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External Hard Drive Buying Guide: 6 Things to Know Before Buying New One

Regardless of the flexibility of cloud storage, some people still prefer a hard drive to back up their files. The reasons can be vary, but the most common one is because they want to have a physical copy of their files instead of something floating on the cloud.

With many drive companies have been releasing more external SSD series these days, choosing the right external hard drive can be a little more challenging, especially if you intend to use it as a backup medium. There are a number of aspects you need to know.

In general, there are 6 key aspects you need to know before choosing an external hard drive. They are capacity, compatibility, speed, portability, security and the type of drive. Let’s have some talk about them, one by one.

1. Capacity

The most crucial aspect you really need to know before searching for a hard drive reference is to understanding what will you use it for. If you are a photographer who always shoot in RAW and plan to use your external hard drive to backup your RAW files, then you will need a hard drive with more spacious capacity. The same case applies to videographers. A RAW file is much larger than JPEG. It can be three times larger. Choosing a hard drive with fewer capacity isn’t too good idea.

How spacious it takes?

A terabyte-sized external hard drive might can be a good option for such need. Different story applies when you just want to use your external hard drive for storing document files or spreadsheets. With a — for instance — 80 GB external hard drive you would’ve been able of storing files as high as mountain. Currently, the external hard drive capacity available in the market ranging from 80 GB to 4 TB. There are also a number of series with more than 4 TB storage capacity, but it surely will cost extra.

2. Compatibility

Compatibility is the technical aspect you have to consider the most when choosing an external hard drive. You definitely don’t want your new hard drive to be useless because it can’t run on your computer. Don’t you?

Basically, most external hard drives are compatible with major platforms. Be it Windows, Mac or Linux. However, there is no bad to check out what platforms are supported by the external hard drive you plan to buy to prevent you from being disappointed. That is because there are several external hard drive series — although very low in number — that only works on specific platforms. Be sure to read the detail specs of the external hard drive you are targeting.

3. Speed

What I mean speed here is the speed transfer of the external hard drive. The main factor that affects the transfer speed of the hard drive is the interface of the hard drive.

Back to scenario above. If you are a photographer who always shoot in RAW and plan to use your external hard drive to backup your works, an external hard drive with a 3.0 USB interface would be a smarter choice since it has a faster transfer rate than USB 2.0.

USB 3.0 is capable of transferring files with speed rate of 5 Gbit/s (625 MB/s), about ten times faster than USB 2.0. Want faster transfer rate? You can search for an external hard drive that features eSATA interface. eSATA is three times faster than USB 3.0 in transferring data, but it typically requires an external power source, so you will need to plug your external drive into an outlet as well as into your computer. Just be sure to check the available ports on your computer before checking the interface section on the specs page of the external hard drive you want to buy.

4. Portability

One of the reasons why people want to buy an external hard drive — other than backing up files — is to carry it around. Did you ever wondered how National Geographic photographers/videographers transferring their files when they are working in a remote location? Big chances are, they use external hard drive.

If you are a field worker, an external hard drive with a smaller size would be a nice option. You can carry it around with you by slipping it to your pocket. The smaller the size of the hard drive, the more portable it be. Some external hard drives come with an enhanced data protection. The feature is very useful to reduce the risk of failure caused by shock if you happen to drop it.

Conversely, if you intend to keep your external hard drive at home, you might need to consider an external hard drive that is designed for home need, (commonly called desktop external hard drive). Seagate Expansion and Seagate Backup Plus Hub are the example of that sort of external hard drives.

5. Security

Security should also be an aspect you consider the most of an external hard drive. When it comes to external hard drive, it would be much better to choose a series with hardware-based encryption. Especially if you plan to store some sensitive files on it. WD My Passport is one of the examples of external hard drive series with a hardware-based encryption. The external hard drive series comes with a built-in 256-bit AES hardware encryption with WD Security software, helping keep your content private and safe.

6. SSD or HDD?

This question is a bit tricky to answer. If transfer rate really matter to you then SSD is the better suited option. An SSD also tends to more durable than HDD as it contains no moving mechanical components. The biggest problem about SSD is that it is much more expensive than HDD. It can be three times more expensive than HDD. However, HDD is OK as long as you don’t treat it like a maraca when transferring files.

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