How to choose an External Hard Drive – HDD or SSD ?
External hard drives are useful for storing and carrying all kinds of files, keeping backup copies of your data safe and even storing all the photos and video of your most memorable moments. If you are thinking of buying one, we will tell you all the tips and tricks in this guide that we have prepared.
All users should have at least one external drive at home. Not only does it allow us to transport large data comfortably, it is also an excellent way to keep the backup copies of our devices safe , as well as to store photos, videos and files that we would like to keep to free up space from our computer.
If you still do not have one or would like to get a new one, surely you have many doubts about what characteristics you have to take into account when choosing an external hard drive that meets your needs for storage capacity, speed , size, strength, etc.
In addition, external hard drives have become an essential work tool in many professional fields, such as photographers or video content creators, who must constantly dump the contents off the camera’s memory cards onto a portable hard drive to continue your work.
There are many factors to take into account, but nobody like you knows the use you want to give it and that will define all the other characteristics. Anyway, we have prepared this guide full of tips and tricks for buying an external hard drive, so pay attention and take note.
Define what use you are going to store in the external hard drive
Before starting to assess the characteristics and specifications of external hard drives , the first thing you have to be clear about is what use you are going to give the unit. Do you want to transport data? Save backups? Store and play media files? Are you going to use it at home and in the office, or do you want it to work anywhere? Do you need a large capacity or is it worth it with a more restrained space?
All these considerations are important, since depending on your answers you will be able to decide what type of external hard drive will suit you best. Therefore, it is best to spend a few minutes defining what you are going to use the external hard drive for and, once you have it clear, we move on to the next point.
What dimensions to choose?
Now that you are clear about the use that you are going to give your external hard drive, one of the first considerations when choosing your external storage unit is it’s physical size. Fortunately, today they have improved a lot in this regard .
If your objective is to use the device mainly to transport data from one place to another, the ideal is that you choose compact dimensions and a lighter weight, while if you are going to use it at home or in the office and do not plan to take it with you, nothing hampers in getting a bigger and heavier model.
In the first case, the perfect drive for you is a portable external hard drive in a 1.8 or 2.5 inch format, smaller and lighter in size than desktop external hard drives. In addition, this type has the advantage that it obtains the power it needs to work directly from the USB connection with the equipment, so that you do not have to worry about plugging it into the mains.
This makes it especially attractive as a backup disk to take with you on vacation and not lose all your photos if your camera memory card fails or is lost.
On the contrary, if the maximum distance that the disk will travel is from the table to the drawer and vice versa, or it will be in a fixed place, the most advisable thing is to choose an external desktop hard disk . These disks usually have a 3.5-inch format, the same as the internal disks of your computer, so both their dimensions and their weight are of no problem.
Also, keep in mind that when mounting a 3.5-inch disk inside, it needs a higher voltage than the one that the USB can supply, so this type of external disk needs to be plugged into the electrical outlet to be able to work .
HDD vs. SSD
Another decision you have to make when buying an external hard drive is whether you are going to choose a HDD(Hard Drive Disk , also known as a mechanical hard disk) or an SSD ( Solid State Drive or solid state hard disk). .
HDDs record data using magnetism. They have mechanical parts inside, and are made up of one or more rigid disks that spin on the same axis where the read and write heads record or read the data. The higher the speed of the spin, the faster the information will be written and read, obtaining better transfer rates. It may seem like a trifle, but when you have to move 300 GB of data everything counts.
You can find external hard drives in 3.5 and 2.5-inch formats and, in relation to SSDs, they have the advantage of being much cheaper or offering storage capacities much higher than those that portable SSDs can offer. .
The solid state disks store data using electrical impulses in flash memories interconnected, while a controller chip performs the tasks of monitoring the work of reading and writing. These types of external storage units do not contain moving parts inside.
It is precisely because of this total absence of moving parts that SSDs have become one of the quintessential accessories for photographers and adventure enthusiasts , as they are more resistant to failures that can be caused by bumps or drops.
In addition, they stand out for their energy efficiency, which by lacking moving parts, contributes to consume less battery when connected to laptops and significantly increases the transfer speed. Typically 2.5 inches in size, there are a number of adventure-oriented portable SSDs that are much smaller and offer capacities of up to 2TB.
Unlike HDDs, SSDs consume less power, are absolutely silent, take less time to start up, offer faster data transfer speeds, and have a longer lifespan. Of course, as we have already mentioned, its price per GB is substantially more expensive and its capacity is usually less than its HDD counterparts in the same price range.
Hard Drive Features, Specifications, and Performance
After choosing what type of external hard drive to buy, the next thing to consider is the specifications and performance of the drive. These are the characteristics that you have to look at:
Storage capacity – The consumer-oriented hard drives that you can buy in stores offer you a capacity between 500 GB and 20 TB without too much trouble. Choose the space that best suits your needs, and if you are undecided, keep in mind that it is always better to have more space.
Transfer speed – The data transfer speed is closely tied to the type of connection the drive uses (USB 2, USB 3, eSATA). In addition, in the case of mechanical hard drives, the speed of rotation of the drives also has an influence. The transfer speed in SSDs is not affected by the revolutions, but it varies depending on the type of memory and the flash technology used.
Security – If you are going to save sensitive information, it is convenient that you pay attention to the security measures offered by the different models of external hard drive. Some offer you a basic experience, while others have been specially designed to provide maximum security when storing your data with additional measures such as encryption, specific protection software and other useful tools.
Connectivity – One of the most important characteristics that you have to take into account when buying an external hard drive are the connections it has, both to ensure that the unit is compatible with your devices and for the speed of file transfer. You can find drives with a USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 2 and 3 connection and even with WiFi connectivity to be able to use it with any device with an Internet connection.
Durability – External hard drives wear out with time and use. The durability of HDDs varies depending on the model and its characteristics, some begin to fail after 12 months, while others have a useful life of more than six years.
Modern SSDs tend to last longer, with an average failure rate of 2 million hours, while modern HDDs have an average failure rate of 1.5 million hours. However, for long-term offline backup storage, HDDs are more reliable than SSDs.
Resistance – If you are going to transport your external hard drive and use it outdoors, choose a model that offers additional protection and preferably SSD. Some have a shock-resistant casing, and if you need to work with the unit in the most extreme conditions, you also have waterproof, water-resistant and submersible models at your disposal.