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Hard drive names & uses

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You need an external hard drive so that your backups are separate from your computer and laptop.

External USB 2 and USB 3 hard drives are simple to use. USB 3 hard drives can be a bit more expensive but in my experience are 3 or 4 times faster than USB 2. If you have a lot of files to back up each day the extra speed is worth paying the extra cost for.

You can use a USB 3 hard drive in a USB 2 port but you will need a USB 3 port on your computer to make use of the extra speed

If you only need around 1TB storage which is enough for most people there are some drives that are powered directly from the USB port. This means you just have to plug it into your pc to use it and don’t need power cables cluttering up your desk.

I usually buy Seagate, Western digital or Buffalo external hard drives although I never use any of the backup software that comes with them as in the past I found it to be not great and I prefer to use my own.

My favourite drive that I have been using recently is the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme 1TB USB 3. Its powered directly from the USB Port.The USB cable stores neatly by wrapping around the drive which means it doesn't get lost and the whole thing is ruggedized to withstand a fall from 2 metres so it will survive being dropped on the floor or knocked off your desk.

I paid around £130 for this about 4 or 5 months ago and although I haven't dropped it yet it did survive being on loan to my daughter for 2 weeks. You can also get a non-ruggedized USB 2 version for around £80

Don’t be seduced by spindle speed, it’s actually the least important factor when buying an external hard drive and here’s why.

A USB 3 drive will always transfer data faster than a USB 2 drive no matter what the spindle speed.

Buying a hard drive with a larger storage capacity can increase the transfer speed much more than buying one with a higher spindle speed.

e.g a 1TB drive has twice the storage of the 500gb drive but it is packed into the same physical space. This means that twice as much data moves under the head at any one time which makes the transfer speed twice as fast. Buying a 7200 rpm drive rather than a 5600 rpm drive is very unlikely to increase the speed by this amount so a 1 TB drive running at 5600 RPM will almost always be faster than a smaller 500gb drive running at 7200rpm.

From my own experience and that of others who have bought the wrong hard drive these are the things to look for in order of importance

Is it easy to use, if its not then you will inevitably end up not using it as often as you should. Less backups will put you more at risk of losing your data and if this happens you have wasted your money whatever drive you decide on. A USB powered hard drive is quick, easy and convenient to use and needs minimal or no setup. An integral cable means you will always have the USB cable to hand because it can’t get lost.

Does it have enough storage space for what you want, remember you are far better off spending extra money on more disk space rather than extra spindle speed and you almost always need more storage that you first thought.

Is it USB 2 or 3, if you have a USB 3 port then buying a USB 3 drive is the biggest factor regarding speed.

Do you use the drive often and is it transported around with you. If so you may consider a ruggedized drive which can withstand knocks and drops. You only need to drop your drive once to break it and lose your data. When that happens you will wish you had spent the extra money especially if you have lost important data.

If you find more than one drive that fits these criteria you could then chose the one with the highest spindle speed. Normally this is a non-issue because by this time all the ones that fit your criteria are likely to have the same spindle speed anyway.

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Keeping It Simple....You're totally safe with a name brand (Hitachi, Western Digital, Seagate) external hard drive advertised by your local stores. Prices range from $80-$120 and include software to make it easy for you. I saw one that had space in the cloud to back up to also.

A spec to look for is 7200rpm (my choice, lots of pictures), but 5400rpm works well for home use.

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