Using an inexpensive, easy to use external hard disk drive is one of the best ways to back up your data. Although it’s best to have three forms of data back-up, the best back-up system is the one you use consistently. Of course, an external hard drive stored in the same place as your computer won’t protect your data from localized physical damage such as a fire or flood. But if the main hard disk drive fails, your data back-ups will be easy to access on your external drive. With all this in mind, what should you look for when choosing a back-up external hard drive?
The capacity of the drive is probably the number one factor people consider. With drives up to 8TB available today, you can store vast quantities of data for a reasonable price. Still, there’s no point paying for data storage you don’t need, so our recommendation is to select a drive as large as you think you’ll need – and then go just a little bit larger, just in case.
2. Type of Drive
External hard drives come in two forms: desktop class and notebook class. Desktop drives are typically larger (both in physical size and capacity) and require an external power adaptor. Some may also have their own fan for cooling. Notebook drives are portable, but their capacity is smaller.
3. Speed – Drives operate at speeds ranging from 5,400rpm to 7,200rpm and up, with the fastest drives being solid state drives because they lack moving parts. However, you’re not using an external back-up drive for gaming, so speed is probably not your top consideration. Additionally, the speed of data transfer is also affected by our next factor, the means by which you connect your external drive to your computer.
4. Connectivity options -
USB 2.0 or 3.0 are the most common inputs available for external hard drives. A 7,200rpm or faster drive won’t perform at optimum speeds through a USB 2.0 port, though, since a system is only as fast as its slowest component. FireWire and eSATA inputs can provide some performance boosts.
Finally, the newest connection format, Thunderbolt, provides lightning fast speeds. The type of inputs you’ll look for on a new external hard drive depend on the ports available on your computer.
If you travel frequently with your drive or store sensitive personal or company information on your drive, you may want to invest in a drive that provides hard disk encryption for added protection. Keep in mind, data recovery can be more difficult on an encrypted drive should data loss occur.
Finally, today’s external drives come in different shapes, from rounded to square, and different colors. If aesthetics are important to you, you’ll want to shop even more carefully to find a drive that meets your technical specifications and also looks good on your desk or shelf.