What is an External Hard Drive?
External hard disk drives serve as portable data storage. With that said, the devices provide users with additional disk space. It can be used as an extension to the basic storage and can be used with nearly any PC or a laptop because of its mobility and effortless Plug-and-play connectivity via USB interface.
However, external HDDs give not only additional storage space but also reliable backup of important data: encrypt the data on external hard disk drive and restrict the access to it on a software level. HDDs are also used as a permanent storage in case the laptop doesn't allow for basic HDD upgrading by seamlessly integrating it with your system.
There is another type of compact storage device, which has gained a lot of customers attention recently and is called an SSD. The SSD acronym stands for a solid state drive and is used as a general name of the devices manufactured according to this technology. You can read more on such devices in our Solid State Drives review. Additionally, if you want to neatly organise all your gadgets during the process of charging, pay attention to charging stations.
What Features to Compare
Among numerous parameters of the modern external hard drives, we singled out the ones that are of the most importance. First parameter - Capacity of the external hard disk drive determines how much data it can store. This is arguably the most important piece of information you need to know when considering any external storage device. The volumes for data storage range from several hundred megabytes (200MB, 500MB, 750MB) to several terabytes (1TB, 2TB, 3 TB). The latter are more common and profitable storage/price-wise.
The next parameter you should pay attention to is Speed, or data transfer rate, which determines how fast data can be transferred from or to the hard drive. With ever-increasing data amounts and file sizes, speed becomes a really important performance parameter. Note, that we are speaking about the speed of an external hard disk drive itself, and of the interface, by which it connects to a PC. This speed depends on such parameter as spindle rotation speed - 5400 RPM, 7200 RPM. In major cases the higher the spindle rotation speed is the higher the data transfer rate, though there are exceptions to this rule. Data transfer rate also depends on seek time parameter, which is measured in milliseconds (usually, ranges from 10 to 30 msec) - the lower the seek time the higher the data transfer rate in some scenarios. Eventually, the size of the electronic buffer (8MB, 16MB, 32MB, 64MB), through which the data is transferred from and to an external HDD, affects the data transfer rate - the bigger the buffer the higher the average data transfer rate. Thus, the Speed as an aggregate of spindle rotation speed, buffer size and seek time usually measures from 10MB to some 90-110MB or more.
Another important aspect is the Size and Design, which not only determines the portable hard drive looks, but also the form factor and weight of the device, which in their turn affect drive’s portability. The form factor or the size is measured in inches (the overall dimensions vary from model to model and usually don’t fit into a specific form factor, but the dimensions in the range of 2.5-3.5” are the most commonly used). The smaller the form factor the more compact and lightweight the device is, though the bigger size is usually rewarded by the bigger capacity.
USB/File system compatibility features, as the name states, determine the USB interface version used for the external HDD connection to your laptop or desktop PC and the operating system the device is compatible out of the box. To manage the data on a drive, different operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc.) use different file systems (FAT, FAT32, NTFS, ext4), which have their own pros and cons and in some cases are incompatible. In addition, external HDDs connect to user PC, tablet PC or laptops by a cable via USB interface, through which the drives are energised. The newer the USB interface version supported by an external HDD the better its connectivity and higher the theoretical data transfer rates; most recent USB version 3.0 provides rates of up to 5Gbit/s while its predecessor, USB 2.0 - up to 480 Mbit/s (these are theoretical maximum rates of the interface never achieved by an external HDD’s data transfer rate itself in reality-see the speed).
Seagate Expansion STEB5000100
A Simple Solution
Nowadays every individual PC user uses his/her hard disk drive or drives for storing many various files, such as electronic documents, music files and movies. It is understood that when at home you can always access your media files on the HDD. But how are you going to prepare yourself for using your data, for example, a couple of movies on the road or on a business trip? The fact is that not every mobile digital device is capable of storing even such amount of data, especially encoded in Full HD or UHD format. That is the very case when a portable hard disk can save the day, the more so because today we are offered a great number of such devices. Our today’s review guest is the Seagate Expansion Portable HDD. This modern device has a typical size for the most of consumer portable hard drives, which allows for carrying the drive in a small bag or a pocket. The Seagate Expansion model is ready for the use out of the box, does not require additional software installation and is detected by notebooks and PCs in a few seconds. By the way, the Seagate Expansion Portable HDD will be a good solution for travelling notebook users as the drive is powered completely by USB and does not require an external power supply. Users are offered the capacities from 500 GB to 4 TB with the transfer speed limits as high as 5Gb/s via the USB 3.0 and up to 480 Mb/s via the USB 2.0, which in our opinion is sufficient for an everyday use.
