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External Hard Drive Buying Guide

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    Default External Hard Drive Buying Guide

    External Hard Drive Buying Guide

    Do you have years of stored image, video, and music files on your desktop PC hard drive? Sharing your files on the go (e.g. when you are at a friend’s house) may be rather difficult if data sizes run in the tens or hundreds of GBs. Reinstalling your hard drive on another PC is an option but is extremely inconvenient, and burning your files to CD or DVD can involve a large number of discs, and searching for specific files afterwards is a nightmare.

    The answer: why not consider an external hard drive? It’s the perfect companion for those who travel frequently with large amounts of data. External hard drives offer massive storage capacities and feature convenient connections that allow you to transfer data between it and any computer or other type of storage device. The external hard drive will also act as a storage center or a temporary storage location for data exchanges.

    What is an External Hard Drive?
    An external hard drive is the same type of hard drive as you would find inside a PC or laptop, except that it is mounted in a separate enclosure. It can be used to store information (data) permanently or temporarily, in the same way as a computer's hard drive.

    External hard drives (the actual drive itself) come in two main sizes (physical size), 2.5" and 3.5". The 2.5" drives are the same as you would find in a laptop computer, whereas the 3.5" drives are identical to hard drives found in desktop PCs. The difference is in the interface that connects the external hard drive to your computer.

    Usually external hard drives connect to the computer via a USB/Firewire cable, most modern operating systems will automatically recognise the hard drive as a storage device, and assign it a drive letter.

    The fact that external hard drives are simply placed in an enclosure, means you can usually change the actual hard drive itself without too much effort. This allows you to swap drives between enclosures, so you only have to buy one enclosure for many drives (of the same type).

    There are two main types of external hard drives, portable and desktop.

    The Portable External Hard Drive
    Portable external hard drives are usually 2.5" hard drives (laptop hard drives) in a slimline enclosure, making them easy to carry. Although they are portable, they are not unbreakable and extra care is needed while transporting them, for example, don't put them in your back pocket and then sit down!
    The portable external hard drive is commonly "USB Powered", which means you don't have to carry a separate power supply unit around with you. The only downside to this, is that the available current (power) is limited to the computer it is attached to.

    This may not seem like a big problem, but if you have many other USB powered devices connected to the same computer (especially when connected to a laptop/notebook), then you will find the USB powered external hard drive will not perform optimally.

    Some of the portable external hard drives that are available come with a separate USB power cable, which provides an extra power boost to the hard drive if required.

    The Desktop External Hard Drive
    Desktop external hard drives are normally 3.5" hard drives mounted in a larger enclosure than its portable counterpart. The enclosure may also have fans integrated to assist in keeping the drive cool during operation, which extends the life of the disk drive.

    The desktop external hard drive is designed with storage capacity in mind, rather than portability. Common desktop hard drives boast 500GB of storage, which would have been unbelievable only a few years ago. In fact, the storage capacity of these drives currently go to 1TB (TeraByte) and above.

    These type of external hard drives are still portable in a sense, i.e., you can still unplug them and transport them. They often come with a separate power supply, which can be vital when you are transferring lots of data, as it maintains a constant current independent of the computer's USB power supply.

    External hard drive characteristics

    A wide selection of storage sizes
    An external hard drive can contain more than one internal hard drive, resulting in a very wide range of storage size options. The smallest external hard drive provides only one or two GB, and the largest exceeds 1TB (1,000GB according to manufacturer information). Most users should be able to find the capacity they require with ease.

    Enhanced data protection
    One of the most important aspects of the external hard drive is its case. It provides additional protection for the internal hard drive(s) and reduces the chance of failure caused by shock. This makes the external hard drive very suitable for mobile applications.

    Great connectivity and Hot-plug and play
    Connecting the external hard drive to a computer is simple as pie. Most external hard drives feature the USB or IEEE 1394 (also known as FireWire) ports for direct connection to the front or rear I/O panels of a computer. External hard drives are hot-pluggable too, meaning you can conveniently attach and use the external hard drive or detach it while your computer is up and running.

    Easy data backups
    The process of backing up your data is typically long and arduous, but fortunately the majority of external hard drives come bundled with backup software and some even provide a handy backup button right on the case. This means that users only need to press that button, and the backup operation is processed automatically according to the preset rules.

    Cross platform compatibility
    Almost all external hard drives can be compatible with both the PC and the Mac if the partition is formatted in FAT or FAT32 This means you can exchange data between the PC and Mac platforms conveniently with the help of your external hard drive. This is a very attractive feature for users who are required to use both the PC and the Mac simultaneously.

    Key specifications to understand
    The main component in the external hard drive is none other than the internal hard drive (or notebook hard drive), thus the key specification of external hard drives are usually very similar to those of internal hard drive or notebook hard drives.

