How Does Size Matter With External Hard Drives ?

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Answered by: David, An Expert in the Buying Guide Category
I know what you're thinking... more is better when it comes to external hard drives. This isn't always the case. When you're thinking about buying an external hard drive, you need to take a step back and consider your overall backup strategy. Your external hard drive will be a piece in this puzzle. And, believe it or not, a huge external hard drive can become a problem, especially if you rely on it as your only means of backup.

The fact is, external hard drives do fail. The first question you need to ask yourself, then, is whether you can afford two external hard drives of the same size so that you can follow the standard practice of "multiple backups." Check out the reviews for all the major brands and you're sure to find complaints about external drives failing. If you lost one precious image for good, how would you feel about that?

The second question you should ask yourself is how big are the internal drives on the computer that I am buying this external hard drive to protect. It is tempting to go for as many gigabytes and terrabytes as you can afford given that prices are now below the $100 per terrabyte range. Your best bet in terms of backup convenience and peace of mind with external hard drives is to mirror the size of your internal hard drive if possible. This allows you to fit all the content on your internal drive on the external hard drive so you don't have to worry about having backups of some, but not all the files on the drive. Internal drives do fail too, by the way, Have you ever heard the expression: "Backup early and often?"

External hard drives that are substantially larger than your internal drive are typically justified as additional storage space when the internal drive becomes close to full and you fall prey to the lure of cheaper by the terrabyte. If you're adding an external hard drive...for instance, to be a storage device for large multimedia collections...then effectively you have a drive with a different purpose than many of these units were designed to fulfill. Many are designed for backup purposes primarily, and that means they are not meant to be powered on and running all the time. Some external hard drives are optimized for energy efficiency and therefore aren't a great choice for multimedia serving, too.

However, let's come back to the overall backup strategy for a moment. If you need massive additional storage, remember when I asked you if you could afford two external hard drives? According to our multiple backups strategy, you now need three external hard drives! One external hard drive that is running full time and two to back up that drive.

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