If you’re on the market to buy an external hard drive, there are several factors to consider in making an informed purchasing decision.
This post talks about the top things that most people think about when they are on the market for an external hard drive. These are all decisions you will need to make prior to beginning your search. Some are based on personal preference, others on how you will use the drive, and still others on the type of computer to which you are planning to connect the drive.
As with any major purchase, it’s important to do a little research before making a final decision. You want to be sure your important data is well-secured.
Buy an External Hard Drive – Top 5 Factors
The top 5 factors that most people consider are:
We’ll look at each of these basic factors in turn then look at some other important considerations.
1. Type of External Drive
There are two basic types of external hard drives:
Desktop models are built to sit on top of a stable work surface (like your desk) and are generally meant to “stay put”. That doesn’t mean you can never move them, but they aren’t really designed to be physically transported on a frequent basis. They typically require a separate power cord in addition to the data transfer cable.
Portable models are designed to be small and light so you can take them with you when you’re on the go. They are generally small enough to fit in your pocket and to withstand minor jostling. Some manufacturers specifically design drives that are made to withstand rigorous conditions like military combat, but most cater to more mainstream use.
Capacity refers to the amount of data the external hard drive can store. Desktop models, which top out at 4 TB as of this writing, can generally store more data than portable ones. Portable drives generally don’t have the capacity of a desktop drive, but can still reach upwards of 1.5 TB of storage.
To find out how much capacity you need, you’ll need to do a little math. You will need to know the average file size and number of files for each type of file you want to store (photos, songs, movies, etc.).
But keep in mind that the actual capacity of a drive and the advertized capacity are not the same. If you buy a 500 GB external hard drive, you will actually get around 465 GB of space.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The first has to do with the numbering system that manufacturers use to report capacity (base 10 instead of base 2). They don’t do this to knowingly cheat customers, but rather because we all think in base 10. You can find a handy calculator that tells you the “true” capacity of a drive, as well as a more detailed explanation on how capacity is calculated here.
Another reason is that many hard drives come with resident software, like backup utilities. These, of course, take up available space. Some of these utilities can be easily removed, but not always.
So when you’re trying to determine how much space you’re going to need, keep the above in mind. It’s usually best to err on the side of more capacity rather than less capacity.
Most people don’t care much about the remaining features. Beyond the type and capacity of a drive, price is the biggest factor in determining which external hard drive to purchase.
Not to downplay the importance of price, but when you buy a hard drive, you may want to consider a few other things about the vendor and the shopping experience they provide. For example:
- Do they have a good overall product selection?
- Does the site provide good product information, is it easily navigable, is check-out quick and painless?
- Are items generally in stock?
- Does the shipping packaging provide adequate protection against damage (this is especially important for something as fragile as a hard drive)?
- What is the return policy?
Buying an external hard drive from a well-known reputable vendor is usually a safe bet. Beware of vendor who may offer cut-rate prices, but at the expense of safely and speedily delivering the product as promised. If you’re not familiar with the vendor, do a bit of homework before handing over your hard-earned money.
You want to be sure that whatever external hard drive you buy will work with your computer.
Most external hard drives support USB 2.0, which is the most common type of port on different computer types and models (tower, laptop, netbook, Macs, etc.).
Other connectivity types include FireWire, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt.
When it comes to your important data, you want to be sure it’s well-protected. There’s nothing worse than losing your treasured digital photos and videos or your favorite songs to a hard drive crash.
Before you buy an external hard drive, be sure you’re buying from a reputable manufacturer who has a history of producing quality drives. You want a company who stands behind their product and has a good customer service department.
Several manufacturers stand out in these areas:
- Western Digital
This list isn’t an exhaustive one, but these seem to be the leaders of the pack as of this writing.
Other Factors to Consider When You Buy an External Hard Drive
You may want to consider some other factors whey you’re shopping for an external hard drive.
- Speed of internal mechanisms
- Resident software
- Encryption/Password protection
So basically, there’s not a lot to it. Just remember that when you want to buy an external hard drive, doing a bit of homework up front can save you headaches down the road.
Top 4 Desktop External Hard Drives
1. Seagate Expansion 8TB (STEB8000100)
The Seagate expansion desktop drive provides extra storage for your ever-growing collection of files. Instantly add space for more files, consolidate all of your files to a single location, or free up space on your computer’s internal drive to help improve performance. Setup is straightforward; simply plug in the included power supply and USB cable, and you are ready to go. It is automatically recognized by the Windows operating system, so there is no software to install and nothing to configure. Saving files is easy too-just drag-and-drop. Take advantage of the fast data transfer speeds with the USB 3.0 interface by connecting to a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port. USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 for additional system compatibility. System requirements: Windows 7 or higher, SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port (required for USB 3.0 transfer speeds or backwards compatible with USB 2.0 ports at USB 2.0 transfer speeds, compatibility may vary depending on the User’s hardware configuration and operating system).
