External Hard Drive Buying Guide
External Hard Drives 101
Types of External Hard Drives
Desktop External Hard Drives
Portable External Hard Drives
Mini External Hard Drives
External Hard Drive Buying Tips:
• Consider at least 1 TB of storage for growing movie and music libraries
• Desktop external hard drives require their own power source
• Portable external hard drives are powered by your computer
• Look for automatic backup software to protect your important data
• Choose a drive with a USB 3.0 port to accommodate new technology
External Hard Drive Features
Storage capacity is stated in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB). If yours is a typical household, a drive with 250 GB to 500 GB of capacity should easily meet your needs. That's plenty of space for storing text documents, spreadsheet files, the family photo album, and a sizeable music archive. Consider choosing a hard drive with 1 TB or more of capacity if you’re in the habit of downloading HD movies, storing hi-res video files, or plan to transfer your entire CD and vinyl music library to digital format. If you’re an avid collector, or have one in the family, a 2 TB external hard drive will give you plenty of room for growth.
The speed at which data is transferred from your computer hard drive to your external hard drive depends, in large part, on the port type. The main types of external hard drive ports are USB 2.0, USB 3.0, eSata, Thunderbolt, and Firewire. A USB 2.0 connection is the old standard, now surpassed by the much faster USB 3.0. You can connect a USB 3.0 device to a 2.0 port, but it will run more slowly. Some experts recommend an eSata drive for heavy downloading of hi-definition movies and for professional use (for networking, etc.) Keep in mind that eSata drives require a separate power source. FireWire and Thunderbolt are your choices for the Mac platform.
It’s worth paying a little extra for your external hard drive if it comes with automatic backup software. It works by automatically copying your files to the external drive each time you start your computer without any prompting from you. Look for a feature that allows you to schedule the backup at a time when the process won’t interfere with your regular desk work. Backups can slow down your operating system temporarily until all the data is transferred.
External hard drives look like most other computer peripherals. They’re designed for function not form. Black metal cases are common with a few designer exceptions. Portable external hard drives often come with a table mount so they can stand vertically in a corner of your work space. Some mini external hard drives are equipped with high impact cases to protect the mechanism from drops and knocks while travelling. Choose a sturdy case if you plan to use it on the go.
The HDD in a desktop external hard drive is sealed inside a ventilated case and can become warm during routine operation. Desktop models should come with a built-in fan to prevent overheating. A fan is not necessary on a SSD or flash external hard drive, which has no moving parts.
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5 Good Reasons to Own an External Hard Drive:
• A safe backup solution for protecting important data and archives
• File sharing with other family members or computers in the household
• Frees internal hard drive space to help optimize computer performance
• Convenient USB models connect automatically to most computers
• Compact portable units provide high storage capacity and file mobility