If you’re thinking about getting an external hard drive, there are some technical things (and some not-so-technical things) you should keep in mind. You won’t find these pointers on the side of the external hard drive box. And the sales clerk at Best Buy probably won’t be mentioning any of this to you. Still, it’s all helpful stuff to know, so here you go.
Buy the largest external hard drive you can afford
This is where I start whenever I’m asked, “What kind of external hard drive should I buy?” These days, you can get a ton of space for a relatively small amount of money. So I always answer this question the question: “How much money do you want to spend?”
A slim external hard drive that can hold one terabyte (1000 gigs) of data goes for about 80 bucks on Amazon. One terabyte is a lot of space. Unless you’re doing lots of video editing (and I mean lots), you probably won’t fill up a one terabyte drive any time soon.
Don’t buy an external hard drive from the Mac store at the mall
External hard drives are external hard drives. You don’t need to buy something that’s twice the price just because it matches your MacBook Pro.
You can grab an external hard drive from Target and it’ll be just as good (if not better) than that Mac-branded external hard drive. (Note: I am a Mac owner, so this isn’t an anti-Mac rant—it’s a saving you money rant.)
Stay away from used tech gear
As a general rule, never buy used tech gear. The previous owner may have dropped it down a flight of stairs or watched it plunge into a toilet. Sometimes, bad things will happen to tech gear and mysteriously, it will still work (but probably not for long.)
That guy selling an external hard drive on Craigslist might be trying to unload it on you before it dies on him.
External hard drives fail just like regular hard drives
Some people view their external hard drive as a safe haven for all of their data. But an external hard drive is just like an internal hard drive. Your external hard drive can die unexpectedly just like the hard drive in your computer.
By all means, keep backing up to your external hard drive. Just consider backing up to another location as well (cloud storage space is a great way to go.)
Don’t carry your external hard drive around in your laptop bag
If you don’t need to bring your external hard drive with you, leave it at home. Thieves and airline baggage handlers won’t remove your external hard before stealing or losing your laptop bag (and everything it in.) Keep your external hard drive (and all of your backed up data) at home unless you absolutely need to have it with you for some reason.
You will need to format your drive
No matter what type of external hard drive you decide to buy, you will need to format it before you start using it.
My next post, External Hard Drives Part Two: Proper Format, will be all about (you guessed it) formatting your external hard drive.