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Using an External Hard Drive On Multiple Computers


CE from Mobile AL writes  “Can you use an external hard drive on different computers, so that you can store things on both computers to the external hard drive?”

Hi, CE.  Thanks for the great question!

The answer to your question is not only “yes”, but that this is a great way to save space on your main hard drive and keep Windows running at optimum speed by not junking up the hard drive.  It also helps if you have multiple computers that you regularly use (for instance, for many years I used a desktop at home and a laptop when I was on the go) and need to share files between them

External hard drives come in two basic flavors.  You have your portable external hard drive

which is portable, made from a laptop hard drive, tops out around 3 TB and a little more expensive than the desktop version.  You always pay more for portability.

Then you have the desktop version

which is not portable (because it needs external power), is made from one or more desktop hard drives, a quick search brought me desktop external drives up to 20 TB and is a little less expensive on a dollar per GB basis.  Which one you choose will depend upon your needs.  For instance, I used to use mine to keep my stories on so that I could write in the break room at lunch, and it would not have been convenient for me to find power for it, so I used a portable drive, which powers through USB.

One quick point of clarification, however.  If by storing “things” you mean music and videos and documents, then it works great.  If by “things” you mean programs, then I will caution you that programs stored on an external hard drive don’t always work on any computer other than the one that you used when you initially installed the program on the external hard drive.  The reason for this is that a program will frequently write bits to your computer’s registry, and when you go to run them on another computer, they won’t be able to find anything referencing them in the registry, and so won’t run.

I hope that this helps!

Randal Schaffer

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2 Responses to “Using an External Hard Drive On Multiple Computers”

  1. Trish says:

    I just back up pictures, documents, downloads & music. Should I back up the internal works of the computer? (How?) Is that what you mean by a complete backup? I have two ext Hds full already and two I’m using currently as explained. I also have a corrupted one that opens when it feels like it, which isn’t often. The first time it opened(was recognized) I copied it’s media to both of the others. So some day I’ll try to open it again, but I don’t trust it, so putting more on it is fruitless. Thanks for all you do, Trish

  2. Cloyd Timothy says:

    Could Trish just format the corrupted drive and start over? Just wondering. People could also burn things onto the new M-Disk, which can last for hundreds of years. Get them on in 4.7 GB, 25GB, 50GB, and 100 GB. $60 for a 25 pk, with a DVD drive to match. How about it?

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