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What To Look For When Buying An External Storage Drive

Mechanical external drives are normally larger in storage capacity, come in both 7200 and 5200 rpm variants, and are the least expensive of the choices.


With many systems upgraded to smaller internal SSD storage devices and the proliferation of USB capable tablets and smart devices, the need for external hard drives has increased significantly. There is no need to crack open your desktop case or shell out cash for a tech to install an extra drive when you can just plug in an external hard drive and start copying your files. All you need to know going forward is the type of drive and how it will connect to your system.

External Storage Drive Types

There are mainly two types of external storage drives. Most common are the desktop style hard drives. These devices come in a standard 3.5" style hard drive case designed to sit on a desk and includes a power cord and sometimes a fan cooled system. The second type of external storage drive can be called a "pocket" drive. These drives come in a 2.5" or 1.8" size enclosure and use a communications cord to both connect to the system and receive power to operate.

Both styles of external hard drive are available as a mechanical drive, SSD, and SSHD. The type best suited for your implementation will be up to the planned everyday use of the drive. Mechanical external drives are normally larger in storage capacity, come in both 7200 and 5200 rpm variants, and are the least expensive of the choices. SSD and SSHD variants are much faster, cost more, and are hampered by limitations when not matched up to an equally fast communication cable.

External Storage Drive Connection Choices

The largest limiting factor for high-speed external storage devices is the communications cable. Most devices come standard with USB 2.0 technology, which is limited to around 480 Mbps. Devices that use USB 2.0 cannot take advantage of SSD, SSHD, or 7200RPM drive benefits. If you are limited to USB 2.0 then you should consider choosing an inexpensive large mechanical eternal storage drive.

Other options for external storage drive communications are USB 3.0, Firewire, eSATA, Thunderbolt. Each offer increased speeds over USB 2.0 but require very specific connection ports on the home device. If you are looking to add an external storage device that uses one of these communication protocols be sure that your system is compatible.

Final Choices

After the main points of choosing your external storage drive have been decided upon, the final options tend to be stylistic or are value added options. Many external drives come with installed programming that will assist with backups, other external drives come in a rainbow of colors and enclosure styles, while still other external drives offer extended warranties that cover data loss and recovery. Consider each carefully and choose the best fit for your system.

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