Buying an external hard drives is a wise choice in many cases, especially for making a backup data. For example, by focusing on a laptop with an integrated SSD we run the risk of being left without space for personal data (documents, music, videos) due to the reduced capacity of solid-state drives. The capacity problem can also occur on a desktop PC, in particular, if the integrated hard disk is not adequate for the amount of data we store every day.
These and other scenarios are a good thing to focus immediately on a good external hard drive so that you can save all your documents, photos, music and anything else in an external space.
Let’s look at all the features that an external hard drive must have to be taken into consideration, with the inevitable final purchase guide where we will see the best external hard drives 2019 of the moment up close.
Capacity, Power, and Speed
The first difference we can find them based on the format of the external hard disk chosen. A 3.5-inch external hard drive can be used alongside a fixed PC, given their poor handling. On the other hand, it is possible to get better capacity and speed, given the use of desktop disks adapted for use as an external hard disk. Instead of choosing a 2.5-inch external hard drive we can count on compact solutions, easily connected to a notebook, a TV, a TV Box or any device with a USB port and capable of reading hard drives.
Capacity and speed are lower than 3.5-inch hard drives, but a lot also depends on the type of connectivity used (as we will see in the next chapter).
Almost all the models now have a USB 3.0 connection, capable of supplying sufficient power for hard disk operation. On old records, it was not uncommon to see the Y-cable with two USB 2.0 sockets for a single disk: one dedicated to power, the other to data exchange. These outlets have now fallen into disuse.
External disks have long been equipped with USB 3.0 sockets, faster than USB 2.0 sockets, but backward-compatible with them (an external USB hard drive with USB 3.0 can be connected to a USB 2.0 port without problems). What changes between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 is the theoretical transmission speed:
4.8 Gbps theoretical (600 MBps) for USB 3.0
480 Mbps theoretical (60 MBps) for USB 2.0
The two versions of USB can be easily recognized by the color of the ports and sockets: blue for USB 3.0 sockets and white (rarely black) for USB 2.0 sockets.
Lately, USB 3.1 is also making headway, with much higher speed based on the generation it is associated with:
5 Gbps theoretical (625 MBps) for first-generation USB 3.1
10 Gbps theoretical (1250 MBps) for second-generation USB 3.1
USB 3.1 is often associated with the Type-C form factor, but it is not a fixed rule.
The form factor of the USB connection for an external hard drive is traditionally the Type-A, the classic USB socket that everyone knows, as shown in the image below.
Lately, the Type-C form factor has also begun to spread, which in addition to being smaller and thin has the double side of insertion (it can be inserted into a Type-C socket without fear of making mistakes, a common mistake with the Type-A). Below is an example of a Type-C socket.
Type-C is not automatically synonymous with maximum transmission speed: there are USB 3.0 Type-C sockets, USB 2.0 Type-C sockets, and USB 3.1 Type-C sockets; better to check in advance the speed of the chosen USB port and the cable supplied.
In addition to the USB connection, it is possible to find an external removable hard drive with Thunderbolt connection, less widespread than USB but much appreciated on Apple devices. Here also we have different transmission speeds based on the Thunderbolt generation taken into consideration:
Thunderbolt 1 offers a theoretical maximum speed of 10 Gbps (1250 MBps)
Thunderbolt 2 offers a theoretical maximum speed of 20 Gbps (2500 MBps)
Thunderbolt 3 offers a theoretical maximum speed of 40 Gbps (5000 MBps)
Drives with Thunderbolt can only be connected to PCs that have Thunderbolt ports, which can present with two form factors.
For Thunderbolt 1 and 2, the form factor is identical to the Mini DisplayPort.
For Thunderbolt 3 the form factor is identical to the USB Type-C.
We can recognize the presence of Thunderbolt ports or sockets with the lightning symbol embossed near the sockets and ports.
SSD or HDD
Among the external hard drives, the most widespread technology is surely that of the hard disks (or HDD), which guarantee good durability, good speed and security in the storage of data. But among the external hard drives, we can also find compact SSDs with USB sockets.
High Capacity. Compatibility-Formatted NTFS for Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7. Reformatting may be required for other operating systems. Compatibility may vary depending on user's hardware configuration and operating system
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