The physical size of an external hard drive doesn't necessarily translate to the amount of storage space, particularly with the advent of flash storage. You really only have a say in the physical size of a hard drive when it comes to solid-state drives, as there are standard sizes for hard disk drives. A standard size for a portable hard disk drive, for example, is the Western Digital Elements 2TB hard drive, which comes in at 4.
Smaller desktop hard drives come in at around 7 x 5 inches and range up from there.
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Solid-state hard drives can be much smaller, making them much more portable. External hard drives can come with features designed to keep files more secure, which might be important if you plan on using yours to store sensitive information. For example, some hard drives offer password-protection by default, meaning you can easily set a password to keep all your files safe. A hard drive buffer is essentially storage that exists between the computer and the actual storage in a hard drive. Files stored by the hard drive in the buffer can be accessed far quicker than those stored in the main storage of a hard drive, and the bigger the hard drive buffer — sometimes called the cache — the better the overall performance the drive is likely to have.
Generally speaking, you really only need to care about the size of the buffer if you plan on running software from your hard drive. If you do feel as though you need a hard drive with a larger buffer, then we recommend getting one with at least a 64MB cache, though those with MB and even MB are pretty common, too.
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Depending on the type of hard drive and the amount of storage you opt for, the price can vary drastically. Hard disk drives, as mentioned, are much cheaper than solid-state drives, so if you need a lot of storage at a reasonable price, a HDD might be the way to go. On the other hand, it's not uncommon to see a solid-state drive that runs into 25 cents per GB. Of course, that still makes for a drive that costs hundreds of dollars. While there's a lot to keep in mind when buying an external hard drive, hopefully, this will help you narrow down your selection.
The enclosures have a shiny black plastic shell, with a matte branding inlay that wraps around from the front to right side. Even the inlay has a little extra pizzazz on the side, along with the drive access indicator light on the front. The only down side to the glossy shell is that it's a fingerprint magnet and scratches easily. The units are fan-less, which makes the venting around the top, back and bottom a required feature so the drive inside can easily shed its heat. The drive is meant to be used vertically, with four rubber feet on the bottom to prevent slipping on a flat desk surface.
The back of the unit has the USB port, power port and Kensington lock slot. WD includes quite a bit of software with the My Book products.
External hard drive storage considerations
WD's updated SmartWare software is the highlight of the included programs. It's a comprehensive offering that allows PC users to have an easy to manage, yet flexible backup solution. Users can opt to backup specific files types or folders and manage the frequency accordingly. For a more complete system recovery solution, WD has included Acronis True Image which can take regular snapshots of the entire system.
Pros: Internal power supply. Little to no setup required.
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Supports daisy-chaining other Thunderbolt 3 devices. Lightning-quick file transfer times. Cons: Does not boast class-leading throughput. Multiple capacity options. Sleek design. No USB support. Difficult to connect to Windows PCs. Bottom Line: The sleek, expensive Samsung Portable SSD X5 offers the fastest single-drive external storage money can buy, but it's suited mainly to well-heeled content-creation pros using late-model Macs. Pros: Durable. Plex support.
Doubles as a power bank. No Thunderbolt support. The Best External Hard Drives for He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of a few startups. Before that, he occasionally dunked waterproof hard drives in glasses of wate See Full Bio. This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links.
Read Review. Tom Brant Senior Analyst, Hardware.
The 8 best external hard drives and SSDs for Mac and PC users in 12222
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