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How to Choose An External Hard Drive?

When it comes to computers, there are plenty of ways to expand the storage you have. A super common method is using an external hard …

how to choose an external hard drive

When it comes to computers, there are plenty of ways to expand the storage you have. A super common method is using an external hard drive in addition to the internal one you have connected to your motherboard. They are detachable and let you store or backup your data in a safe way. But the most common question arises in this case is- how to choose an external hard drive for a particular job? 

Well! Most external hard drives are usable on both Mac or windows pc but several factors have to be put into consideration when choosing to buy one. And that’s exactly what we will be looking at today along with some more useful external hard drive related information for you PC enthusiasts out there. Let’s begin!

Why should you get an external hard drive for your PC?

A lot of hassle goes into changing something from an internal hard drive both physically and virtually whereas external hard drives give you the chance to use any kind of drive with a whole lot of benefits.

These are easy to set up and are really user-friendly choices. They can be carried around, have several connectivity choices and are also budget-friendly.

They act as raw storage spaces and also give you the extra mile of security if you are working with something confidential. External HDDs are also great for gaming as they give you a performance boost and also you can just switch from one HDD to another if you run out of space which is highly unlikely in most cases.

How to Choose An External Hard Drive: 8 Things to Consider

The very first thing that you obviously need to research while buying a hard drive for PC is the price range and the estimated budget that you are willing to invest. Price may vary from brand to brand or according to storage capacity and hard drive quality. 

Other than that, it may also be influenced by the 8 must-know things about buying an external hard disk drive that we are going to discuss in this section – so stick with us.

key factors before buying external hard drive

1. Compatibility

Just now, we mentioned that most external Hard drives work on Mac or Windows PCs. They may also be used for Linux or Android devices, but still, compatibility plays a major role here. 

Some external drives are built for specific kinds of environments with very specific formats. We will be looking at disk formats later on in this article but for now, you should know that such formats are not super permanent. 

They can be tempered with or even partitioned for a variety of purposes. Nonetheless, choosing a hard drive tailored for your specific operating system is a really good practice.

2. Disk Format 

Disk formats are configurations that allow your external HDDs to perform various tasks within an operating system. There are several kinds of disk formats out there but the 5 most common ones are NTFS, HFS+, APFS, FAT32 and exFAT.

NTFS is widely used for Windows devices and can only be read by Macs and not written. Originally launched in 1993, you might think that it’s a technology with a whole lot of limitations, but over the decades, they have improved to become the ultimate disk format we recommend for Windows systems.

Contrary to NTFS, HFS+ also known as Mac OS Extended is a disk format suited more for MacOS but is otherwise not much recommended for other kinds of operating systems. APFS are very similar but can only be used for MacOS high Sierra or later versions.

Fat32 is a format that can be used in almost any kind of environment but has many unwanted limitations whereas exFAT is great for changing configurations but is a bit unreliable.

3. Size & Storage

The size of your external hard drive makes it easier to store and carry around – we’re talking about the physical size here. There are two main options you have going on nowadays – 3.5 inches and 2.5 inches. But the main attraction of a hard drive is its storage capacity.

If you invest in a hard drive in hopes of using it to store a ton of information but end up not having enough storage in it, the whole hassle of buying such a drive goes to waste, doesn’t it?

There are plenty of options ranging from 128GB to 10TB. This might affect the price you will be paying for the HDD but will not affect the speed.

4. Drive Speed

Talking of speed, the next most important thing that you must look for while buying external HDDs is the transfer speed that you are getting. Nobody wants to wait for a lifetime while transferring large files.

Most modern external hard drives are 7200 RPM (revolutions per minute) with USB 3.0 and will give you a major performance boost if you were previously using a 5400 RPM one or had a USB 2.0 connector. The SATA speed is to be ignored here but a Raid-1 supported drive unit will increase reliability.

Some HDDs which are Raid-0 supported also may allow users to configure two HDDs simultaneously into the system which would boost your drive’s speed and performance significantly. But, if you are only trying to focus on speed here, custom made HDDs always win the trophy (if made properly).

5. Connectivity

We used the term SATA in the section right above and previously we have also said how internal HDDs go on the motherboard directly. SATA is the name for that kind of connectivity.

External hard drives however have the upper hand when it comes to connectivity. They come in several forms but the 3 high demand ones are eSATA, USB and Firewire. Other kinds of connections such as SCSI, SAS or Fibre Channel also exist but have a very specific niche of users.

As we indicated before, USB 3.0 is a lot faster than USB 2.0 and is the user favorite in current times. On the other hand, eSATA is the latest invention that takes up less resource space. Firewire is a more industrial use kind of connection as it gives the best output compared to the others.

6. Software

The software determines the features that you get with your external hard disk drive. That’s what sets one brand of HDD apart from another and may solve a lot of performance issues that you face.

Your HDD software also affects how you have to set up and format your drive and may come with some really helpful features such as automatic file uploading to chosen websites or applications, easy file encryption or rollback system support.

If you are using a windows system, you can also use the chkdsk command to see the softwares in a hard drive for any malfunctioning. Also, while buying an external HDD, take a look at software compatibility and what softwares already comes included on the drive.

7. Fragility and Failure rate

Hard drives are really fragile in nature. Pushing on it too hard or accidentally letting it fall from a height will do permanent damage that might be irreversible or might cost some bucks to be fixed.

While external HDDs come with a shell just for this reason, they are still fragile. So, make sure to get one that is sturdy enough even though it might be a bit heavier to carry. Also, HDDs can fail due to various reasons.

A few of those reasons could be overheating, power fluctuation, software or hardware error, media damage or malware presence. Keeping these in mind while choosing an external HDD is a great practice.

8. Security and User Reviews

Any storage-related thing on your device can be prone to security threats. Most HDDs support software encryption systems that help enhance your drive’s security rather effectively.

Also, going for a drive with hardware encryption can further reduce your security risks. As good practice, you could also install systems that require pins to access your data or get a drive with a secondary security layer installed physically on the drive to secure your memory chips.

User reviews are also a great way to see how well the external hard drive fares against security threats or other factors that go into buying one. So make sure to go through them beforehand and also keep your drive plugged out when not using it to improve drive health and reduce the failure rate and security risks.

HDDs Vs SSDs – which one is for you?


There are two varieties of external hard drives – HDD, which is your regular hard disk drive and SSD – a solid-state drive. A 2.5” HDD pretty much has the same functionalities that an SSD can offer, but they still have major differences.

HDDs are more cost-effective compared to SSDs and give you significantly more data storage than SSDs as well. Contrary to that, SSDs are faster, more secure and have flawless performance. Also, SSDs take up less power than HDDs, so they are more suited for laptops with limited battery life. By the way, if you’re looking for best budget laptop we’ve got you on this as well.

For long time usage, we recommend getting SSDs as they have a steady performance even under heavy load. SSDs are also great for gaming or 3D rendering as well as for storing a whole operating system of frequently accessed programs on them. 

HDDs on the other hand are better for beginners or those who only wish to use them for file transferring, backups and storing images, videos or heavy softwares. To further improve your HDD’s lifetime, pairing it up with protective cases can be a great practice.

To get you started on your quest to buy an external hard drive, here is a list of some popular ones we found on Amazon :

How to Choose An External Hard Drive-To Conclude

We know that seeing all the technical terms being thrown out there is overwhelming if you are only starting out, but having an external hard drive is great for people from all walks of life. We really hope that article helped you out a bunch. 

That’s all for today! Goodbye.

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