External hard drives offer best way to safeguard data

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External hard drives offer best way to safeguard data

Nothing strikes fear in the heart of a computer user like the possibility of losing data. If your notebook’s hard drive goes, so do your pictures, music and videos - a major inconvenience for a regular user.

By (DPA)

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Published: Sun 2 Aug 2009, 10:47 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:52 AM

That’s why more and more users are picking up external hard drives. They have the primary advantage of letting people store large amounts of data relatively quickly.

Since the amount of data the average user wants to store is on the rise, the demands for individual storage solutions is also increasing, says Holger Skurk of BITKOM, a German information technology association.

Burning data onto CDs or DVDs is still a safe way to store data, but it takes a lot of time and, much like a USB stick, has relatively small upper storage space limits. Anyone who wants to back up their hard drive has no other option than an external drive.

Such a backup drive needs to be stored separately from the PC and only connected when it’s time to transfer data.

“Fast, quiet and robust,” is the way Ines Walke-Chomjakov, a writer for the German computer magazine PC Welt describes her ideal external drive.

Drives come in two standard formats - 2.5 and 3.5 inches. Different models have different capacities, speeds and prices. “The smaller drives are easy to transport, but only have a maximum capacity of 500 gigabytes,” says Walke-Chomjakov. But unlike the 3.5-inch format, they don’t need an external power supply.

The larger models generally come equipped with adapters, ventilators and housings. “These models generally stay at home, next to the computer,” says Walke-Chomjakov. They also have more capacity. And, despite their lack of mobility, the larger models generally have higher data transfer rates, says Ingolf Leschke of the German computer magazine Computer Bild Spiele.

Price depends on the device’s capacity. The best way to compare is to figure out cents per gigabyte (GB). A price of 20 to 50 euro cents (28 to 71 US cents) is standard for a smaller device, says Walke-Chomjakov. Customers pay between 11 and 25 euro cents per GB for the larger drives. Walke-Chomjakov says she expects the prices to fall further in the future.

There’s little chance of making a mistake when buying an external drive. Computer Bild Spiele recently tested 12 drives of various formats. All earned a rating of good. The winning model, the 2.5-inch format My Passport Essential 500 GB from Western Digital, costs about 110 euros.

There were affordable models in the 3.5-inch format as well. The website pcwelt.de picked the Free Agent Xtreme from Seagate, priced at 89.90 euros, as its winner.

Critics usually get hung up on the price-performance ratio. Leschke says a really good 2.5-inch model should go for between 100 and 200 euros, while a good 3.5-inch model should cost between 150 and 300 euros.

The most important thing to remember when shopping is the kind of connection that will be needed, says Walke-Chomjakov. Always check what kind of ports your computer has before buying a drive. Most external drives, like PCs, have USB 2.0 connections. Macs often have Firewire connections. Some newer machines have e-SATA connections.

Most drives also score well when it comes to user friendliness. “The devices can usually be connected directly,” says Leschke. There’s usually no need for complicated installations, since most devices just install themselves.

Skurk says most external drives can last for up to ten years. But it’s a good idea to check them out every six months. Programs to do just that are usually part of the operating system or are available from the drive’s manufacturer.



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