The Skinny On Portable Hard Drives

These portable USB drives come in lots of flavors and sizes. Some use a desktop sized 3.5″ drive other use a laptop sized 2.5″ drive. There are now even versions that use a solid state drive. I want to talk about a few of the points on these drives to help folks understand what they are getting.

  • Many of the smaller 2.5″ drives use a controller card that is part of the hard drive itself. This can be problematic if the drive has a problem, as you cannot remove it and install it in another machine to try and recover the data. If you are using one of these drives for data portability the small ones are fine – if you want something for data backup I would suggest the larger 3.5″ drives that have a separate USB interface card from the controller card that is on the hard drive itself.
  • SSD or solid state drives are beneficial in that they have no moving parts, but are much harder to recover data from. So if you are using a drive to make your data portable – then an SSD would work. If you want it for data backup then I would use a conventional drive.
  • If the drive you chose is purely for data backup I would avoid using any encryption on it. If for some reason that drive has a problem it will be difficult if not impossible to recover the data. Furthermore – try to handle a data backup drive as little as possible, especially when running as it will minimize chances of a problem.
  • Just like any hard drive the advertised data capacity of a drive will be less once its formatted. For example a 4TB drive will end up giving you about 3.8 TB of storage space.
  • You can make your own setup by buying a bare drive and then putting it in an enclosure. This route can be a little more expensive that a prepacked combo deal. I good idea when upgrading a laptop drive is to take the old drive out of the computer and use it as an external portable drive. Most cases can be had for under $20.
  • Stick with name brands when buying drives, I recommend Seagate and Western Digital.
  • Finally remember that no drive is fail proof. If you are using these drives as a backup, make sure that you have the data replicated elsewhere.