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  • External Hard Drive Buying Guide
Technology Articles > Hardware > Hard Drives and Burners > External Hard Drive Buying Guide

The best possible way to backup any files that you currently have on your system is to use an external hard drive. These drives can hold massive amounts of files and they are often very versatile. Some external hard drives are very difficult to set up, however, and these will prove nothing short of a hassle. On the flip side, many external hard drives were built with user-friendliness in mind.

Chances are that you’ll be bombarded with many different external hard drive options when you visit your local electronics store, but you should know that there are some very easy ways to choose the best hard drive for your needs. The selection process begins by determining what type of hard drive you really need.

Desktop VS. Notebook Style Drives

A desktop drive has been built to sit on your desktop. As such, these drives require a power source and come with a power adaptor. You can’t really move a desktop drive around too much, so keep this in mind if you intend to travel with your drive. The other type of drive is a notebook drive. As the name suggests, notebook drives are built for transportation ease and ultimate efficiency. Notebook drives gain their power from connector cables and don’t rely on stable power sources such as an outlet or other power source.

Notebook drives are often so small that they can be placed inside of a pocket. This is not the case with a desktop drive that must reside on your desktop. If you intend to transfer files while on the go, a notebook drive might be the drive for you. Only, you’ll have to consider how much information the notebook – or desktop – drive you choose can hold.

Drive Capacity

It is possible to find a notebook drive that can hold up to 1.5 terabytes. However, most notebook drives can only hold up to 750 GB. Many desktop drives reach capacity at 4 Terabytes. So, if you want to transfer a lot of files and you need a drive that can hold more than 750 GB or 1.5 Terabytes, you will want to look at desktop models. If you don’t need that much storage space, a notebook drive that runs in the 250 – 750 GB range might suffice. Once you’ve decided how much storage you actually need, you can then consider other drive details.

Additional Drive Details

It’s important to note that (just like any other device) external hard drives can become overworked and overheated if used too much. If you intend to transfer large video, or other, files, you will want to purchase a desktop drive that has multiple fans. If your drive doesn’t have lots of fans, it will burn out sooner than a drive that is well-equipped to cool quickly. It’s also very important to consider connectivity. Most desktop drives can connect to your PC or Mac via USB, which is an excellent option. Some wireless drives do exist, but these are relatively new to the market and many are sub-par.

Another connectivity option is Thunderbolt, which, essentially, is the fastest connectivity option currently available (up to 10GBps). Speaking of speed, don’t be fooled by the numbers that manufacturers put on external hard drive boxes. Speed only matters if you have a super fast connectivity method. If you’re working with just USB, consider purchasing a drive that can hold more, which is often the more important detail. The last thing to consider is the warranty that comes with a drive. A good warranty is the three to five year type. If a drive has less than a three year warranty, pony up the extra cash to purchase something with a better manufacturer backing.