Reviews & Profiles
Buying an external hard drive? What you need to know
Posted Tuesday, January 15 2013 at 00:00
Unlike other New Year resolutions that require painful effort or changes in daily routines, backing up your computer is simple; attach an external drive, fire up your backup software of choice and let it do its thing. All you need is the right external drive.
Considering that data catastrophes can happen due to failed drives, lost computers, or even unintended deletion of a file, backing up data is one simple decision that could save you in 2013. The key ingredient though is the external hard drive.
This add-on is one of those computer accessories in today’s world that is great for anyone who needs to expand their storage, back up their music, videos and photos, protect important files or just ensure that if a hard drive crashes, one can quickly restore their computer to a working state. But while it can provide many advantages, choosing one can be a tricky task for the average computer user.
An external hard drive is one of the simplest computer peripherals to install. Most can be installed simply by plugging it into a USB port and they work like a regular internal hard drive. Many newer ones even come with user-friendly software that can be used to organise and back up files. Here are some key points to consider when buying the best external hard drive for your needs. When deciding what shall work best for your needs, consider the following: What will you be using it for? How much space do you really need? And how often will you be backing up your files?
Also, do you want to be able to transport your external hard drive so that a lighter, encrypted one would be most convenient and best protected? Or do you plan to keep it in one place, in which case you can afford a heavier but potentially cheaper device? Answering these questions will help you gauge what the best storage device option will be for you?
Storage capacity in external HDDs can range from about two GigaBytes (2GB) to over four TeraBytes (4TB). In fact, some drive companies put two 4TB drives in one chassis, creating an 8TB HDD, which is total overkill for most people. Whether you want a mini external HDD (also known as a flash drive) that you can pin to your key holder and store a few important documents on, or a considerably larger one where you can keep all of your photos, songs, and videos, the possibilities are almost endless. A smart size for people looking to store videos would be 1TB or 2TB. If you are mostly just storing emails and word documents, a smaller one could do. The more files you want to store, and the larger the file type (photos and videos are larger than word documents), the bigger you should go. External hard drives with a decent amount of space can start at under Shs150,000 and go up to Shs800,000.
If you plan to back up your computer every other week or so, most external hard drives will suffice. If you will mostly be using it to store large files, such as videos, you may prefer a device that takes in data from your computer more quickly.
In this case, a hard drive with a USB 3.0 interface, as opposed to one with a USB 2.0 interface, would be best. Of course your computer has to be USB 3.0 compatible. While USB 2.0 is still common and shall get the job done comfortably for many, the interface copies your files at a speed 10 times slower than its newer counterpart. It is even worse for older models rocking USB 1.1, so pick a drive with the connection speed you need.
If you intend to keep your external hard drive at home, going for one that costs less but weighs more might make sense. If you plan to tow it back and forth from home to work, you may want to pay a little more for a pocket-sized device.
If you plan to transport it often, another practical feature for your device is enhanced data protection, which will reduce the risk of failure caused by shock if you happen to drop it. A portable storage unit should also offer durability to protect your files from shock and damage. Avoid anything flimsy and look for drives featuring solid, durable materials like quality plastic or aluminium.
Desktop-style drives, although also technically portable, are designed to stay put and require a power adapter. If you would rather have something thin and light that you can simply plug into your computer without an external power source, this is not the type of drive for you.
Make sure your external hard drive comes with hardware-based encryption, which is more dependable than software-based encryption. This is especially important if you want to purchase a portable mobile drive to carry around, but it is also important if you are storing highly sensitive and confidential information. Carrying your private files around makes them more prone to loss and theft, so go the extra step and make encryption a concern.
The truth is that all drives, no matter who makes them, fail at some point. Your primary concerns should be the size of the actual drive and the warranty period from the seller. 500GB to 1TB drives have been around for a while now and are well proven.
The price of external hard drives can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer and from shop to shop. Brands such as Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba shall cost you more than the less known brands. For example, a 500 GB Transcend external shall cost about Shs150,000 while a Seagate with the same amount of storage space shall cost you an extra Shs50,000 to Shs150,000.
The best way to find out if you are getting your money’s worth is to figure out the price per GB. The starting point for your search when in the market should be the authorised distributors of popular computer brands such as Dell, HP, Acer and Toshiba.