Home Computer & Office What to Look for When Buying an External Hard Drive?
What to Look for When Buying an External Hard Drive?

What to Look for When Buying an External Hard Drive?


Looking for an external hard drive? Believe it or not, you can save a ton of money by comparison shopping right online to find the best deal.

Finding the best external hard drive doesn’t have to be a stressful buying decision. You can get your hands on a high quality, low-cost hard drive in virtually no time at all. All you have to do is learn the ins and outs of what you need and what’s available on the market.

The good thing about finding a hard drive is that you don’t have to sacrifice size or quality in exchange for a price. You can easily find great deals right online for extremely affordable rates and data capacities.

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What is an External Hard Drive?

External Hard Disk
External Hard Disk

An external hard drive is a device stores important data but is located outside of the computer rather than inside the computer (internal).

Typically, most computers do have an internal hard drive but newer threats have risen such as a multitude of different viruses, so external hard drives have become popular because the data stored on them will be safe if the computer were to get a virus.

Sometimes an external hard drive is needed just for the added extra memory.

The external hard drive usually will sit on a surface near the computer such as the PC tower or a tabletop, the hard drive is housed in a sturdy enclosure that usually boasts a fan meant for cooling.

This device synchronizes with the computer via an interface cable (the most common being a Firewire or a USB interface) in which user information, data, and programs can be transferred between the two.

External hard drives essentially operate like a memory key because they are just as portable. If you need to take your external hard drive to work or to a friend’s house, then simply disconnect the interface from your computer and hook it up to your friend’s computer or your work computer.

The 4 Types Of External Hard Drives:

External hard disk can be classified into 4 types: Portable, Desktop, Personal Cloud Storage and NAS (Network Attached Storage).

  • Portable External Hard Drives:

These are handy and light weight hard drives that serve your storage needs efficiently wherever you go. Small enough to easily slip into your pocket or handbag, they are perfect not only in terms of size but also in the high capacity they offer.

Though the typical interface is USB 2.0, we are starting to see USB 3.0 with USB 2.0 compatibility being offered in some excellent models like the WD My Passport Essential USB 3.0 Ultra Portable Drive and the Toshiba Canvio USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive.

  • Desktop External Hard Drives:

Slightly bigger in size, desktop external hard drives offer even higher storage capacity as compared to the portable ones. These are ideal for personal use at home or in the office and can cater to even the most demanding user’s storage requirements. Simple and reliable, this is a very affordable option of adding storage.

  • Personal Cloud Storage Drives:

One of the latest technological innovations in external hard drives, personal cloud storage drives offers users many advantages. These include easy backup of all the computers on your home network, centralizing and sharing media, streaming media to your entertainment center, and lots more.

You have the flexibility to create your very own personal cloud with centralized storage and automatic wireless backup. It is also great for storing digital media and sharing photos, videos, and music on your network.

  • NAS (Network Attached Storage) Drives:

This is ideal for creating additional storage space and file sharing in a small office environment. Other than storing and sharing files on a single external hard drive, all the computers on the network can also be configured for automatic and continuous backup. The NAS drives typically offer versatile and powerful RAID capability that may be essential to a company’s IT needs.

Why Choose an External Hard Drive?

Media Storage
Media Storage

The external hard drive is a resourceful and reliable device that allows you to transport a large amount of data at any one time. Some are so compact and small they can be easily slotted in beside your laptop cover or case and you can bring them around easily.

They are great for long term storage of large information; some people consider it to be indispensable when it comes to storing the important work you’ve created or completed. You can store pictures, videos, documents, and all other data easily and separately in different easy to reach sections.

Long length videos and presentations can take up a lot of space on a drive, so storing these on an external one helps to free up some space on your computer when these don’t need to be in use.

There are of course other cheaper storage methods like USB flash drives or jump drives. This is great for a quick fix or to copy individual files to transfer or send to others.

However, when it comes to storing mass information these aren’t so great, as you may end up with a number of flash drives which will only use up time when you need to quickly find the exact file in future. With an external drive, even the huge files can be easily accessed right away without any delay or hassle.

How to Choose the Best External Hard Drive?

If you believe that your knowledge when it comes to computer hard drive, as well as soft ware part, is not enough then you will need to seek advice from expert or you could at least do a thorough research about the fact and the things that you believe you need to know when it comes to computers and technology.

External hard drives are available in both online and offline market. The following are the things that you should always consider and keep in mind when you have plans on acquiring one:

  • Brands – Do They Matter?

Many approach this shopping from the wrong direction though – looking for the “good” brands at first. While it’s true that there are several prominent companies on the market, it’s not something you should get too wrapped up in, as sometimes the best solutions can come from the most unexpected places.

Still, if you’d like to at least ensure some level of credibility behind the brand you’re paying for, look out for names like Western Digital, Buffalo, Seagate, Iomega, and Hitachi. There are plenty more that make good and reliable products, of course – but these are the most prominent names on the market at the moment.

Apple can also cut you some deals for this type of hardware, but you may have to pay a bit more for the same amount of storage space, which may not be an ideal solution for you. Do give them a chance and look up what they can offer you though, just in case they might have a deal that suits your needs at this precise moment.

  • Figure Out Your needs:

What you’re going to be using your external hard drive for is pretty much the biggest factor that should play a role in your final decision.

