While cloud storage is convenient, it’s not guaranteed to always be available. Over time, we will move from virtual space to something we have yet to imagine. Until then, transfer copies of your files to a external hard drive it is good practice. But, with tons of options now available where do you start? Read on to find out how to choose the best one for added peace of mind.
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Even before: why create a backup? To ensure that all your vital information is secure, no matter what happens to your computer or internet connection. Backup everything to an external hard drive and use the cloud as a secondary source.
The most important specification to consider when purchasing an external hard drive is its capacity. It’s no good getting a high-speed device with encryption and remote access if it’s not big enough to actually store the information you need.
With that said, you also don’t want to pay a kidney for a disk that you’ll never be close to filling, so what size should you aim for? The answer is as simple as depending on what you want to do with it.
If you want one that’s good for transferring documents, photos, or other media between different devices, or you just want to expand the storage space on your low-end laptop or tablet, then it might be better with a mid-range flash drive.
While the larger ones go up to 5TB of storage capacity, they are very expensive and unnecessarily large. It really is better to save money and buy something in the 64GB range. Some can be purchased for less than $ 20, and you get double the size for a little more.
If you are interested in storing more information or maintaining files and folders for the long term, you will want something with a larger capacity. A 1TB drive should meet most needs for the foreseeable future, as long as you want to store hundreds of movies, because you want to get rid of your DVD collection.
For example, Seagate Backup Plus is available from 1 to 5 TB capacity. The 1TB model doesn’t cost much more than $ 90, while the 5TB model fetches $ 160.
SSD vs. HDD
You will find external hard drives in two versions: HDD and SSD. We talked more in depth about the differences between the two in a separate article and below where it affects the specifications. Even so, they are essentially two different ways of storing and accessing data.
Traditional mechanical hard drives, (HDD, hard disk drive, for its acronym in English), use a rotating magnetic disk to store data and read / write heads to change this data when necessary, which is why they are known for their iconic spinning sounds.
SSDs (Solid State Drives) use small transistors that can turn on or off based on electrical impulses. They have no moving parts, hence the name.
Generally speaking, SSDs are significantly faster than HDDs, but they can be very expensive. The latter are cheaper, but also larger, slower and more easily damaged. For external drives, it is generally better to choose an SSD, except in particular circumstances.
Size isn’t everything, even when it comes to external drives. Transfer speed is also important, because if you transfer files from one disk to another on a regular basis, you don’t want to wait forever for the process to complete.
There are two main factors that play a role in how fast your drive can run: the storage technology and the connector it uses. Although some drives are faster than others (and if you want top speed, be sure to check the specs for your options) overall.
SSDs can process data faster than HDDs. External SSDs tend to be more expensive than their HDD counterparts and often have less storage capacity. You don’t have to have one or the other, as there are larger SSDs, but you will have to pay extra for it.
In terms of the connector, there are several common options to consider. Most drives use a USB interface, but there are several generations that have some clear differences, especially with the transfer speed.
USB 2.0 is an old standard, and if you’re doing more than doing infrequent small file transfers, avoid it: its maximum transfer speed only reaches 480 Mbps. Usually the port is not color-coded on computers, it is black.
Post 2.0 USB connections can be confusing. You might see the specs listed as USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen1, or USB 3.2 Gen1. All three are essentially the same, providing speeds of up to 5Gbps and are typically color-coded in blue. Meanwhile, USB 3.1 Gen2 and USB 3.2 Gen2 are also the same, they are color-coded in red and offer 10Gbps transfers.
The fastest, USB 3.2 or 3.2 2×2, offers up to 20 Gbps.
USB-A is the most common type of connector with a rectangular box and an “this side up” connection. USB-C is newer, smaller, and rounder, and offers a reversible connector. In charge of this port is the DisplayPort protocol for video output. Some connectors use the USB-C type of port but operate the Thunderbolt 3 protocol with a transfer rate of up to 40 Gbps.
Some older devices use alternative connectors such as eSATA and Firewire, but due to their reduced relevance these should be avoided.
All that said, ideally you should have a Thunderbolt 3 connection. If it’s too expensive or your computer doesn’t have a USB-C (or Thunderbolt 3) port, look for USB 3.1 / 3.2 Gen 2 support.
If you only want to use your external drive for backing up to your own home, you don’t need to consider portability and you might even look network attached storage solutions, for permanent backup options.
However, if you want to take your unit away from home, portability is of the utmost importance. You’ll want it to be light and small enough to fit in a bag or pocket for quick and easy access.
Most external drives are far from heavy and some, like the Samsung T5, are small, offer large storage capacity, and are physically tiny. Contrary to storage space, SSDs tend to be slightly smaller than their hard drive counterparts.
Another reason to consider an SSD over an HDD is durability. While modern external drives often come equipped with sturdy housings to protect them from damage in the event of being knocked or dropped, the two technologies have very different physical makeup.
With no moving parts, an SSD is more durable to drop damage than a traditional hard drive. While no one plans to drop their external drive, if you think about it, it can happen to all of us, SSDs offer a bit more protection against such unfortunate events.
If the data you store on your external drive is confidential, it is a good idea to encrypt it. There are many drives that are compatible with software encryption solutions and are suitable for most, but for those who are more serious about security, they will need a drive with hardware encryption.
If you are extremely demanding, you could even opt for a physical security system, such as code access per pin of the unit Apricorn Aegis Padlock. Some units will also come with strong housings to avoid physical tampering.
The Kingston Ironkey flash drives They do not offer the same storage capacity as large-scale drives, but they do have a secondary security layer, as the cards in your drive are immersed in a resin that makes it difficult to access the internal memory chips.
Hard drives are often sold to be compatible with a specific operating system – a hard drive formatted for Windows 10 may have trouble working with MacOS, and vice versa.
Some are also formatted specifically for Linux. This is not irreversible, usually it is possible to format or partition a hard drive so that it can have different capacities. However, if you want to avoid the hassle, make sure your drive matches the operating system you will be using it for.
If you are going to use your portable hard drive for gaming or to increase console storage, your needs may be slightly different than the average user. The speed of the SSD is even more important, as a slow disk can affect wait times and responsiveness.
USB 3.0 is pretty important too, although newer gaming consoles and computers are likely to upgrade this to faster speeds over USB-C, so be prepared for this.
Automatic backup features and universal compatibility are also features that many gamers should look for. Some models, such as the unit Silicon Power Armor A60They also have built-in cable storage and military standard protection, which can meet your requirements.
Some units, such as gaming Seagate, are specifically designed to match the PS4 colors, and other models are made for Xbox only. If you want a unit that matches your console, there is probably one available.
Despite having covered all the bases of the investigation, we can still have reservations to make the right decision. When all the options seem the same at the base level, you should consider the additional features before making your purchase.
One feature that you should take into account is the extended warranty. This will cover you if your whole system crashes, so it’s worth it.
Also, you should take note of the types of cables that come with your unit. Some newer phones and laptops use USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 connections, but the drive you want may include a USB-A cable. If that’s the case, you can still buy that unit, but you’ll also need to buy a different cable or adapter, which will add to the total cost.
Newer units that have cutting edge features like USB cable charging capability and the ability to connect to Wi-Fi are worth checking out.