive with all the relevant internal parts needed to make it function. In general, such hard-drives are primarily marketed at system builders who would rather get a padded box of hard-drives with just the necessary packaging.

In general, OEM packaging looks like this:

what-is-a-bare-or-oem-hard-drive-01

You have a hard-drive in a sealed bag and that is it. No SATA cables, manuals, or anything else is included.

Hard-drives absolutely do not ship with exposed platters.

Depending on the type of hard-drive and the SKU, you may get some additional literature (like manuals), a SATA cable, or in the case of some SSDs, a ‘migration kit’ that would let you hook up your hard-drive over USB, image it, and then swap hard-drives.

I would also add that if it is a pre-built computer (or server in some cases), replacing the ‘OEM’ hard-drive that came standard in it with your own hard-drive (‘OEM’ or otherwise) may void the warranty. Some may also have specific firmware versions or be branded to the system builder.

Followed by the answer from Fiasco Labs:

‘Bare’ means a hard-drive in a manufacturer’s sealed anti-static bag (for all the vendors I have ever bought a hard-drive from). As long as it is properly packaged against g-forces, you are good to go.


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.