    Form factor
    The form factor of an external hard drive is determined by the type of hard drive used inside. Since both internal hard drives and notebook hard drives can be used in an external hard drive, the form factor of the external hard drive is roughly determined by the form factor of the hard drive inside, which can be 3.5, 2.5, 1.8, 1 or even 0.85-inch. Obviously, the smaller the form factor, the better its mobility.

    Capacity
    Almost the full range of internal hard drive storage sizes can be found in external hard drives. As external hard drives may be constructed of two or more internal hard drives, it can offer double or several times the capacity any single internal hard drive. When attached to your computer system, it is recognized as a single hard drive, however.

    RPM or Spindle speed
    The hard drive RPM value corresponds to its spindle speed, which is an important hard drive performance parameter. Spindle speeds currently range from 3,600 RPM to 10,000 RPM. In general, a faster spindle speed is beneficial towards the performance of the hard drive.

    Cache
    The cache refers to high-speed RAM (random access memory) integrated on the PCB of an internal hard drive. Cache is used as the buffer between the system and the hard drive. Drives with more cache generally perform at a higher level than drives with less.

    Interface

    The interface of the external hard drive is very different from that of the internal hard drive or notebook hard drive. You will not see IDE or SATA connectors on an external hard drive. USB and IEEE 1394 (also known as FireWire) ports are used instead.

    USB and IEEE 1394 ports are hot-pluggable. The latest versions of these ports, such as USB 2.0, IEEE 1394 a, and IEEE 1394 b, provide high bandwidth and data transfer performance to the external hard drive. There are also products utilizing SCSI or SATA for special applications as well. The interface is another factor that affects the performance of an external hard drive as different interfaces provide different bandwidths and data transfer speeds.

    External hard drive interfaces

    How to choose the right external hard drive
    We are spoilt for choice when it comes to external hard drives as internal hard drives of every size are currently being used in their construction. We can narrow our search requirements down into three basic areas: capacity, performance and mobility. All three are closely related to the hard drive form factor.

    Capacity and form factor
    Form factor is a good indicator of the capacity an external hard drive can provide. For example, a 3.5-inch external hard drive can offer a maximum capacity of over 1TB at present, while a 1-inch product may only provide less than 10 GB. You can refer to the following table for a breakdown:

    Form Factor---Maximum Capacity
    3.5-inch-------Over 1 TB
    2.5-inch-------160 GB
    1.8-inch-------80 GB
    1-inch---------12 GB

    Note: The development on hard drives means that capacities from each form factor will exceed these figures in the future.

    Performance and form factor
    As described above, the spindle speed (RPM), cache size and interface type all affect the performance of an external hard drive. Generally speaking, higher spindle speeds, larger cache sizes, higher bandwidth interfaces and higher data transfer rates are all desirable traits as they contribute to higher levels of performance. The relationships among RPM, cache and form factor are listed below:

    Form Factor--------RPM-------------------Cache
    3.5-inch-----5,400, 7,200, 10,000----2 MB, 4 MB, 8 MB, 16 MB
    2.5-inch-----4,200, 5,400------------2 MB, 8 MB, 16 MB
    1.8-inch-----4,200-------------------2 MB
    1-inch-------3,600, 4,200-------------2 MB
    Note: Data taken from current mainstream products.

    Mobility and form factor
    Smaller form factors are always beneficial to mobility. A 1-inch external hard drive may only weigh about 2 oz, while a 3.5-inch product may weigh close to 6 lbs, which is similar to the weight of a mainstream notebook computer.

    Interface
    Large form factor external hard drives (e.g. 3.5-inch) may provide several interface types, which makes it extremely convenient for the user. Small form factor external hard drives (e.g. 1-inch) may only provide one type. In this case it is recommended that you choose the external hard drive with the interface that matches your computer.

    Summary
    As we can see, the capacity, performance and mobility of an external hard drive are all inter-related. A 3.5-inch external hard drive may provide extremely large capacities and high performance, but they may not be your best choice for travel. On the contrary, a 1-inch drive is excellent for travel, but the capacity is limited by comparison. When selecting your external hard drive, please find one that best fits your requirements in terms of performance, capacity and mobility.

    For example, if you have several hundred GB worth of data that you need to store and share in the office environment, a 3.5-inch external hard drives may be exactly what you need as it can provide the necessary capacity and performance. Although a 3.5-inch external hard drive is relatively heavy, it is still easy enough to move over the short-distances covered in the office.

    Conversely, if you often exchange only a few GB of data between your computers at work and home, a 1-inch external hard drive would represent a better choice for its mobility. It also has sufficient capacity for the job. Essentially, the right external hard drive for you is based solely on your personal requirements.

    Other considerations

    Bundled software and hardware designation
    If you are looking for extra convenience out of your external hard drive, you can look for products that come bundled with additional software to help you simplify back up and storage operations. This software may also provide disk management and security functions. In addition, some products may even provide hardware buttons that execute backup and storage operations when pressed.

