External Hard Drive Reviews
An external hard drive works to expand three main functions of your computer. As opposed to an internal hard drive that is built into the computer, the external is bought separately to enhance what your computer can already do. A good drive works by allowing you more storage space, the ability to back up your data, and to share this data with other computers. That’s why it is essential if you’re switching computers, as the external hard drive allows you to save this data and transport it to the new device. There are countless external hard drives to choose from, and which works best for you really depends on what you need to do, and what computer you already have. In general, drives are inexpensive and easy to find, and come ready to go right out of the box. With the newer, sleeker models of Notebooks on the market, external hard drives are essential for bulking up the storage space; especially for media such as movies, music, and other large files.
External Hard Drive Buying Guide
The idea of a data storage device for a personal computer (PC) that exists outside of the computer itself dates back to the first PCs in the early 1980’s. With computing power now mobile and portable, using an external hard drive to store data from your tablet or smartphone has become practical.
Most people will connect an external hard drive to their desktop or laptop computer, as the need to store, retrieve, and backup large amounts of data has increased. Video files, audio files, and picture or image files each can be more than one gigabyte in size. Storing hundreds or even thousands of these files on your computer can result in less than optimal performance from your computer as it sorts and organizes each individual file.
The good news about the external hard drive is that the price of storage is extremely cheap compared to the earliest models, which sold for $1000 to store 10 megabytes (MB) of data. Today you can store a terabyte (one trillion bytes or TB) for several hundred dollars. The two most popular operating systems, Windows and OSX developed by Microsoft and Apple Computer respectively, support a variety of external hard drives.
Why Purchase An External Hard Drive
There are many reasons to purchase an external hard drive, but the most common one is to be able to backup your entire desktop or laptop hard disk for storage and recovery purposes. People who work with many data images or videos often choose to keep copies of their current work on the device. Yet another reason is when multiple people are sharing a single computer and want to keep their data safe and private from the other users.
Types of Portable Hard Drives
Before beginning an assessment of what external hard drive to purchase, it is important to know the options and features available. The first step is to know the type of operating system your computer is running to ensure the hard drive you buy will be compatible with the computer you are connecting it to. For most people, this will either be a Windows (Microsoft) or OSX (Apple) compatible device. There are different versions of the operating systems, so be sure to check exactly what version you currently have installed on your computer.
There are three basic types of external hard drives. The device is usually housed in a plastic casing that can be in a variety of sizes. The size you choose will be determined by what is practical and convenient for your particular purposes. Many models can fit inside a shirt pocket.
The first type of drive is the desktop external hard drive. This type tends to be enclosed in a larger case and can weigh several pounds.
The second type is the much smaller notebook drive, also called pocket drives. While smaller in size, many models have a storage capacity equal or greater than that of a desktop type.
The third type of drive is called a solid state drive. This type is designed so that there are no moving parts. They are more expensive than the desktop or notebook drives but are far more reliable and less likely to have mechanical problems.
Major Considerations before Purchase
There are a number of technical facts that can be considered when deciding on which external hard drive to buy. For the average person there are basically five major considerations.
1) The Size of the Hard Drive or Hard Drive Capacity
This is the amount of space available for storage on the disk. A rule of thumb is to choose a hard drive about twice as large as the size of your computer’s internal hard drive. This will allow you to always have the available space for two backups of your computer if it needs to be restored. For other purposes such as external storage of working copies, your workload requirements will determine the size. It is always better to have too much external hard disk capacity than not enough, because the latter would require you to purchase another hard drive.
2) The Data Transfer Rate
This is a technical number that basically tells you how fast the data will be transferred between the computer and the external hard drive. Slow data transfer rates are not always bad if you are in no hurry to copy or backup your data files. Users who need quick storage and retrieval times need to pay close attention to the data transfer rate.
3) The Type of Cable
Cable used to connect the computer to the external hard drive. Usually the cable will come in the box with the hard drive. More importantly, check if the cable provided will support the maximum data transfer rate (above) of the device.
4) The Interface Between the Computer and External Hard Drive
This will be a cable, and the cable needs a connector on both ends. Your choice of connector will directly affect your data transfer rate The main types of connectors are USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, and eSATA. For most people, USB and Firewire are the most common choices since most computers have connectors already built in to the unit. There are two versions of USB, 2.0 and 3.0, with 3.0 having a data transfer rate about twice that of 2.0.
This last consideration often ends up being the deal breaker. The external hard drives with the fastest data transfer rates and greatest disk capacity are almost always the most expensive. Even if you do not have a requirement for terabytes of data storage, you may require the fastest data transfer speed. With price there is also the consideration of manufacturer and brand name, as some people are particular about buying from certain manufacturers.
There is much more information that can be found on the technical aspects of external hard drives. What has been provided here is a guide that most people will find useful as it avoids diving into technical differences that will have a small impact on the performance of the unit or your final decision.