A Portable USB Hard Drive Buyers Guide

September 7, 2012 | Author: | Posted in Hardware

There are a variety of portable external USB hard drives in the market to choose from, and truthfully, most of them will be able to do exactly what you need them to do without any issues. There are, however, a few important things you should think of when choosing a portable hard drive. Inside of this article, I discuss (some tips I feel) tend to be the top things to consider when making your final decision about which hard drive to get.

Performance
The transfer speed of a hard disk drive is actually the key factor in how the hard drive performs, or in other words, how fast you’ll be able to transfer files back and forth to it. Considering that consumers utilize external drives to help them backup larger data which can include personal images, movies, as well as audio files, it is crucial that the specific hard disk drive you purchase is able to transfer large files quickly. Data transfer speeds are typically measured by megabits per second (mb/s) or gigabits per second (gb/s). The deciding key to consider at this point is whether you prefer to choose a hard disk drive that utilizes USB “SuperSpeed” 3.0 or the older legacy USB 2.0 connection. Transfer rates for USB 3.0 capable drives can be up to 3 x as quick as a USB 2.0 hard disk drive in real world use. Seeing that drives which use USB 3.0 are backwards compatible with USB 2.0 ports, I would suggest selecting a USB 3.0 equipped unit, allowing you to take advantage of the much quicker data transfer rates.

Be aware that you will have to have a USB 3.0 interface on your system to benefit from the faster data transfer rates, though USB 3.0 ports have gotten a lot more common inside recent laptops or computers. (Data transfer rates for drives of comparable USB speed will vary somewhat from drive to drive, though the difference between the two is in fact minimal.) You can find more connection types also, such as FireWire, eSATA as well as the recent Thunderbolt connection, that are on the new macs, yet for the vast majority of customers we would suggest USB since it is the most wide-spread.

Storage size is the other aspect to consider in respect to overall performance. Portable drives can be bought in sizes as huge as 3TB’s, although the most favored size is 1TB, which will generally be substantial enough for your average buyer. A 500GB hard drive is another excellent size to go with as it also gives a considerable amount of storage space and at often around 30-40% less, over a comparable 1TB drive.

Important features
Probably the most crucial characteristic to keep in mind with a hard disk drive concerns safeguarding. Particularly, it is important to consider the amount of encryption and password protection that comes with a hard drive. Since, by their very nature, external hard drives are more likely to wind up being displaced and / or stolen when compared to a desktop hard disk drive, it is crucial that the individual maintain their data security. Because of this, I advise selecting a drive that offers file encryption and password protection. Moreover, several hard disks are preloaded with some additional software programs to handle things like periodic, automated backups. If you would like to use the drive in order for backing up your data, I recommend you go with a drive that provides backup software. Finally, examine the warranty plan on your drive. Most will include a common 2 year warranty, which is essential considering nearly all hard disks, despite type or manufacturer, have the potential to crash.

Design and style
In my opinion, one of the primary elements in deciding on which hard disk drive is right for buyers is going to be the external style of the drive. Due to the fact once you make a decision on what speed and capacity you’d like, you’ll realize that costs don’t vary a lot from drive to drive; meaning you might as well pick the one that you believe looks the best. Some designs will be more compact or lighter than others, some models are going to have distinct colors or finishes on the case, and a few designs will incorporate some form of shock or drop protection. (The very best of which will be the so-called ‘military spec or grade’ drives, that will generally withstand drops of several feet, while suffering no damage or loss of data.) In any case, it’s best to opt for a form factor which is most attractive to you since most portable hard drives will already have similar features.

To sum it up, choose a drive with a 1TB storage capacity, USB 3.0 and one that appeals to your eye, and you’ll be happy camper.

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