Five Best In Class External Hard Drives
What's the best external hard drive? That depends on how and where you want to use it. They're great for backups, for freeing up space on your computer's internal drive, or for adding portable storage to a laptop, tablet or smartphone. If you're looking for the biggest, the fastest, the most durable, the most secure, or just the best value in an external hard drive, read on…
Which External Hard Drive Should I Buy?
I love the convenience of external hard drives for doing backups on a PC or Mac. Just plug in the drive, and you're ready to safeguard your desktop or laptop's data from loss. Some external drives even come with backup software already installed.
(See my related article Five Easy Backup Drives.)
For some, today’s mobile lifestyle (and the generally small storage capacity of mobile gadgets) demands a portable hard drive to carry music and video collections. Others may want to carry important files in a device that's small enough to fit in a pocket. So popular are external drives that the genre has evolved multiple outstanding products to meet every criterion a user might want.
Before I get down to recommending specific hard drives, let me mention the subtle difference between "portable external hard drives" and "desktop external hard drives". The portable variety is generally smaller, but more important is the fact that it doesn't need a wall plug for power. Portable drives draw power the device they're plugged into, via the USB or Firewire cable. That's a big plus, especially if you and your laptop, tablet, or smartphone are miles away from the nearest electrical outlet.
Here are five examples of external hard drives that are very good at their best functions:
Very Big: 4 terabytes should be enough storage for anyone, right? But just in case, you can get the 8 terabyte LaCie 4big Quadra External Hard Drive. Yes, that's 8,000 gigabytes of storage space in a cube that measures 7 x 7 x 8.7 inches. This one won't fit in your pocket or purse, but it spins at 7200 rpm and moves data in and out via USB 3.0 or Firewire 800 interfaces. The theoretical maximum USB throughput rate is 3.0 Gbps (300 MBps), so filling up 8 TB will take at least 7.4 hours. Only $779 at Newegg.com.
Very Fast: But “theoretical maximum” speeds are not reached in the real world. The actual throughput of different models of hard drive varies according to the OEM’s design. In some real-world tests, Western Digital’s My Passport Ultra drive blows away competitors. In several different lab tests, the Ultra posted very impressive speeds of over 100MB/sec for both sequential read and write. For large file transfers, speeds of 70MB/sec were observed. The 2 TB My Passport Ultra model sells for about $119.
Best Value: The best value in a portable drive may be the Toshiba 2TB Canvio Basics USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive http://www.toshiba.com/us/accessories/Storage/Canvio-Basics-Portable-Hard-Drive/2TB/HDTB220XK3CA which sells for about $99 online. Of course, the crown of “lowest cost per gigabyte” keeps moving from head to head as vendors change prices to meet competition and clear out surplus stock.
Tough Guy: If you work or play rough, you need a ruggedized external hard drive. The LaCie Rugged Triple USB 3.0 drive is drop-resistant up to two meters, features fast USB 3.0 and Firewire 800 interfaces. Lacie spells out what it means to be rugged: Start with a shock-resistant hard drive that can withstand physical shocks up to 1000 units of gravitation force; add internal anti-shock rubber bumpers; surround that with a scratch-proof aluminum shell that absorbs and dissipates heat from inside the drive; then wrap it all up in a rubber shock-absorbing sleeve that's also pressure, dust, and rain resistant.
I don't recommend dropping it 26 times, or running it over with a one-ton sedan. But that's only because LaCie has already done all that and more, to ensure that their Rugged products meet US DoD standards for durability under a wide variety of environmental stresses. The 1TB model sells for around $169, and also comes with encryption built in, to protect data against thieves as well as hard knocks.
Very Secure:If theft worries you more than falls, the Datalocker DL3 may give you peace of mind. Its hardware-based encryption technology is unlocked by a passcode entered on a built-in keypad. There is no encryption software on a PC or other device to be hacked; the key is kept in your head. There is no way to connect to the built-in encryption engine to hack it. This ultra-secure device starts at $279 for a 500 GB drive.
When buying an external hard drive, consider your needs for portability, capacity, speed, durability and security. You might not need multiple terabytes of storage, or the fastest external drive. For example, I recently bought a discontinued Western Digital 500GB portable drive for $49. I use it to run overnight backups on a PC that only has about 100GB of files, so it's perfect for that.
Do you have something to say about external or portable hard drives? Post your comment below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Feb 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Five Best In Class External Hard Drives (Posted: 25 Feb 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved