Hooray for External Hard DrivesKim Boatman
No wonder freelance writer Perry P. Perkins of Wilsonville, Ore., says he’s paranoid about backing up his work.
“I’ve lost several works in progress twice now -- once to a hard drive melt-down and once from a laptop theft in a home burglary,” Perkins says. These days, Perkins finds peace of mind by copying all of his files to an external hard drive at the end of each work week, then locking the drive in his home safe.
An external hard dive can be a particularly helpful piece of equipment when it comes to both securing your important information, backing up the contents of your PC’s internal hard drive and keeping your computer running smoothly.
The benefits of using an external hard drive include:
Privacy. If you want to protect sensitive information from other family members using the same computer, you can store the files on an external drive.
Security. Like Perkins, most of us have files we can’t afford to lose. “It never hurts to have the extra security,’’ says Brett Jaffe, president of IT4, a Boston-based IT services company. “Multiple layers of back up for any data is the way to go.” In most cases, Jaffe says, backing up with an external hard drive is quite simple. For instance, the Maxtor OneTouch external hard drive allows you to simply hit a button to back up files after the initial installation of software, says Patrick Rhone, a Minneapolis area technology consultant.
Transporting data. If you need to move large files between a work and home computer, a thumb drive often doesn’t have the necessary capacity, says Rhone. External hard drives are still small enough to fit into a briefcase but offer enough storage to handle a significant amount of data.
Additional storage. As multimedia functions become more prevalent, our need for storage on our PCs expands, points out Rhone. “Buying an external hard drive saves you from having to go through the cost and hassle of upgrading that internal hard drive,’’ he says. Storing files on an external drive also can keep your computer from operating sluggishly.
What to look for in an external hard drive
External hard drives are both affordable and consumer-friendly. Expect to pay between $100 and $200 for a quality external hard drive. “Stick with a major drive manufacturer,’’ advises Rhone. “Oftentimes, third-party manufacturers use inferior components and make inferior drives. Most major manufacturers offer three-year warranties on the drive itself. It’s good protection. Just in case something happens with a drive failure, you’d be able to get it replaced.”
A good rule of thumb is to buy an external hard drive with more storage capacity than your PC possesses. “I always recommend getting as much as you can afford and as large as they make,’’ says Rhone. A large external hard drive will allow you to store multiple versions of your internal hard drive’s contents, not just the latest image.
How to protect your files
The good news is external hard drives are designed for ease of use, says Jaffe. In most cases, you simply plug an external hard drive into a USB slot on your computer. Perkins creates folders on the external hard drive with the date, so he can track the latest versions of his files. Moving files from your PC to the external drive is a matter of copying and pasting or dragging and dropping data.
Think of an external hard drive as another tool in protecting information you’d hate to lose, says Rhone. But also consider adding other backups, such as an online service, as well, he advises. “What I see increasingly is a trend toward making backup in general really super easy,’’ Rhone says. “An external drive should certainly be used for backup purposes for things that live on your hard drive. If you have just one copy of one thing anywhere, you risk the chance of losing it.”
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