There are so many models , makes , sizes , speeds and interfaces available these days that the decision to buy a hard drive for the average user has become a hit or miss affair. To prevent buying something totally wrong for your needs , you need to do some research on what your are handing your cash over for.
Here are the things you need to be looking at.
#1 Size of the external casing
- Size of external
- Storage Space
- Interface used
- Hard drive speed & Buffer Size
There are basically two types of external hard drives you can choose from namely 2.5inch and 3.5inch. The 2.5 hard drive inside the casing normally goes in a laptop and the 3.5 normally goes into a desktop PC.
You should ask yourself what is your priority...Mobility or Space/Cost
If mobility and comfort of use is your main priority , you should get a 2.5inch external as they don't normally require an external power source like with a 3.5inch drive.
If hard drive space and cost is your priority , then go for the 3.5inch external. The cost per GB is about half that of a comparable 2.5inch drive but you need a external power adapter to use the drive. In general , the 3.5inch drives are faster then 2.5inch drives.
Fig 1 - 3.5inch compared to 2.5inch hard drive
#2 Storage Space
Size is one of the main concerns when buying a new hard drive. Think about a size you would think you need in the next 6 months and double it. This will ensure that you don't (like me) buy a drive which you think you will never fill up , and fill it within a few months and have to buy another one.
Also consider what you need from your external drive. If you are going to be using your drive mostly for music backup you would need less space than for instance movies.
#3 Cost of the drive
Another thing to look at is value for money. Don't buy a 320Gb drive for $100 if you can get a 500Gb for $110. You will eventually need the extra space so look at what the next size up will cost you extra and make a decision.
For instance...A 500Gb internal hard drive would cost me $75 at the moment , but the 750Gb drive is about $85. I'd rather go for the 750Gb drive.
It is important to bring into consideration the manufacturer of the drive. Don't buy a drive with a unknown brand name as this will probably come back to haunt you somewhere in the future. I prefer to use Seagate and Western Digital drives as I have never had a problem with them and they carry a good warranty. There are other good drives , but I'd rather stick to what works for me. Ask around to determine what brand you should get and do google searches if you are still unsure of a particular brand.
#4 Interface available
The interface which you use to connect the drive to your computer is very important as this will govern the maximum speed which you could expect to be copying from and to the drive.
For internal drives , there are basically 3 options
IDE - 40MB/s and connection interface is on it's way out.
SATA - 143 MB/s
SATA 2 - 375 MB/s
The speeds vary considerably in real world scenarios and should only be a guide.
For external drives , there are also 3 options
USB - 25MB/s
Firewire - 40 MB/s
eSATA - 70 MB/s
This is real world data (not theoretical) and also should only be used as a guide as there are many factors that determine the max transfer speed.
#5 Hard drive speed & Buffer
The speed at which the drive rotates in the enclosure has a big impact on the speed which you can expect from the drive. The faster the drive rotates , the faster is will transfer data and the more expensive the drive will be. A good speed would be 7200RPM or more.
The buffer is basically the amount of ram which is physically on the hard drive's board and the more of it you have , the faster and smoother your drive will transfer data.
Here are some of the most popular hard drive manufacturer's websites so you can explore what products they offer.Western DigitalSeagateMaxtor
(now incorporated into Seagate)SamsungHitachiFujitsu-Siemens
That's about everything you need to know before purchasing a hard drive. Follow these steps and you should be able to make a informed decision as to what you should and should not buy.
When you have bought and want to format your drive to Fat32 , see THIS TIP
When you have bought and want to partition your drive, see THIS TIP
Please remember to rate this tip if you found it useful.