The rising demand for hard drive space

In 1980, the first gigabyte hard drive arrived. It was almost as big as a fridge, but it so many megabytes; more megabytes then anyone could ever need, right?

As time went by, people realized that there is no such thing as enough megabytes. Then they realized that you could never have enough gigabytes. And finally, it got to the point where the mythical terabyte became the standard unit of storage.

That’s the way it is with hard drive space. What’s considered too much now will be the standard in every computer in a few years, and scoffed at a few years later.

Multimedia and social media, all the video and image files people store on their computers and upload to social media sites, all contributing to the rising demand for data storage. Facebook alone processes about 500 Terabytes worth of data per day, while 72 hours’ worth of video footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute.


External hard drives: More portability for less reliability?

The space requirements of data are higher and so is its value, whether it is photos of a fondly remembered trip or important business data. The prevalence of viruses and hacking means people not only need additional storage space, but a means to backup all this information and protect it from threats. This is why external hard drives have become one of the fastest-growing data storage mediums.

They provide additional storage space that can be installed without having to open the computer case. It’s just a simple matter of plugging it in, usually via USB cable, and hundreds of additional gigabytes are yours to deploy. When it comes to protecting that data from online threats, it’s just a simple matter of unplugging the same cable, unlike internal hard drives which are accessible for as long as the computer is on.

Furthermore, external hard drives provide extra storage that is also portable. You may not be able to carry them around in your pocket as easily as USBs, but the far superior storage capacity more than makes up for the inferior portability.

For all their benefits, external hard drives are not the most reliable of devices. Internal hard drives are quite prone to failure as is, and external drives don’t even have the benefit of being close to the computer fans, which means that there is no cooling mechanism to protect them from excess heat.

What’s more, being positioned outside the case means they’re more exposed to the elements, and to the threat of physical trauma, especially when cables are unwisely left to trail in places where they can easily be caught on someone’s foot.

Data should only be considered “backed up” if it’s contained on an internal drive as well as an external drive. On the plus side, the portability of external hard drives makes it easier to transport them to a data recovery center should they fail.


We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to external data devices; USB flash drives are a dime a dozen and external hard drives are as common as muck. USB drives are fantastic because they’re uber portable. They’re getting bigger data storage-wise (Data Traveler HyperX Predator will shortly release a 1TB USB 3.0), with sizes hovering around 64GB. But they’re small enough for you to slip in your pocket. You can take thousands of holiday photos with you when you visit a friend, and you can swop massive files at the drop of a hat.

External hard drives are not as conveniently small, but they’re not exactly physical cumbersome either. They’ve shrunk right down to something that can fit in a handbag, and their storage capabilities are also going through the roof (1TB is almost the norm).

Drowning in choice

As more manufacturers enter the market and as more devices are released, it becomes more difficult to decide which one to buy.

Here are four tips to help make the decision easier:

  • Decide if you want your external hard drive to operate with or without a power adapter. You’ll find that 2.5 inch drives are more common and highly recommended because they don’t require a power adapter and they provide more than enough storage space than an average user will need – 250 – 750GB (Joel Santo Domingo – PC Mag).
  • Decide if you want a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD). HDDs are more common and easily affordable. SSDs are relatively rare, mostly because they’re still quite expensive. SSDs are, however, much faster than HDDs and are more resilient because they don’t have any moving parts.
  • Natalia Real (Digital Trends) says that you need to consider your security needs. Will you use your device to store sensitive information? The definition of sensitive depends on you. For example, a businessman might carry critical, confidential business data; while a doting dad might store a photographic record of his kids’ lives, from the womb to marriage. Whatever your definition, you should consider drives that have built-in encryption.
  • Take note of the warranty. PC World says that two-year warranties are increasingly common, but that many manufacturers are now starting to offer five-year warranties. If you’re only looking at a one-year warranty, maybe it’s time to expand your search.

External data storage devices are increasingly common, not only as personal data storage devices, but also as backup devices for business data. Given the range of external hard drives available, it’s important that you do some research into which one will meet your specific needs. And, then shop around for the best deals.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have experienced data loss on an external hard disk drive, please see our page on hard drive recovery.