    Power supply
    Certain external hard drives receive power from the USB or IEEE 1394 port directly, while others may require an external power supply unit. If your primary concern is mobility, please take this point into consideration.

    RAID
    The RAID function builds an array using two or more hard drives for increased performance or enhanced data security. Currently, some external hard drives come with two (or even more) hard drives and provide RAID (such as RAID 0, RAID 1).

    Extended functions
    Some external hard drives may provide additional functions or features such as an integrated USB hub to allow you to link other USB devices – this is especially useful if you have run out of USB ports on your computer. They may also integrate memory card readers for easy data exchange between digital camera, mp3 players and computer. Some special products may even be capable of direct multimedia playback, meaning that they will play the music and movies files stored in them directly. These extended functions add value to your purchase and may solve more than one of your hardware purchasing needs.

    Source: External Hard Drive Buying Guide
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  2. #2
    newprouser
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    And for those whose purse strings are tight, buy an external enclose for anywhere from 400 - 1000 and place a normal desktop/laptop drive in it. It should be roughly 1k cheaper.

    If you can afford, then branded ones are better.

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    thanksss

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    Quote Originally Posted by newprouser View Post
    And for those whose purse strings are tight, buy an external enclose for anywhere from 400 - 1000 and place a normal desktop/laptop drive in it. It should be roughly 1k cheaper.

    If you can afford, then branded ones are better.
    Can't understand you?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luke Skywalker View Post
    Can't understand you?
    alternative to buy a branded external HDD :

    get a external drive enclosure and place an ordinary/ internal drive and use it.

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    Got it.

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    is the maxtor one touch backup hard drive worth the extra money?
    i need a 1 tb hard drive, already have a 500 gb WD my book. quite impressed with the WD, its silent, and has never crashed.

    should i go for a 1 tb WD or the maxtor one touch series?



    great!!

    looks like i spoke too soon.... my WD 500 gb hard drive doesnt seem to be recognised by my computers!!!

    it says that the windows does not recognise it....
    what do i do???

    :48:
    Last edited by slicvic; 22nd July 2009 at 09:56 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

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    Platinum Member strider's Avatar
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    I am looking to go for a Maxtor one touch series 1TB, I dont mind portability but I hope it will work fine. I am using a laptop currently, will connect it to that.

    BTW thanks repo added.
    Last edited by strider; 26th July 2009 at 05:35 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
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  9. #9
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    Can these external hard drives prevent acceptance of any data in case of viruses?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasundra View Post
    Can these external hard drives prevent acceptance of any data in case of viruses?
    what do you mean to ask.

    For all intents and purposes consider them similar to your USB Pen drives. whatever applies to a pen drive applies to these HDD too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasundra View Post
    Can these external hard drives prevent acceptance of any data in case of viruses?
    No, it work same as the other drives like Pen drive, etc.
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    Smile powered externals

    will powered external drives bought in india work in the usa. different types of voltages thats why i have a doubt. help pls. and ur suggestions on beat 1 tb desktop hard drive. thank you

  13. #13
    newprouser
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    You can try getting converter shouldn't be difficult.

    If your external drive is purely powered by USB no problem at all.

  14. #14
    Sid
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    Infact, Convertor is supplied in the box,in case you haven't lost it.

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    Smile thanks

    thanks guys ............ i havent bought yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lonemavericks View Post
    thanks guys ............ i havent bought yet.
    I sincerely request you not to bump old threads unless you have a some kind of query. Please read Forum Etiquette.
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    Types Of Seagate external Hard Disks:

    1-Seagate Expansion 320GB-2TB
    In Seagate Expansion Hard disks you can not change the interface. ( The interfaces are USB 2.0, Firewire 400/IEEE1394a, Firewire 800/IEEE 1394b, USB3.0)

    2-Seagate Freeagent Goflex USB 2.0- 320 Gb to 2 TB
    In Goflex models you can change/Upgrade the interface.

    3- Seagate Freeagent Goflex USB 3.0- 320Gb to 2TB
    It has USB3.0 interface. The interface can be changed/upgraded in goflex models.

    4-Seagate Satellite mobile wireless storage: 500 GB
    Satellite models are


    Types of Western Digital External Hard disk:


    1- WD Elements SE with USB 2.0 and 3.0 500GB,1TB
    2- WD Passport essential with USB 2.0 and 3.0 500GB,1TB
    You cant change or upgrade interface like seagate goflex in both of the above models.
    WD Elements and WD passport essential are just having different shape and design.

    For checking prices of these external hard disk or buying online:
    Hard Disk Drives - Compare n Buy Hard Disk Drive at Low Price Online in India
    Portable Price India - Latest Portable Price in India & Free Home Delivery
    Buy Harddrives Online in India
    External Hard Disks Computer & Accessories Laptopwale

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