External Hard Drives
External hard drives are utilised by users who wish to easily transport, backup or store their data external to their main computer or notebook. External HDDs are available in both 2.5" and 3.5" varieties, the main differences being size and power requirements.
2.5 external hard drives use notebook / laptop hard disks for storage. These drives are smaller and are generally referred to as USB powered external hard drives. They use power supplied by the USB interface to spin the drive, removing the requirement for an external power adapter. USB powered drives range in size from 320GB to Terabyte with 500Gb being the breakpoint for cheap cost per gigabyte at time of writing (May 2012). Going forward some 2.5 external disks may use SSD (solid state drives) for storage in place of more traditional mechanical hard drives. In conjunction with USB 3.0, external hard drives can only increase in speed from here. If Thunderbolt goes mainstream this will further increase speed!
3.5 external hard drives utilise desktop drives for storage and need an external power source. These enclosures are physically larger and some units offer installation of more than one drive. Because of these power requirements, external 3.5 inch hard drives will either have a built in powerpack or a separate, external powerpack. The enclosure of the latter is generally larger since it has to house additional electronics. User opinion varies on which is best.
Both sizes of external hard drive are available in USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and eSATA interfaces. Other, less popular interface types are Firewire and Thunderbolt. LaCie hard drives are popular with Apple Mac users because of their contemporary styling and aluminium casings. In addition most of the LaCie lineup is available in Firewire as well as the regular USB and eSATA.
Seagate external hard drives use a proprietary interface called GoFlex -this allows each drive to fulfil any connection requirement. Users can also change a drives connection method by easily (and cheaply) purchasing a new GoFlex cable.
What is the best external hard drive for me?
The best external hard drive depends entirely on your requirements. If portability is important then you will most likely look at a 2.5 hard drive; if capacity is important then look for a desktop drive that is large enough; if speed is your main concern look for a USB 3.0 device with possibly an SSD internal or a dual drive RAID setup. A network attached hard drive of some sort may end up being your final solution, especially if you have multiple users in a small office or home and no server setup.
Ultimately you are the only user that can decide this, if you would like some guidance feel free to contact us for assistance.
What type of hard drive is used in External HDDs?
This is a common question but is irrelevant in 2012 due to the limited number of hard drive manufacturers.
If you purchase an external drive branded by one of the major hard drive manufacturers (Seagate and Western Digital) the drives provided will always represent the brand. For other, non-hard drive manufacturers such as LaCie, iOmega, Buffalo or Verbatim (to list a few) the drive included is usually Western Digital or Seagate. This is understandable as many of these brands do not product their own drives. There is no easy way to ascertain what type of internal drive is used in non-manufacturer external HDDs and different model lines can vary batch to batch. Overall Western Digital and Seagate drives are reliable and worry free. If you require a specific manufacturer brands please purchase the correctly branded external drive.
Overall this should not be a problem as Western Digital / Seagate drives are cheap, reliable and are overall the best drive to purchase anyway!
The Growth in NAS Hard Drive
Network attached storage has gained popularity in recent years among home users. This can be attributed to more devices in each house (tablets, phones, desktops, notebooks) as well as users wanting the centralise their storage. In addition, running less desktop computers with individual hard drives saves power. We advise against purchasing the cheapest green drives for NAS devices as some RAID features are missing from the budget drives.
NAS HDD units tend to be physically larger and users who value portability should look at traditional external storage solutions.
External HDD Enclosures
Give your old hard drives a new lease on life by putting it in an external hard drive enclosure! This is popular and casings are available for both notebook and desktop drives. For around $40 this is the cheapest way to extend the life of an older drive.