External hard drives are something that are pretty much a must with all the data we tend to store on our computer and while cloud services are great for backing up that data I personally still like to use an external hard drive to keep a backup of my data.
Thats not to say cloud services are not useful they are but if your internet goes down or your internet connection is slow, recovering data from the cloud can be painful especially if you store a lot of data.
External hard drives can be used as a backup resource or just as a means of some extra storage but regardless of what you are going to use it knowing what to look for when buying an external hard drive is a minefield of acronyms and abbreviations and that is where our external hard drive buying guide will hopefully help you.
Portable or Desktop
There are 2 different types of external hard drives on the market Portable hard drives and Desktop hard drives.
Portable hard drives are just as the name implies – portable. They tend to be small enough to fit in your pocket should you need to transfer data around from place to place. Portable hard drives tend to use 2.5” inch hard drives making them relatively lightweight.
Portable hard drives also do not require a separate power source as they are powered via the USB connections on your computer. Some drives do require 2 USB connections (1 for data and 1 for power). Although once upon a time a portable drive seemed to be a bit more limited in storage size that is no longer an issue now that drives like Western Digital My Passport 2 TB are available. This means carrying large amounts of data around with you is now much easier.
Desktop external hard drives are drives that sit on your desktop. The bonus of a desktop drive is that they often come with additional features such as network connectivity. Because they stay in one place unlike portable drives some experts believe you also get more life out of the drive as it is less prone to damage than a drive that is moved around.
A desktop external drive can usually be picked up cheaper than portable drive. The Seagate Expansion 2 TB for example can be picked up for just over $100
What size drive?
This is all down to what you are prepared to pay as well as what the purpose of the drive is. If you are using it for backing up you need to look at the total size of the data you are wanting to back up and purchase a drive on that basis. For example if you have only 100GB to back up then maybe a 320GB drive will be more than you ever need (leaving plenty of space for future backups) but if you are someone with a large or growing music collection or video collection you may want to look at something a little larger and this does not have to cost the world. For example the difference between the Western Digital My Passport 320 GB version and its 750GB version is only $20 and gives you double the storage space and is definitely worth the upgrade if it is something you can afford.
USB 2.0 or USB 3.0
USB 2.0 has been around a number of years but within the last couple of years USB 3.0 has been released and we are now seeing USB 3.0 USB sticks and external hard drives. Although a little more expensive if you can get a USB 3.0 drive and your computer has a USB 3.0 port it is highly recommended you go for a USB 3.0 drive as the speed improvement is quite dramatic.
Most laptops and PC`s built in the last 12 months will have a USB 3.0 port and these will become more common over the coming years.
NAS (network attached storage drives)
These drives are ideal for people or businesses wanting to share data over the home or business network including video and music streaming. These devices connect to your router or hub via ethernet cable and are accessible across the network. You will find NAS drives more expensive than Desktop external hard drives and you can not get portable network drives at the present time unless you are looking for specialised drives.
If you have multiple computers at home and want to back up to a single drive across a network something like the BUFFALO LinkStation Live 2 TB should more than be up to the task
If you are a business which needs high reliability or one of those people who just has to have the best then the Synology DiskStation is always highly recommended and often comes out on top of most expert reviews but this is reflected in the price. There are no disks included so these would have to be purchased separately.
If you are considering a NAS device it is worth remembering that they do require some technical knowledge and most people rush into buying a NAS drive without realising that they come with many more features than a standard plug and play device and can be more difficult to set up correctly.
This is a tough question as it differs depending on who you ask I can only give you my opinion based on experiences as both a user in my own computers and as a PC repair tech. I have never had many problems with Seagate and western digital drives they have always been relatively reliable. Yes I have had the odd bad drive but overall I have been pleased with them. Western digital are the world largest hard drive manufacturer so if I was told to pick one I would go with WD.
As for external drives I have Seagate and buffalo drives that I have been very happy with and a western digital portable drive that has never given me any trouble.