01/05/12

External Hard Drives: How to Choose the Device for Your Digital Needs

Offering valuable digital storage and ultimate portability, external
hard drives have become a must-have for virtually every computer user.
However, with the digital storage market awash with countless portable
hard drives it can be hard choose what’s best for your needs. These are
the key factors to consider when searching for an external hard disk
drive (HDD).

Storage Capacity

Portable hard drives are available with mind boggling storage
capacities; ranging from 160 gigabytes (GB) to 750GB. You can also buy
one terabyte (TB) and two terabyte models. If you are a casual user
looking to transfer files and folders from one device to another then
you will find a smaller-capacity drive sufficient. If however, you
intend to use the drive to add extra storage to your computer or as an
additional backup layer – then go for a drive with a higher storage
capacity.

Transfer Speeds

The Transfer speed is the rate at which an external hard drive can
transfer data to and from a host controller (i.e., a computer). If you
plan on using the drive to simply back up and store data, you probably
don’t need the fastest external hard drive on the market. On the other
hand, if you plan to store large multimedia files then look for a drive
with a quicker transfer speed, like those with a USB 3.0 interface. USB
3.0 offers transfer rates up to 10 times faster than its predecessor;
the USB 2.0 interface.

Portability

How portable an external hard drive is depends on 3 factors: size,
weight and durability. Many portable hard drives are just a few inches
in size and weigh no more than a few ounces. This means they are
lightweight and can be slipped into a pocket – so you get portability
without sacrificing storage capacity. In terms of durability, any
portable external HDD needs to be durable enough to withstand the minor
abuse sustained through daily transport and use. Look out for mobile
drives with drop protection features and that are made from solid,
long-lasting materials such as aluminum or sturdy plastic.

Encryption

Because they are so portable, you are much more likely to lose a
small hard drive, or worse have it stolen. In which case, it’s vital you
have encryption functionality installed if you plan to use it out and
about or store sensitive information on it. Look for drives that offer
password protection and, ideally, hardware-based encryption. While
software-based encryption does offer some protection, it is usually not
as secure as hardware-based encryption.

Preloaded Software

Many external hard drives come with backup software pre-loaded on the
drive that allows you to automate and customize backups to the drive.
If your storage needs are modest, stick with drives that provide basic
plug-and-play operation. But for if you plan to routinely back up data
to the drive, pre-loaded software can be highly useful and makes the
whole backup process simpler. Plus, as the software is factory loaded
onto the drive, you won’t have to worry about installing separate
external software on to your computer to schedule your back ups.

Decide which factors are most important for you, then use them to
help you find the external hard drive that best meets your needs.