2. WD Black 6TB (WD6001FZWX)
WD Black performance storage is designed to enhance your PC experience across heavier computing tasks whether you are a digital artist, video editor, photographer, or gamer. Available with an impressive 128 MB of DRAM cache on higher capacity models, the WD Black drive is optimized for drive performance so you can spend more time experiencing the things you love most. Enhance your PC’s performance even further when you combine a WD Black drive with an SSD for a dual drive configuration, allowing you to benefit from the additional caching of your operating system onto the SSD for increased performance. All together, the WD Black drive gives you the hard drive performance, capacity and an industry leading 5-year limited warranty for an inspiring three-in-one storage solution.
3. LaCie d2 Quadra 5TB Hard Drive USB 3.0 7200RPM (9000481U)
With the new USB 3.0 5Gb/s interface and capacity up to 5TB, the LaCie d2 Quadra USB 3.0 is the ideal tool for creative professionals who need both fast speeds and large storage capacity. It features 7200rpm drives with a minimum of 32MB cache for the best performance and seek times, so it can handle the most resource-intensive applications. Best of all, it can achieve speeds up to 130MB/s in USB 3.0.
4. Fantom Dives GF4000QU3 4TB
Fantom Drives GeForce 4TB Quad USB3.0/2.0,eSATA,Firewire800/400 External Drive. Fantom Drives features the newest generation USB 3.0 allowing transfer rates up to 10 times the rate of USB 2.0. The USB 3.0 hard drive is perfect for audio and video professionals requiring maximum performance and reliability.
Top 6 Portable External Hard Drives
5. Silicon Power 4TB (SP040TBPHDA85S3S)
Military-grade shockproof protection. Meet IP68 dustproof/ waterproof standard. Pressure-resistant with aluminum casing. Intelligent cable-carry design. SP HDD Lock Utility free download software for full disk encryption
3-year manufacturer warranty.
6. WD 4TB – USB 3.0 – WDBYFT0040BBK-WESN
My Passport is the trusted, portable storage that perfectly complements your on-the-go lifestyle. Designed to fit in the palm of your hand, there’s plenty of space to store a massive amount of photos, videos, music and documents. Perfectly paired with WD Backup software and password protection, the My Passport drive helps keep your files safe.
>> WD-4TB-Black-My-Passport-Portable-External-Hard Drive-USB 3.0-WDBYFT0040BBK-WESN
7. Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt USB 3.0 2 TB Portable Hard Drive (HD-PA2.0TU3)
Mini Station Thunderbolt is a high performance portable hard drive featuring the revolutionary Thunderbolt technology. Delivering the fastest interface speeds available, up to 10 Gbps, Thunderbolt is 2X faster than USB 3.0, giving you the fastest portable storage interface ever, perfect for creative professionals and multimedia enthusiasts. Housed in a sleek aluminum body, Mini Station Thunderbolt is a stylish storage companion for your laptop while on the go and at home. It includes a USB 3.0 port for convenience and universal connectivity. Instantly add capacity to your Mac or PC computer and use with Time Machine to back up and protect your important data. Its bus-powered interface requires no additional cables so transporting your data is hassle-free. Mini Station Thunderbolt is a complete portable Thunderbolt storage solution, simply plug it in to any available Thunderbolt or USB port on your Mac or PC computer and securely store files to take on the road.
8. Toshiba Canvio Basics 2TB Portable Hard Drive (HDTB320XS3CA)
Discover one of easiest ways to add high-capacity storage to your computer with Toshiba’s Canvio Basics portable hard drive, offering a simple plug-and-play solution right out of the box. Get all the storage capacity you need for your important digital content—and keep it all in one place, everywhere you go. This device accommodates large digital files with spacious storage capacity of up to 2 TB. Powered directly from the USB port on your PC, it offers easy add-on storage with no software installation necessary and the simplicity of plug-and-play operation. The perfect companion for your laptop, this portable hard drive offers up to 2 terabytes(1) of storage—all in a compact, smudge-resistant design. So you can take all your files with you, without carrying a heavy load. An Internal Shock Sensor and Ramp-Loading Technology help protect your drive from damage due to accidental drops.
9. Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2 TB (WDBMWV0020BTT-NESN)
Ultra-compact design with plenty of storage. Fast data transfers with USB 3.0 interface. USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 compatibility. Automatic back-up software for local back-ups. Cloud back-up through Dropbox. Password protection and hardware encryption. Ideal For: Transferring files quickly with USB 3.0, Backing-up your files to the local drive or cloud, Adding extra storage for your videos, music, photos, and files, Securing your files from unauthorized access with, password protection and hardware encryption, Connecting and powering through a USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 interface.
10. Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 (STEA1000400)
System requirements : Windows 8, Windows 7 Operating System. SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port (required for USB 3.0 transfer speeds, or backward compatible with USB 2.0 ports at USB 2.0 transfer speeds). Drag and drop file saving, right out of the box. Offers enough data storage for: Up to 1,000 hours of digital video, Up to 250 two-hour DVD films, Up to 320,000 digital photos, Up to 16,660 hours of digital music.
You May Also Like: