Tips For Buying An External Hard Drive

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Filed under: Computers 

There are some good reasons why you may want to consider buying an external hard drive instead of opening your computer case and installing a second hard drive inside the computer. One of the most obvious reason of having an external hard drive is that its convenient and simple … you don’t have to open up the computer case and deal with installing additional hardware. An external hard drive lets you increase your computer’s data storage capacity with the simplicity of plug and play. With external hard drives, you are no longer limited to the storage capacity of the hard drive installed in your computer. Another advantage of an external hard drive is that your can take that hard drive with you and access the data on it with any other computer by simply unplugging it from one computer and plugging it into another.

If you’ve never bought an external hard disk before, here are a few tips to consider when buying your first external hard drive.

Be Brand Conscious: Many consumer products on the market today are basically the same and it doesn’t matter too much which brand you buy. However with hard drives, it pays to buy a well known brand name. For example Western Digital, Maxtor and Seagate Technology are all established companies well known for making reliable internal and external hard disks. If you come across a 100GB external hard drive from an unknown company that is selling for $20.00 less than a comparably rated one from Western Digital or Maxtor, chances are that the cheaper drive was made with cheaper parts that’s going to fail a lot sooner than you might expect. You have to decide for yourself if saving $20.00 or $50.00, or what ever the price difference, is worth risking your irreplaceable data with a hard drive of unknown reliability

Do Your Research: Start with the brand names and then go on line to do some research on the models you are interested in before making the final buy decision. Go to or similar sites for reviews and user feedbacks on the reliability of the drives. While the brand name companies generally make dependable and reliable hard drives, they will once-in-awhile come out with a few that are just terrible. And the internet is the best place to find out which external hard drives to avoid.

Know Your Connections: Before deciding on a particular external hard drive, make sure that it will connect with your computer. Most current crop of external hard drives will support either USB1.0 and USB 2.0 or FireWire, or both. All modern computers will have USB ports as a standard and support both the older USB 1.0 and the current USB 2.0. FireWire is faster that both USB connections but not all computers come with FireWire ports.

Think Fast: Look for a hard drive that rotates or spins at a minimum 5400 rpm. A speed of 7200 rpm is preferred. The faster the hard drive spins, the faster the data will get transferred between your computer and hard drive. You will also want to look for hard drives with an average seek time, or access time, of 10 ms or less. Access time refers to the time it takes the drive to position the drive head on the platter to either read or write data. The lower the seek time, the faster the drive will access data from the hard drive.

Another specification to consider is buffer size of the hard drive. A hard drive’s buffer is the amount of RAM on the drive to temporarily store frequently accessed data from the drive. Since the electronic RAM is faster at transferring data than the mechanical drive head operation, it increases the speed of the drive. The more buffer on the drive, the more data that can be stored in RAM and less reliance on the mechanical drive operation to retrieve the data. Most external hard drives today come with a 8MB drive buffer. Some high performance drives come with a larger 16MB buffer.

Think Big: This is the easiest decision to make when you are buying an external hard drive: buy as large an external hard drive as you can afford. There is simply no such thing as having too much storage space. If you can afford 100GB then get it. If you think you only need 100GB, get 150GB. Even if you do not think you will ever need all those gigabytes of storage, it never hurts to have it available, and the price difference between a 100GB drives and 200GB is generally quite low.