A Page of Portable Media History
It is highly probable that every person who frequently uses modern digital equipment has at least one USB thumb drive. As we all know these devices are very handy in keeping your data always available. Modern USB flash drives are manufactured in different shapes and have different specifications and features, which helps a consumer finding the best fit greatly. However, there are very few people who bothered themselves with finding out what was the look and specifications of the first commercially available USB thumb drive. The very first such device was released in 2000 by the Israeli М-Systems company. Though it was April 1999 when the device patent was registered in the USA and only a year after the USB drive entered the market under the “DiskOnKey” name offering a 8 Megabyte storage capacity. The first mass-production batches of the device in the USA were manufactured together with the IBM company. In late 2000 the first 32 Megabyte models at a retail price of $100 were introduced to the world. For the time being, it has been 17 years already since the introduction of the first USB thumb drive. For that period there were many discoveries and technical advancements in the area of portable media as well as hallmark events, which boosted the USB drives improvement.
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For those who use their PCs/notebooks together with many other portable digital devices, we recommend considering a USB hub.
Western Digital My Passport
A Time-Proven Quality
Today the market of electronic equipment is flooded with HDDs by many vendors. However, the most of these vendors do not manufacture their hard drives from the ground up but only assemble finished products from the components supplied or complete the prefabricated devices with new proprietary features and external design elements. Speaking about the Western Digital company, it is known that in addition to the development and manufacture of internal hard disk drives and other PC internals the company manufactures external hard drives. When you look at the My Passport Ultra model, first of all, you see a compact device of an elegant shape, which holds high performance and reliability that have been building up for several HDD generations. Regarding the case finish options and the storage available this external HDD by Western Digital is manufactured in 4 colours and 5 capacity variations - 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB. As for the performance and advanced features, this external hard disk drive has some to earn your trust. My Passport external HDD is capable of utilising the high-speed data transfer connections of up to 5Gb/s for the USB 3.0, and up to 480 Mb/s for the USB 2.0, which is sufficient for an everyday use. Though it is not the raw performance alone that makes the drive an excellent choice as it offers effective user data protection tools, which enable you to protect the data with a personal password or the device to automatically back up your data according to the predefined schedule. That is why Western Digital My Passport has become a choice of many users throughout the globe.
A Bit of Interesting Information
As we know many researchers and engineers every day put their efforts into creating something to make human lives easier. Among those specialists, there are some who contrive of peculiar things made of the materials at hand. A Chinese inventor took this path and created a candyfloss making machine at home. It is interesting that the machine was built around an old HDD. Other components the inventor used for making this amusing machine included aluminium can fragment, metal caps, a plastic dish, some solid alcohol, bicycle wheel spoke, and some sugar. The effort resulted in creating the device, which surpasses its commercial counterparts in the efficiency and costs a small amount to build. The distinguishable feature of the candyfloss machine created is 5400 RPM spindle rotation speed while conventional mass-production machines are limited to 3500 RPM. It is important as in the making of candyfloss the higher the rotation speed of a candyfloss bunch the puffier the floss.
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Maxtor M3 Slimline
The Data That is Always at Your Disposal
Notwithstanding the Internet common use, many of us encounter the problem of big data volume transfer from one digital device to another with no Internet connection available. This is what external hard disk drives were designed for. Meet the M3 Portable 1TB, which was designed and manufactured to meet personal demands of a modern user. The fact that the drives of this series are covered with the 3-year manufacturer warranty speaks for the Maxtor confidence about the quality of the product build. All you need to do to gain access to the data on the drive is to connect it to your PC or notebook using the bundled USB cable. The valuable feature this external HDD offers is an auto data back using the proprietary AutoBackup application. On the hardware side, the convenience of the external HDD use is ensured by its stylish and sturdy black matte case. Using this portable hard drive by the Seagate company is rather comfortable owing to its compactness: you will be able to carry the drive about easily putting it in a small bag or even a jacket pocket.
