What Kind of External Hard Drive Should You Buy?

As more consumers are starting to build a growing library of digital music and movies, thoughts soon turn to the purchase of some form of external hard drive.

An external hard drive can greatly increase the capacity of your computer's available memory, allowing you to remove precious files from your computer or laptop and store them on a secure, backup library. However, countless external hard drives are on the market. Therefore, you should consider a number of questions to help you decide which is the right kind for you.

How much do you want to spend?

The cost of an external hard drive can vary considerably. As a general rule, the more memory that you want to buy, the more you can expect to pay. But there is a big difference between different brands and types of external drive. It pays to shop around, as this is a highly competitive market and you'll often find good deals. But always start off with an idea of how much you want to pay.

How mobile does your hard drive need to be?

If you solely use a desktop computer, then you may be more interested in a larger hard drive that can happily be stored and connected in one location. If, however, you intend to access the hard drive over multiple devices (a laptop and a mobile phone, for example, or a work computer and home computer), then you may need to look for a smaller, lighter model that you can easily move around. Think about how practical it is to use a certain type of external hard drive.

What kind of operating system and hardware restrictions do you have?

Most external hard drives can be configured for either a PC or a Mac, but you should always check before you buy, as this is not always the case. More important, many new drives are compatible only with more recent versions of software; if you are running an older machine, you may be restricted by the range of drives that are available to you. If you are going to access the drive on a company machine, bear in mind that there may be hardware restrictions preventing you from connecting to the files. Confirm what your company will permit you to access before you make any kind of buying decision.

Are there other options?

For backup and storage, an external hard drive may not be the only solution. Many companies now offer cloud-based storage solutions, whereby your files are retained in a 'cloud,' or virtual, environment. This means that you don't have a physical drive and that you simply access your files over an Internet connection. These services can be relatively inexpensive and offer the peace of mind of multiple backups, but you could have a problem if you lose your Internet connection. Alternatively, you may just want to clear space on your computer and restrict what you store.

External hard drives can be an important piece of equipment when it comes to backup security and storage. They can be found relatively inexpensively, too. But do your homework first to ensure that you end up with the right product for your circumstances.

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