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Guide to Buying the Best External Hard Drive

When you spend most of your time using your laptop computer either for work or for entertainment purposes, you will likely need a large storage space in your laptop to keep all of your data. Music files, movies, and pictures can take up a lot of space, so if you don’t have enough space in your laptop’s hard drive, you will have to erase some of them once your hard drive is full. If you have a desktop PC, you can easily replace the hard drive if you need a larger storage space for all your files. This is something you cannot do on a laptop. However, these days you can get an external unit easily. Choosing the best external hard drive can be really confusing due to the wide range of selections. But not to worry, there are some tips on searching for an external hard disk drive (HDD) that’s suited to your digital needs.

Storage Capacity – External HDDs are available in various storage capacities, ranging from 160/ 250 gigabytes (GB) up to one or more terabyte (TB) models. Higher-capacity drives typically afford the lowest cost-per-gigabyte, giving users the most bang for their buck. Casual users looking to simply transfer files and folders will likely find a smaller-capacity drive sufficient; however, heavy users who plan to use the drive to add extra storage to their computer or as an additional backup layer should seek drives with a higher storage capacity.

Transfer Speeds – Transfer speed refers to the rate at which an external hard drive can transfer data to and from a host controller (i.e., a computer). If you plan on using the drive to simply back up and store data, you probably don’t need the fastest external hard drive on the market. On the other hand, users planning to store large multimedia files should seek drives with quicker transfer speeds, like those with a USB 3.0 interface. USB 3.0 offers transfer rates up to 10 times faster than the preceding (though still widely used) USB 2.0 interface.

Portability – The overall portability of an external hard drive is determined by three key factors: size, weight and durability. Many portable hard drives measure mere inches in size and ounces in weight, making them lightweight, pocket-sized devices that deliver the utmost portability without sacrificing storage capacity. In terms of durability, any portable external HDD should be durable enough to withstand the minor abuse sustained through daily transport and use, especially if you’re a gadget addict who doesn’t like to coddle your devices. Look for mobile drives with drop protection features and that are made from solid, long-lasting materials such as aluminum or sturdy plastic.

Encryption – Given their portability, small mobile drives are inherently more susceptible to loss and theft than larger desktop drives. Consequently, encryption should be a priority for any users planning to frequently take their drive on the go or who store sensitive information on it. Look for drives that offer password protection and, ideally, hardware-based encryption. While software-based encryption does offer some protection, it is usually not as secure as hardware-based encryption – and it’s definitely more system-intensive.

Preloaded Software – Many external hard drives conveniently come with backup software preloaded on the drive that allows users to automate and customize backups to the drive. If your storage needs are modest, stick with drives that provide basic plug-and-play operation. But for those who plan to routinely back up data to the drive, included software can be highly useful and can help simplify the overall backup process. Furthermore, since the software is factory loaded onto the drive, users don’t have to worry about external software installation.

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