High temperature superconductors (HTS)-wound coils are being developed for use in motors, generators as well as magnet applications. Determining the stability and safe operating margins of such coils still poses challenges. While the recently introduced no-insulation winding method provides a remedy for many problems, it comes with its own limitations. For comparison, we have wound two pancake coils from HTS coated conductors with the insulated and non-insulated winding techniques. Both coils were coated with a fluorescent, temperature-sensitive coating, which allowed monitoring the surface temperatures during operation. The coils were cooled to 77 K via a combination of conduction and gas cooling, and their electrical and thermal behaviour was observed in operation. Here we present the normal transition of both coils caused by an artificially introduced instability due to a surface-mounted, resistive heater element. In the insulated coil, the localized disturbance caused a local transition of the superconductor to the normal conducting state, triggering a thermal runaway. Merely the turns in contact with the artificial disturbance heated up, while the rest of the coil remained in the superconducting state. ... mehrIn the non-insulated coil—although a much longer heater pulse was required—the normal transition started from the weakest point of the coil (around the bobbin) and the whole coil was heating thereafter, with the centre heating more.