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How to Choose an External Storage/Backup Drive

There are several configurations of external storage/backup drives. Like internal drives, they come in two major types- desktop storage and portable storage.

Please also keep in mind that you can buy thumbdrives and SD cards up to 64GB of storage inexpensively, but these can be easily lost and should not be used for serious backup.

Desktop external drives generally come with a 3.5 inch drive enclosure, take up some space, and usually you will not want to carry it around with you even though it’s not that heavy. Most of these need to plug into the wall as well. It may or may not have a fan. If you want it on and running all the time, you should probably get one with a fan. Even though they are vented, over a long period of time they may get too hot and fail.

Cooked drives are not as delicious as pizza. Honest! I cooked one. Didn’t smell good like pizza either.

Portable drives are enclosed laptop size drives of 2.5 inches, and will fit nicely in your pocket traveling around with you. You generally will not have to worry about it overheating and usually you will not need to plug it into the wall.

External drives can come in mechanical, SSD or Hybrid form. Mechanical drives are the good old standby with magnetic heads. SSDs are very fast, have no moving parts, are less likely to be damaged, but more expensive. Hybrids are a combination and have a small SSD drive plus a much larger mechanical drive. Once you begin using them they start learning where the important stuff is and bring it up much faster.

You can also choose a wired or wireless connection.

If you own a tablet with only a micro usb port, you can get an adapter and use either wired or wireless.

If you are extremely serious about external storage and are concerned about the safety of your data, I would strongly recommend you get a RAID external drive system. RAID is simply Redundant Array of independent Disks. That way, if something fails on one of your drives, there another drive that is likely not damaged. These are expensive. However, if you have very important business or personal documents, they are worth the money.

By now, you may be thinking-”yeah, yeah, yeah, but how much actual stuff will each drive hold?” A one terabyte drive will hold the following gigantic amounts of stuff: more than 230 DVD-sized movies and more than 750,000 MP3s or photos.

For some people, this is not enough. I am one of them. I do a lot of research, and I’ve written a few books. I keep all my drafts and all my research, copies of programs that support either research I’ve done or what I’ve written. I filled up a 1T drive with 10 years of work quite handily. I am now slowly transferring all that to a 3T Seagate external drive. I am seriously thinking of buying RAID.

So, before you buy a drive, carefully consider your personal needs. Do you want portable or permanent storage? Portable storage can get lost.

If you don’t have much on your drive, all you might really need is a 250GB drive (1/4 of a terabyte). You’d probably put a copy of your files and include an image of your system in case of failure. If you do a lot of internet surfing, and keep lots of bookmarks, backup your bookmarks onto your drive frequently.

If you have lots of music and videos, you’ll need more space. Using the above mentioned description of the amount a TB uses, figure out what size drive you need. Be sure to allow for new stuff that you are planning to download in the next few years.

If you are a small business person or make your living with your computer, consider RAID and a 1 or more TB drive so that nothing critical is lost.

If you are considering sharing an external drive with others in your household or business you will need to calculate the space needed for system images of each computer and each persons storage needs.

Then decide if you want a wired or wireless setup.

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