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5 Tips for Choosing an External Hard Drive

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External hard drives are great way to back up your favourite photos, videos, music and work documents – especially as they can be stored separately, ensuring your important files remain safe should anything happen to your laptop or computer. If you’ve never bought an external hard drive before then there’s a few pointers here that may help to have on your shopping list before you go and make that final purchase.

1. Buy A Brand
Do yourself a huge favor and buy a brand name that you easily recognize. Sure these may cost a little more than brand but with computer accessories like this you really do get what you pay for. If a Western Digital 1TB external hard drive costs $90 and another brand ITB hard drive costs $70 why do you think that is? Because the company likes you? Because they like making smaller profits? No it’s because it’s a cheaper drive made with inferior parts that’s going to break a lot sooner than you might expect.

The other aspect of sticking with a brand is your warranty. For example Maxtor, Western Digital and Iomega are all reliable companies and well known for their external hard disks. If something goes wrong with your drive you can have it fixed. With brand you’ll probably not even be able to find an email address that you can contact the parent company on. Is saving a few dollars worth that risk?

2. Google It
Whatever brand or model you decide on make sure you do some research before purchasing. Always, always Google the exact brand and model of the drive you’re considering buying. Look for reviews and especially any feedback on how reliable a drive is. You’ll be very surprised to find that some companies have particularly bad reputations in terms of equipment reliability and what’s known as the "click of death" in the external hard drive industry. Spend time in Google checking out your prospective purchase. You’ll be glad that you did.

3. Connectivity
When it comes to external hard drives you’ll need to choose carefully when selecting your connection types. Your external hard drive will support either USB or Firewire. Firewire is the fastest option available at the moment but your computer may not support this. The vast majority of modern computers will, however, feature a USB port.

The next question now is what type of USB port do you have – USB 1.0 or 2.0? If your computer only has a USB 1.0 port then your external hard drive is going to transfer data VERY slowly. USB 2.0 is the minimum you should consider as connection options for both your computer and your external hard drive. If you don’t have a USB 2.0 port (also called HiSpeed USB) on your computer you may need to get a USB 2.0 card fitted.

4. Speed
Now of course we need to talk about speed. The faster your hard drive operates the faster data will get transferred to your computer and vice versa. Without boggling you with computer jargon there’s a couple of technical things you need to include on your shopping list.

Seek time – this needs to be 10ms (milliseconds) or less.
Buffer size – more is better. Get a drive with at least a 4MB buffer.
RPM – higher is better. 5400 RPM as a minimum. 7200 RPM being preferred.
Stick to the above basic pointers and you’ll do just fine.

5. Capacity
This is the simple part of the whole "buying an external hard drive" equation. Buy as much as you can afford. If you can afford 100GB then get it. However if you can afford 200GB then get it. Then again if you scraped together a few dollars more you could afford 300GB then do it.

This isn’t a sales pitch. Far from it. There is simply no such thing as having too much data storage space. The 160GB drive that I have here was filled up in a little under a month. Currently 1TB external hard drive sounds good for my future needs.

Always add 50% to your data storage requirements. Honestly. You’ll thanks yourself within the first 90 days of buying your external drive.

Hopefully now you’ll be better prepared for purchasing your new external hard drive. It’s one of the best purchases you’ll ever make.

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