How to buy the right external hard drive for your needs

How to buy the right external hard drive for your needs

Many experts recommend storing all your data in the cloud because it is more reliable and secure. But, what happens when you don't have internet and need to access your valuable information? There is simply no way to get it. That's the most important reason to always have a quality external hard drive on hand. But to know which one to choose, there are many factors that influence and that is why we will help you make the right decision.

Samsung T5 external hard drive in the hand of a person and in the background a laptop

Storage capacity

The most important specification to consider when buying an external unit is its capacity. It is not good to buy a high-speed device with encryption and remote access, if it is not large enough to actually store the information you need.

With that said, you also don't want to pay a kidney for a record you will never be close to filling, so what size should you aim for? The answer is as simple as depending on what you want to do with it.

If you want one that's good for transferring documents, photos, or other media between different devices, or just want to expand the storage space of your low-end laptop or tablet, then it might be best with a mid-range flash drive.

While the older ones have up to 2TB of storage capacity, they are very expensive and unnecessarily large. It really is better to save money and buy something in the 64GB range. Some can be purchased for less than $ 20 dollars and you get twice the size for a little more.

If you are interested in storing more information or maintaining files and folders over the long term, you will want something larger. A 1TB drive should satisfy most needs for the foreseeable future, as long as you want to store hundreds of movies, because you want to get rid of your DVD collection.

SSD vs. HDD

One of the most common decisions shoppers have to make after thinking about storage is choosing between an SSD or HDD. Traditional mechanical hard drives, (HDD, hard disk driveThey use a spinning magnetic disk to store data and read / write heads to change this data when necessary, which is why they are known for their iconic spinning sounds.

A man on his back working on his laptop that has an external hard drive connected to back up his information

SSDs (solid state drives) use small transistors that can be turned on or off based on electrical impulses. They have no moving parts, hence the name.

Generally speaking, SSDs are significantly faster than HDDs, but they can be very expensive. The latter are cheaper, but also larger, slower and easier to damage. For external drives, it is generally best to choose an SSD, except in particular circumstances.

Transfer speed

Size is not everything, even when it comes to external drives. Transfer speed is also important, because if you transfer files from one disk to another on a regular basis, you don't want to wait forever for the process to complete.

Part of a laptop and a segment of a cable showing the connector of an endpoint on a gray surfaceMaurizio Pesce / Flickr

There are two main factors that play a role in the speed with which your drive can operate: the storage technology and the connector it uses. Although some drives are faster than others (and if you want top speed, be sure to check your option specs) in general.

SSDs can process data faster than HDDs. External SSDs tend to be more expensive than their HDD counterparts and often have less storage capacity. You don't have to have either, as there are bigger SSDs, but you will have to pay extra for it.

In terms of the connector, there are several common options to consider. Most drives use a USB interface, but there are several generations that have some clear differences, especially with the transfer speed.

USB 2.0 is an old standard and should be avoided if you are doing more than infrequent small file transfers. USB 3.0 offers a substantial increase in speed (up to 5 Gbps), while USB 3.1 (sometimes called USB 3.1 Gen 2) is becoming more common and offers transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps.

Devices that support Thunderbolt 3 offer the fastest connection medium, capable of transferring media at speeds of up to 40 Gbps. Some older devices use alternative connectors like eSATA and Firewire, but due to their reduced relevance they should be avoided.