How To Choose The Best External Hard Drive

You back up your data to keep it safe from harm and one of the single best ways to keep these backups are on an external hard drive. These provided massive storage space at reasonable cost and are extremely portable. These hard drives are available in USB and Firewire models. USB external hard drives tend to be a lot more popular with PC users while the firewire versions offer higher performance.

The massive storage space offered by external hard drives are their main attraction. It doesn't matter whether it's thousands of MP3s, dozens of movie backups or just Gigabytes of work data - an external hard drive will just gobble all this up and still have room for more. This is also offered in a portable format so instead of carrying dozens of CDs around with you you'll just need to carry one small drive, usually no bigger than a thick novel, around with you.

External hard drives has been on the market for years but have only recently become popular. Why? Well old external hard drives used a parallel interface which was, to be blunt, pathetically slow. The arrival of USB and Firewire connectivity technologies made external hard disks viable again because of the hugely increased data transfer rates (compared to the parallel and serial interfaces).

How does an external hard disk work?

In its simplest form, an external hard disk is simply a normal internal hard drive in an external hard drive enclosure with a separate power supply. There are plenty of DIY external hard drive kits for converting any normal internal hard disk into an external hard disk. These external drives will work perfectly well but offer the user and the drive itself the bare minimum in terms of reliability and durability. Genuine external hard drives are made to be more durable, quieter and don't run quite as hot as internal models that have been slotted into an external enclosure.

Why bother with external hard drives?

Two very simple reasons

1. Size

2. Speed

External hard drives are available with truly massive storage capacities. An external hard drive gives you the luxury of just plugging another 250, 500 or 1,000GB of storage space into your PC whenever you need it. That's just plain cool. Mass storage that you can plug in, use and then put away until you need it later.

So what's the best external hard drive on the market? There are three contenders at the moment. Maxtor, Western Digital and Iomega. Western Digital drives consistently receive rave reviews and are what I use personally. That being said it's a case of different strokes for different folks - some people find Maxtor to be more reliable. Just do your research before you buy.

Watch out for cheap external hard drives though. You could easily save $50 or $100 on the cost of one of the above drives but bear in mind that you're putting valuable data on these drives so don't cut corners or you're defeating the act of making backups of your important data in the first place. There's nothing worse than buying a cheapo drive and then looking for support or a replacement. More often than not the parent company no longer exists and your warranty means nothing.

An external hard disk is not the cheapest option up front but it does offer an ease-of-use and portability not found in any other backup device.