What is External Hard Drive? Types, Pros, Cons & More

What is External Hard Drive?

An external hard drive is just a storage device that is connected to a system externally. We can say that it is a portable storage drive that one can carry from one place to another without any PC.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The external hard drive refers to a small portable storage device that one can carry without needing to carry the computer system altogether.
  • There are different types of such drives available that are categorized according to their type of memory, connecting interface, form factor, and others.
  • The external hard drives are easy to use and offer efficiency at a low cost with quite higher processing speed and ability to format easily.
  • Though secure, these drives suffer from overheating issues, data loss, and are susceptible to external damage.

Understanding External Hard Drive

What is External Hard Drive

Every PC has a limited storage capacity and to a modern user that capacity is not enough; in this consideration, it doesn’t matter how much storage is present in the PC.

It has to be filled up in a very short period. To store digital contents farther, the users have to invest his interest and money both in the external hard drives.

Although various cloud base storage can also be a good alternative, it has some limitations.

So, an external drive is always a better option, to go with.

It may be a hard disk drive or a solid state drive, but it is not connected to a PC internally. Most of the drives of this kind, take the power supply through the data cables and some of them require an additional AC power supply.

An external storage drive is almost similar to the internal storages but the major difference between these two is that an external drive can easily be removed or can be attached to a PC without any hard effort.

Usually, this type of storage comes with a hard casing. It protects the product from saver external unwanted damages. By using a hard drive enclosure, one can easily transform an internal storage drive to an external one.

The users can choose the capacity of this type of storage according to their storage needs. It gets connected to a system externally by using various interfaces; such as eSATA, USB, FireWire, wireless connectivity.

This type of storage device is also known as a portable hard drive as these drives are easily portable and by using it the users can carry a huge amount of data with him at every place.

For sharing a large amount of data among various computers external drives are very useful. This type of device is mainly used for storing various backup data of essential documents or contents.

Many users use these drives simply to expand the storage capacity of their respective computers. To expand the storage capacity of a laptop these drives act as a good and easiest alternative.

Types of External Hard Drives

This type of drive can be divided in various parts, according to various aspects. The details are mentioned below:

  • According to memory type

In terms of memory type, the external storages are of two types. One of them is the traditional HDD type and the other one is SSD type.

The HDD external hard drive uses magnetic spinning metal disks and the pinhead of the drive keeps rotating according to the computer’s requirements.

That’s why this type of storage makes some noise while getting operated and the lifespan is also comparatively less. The average rotating speed of these drives ranges from 4,500 to 7,200 RPM.

The other one is the SSD external hard drives. These drives do not possess any rotating part. It works on electric pulses and these drives are very faster than the traditional HDDs.

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It uses flash memories. This type of drive consumes less energy than the other and that is why the laptop users usually preferred to use an SSD external storage device.

The lifespan of these drives are comparatively more than the other type. But these products are too expensive. If the quality is the primary consideration of a user, then the SSD external storage is always the best.

  • According to connecting interface

In terms of connecting interface, the external storage devices can be divided into two parts. External drives with wireless connectivity and the alternative one is the wired products.

The external drives with wireless connectivity come with inbuilt wifi connectivity and the users can easily connect it with his PC without any USB port.

But, these devices also have inbuilt rechargeable batteries. So, the users have to charge it frequently.

The other one is the drives which are connected through a USB port. There are many USB interfaces used in the external storage drives.

Such interfaces are USB-A, USB-C, and the last one is the Thunderbolt connectivity. The very common USB interface is the USB type A.

Most of the smart electrical goods possess at least one this type of interface. The developers have improved this interface a lot.

There are many varieties available of this interface. One can find USB drives with USB 3.2 Gen1 interface. It can offer speed up to 5 GB/s.

The advanced version of this port is USB 3.2 Gen 2and it is capable of offering a speed up to 10 GB/s. The USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 is the most advanced USB interface.

The speed mentioned above is not affected by the memory storing type of the product. The USB type C port is almost the similar one as USB-A, but is the updated version.

This type of USB interface has a smarter form factor. To enjoy the fastest speed of the external storages, the users have to use the Thunderbolt interface.

Only the external SSDs can support this interface and can offer extremely high speed while reading or writing data in the drive.

The outfit of Thunderbolt 3 is almost similar to a regular USB-C port. If the respective computer’s motherboard doesn’t support the Thunderbolt feature, then such external drives with Thunderbolt facility can’t be supported.

These drives are very expensive and exclusive products of the reputed companies.

  • According to form factor

In terms of form factor, there are two types of external hard drive. One of them has a size of 2.5 inches and the other one is of 3.5 inches.

The drive which has a size of 2.5 inches is capable of storing a maximum of 5 TB data. The other one can store data of 12 TB.

But the later one needs a separate power supply cable.

There is also another type of external storage named Network Attached Storage (NAS). This type of storage is not able to get connected to the system directly.

It gets connected in parallel to the router. The stored data of this type of storage can be used by any system connected through the router.

This type of drive is very rare and too expensive.

The Pro

The major advantages of the external storages are mentioned below:

1. Efficiency at a minimal cost

Among various external data storing options, the external storage drives are the most beneficial both in terms of performance and price.

One can say that CDs or DVDs, even the Blue-ray disks, are very economical. There are indeed huge differences in terms of purchasing price among them.

But, if we consider data processing ability, timings and above all the storage capacity and life span, the external storage drives get the advantages.

On the other hand, the users can face many errors while using these optical drives.

