How to choose a backup storage device

How to choose an external hard drive

Computers are filled with important work files and priceless photographs taken on vacations or important occasions. Long before we envisioned hard drives with more than 5 GB of space, computer owners were diligently backing up their prized documents on floppy discs or investing on an expensive external Zip drive while paying $50 or more for their high capacity discs (200 MB).

In the modern era of laptops and desktops equipt with an average of 300-500 GB or more of disc space, the urgency of backing up files and the Operating System seems to have disappeared. The hard drives have enough capacity to hold anything we can imagine, but computer owners are still at the mercy of hardware failure. The potential for losses in modern times are far greater than in the days of the floppy disc or Zip drives.


Step 1

Determine needed capacity

Take a look at the contents of your computer’s hard drive and the amount of space taken up by valuable photos and files you can’t afford to loose. Add the amount of space taken up by important programs and anything else that you would want to restore in case of a hard drive failure and search for an external hard drive whose capacity is far greater than your current needs.

Step 2

External dimensions

An external hard drive that sits on your desk has a tendency to be bulky and stationary. These types of hard drives are also heavier than their portable counterparts and less expensive than thinner ones with similar or greater storage capacity. Determine if in the future you would want to carry the external hard drive on trips to an from the office, or take them across the country on vacations or work related trips. If portability matters, narrow down the field to the thinner and lighter versions that easily slip into a jacket’s pocket.

A Seagate portable hard drive weights .35 ounces and holds 640 GB of storage. The dimensions are roughly 3″ x 5″, which makes them highly portable and efficient.

Step 3

Capabilities and compatability

Find out if the included software allows you to back up your entire hard drive at the click of a button or if there are more complex steps involved that require greater knowledge or additional software. A vast majority of external hard drives come equiped with software that will make the process of backing up and restoring files seamless.

Older external hard drives may require additional software to be downloaded for free or third-party applications to back up files appropriately for your system.

Don’t settle for a bargain without finding out if the latest version of your operating system is compatible with the external hard drive’s. Some older external hard drives are not compatible with Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Step 4

Compare brands and models

Seagate and Western Digital are the most commonly recognized brands of external hard drives. Toshiba, Iomega, and Transcend are other popular makers. iomega has been in the business of making external hard drives since the days of the Zip drive and their products are extremely reliable.

Not every model is created equal within the same family of hard drives. Research consumer reviews and forum boards for recent experiences and check CNET reviews for specific models to get additional information based on the staff’s rigorous testing.

Additional considerations

* Make disc back ups of your operating system.

* Organize back ups by categories to make restoring and saving files easier.

* Keep all disc programs in the same location should you have to re-install them after a system crash.

* Download and install any available firmware updates for your new external hard drive before backing up your documents.

Things Needed
• External hard drive

Tips & Warnings
• Review independent testing reports.
• Make a choice between desktop models that require a wall adapter or portable ones that power up via USB drive.
• Office supply stores often discount external hard drives by 50% or more. Check for coupons, sales and the previous model’s prices since sometimes the difference is nothing more than a color or additional GB.


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