What you intend to perform with the drive, how quickly you’ll need to be able to access the data on it, and how much data you have to store are all important factors to consider when deciding on an external hard drive.
There are external hard drives that are very resistant to physical damage, external solid-state drives (SSDs) that allow for lightning-fast data transfer, and enormous external hard drives that are ideal for long-term backups. Many of these characteristics may be found in top-tier external drives.
Here are some more in-depth guidelines for selecting an external hard drive if it isn’t immediately clear what kind of drive you need, or if you want something that can handle a little bit of everything.
When shopping for an external hard drive, capacity is arguably the most crucial feature to look for. Investing in a fast, encrypted, remotely accessible device that can’t hold all your data is pointless. There’s no use in paying a fortune for storage space you’ll never use.
Which external drive capacity should I go with? It’s up to you to decide.
A USB flash drive, such as the Corsair Survivor Stealth, can be useful if you frequently move large amounts of data between computers or devices, or if you simply need a few tens of gigabytes of storage capacity. Costing about $25, its 64GB of storage is more than enough to move thousands of images or a few hundred videos from one device to another.
Western Digital’s My Passport Ultra is a solid drive with decent performance and numerous terabyte capacities if you need something with a few terabytes of space but aren’t too concerned about speed. It’s perfect for moving thousands of images between devices or as a long-term backup for your camera roll.
The Western Digital My Book Duo is the best option if you’re in need of the most storage space possible. It’s more of a NAS than an external hard drive, but with terabytes of space, you won’t need anything else.
HDDs and SSDs are the two types of external drives available. Although they serve quite different purposes, solid-state drives (SSDs) are noticeably quicker than hard disc drives (HDDs). The price tag is higher as well.
To keep information safe, HDDs (hard drive discs) employ magnetic discs that spin at high speeds. There will be a distinctive whirring of reading/writing heads as they update the data. In solid-state drives (SSDs), small gate transistors in cells can be switched on and off by electric pulses. They’re called “stiff” since there are no movable pieces in them.
SSDs are often more quickly than HDDs, but they can get rather pricey. HDDs are less expensive than SSDs, but they are also bulkier, slower, and more fragile. An SSD, such as the fantastic Samsung T5, is the best choice for an external drive because it is both fast and durable.
There is no rule that says you have to get the largest external hard disc available. The rate at which data is transferred is also crucial. If you frequently copy files to and from a massive hard disc, you probably don’t want the process to take an eternity.
Your drive’s performance is dependent on two primary factors: the storage technology it employs and the connector it uses.
SSDs can process data faster than HDDs, on average, while some drives are faster than others. The price of and storage capacity on external SSDs are typically lower than on HDDs of similar form factor. Larger SSDs are available for a premium price, so you don’t have to choose between size and pricing.
There are several common choices available for connecting your external drive to your computer or mobile device. While the USB interface is used by the majority of modern drives, there have been noticeable improvements in transfer rates with the most recent versions.
USB 2.0 is an outdated technology with a maximum transfer speed of 480Mbps, making it unsuitable for any task other than sporadic, tiny file transfers. As a rule, PCs do not employ port color coding.
After USB 2.0, connecting devices can become complicated. The terms USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen1, and USB 3.2 Gen2 may appear in product descriptions. Typically colored blue, all three offer speeds up to 5Gbps and are functionally equivalent. USB 3.1 Gen2 and USB 3.2 Gen2 are equivalent, both being red in color and both supporting transfer rates of 10Gbps.
USB 3.2 (22) is the quickest and supports transfer rates of up to 20Gbps.
The most common type of connector is USB-A, which resembles a rectangular box and can only be plugged in with this side up. USB-C is the newest standard, and it’s smaller, rounder, and has a reversible connector. The video output standard known as DisplayPort rides along on this connector. Not all USB-C connectors use the same USB-C port type; some employ the Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 protocol, which can achieve transfer rates of up to 40Gbps.
Connectors like eSATA and Firewire are still used by some older devices, although they are no longer recommended due to their lack of usefulness.
The Samsung X5 is a Thunderbolt NVMe SSD, the fastest type of external drive currently available.
In the event that any of the files on your external drive are very delicate, it is recommended that you encrypt them. For the vast majority of users, the software encryption methods available for many discs are sufficient.
If you’re concerned about the safety of your data, you should look for a storage device that supports hardware encryption. Physical security measures, such as the pin-code input on the ApricoBuy at Dellrn Aegis Padlock disc, are also an option for the paranoid.
The sturdy cases that some drives come in are there specifically to keep anyone from messing with them. Although Kingston’s Ironkey flash drives lack the storage capacity of full-size drives, they do feature an additional security layer integrated with the PCB and dipped in resin. With this layout, getting to the drive’s memory chips is a major hassle.