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The Difference Between Desktop and Tower Computers

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You might be reading this, having looked at that title, thinking ‘It’s 2016. Everyone uses laptops. Why do I need to know the difference between desktop and tower computers?’.

They do still have their place in the world, however. Higher spec desktop and tower computers provide greater processing power and storage capacity. The improved performance gives desktop and tower computers the advantage over laptops for tasks involving design and creative work.

You might also be reading this thinking ‘Are they not the same thing?’. And the answer is no.

So here they are: the difference between desktop and tower computers.

Tower computers

There are three types of tower computer: mini-tower, mid-tower and full-tower.


As you’ve probably guessed, a mini-tower is the smallest type of computer case. It’s typically 14 inches or smaller making lower desk space its biggest benefit.

However, what you save in desk space, you lose in storage. The size of mini-towers restricts them to one or two internal drives, which significantly limits their data storage capacity. The lack of space inside the computer case means it’s difficult to expand storage capacity.


If you were to picture a desktop computer, a mid-tower is probably what you see. Typically 16-20 inches tall, mid-tower computers give a nice balance of size and functionality. While it takes up more desk space than a mini-tower, it often supports as many as seven drive bays and increased cooling capacity. Because of their larger cases, mid-towers also allow for much greater expansion of storage.


This one’s the biggest. Surprise! While it takes up more desk space than either of the other tower computers – they can be up to three feet tall. But with reduced desk space comes vastly improved performance. Up to 15 drive bays, up to six case fans and extra space within the case for expansion (if you need it!).

Desktop computer

Desktop computers are pretty much the same as tower computers.

The main difference is that is sits horizontally on the desk, rather than vertically like a tower computer. Usually the same size as a mid-tower, desktop computers often take up quite a lot of desk space. But the top is reinforced to allow a monitor to sit comfortably on top.

Desktop computers see the drive bays turned 90-degrees so they sit parallel to the desk. Because it holds fewer fans than a mid-tower or full-tower computer, desktops are not as efficient when it comes to cooling.

There we have it. Desktop and tower computers are largely the same. A desktop sits horizontally, with a monitor on top, and has less functionality than a mid-tower of full-tower. A tower computer sits vertically on a desk, while equivalent size cases to the desktop have greater performance.




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