2. Storage capacity

There is a huge difference in terms of the storing ability of a DVD and an external hard disk. There is no limitation of connecting external storage in a system.

On the other side, one can use only one DVD at a time on a PC. The best external storage drive can store maximum 12 TB data and the numerical value is only 4.7 GB for the best optical drive.

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3. Easy to use

The process of using an external drive is very easy. The users have to just connect the drive to the PC through USB and the product will be shown on the system’s display.

Then the users can easily write or erase or can simply take a copy of the data to the computer’s internet drive, or vice versa. These drives have the plug-and-play feature, which is very user friendly.

4. Portability

This type of drive is really very portable. The drives are very small in size. In a product of just 2.5 or 3.5 inches, the users can carry data of many TB.

If the product is supported in various operating systems, then the users can also use the drive in many PCs with various OS.

It is better to check the compatibility of the drive with the OS of the respective PCs; it is going to be connected.

The drives come with a hard case and it gives the product a very compact outfit that also helps the users to easily carry it.

5. Always ready to serve 

Most of the users use the external storage drives to store the backup files of the important, sensitive contents.

If the primary hard disk that means the internal hard disk creates some issues at a crucial time of a project, the users can easily connect the external drives through a USB port and can access those sensitive files very easily.

6. Processing speed

One of the major advantages of this type of drive is its processing speed. The data transferring speed of an external drive is mainly dependent on the USB interface and the memory type of the product.

So, the speed in the drives differs from product to product. But, it has the ability to offer the fastest speed among all types of storages.

7. Multiple drives can be used

If a user or server computer needs to handle various types of data and if they need separate storage drives; then the users can easily connect multiple external hard disks to the system.

And can store one type of data in a particular drive and he can connect as many drives as the number of USB ports installed in the system.

8. An independent, isolated drive

USB drives are better than the rest, in many ways. These drives are completely independent. It can easily be separated from a PC in critical situations.

If the PC gets hanged or faces any virus attack, then the users can simply unplug the USB port from the PC and can keep the drive and data safe.

9. Easy to format

When the users need to format the drive, they can easily format it. The process is similar to that of an internal drive. On the other hand, the basic optical drives are not formattable and the advanced one takes a huge time.

10. Security

Security of an external storage drive is very essential while storing sensitive data in it. Most of this type of storage supports software encryptions.

If a user searches for more advanced security, then he can go with a drive with hardware encryption. Even he can lock the drive with a security pin.

The Cons

The major disadvantages of this drives are mentioned below:

11. Overheating issue

The overheating issue mainly occurs on the external HDD. The internal storage has got the support of the cooling fans.

But for external hard disks, there is no such facility. So, these drives get heated after some time of getting operated.

The heating issue is also found in external SSDs, but the amount of heat is not so huge. The overheating issues have a direct impact on the performance of the product.

12. Chances of external damages are very high

External drives have a very advanced mechanism. External damage can completely make the device a waste. Its size is only 2.5 or 3.5 inches.

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So, the chances of external damages in such products are also too high. The manufactures also provide a hard casing for avoiding such situations. Moreover, the users have to be very cautious while caring for these drives.

13. Needs to carry supply cable for 3.5 inches drives

As mentioned above, there are two types of external hard drive, in terms of size. The drives of 2.5 inches are good enough, but its maximum capacity is only 5 TB.

The numerical value is 12 TB for 3.5 inches drives. But the users have to carry the power supply cable to every place; the users want to use it.

14. Needs good configuration

To connect and use multiple external drives flawlessly, the PC needs to be equipped with a good overall configuration.

Else, the users can face hanging issues and will not be able to access the data of the storage. For enjoying the fastest drive, the motherboard of the PC has to support the Thunderbolt facility.

15. Data loss

As we said earlier, this type of drive is very easy to use and format. So, there is a high chance of data loss in these products.

The user or anyone can delete the important backup files accidentally or intentionally. To avoid the second chances to some extent, it is good to use at least software encryption.

The better option is to use multiple copies of the important data in various drives.

16. Multiple drives has to use for sensitive data

If the user keeps only one back up of any sensitive data, he may face problems later.

If the file gets corrupted or gets deleted from both the primary and external storages, then the user can’t recover the file by any means.

Most of the institutions like the banking sector and other Govt. sectors usually make multiple backup drives of their sensitive files.

Questions & Answers:

Is an external hard drive worth it?  

Every modern user prefers to have an external storage drive. As it is very useful for backup purposes and these drives are very user friendly and easily portable. Many users use it just to expand the storage capacity of their PC.

How long does an external hard drive last? 

The average lifespan of this type of storage ranges from 3 years to 5 years. The SSD external drives have a comparatively better life span.

Can you leave external hard drive plugged in to the system all the time?

It is not a good idea to keep the external hard drives always plugged in. If the user is using a backup rotation scheme, then there is no issue.

But if the users leave the drive connected to a system, all the time, it can be damaged by vibration, power surge or by a virus attack. To keep the drive safe it is good to plug out the drive from the PC, after using it.

Conclusion

The developers are claiming that the complete scenario of storing systems is going to be changed a lot soon. But, till then the best alternative is the external hard disks. For better performance, the users should buy one SSD product.

If the user’s budget is limited and he only needs extra storing space, then he can go with an HDD drive. But, he has to compromise, with the life span and performance of the drive.

About Taylor Swift

Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift, a UOPEOPLE graduate is a freelance technology writer with in-depth knowledge about computers. She loves to play video games and watch movies when she has no writing assignments. Follow Her at Linkedin