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Buying an External Hard Drive

Friday, July 20th, 2007 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals
 
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Q:
You’re always talking about having a second hard drive on hand and I was thinking about getting an external one, but I’m not sure what to look for. Can you give me some hints? Thank you!

A:
Oh, what a great question! After reading through this question, I immediately went and did a search in our archives, because I thought for sure we had done a tip on this before. But, much to my surprise, there was nothing to be found. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t covered this topic before. It’s definitely one that a lot of you could get some good use out of. So, that’s exactly why I’m going to take care of this one today. There’s no use waiting any longer. Let’s get right down to it!

First of all, you might be wondering why it’s a good idea to buy an external hard drive. Well, the main purpose for one is to act as a backup option for your computer. If something were to go wrong with your regular hard drive, you could easily switch over to this one, without losing anything. It also adds a lot of portability to your data. With an external hard drive, you can take your data anywhere you need to go. They’re very simple to use and they always seem to come in handy!

Alright, with all of that said, here are five tips you can use when buying an external hard drive:

1.) Go With a Brand Name – When it comes to external hard drives, it’s best to buy a brand name. Yes, it may cost you a little more, but it will save you in the long run. If you go with a name you don’t recognize, you’re really only going to get what you pay for. (Yes, the saying is true!) A hard drive made by a “not so well known” company may end up breaking down faster than another brand would and so on. Another good reason to buy a brand name is the warranty that comes with it. If something does go wrong with your drive, you can always have it fixed right away. On the other hand, with other companies, you might have a little trouble contacting them and actually getting your hard drive repaired. So, if you don’t want to deal with all that hassle, go with a brand name. You’ll thank me later!

2.) Search It Out – It’s best to do some research before you go out and buy a new external hard drive. You can use Google (or any of your other favorite search engines) to do this. You can search out the different brands and model types beforehand and that will really help you when you go to purchase the hard drive. If you have a specific type in mind that you want to buy, look for some reviews and any feedback you can find. That information will help you to see how reliable a certain hard drive really is. You may be surprised at some of the things you find, but at least you’ll know you’re getting the best hard drive for your money!

3.) Check the Connectivity – When you’re buying an external hard drive, you’ll want to pay attention to the connection type it has. The one you purchase will either connect via USB or Firewire. Now, Firewire is the fastest choice, but your computer may not have that type of connectivity. In that case, you’ll need to find one that will work with your computer, which will probably be a USB version (most all computers these days have USB ports). You’ll then also need to check on the USB connection you have. Do you have USB 1.0 or 2.0? It’s likely that you’ll have 2.0, but if you only have 1.0, you’ll need to find a hard drive that will support that as well. Without the proper connections, the whole thing is pointless, so you really need to pay attention to this aspect of it.

4.) Speed – You don’t want a hard drive that runs as slow as molasses, do you? I didn’t think so! In that case, you need to look for a hard drive that is going to give you the speed you want. When it comes down to it, the faster your hard drive performs, the faster your data will be transferred to your computer, etc. With that in mind, there are three things you need to check out when you go to buy your drive. First is the seek time. This needs to be 10ms or less. Second is the buffer size. The more of this, the better, but your drive should have at least 4 MB of buffer. Third is the RPM. For this, the higher it is, the better. It should be at least 5400rpm, but 7200rpm is preferred. If you stick to those basic tips, your hard drive will work just fine!

5.) Size – The last thing you need to keep in mind when you’re buying a new hard drive is the size of it. You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?! When it comes to size, you can basically go by the rule of “buy as much as you can afford.” When we’re talking about data storage space, you can never have too much, so if you can afford 100 GB, get that. If you think you’ll need more space and can handle it, get that. It’s all up to you, but it’s best to add an extra 50 percent on to the amount you think you’re going to need. That way, you’ll know for sure you won’t run out of space within the first couple of months.

If you follow these five rules, you’ll be purchasing the best external hard drive you possibly can. Be sure not to take a purchase like this lightly. It’s best to really do your homework and get the best hard drive for yourself and for your computer. Now that you know what to look for, go on and get one!

~ Erin

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