Different needs require different amounts of space for storage, so you should be prepared accordingly by figuring out what you’ll be doing with this drive in the first place. You probably already have a good idea about that, but here are the most popular options:

  1. Documents and most work-related types of files won’t generally require a lot of space, so even something smaller like a 20-40 GB drive should work just fine. Of course, the precise definition of “work-related files” can vary – if you work in graphic design your products may actually be quite bulky.
  2. Multimedia is a popular reason for buying an external hard drive – but it’s also not a very good definition when you need to figure out how much space you need. There’s media that doesn’t take up so much (pictures) and media that can quickly fill up even a 500 GB drive (DVD-quality movies). Music falls somewhere in between, depending on the quality.
  3. The software is the most variable and unpredictable type of data you can store on your drive, as you can cram it full of hundreds of small programs and utilities, or on the other hand copy something large like Adobe Photoshop and 3D Studio Max on it and fill it up almost instantly.
  4. Backup – you’ll typically need a large drive for this purpose, the larger the better. When it comes to backup, you’ll ideally want to preserve previous copies of it (that is, after you’ve made a backup at some point in time, the next one should be unique and not overwrite the current one). On the other hand, if you’re backing up some documents or other small files, you may get away with a smaller drive if you only need the most recent revision of all your work.

With backup though, it always pays to diversify – spread it across as many different places as possible. This will maximize your chances of recovery if something goes wrong – nothing lasts forever, and with hard drives, you’re especially prone to random small mishaps that can ruin the entire device in the blink of an eye.

If you only need to backup around 30-40 GB of data, it can be a much better idea to buy 2 drives of 50 GB each, instead of one large 100-200 GB drive which will be more than half-unused for its entire lifetime.

Speed is rarely an issue these days – it used to be that you had to make a choice between 7,200 RPM (rotations per minute, the speed of the drive) and 5,400 RPM drives, but these days 5,400 models are rare.

With regards to connectivity to the computer, pretty much everything uses at least USB 2.0 with some drives also having FireWire support, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the cable bottle-necking your speed.

  • Data Security:

Is supplied by a lot of external drives that really help in scheduling back-up through autopilots or for a fixed interval.

A lot of drives offer extra protection for your data along with a password protection function and also a higher encryption technology device. It could be that you simply misplaced the drive whilst carrying it.

Having protection features, you can be certain that the confidential data will not be accessed through any outsider.

  • Network Versatility:

Is yet another feature which is desired by users nowadays. Let’s look at a large family set up where lots of members have their own computers or perhaps a small business set up with a number of computers. The need may possibly arise to share data files among people.

Network attached storage systems are the correct option for such a scenario. They are substantial capacity external drives that will effortlessly backup files for the network of countless computers.

  • External Cooling:

Some drives have this as an inbuilt feature, in other cases, you’ll have to buy it as an additional device. The basic premise is simple though – electronics heat up as they work, and hard drives are no exception.

While a regular user won’t probably find this to be an issue, if you need to use your external hard drive for a prolonged time (and you’re in a poorly ventilated hot room) you’re putting the drive at a big risk if you’re not using an external cooler on it.

There are some pretty cheap solutions available if you need one – but most modern advanced models come with this already on board.

  • Aesthetics:

Last but not least, we have a certain type of special features which you’ll either disregard completely or spend hours customizing.

Some hard drive manufacturers allow you to fully customize how your drive looks before you purchase it, including not just simple things like changing the colors, but also outright adding graphic designs and other features like that on the drive’s exterior.

This varies from company to company though, so don’t expect the same level of functionality everywhere.

Sometimes you may even be given access to some cool options like transparent casing (so you can see the actual plates spinning inside as the drive is in operation), extra lighting (in customizable colors, typically), and even an LCD screen with read-outs for some of the drive’s current indicators like temperature and reading/writing rate.

If you’ve already bought your drive and still want to make it look a bit more personal and “yours,” you can buy an external case for it. These are commonly made of rubber or light plastic, and give the drive an added note of aesthetics while also adding some minimal extra protection from damage (though don’t count on them for this specific purpose).

“How to Choose the Best External Hard Drive”

Before purchasing the hard drive, you need to make some studies by yourself. Since several manufacturers are supplying external drives together with attractive features, those people who are unaware of these devices can possibly get confused.

A good way to understand and evaluate various products and learn about product ranges is simply by browsing the internet and looking into different sites.


With all this in mind, you should already have a pretty good idea of what you need. Open up your favorite online hardware dealer and find out what they have available with the options you’ve got in mind.

If you need some of the more advanced ones though (like the models with increased security features we mentioned above), you should contact a manufacturer directly and ask them what their options are, as this would likely give you a better overview of the choices you can make, and you may even get a personalized configuration that more closely matches the increased security needs you have.

The only specific piece of advice we can give you for your shopping is to not start with the price as a limiting factor. If you’re on a budget and you see an external hard drive which is ideal for you but outside of your financial reach, it’s often a better idea to save up a little more money and get that one instead of making a compromise.

In the end, it’s a one-time investment and if you’ve made the right choice, it’ll last you for as long as you’re using it – so don’t skimp on the money and pay as much as you need to get the ideal model for yourself.



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