How to Buy Cheap External Hard Drives

With music and movie files choking the memory of laptops and desktop PCs, many people are on the lookout for cheap external hard drives to provide extra storage space. Even if you're not a digital media fanatic, you might want an external drive to back up your computer and protect important documents and photos. Cheap external hard drives run the gamut from junk to reliable data storage devices, so you need to shop very carefully.

Quality Counts
If you care enough to save a file, you should make sure you're not trusting its future to a poorly made storage device. You can't afford to sacrifice quality for price. While it is possible to find cheap external hard drives that are fairly reliable and decent in quality, many of these underpriced drives are cheap for a reason. Check online user reviews to determine whether the product is reliable. Buy from a retailer that has a reasonable return policy, so you don't get stuck with a poor-quality hard drive.

Cheap Is Relative
What's cheap for one person may be overpriced for someone else, so it's important to develop a realistic budget when shopping for external drives. The cheapest drives are usually either a large, clunky, outdated model or a poorly made device. Low-quality external drives may have flimsy components and may not write data reliably. Low-quality drives frequently fail without warning.

To keep your cost down, understand that the amount of memory and the included features are the two factors that dictate price. The more data storage you need, the more you can expect to pay. If you don't need a ton of storage, you can find external drives up to 250 GB from reliable brands for less than $50. Keep an eye out for discounts on older models when new models are released; this is a great way to save some money.

If you need more data storage, compare several brands side by side to see if a different set of features will offer savings. If you don't need a FireWire connection, it will be cheaper to get a drive without one. A top drive speed of 5400 RPM will cost less than a top speed of 7200 RPM, but you'll notice the slower performance.

What Are You Storing?
If you're looking for an external hard drive to carry around your media or important files with you, you'll probably want a small mini-hard drive or portable model that you could easily tuck away in a laptop case. However, if you're simply looking for a cheap drive to back up data or provide extra storage at home, you can afford to shop for physically larger models, which usually provide more storage at a lower price than mini hard drives.

The Best Cheap External Hard Drives
Western Digital has a great reputation for high-quality hard drives, and you can find several drives in the Western Digital line for under $100. You can find the larger Western Digital MyBook 500GB hard drive for around $90, or the smaller Western Digital MyPassport 160-320GB hard drives for as low as $70. Both are high-quality external hard drives that provide safe, reliable storage at a reasonable price.

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