Buyer’s Guide: How To Choose An External Hard Drive

One of the most essential accessories for your personal computer is an external hard drive. Why? No matter what kind of computer you have—from the ultimate gaming machine to the smallest netbook—an extra drive allows you to have almost unlimited amounts of storage. For example, for around one hundred dollars you can usually purchase a drive with a storage capacity of a terabyte, which is equal to 1000 gigabytes. With the average picture file weighing in at a few megabytes, that’s more than enough space for half a million pictures! Starting to see the benefits? Because external drives come in different shapes and sizes, here’s a guide to help you determine which is right for you.

Desk Top Drives Vs. Notebook Drives

Any external hard drive can fit into one of two basic categories: desktop models and notebook models. The main difference here is portability. Just like a desktop pc versus a notebook, drives for these respective machines are meant either to remain in one place or to be toted around. If your main computer is a fixture of your workspace, then get a desktop drive, which will have its own power supply often cost less and have more storage capacity generally. Notebook drives use the pc for a power source via a connector cable. Word to the wise: when getting a desktop drive, look for one that has a built-in fan to provide extra cooling.

External Hard Drives

Storage Capacity

An important aspect of choosing the right external hard drive for your needs is picking one that has the right amount of storage. The largest capacity of most desktop drives available on the market is 4 terabytes, but some drives are available with two mechanisms that have 4 terabytes each for a total of 8 terabytes. Notebook drives generally come with smaller storage capacities than their less mobile cousins—most of these drives fit into the 250 gigabytes to 750 gigabytes range, but there are some that have as much space as 1.5 terabytes.

External Solid State Drives

While having an external hard drive is not a novelty, a new kind of drive is becoming more prevalent on the market. External solid state drives, also known as SSDs, offer users several benefits—with some caveats. Made mostly for notebooks and other portable machines, external SSDs often have a smaller capacity than regular drives, ranging from 64 gigabytes to 512 gigabytes on average. However, what they lack in storage space, SSDs make up for in speed, with data transfer rates that can be double or even triple that of traditional drives. SSDs also make less noise (they have no moving parts), are more resistant to higher temperatures, and start up quicker than traditional drives.

Analyze Potential Use

Know how you plan to use the drive is crucial when deciding what type of drive to get. If you plan to transfer large single files like videos and movies on a regular basis then you will benefit from a drive that has at least a fire-wire 400 or even better fire-wire 800 connector. These connection ports are designed to handle large files and are much faster than USB connections. They also cost more so if you do not need them go ahead with a drive with USB 2 or 3.

Shopping, Comparing, Buying

To ensure that you find the best external hard drive for your needs, you will want to assess your needs, shop around, and compare products and prices before making a purchase. The above guide can help you more fully understand what external drives are capable of in terms of type, storage, and speed, but deciding which drive best meets your needs is up to you. Reviewing all your options before you buy will help you feel confident in your final decision, so get out there and enjoy the hunt! Learn more about external hard drives at