It’s Interesting to Know
Backblaze, a large American company, which has been operating in the area of data back for 5 years already carries out a statistic research on determining the average lifetime of an HDD. As of today, the company claims that it has no precise figures as 74% share of the HDDs purchased are still operating with no faults and only the 26% of the whole number failed. That is why it is hard to define an average life span of an HDD though there is some relevant data. According to the statistical data array gathered, the occurrence of all the HDDs malfunctions fall within three periods calculated from the devices operation start. Within the first period, which lasts for 1.5 years from the first day of HDDs use each ear there is a 5.1% share of failed hard disk drives. For the next one and a half years of operation the share of the drives failed lowers to 1.4% of the total amount. And after the three years of operation, the statistics reports 11.8% of the drives to fail each year. In other words, for the first 18 months of use, it is approximately 92% of all HDDs that maintain their operability while almost all these operable hard disk drives (90%) will retain their operability for the three years.
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Seagate Backup Plus Slim
One of The Slimmest Drives
If you are an adherent of simple and typical portable storage solutions you will find Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1TB USB 3.0 a suitable model, to which internals and operation we have no claims and which functionality will not leave you disappointed. This portable HDD quickly connects to a PC using the USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports or Thunderbolt port. It is important to notice that the latter interface connection requires the adapter, which makes Seagate Backup external HDD thicker and bulkier, thus making it a desktop HDD-sized device. Speaking about the look of Plus Slim, we would define its design as classic with no excessive elements: the top cover of the HDD is made of polished aluminium while the rest is plastic, the rectangular shape copies that of the most similar devices. However, this somewhat restrained design does not prevent you from using some advanced features, which include, for this model, the feature of saving your photos from the Facebook and Flicker. To recapitulate the HDD casing review we consider it one of the slimmest models on the market. And what is very important, the small size is not a trade for the case robustness and build quality. As the case of Seagate Plus Slim external HDD does not show any backlash and gaps and does not creak even when pushed on with fingers. Grounding on our experience we can recommend this Seagate portable HDD model without any doubts.
The proprietary software application for a better user experience with this compact Backup Plus Slim External Hard Drive is included. After you’ve installed the application you need to reboot your PC. Using the application you need to register your hard disk drive with the manufacturer online system to obtain the link to the page for creating a personal account that will grant you an access to the Seagate cloud storage. After following all the instructions provided by the manufacturer and registering your product you will get a 200 GB of storage in the cloud. You will be free to use the cloud storage service for 24 months, which is by no means a short period for a free cloud service. However, it is the integration with your HDD that Seagate puts emphasis on and not the cloud storage volume.
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Fast and Handy
As you know the specialised data storage devices have entered modern life for the long haul for they allow us storing important data such as e-documents, photos, etc. and share the data with friends and colleagues. But what are we to do in case the data volumes are large and we need the data to be always at our disposal? In that case, we can resort to the Toshiba Canvio Basics external HDD, which offers a large capacity in a compact case. With that, the first aspect that drew our attention is the ergonomic design and awesome case materials of the Canvio external HDD. The manufacturer decided to use a scratch-resistant and shock-absorbing matte plastic for the drive casing and to equip the bottom side of the drive with rubber feet that prevent the drive slipping even on an inclined surface. The data transfer on this external HDD is carried out via the USB 3.0 cabled interface, which offers enough throughput for a fast data transfer. Buying the Toshiba Canvio Basics external hard disk drive you get an access to a nice portable data storage, which is capable of not only storing your files but of doing this in a very secure and convenient way.
An Interesting Note
The first hard disk drive ever was introduced by IBM back in 1956. It looked like a big cabinet with the height of almost 2 meters and 1-tonne weight. The spindle of this proto-HDD had 50 plates sitting on with 61 cm of size each. All the plates were covered with a paint containing a ferromagnetic material. The spindle rotation speed amounted to 1200 rotations per minute and the total storage capacity amounted to almost 5 MB, which was enormous at that time. By that time only large corporations could afford to acquire such device because of the high HDD price. Today the storage capacity offered by this super bulky HDD will only put a smile on your face but then it was a huge technological advancement. One such monster of an HDD could store as much data as 62,500 key-punched cards while offering an instantaneous access to the data.
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2. Joel Santo Domingo The Best External Hard Drives, PCMag. July 8, 2016.
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4. Dong Ngo Storage buying guide, CNET. September 16, 2016.
5. How to Choose the Right External Hard Disk Drive for You, eBay. March 10, 2016.
6. Dong Ngo Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim Portable External Hard Drive review, CNET. August 10, 2016.
7. Joel Lee 5 Things You Need to Consider Before Buying a Hard Drive, MakeUseOf. March 23, 2015.
8. Lisa Johnston Before You Buy an External Hard Drive, Lifewire. September 3, 2016.