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August 13, 2021

An External Hard Drive Buying Guide

Storage сapacity, transfer speeds, portability, and durability are the main factors to consider when you buy an external hard drive. Check out more details here.

PCs have internal hard drives that contain the operating system, other software, and different kinds of files. However, if you want to ferry data from one PC to another, do you have to physically move internal disks? Fortunately, you don’t.

This is where external hard drives come in handy. If you want to store bulk data, they are one of the most affordable ways you can use to extend your storage space.

While the internal hard disk sits on the inside of your PC’s casing, an external hard drive works as a foreign storage device that you can easily attach to your computer. With an external hard disk, you can free up more space on your computer by moving important, sensitive, and/or heavy data to the external device. It also helps you to easily transfer your files to any computer of your choice.

Choosing an External Hard Drive

If you’re looking for how to choose a suitable external hard drive, there’s one thing you should know—the best external drive isn’t always the most expensive one you find.

There are several factors that influence the overall performance of an external hard drive. However, it all boils down to what kind of user you are. A video director who transfers large volumes of video content will desire disks that have fast data transfer rates and spindle speeds and high bandwidth interfaces. However, a writer can afford to neglect these factors and choose a more traditional external drive since they only have to transfer Word documents in most scenarios. The thing is, your choice of a ‘perfect external drive’ is closely tied to what you intend to use it for.

What Should One Look For When Buying a Hard Drive?

Although the case of an external drive makes it portable and protected, making it one of the most important hard drive components as it provides additional protection and limits the chances of a hard drive failure due to accidents, the most important features that influence the device’s performance are on the inside. A hard drive’s interface determines how long it will take for data to be transferred. You can only leverage the bandwidth and data transfer speeds supported by the type of your external disk’s interface.

With the USB 2.0 interface, you can experience a transfer speed of up to 480 Mbps. This is even faster than USB 1.1, which supports a maximum transfer speed of 12Mbps. However, some modern external drives now come with Thunderbolt, which offers transfer rates of up to 10Gbps (twice the speed of USB 3.0, which only supports up to 5Gbps).

Next, let’s dive into other important factors that are worth considering when looking for a high-performing external storage drive.

Factors to Consider When Buying an External Hard Drive

Storage Capacity: How Big Is Big Enough?

Most external drives have a storage capacity that ranges from 500GB to 8TB. When looking for a hard drive, you need to consider the size of the content you intend to store. If you need to store some documents, images, music, or movies, a 500GB drive should be large enough.

However, if you want to back up your entire system, an external drive with a higher storage capacity might be the best choice. Moreover, you can always decide to store files for the long term. The only thing is that you’ll have to pay more if you want a high-capacity external drive.

Transfer Speeds

The higher the RPM (rotations per minute) of an external hard drive, the higher the data transfer rate. Most low-cost HDDs (Hard Disk Drives) are 5,000rpm, while “enterprise-class” HDDs go up from 7,200rpm. However, rotation speed only matters with mechanical HDDs.

SSDs (Solid-State Drives), on the other hand, are unaffected and make RPM irrelevant (more about SSDs in the next section). RPM is also largely negligible in SSHDs (Solid-State Hybrid Drives), which are HDDs that have been integrated with a bit of solid-state technology.

Nonetheless, as you have seen earlier in this article, the connection interface also influences the data transfer speed of an external drive. If you use a recent Apple MacBook or Windows 10 PC, you’ll be able to use the Thunderbolt port to transfer files from a Thunderbolt-interfaced drive at fast speeds of over 10Gbps.


If you’re looking for speedy access to your data, conventional external HDDs that store data on spinning magnetic plates may not serve you. They are made up of many mechanical parts and use moving magnetic read/write heads to access data.

While it may take you minutes to send 6GB of data to an external HDD, external SSDs will receive the same file size within the first seconds. Although external HDDs can deliver a read and write speed between 100Mbps-200Mbps, external SSDs have proven to be at least twice speedier at 400Mbps.

Unlike traditional hard drives, SSDs run silently as they have no moving parts and use flash cells to save data. They use less power, and if an SSD ever gets into a physical accident, there’s no risk that your data will become unreadable. While SSDs are notably faster and costlier, HDDs are cheaper but also slower, larger, and less portable.

Portability and Durability

If you always keep a drive around you, it’s okay to consider the color or how lightweight it is to fit into your bag. If it’s an HDD, you’ll want to give attention to how rugged it is in case of frequent physical accidents. However, some modern models come with plastic bumpers that can protect the device from dust and shock.

Although modern HDDs are equipped with rugged casings, SSDs tend to be more durable as they aren’t made up of stacked magnetic disks and are almost impossible to get affected by drop damage.

Additional Features

Oftentimes, people decide to go for certain products because of the unique features they offer. As you can easily guess, most manufacturers in the external hard drive industry are fully aware of this fact.

Some manufacturers provide online storage features that can be used as a remote backup for your data online. Warranty terms also differ between manufacturers. Some may offer up to a three-year warranty, while others only give a one-year replacement warranty. Nonetheless, if your drive comes with a manufacturing defect, most warranties will have it replaced.

Cloud vs External Storage

Cloud storage options have become a very popular medium for storing data. Just like the external drive, a cloud storage platform allows you to securely store files. However, you must have access to an internet connection to be able to upload and access files. You might also have to deal with cloud storage limits and recurring subscriptions.

So, if you need to make a transfer of up to 500GB to a colleague in another state, does it imply that you have to move your data to an external hard drive before sending the device via courier?

Not anymore! You can easily and securely transfer files and folders of any size (1GB, 1TB, and even 10TB) at fast speeds using FileWhopper. The platform is best for small companies, videographers, gamers, and even freelancers who need to send files and folders without paying for a monthly storage plan.

What Is the Best External Hard Drive?

Although external hard drives are a great way to securely store your files and folders, the “best external hard drive” has to be the one that can meet your day-to-day transfer requirements. External SSDs might seem like a great option; however, a small business might get more value for their money by using an HDD or USB flash drive that can serve for their less-robust use case.

Nonetheless, TechRadar ranks the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC external hard drive quite high, and PCMag considers the ADATA HD830 External Hard Drive to be the best for photographers and videographers. According to CNET’s rigorous testing, the SanDisk 1TB Extreme Pro Portable SSD seems to be a great choice, with a transfer rate of up to 550Mbps.


It’s okay not to use an external drive if you have enough space to store everything on your PC. However, you stand the risk of losing your data to malicious attacks and other factors if you don’t keep a backup of important files.

At this point, you should be able to choose the perfect external drive for your needs. If you need to ask questions or make any clarifications, feel free to use the comment box below. We’re always happy to hear from our readers.

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