Allen Wants To Know About External Hard Drives
Hi. Thanks for a great newsletter! I have seen a lot of special deals of external hard drives recently. Can you tell me what you think of external hard drives. What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages? Can I use an external hard drive just as I would an internal hard drive? Anything else you could tell me about external hard drives would be appreciated. Thank you! Allen.

Thanks, Allen. We think external hard drives are one of the best investments you can make!

The advantages of external hard drives are that you can install them in about the time it takes to get the thing out of the box, power it up and plug it into your computer (USB). You don't have to open your computer case, you don't need a screwdriver, you don't have to look at the innards of your machine, just plug it in and go.  External hard drives are getting very popular for a very good reason. They store lots of data (from 40GB all the way up to and beyond 500GB); they're so simple to install a five year-old child could do it (literally!); they are the best way to store backups, like drive images created by Acronis True Image - for complete system and computer backups, precious documents, folders, and files that are irreplaceable; just about anything you want to save can be saved on an external hard drive, safely, quickly, and easily.

The disadvantages? Well, there is a slight transfer delay so you might not want to install huge programs to an external drive. They're not as fast as an internal hard drive spinning at 7200 RPM, but they're not exactly slow either. Most of the time you'll want to use external hard drives to store backup files, photos, documents, and other data you want to keep safely away from your Windows drive but you would be better off not installing programs on them - although many do and you can do that. Your speed is limited to the speed of your USB port (either USB 1.0 or USB 2.0). A USB 2.0 provides much better access times. Windows XP natively supports USB 2.0 and chances are if you're running Windows XP you have USB 2.0 ports.

You should look for an external drive that shuts itself off when you shut your computer down. One external hard drive we're very familiar with is Western Digital's "MyBook" external hard drive. It has the smart feature of sensing your computer's shutdown and turning itself off with your computer and turning itself back on when you restart. A great feature and one you should look for in any external drive you're considering. Why? Because external hard drives are not quite as durable as internal hard drives. Leaving them turned on while your computer is off causes unnecessary wear and can shorten the life of an external hard drive. Still, external hard drives have a lifespan equal to that of an internal hard drive - especially if they have the "smart" feature to turn themselves on/off with your computer.

We highly recommend an external hard drive no matter how many internal hard drives or how much disk space you currently have. You can't have too many backups - if you think so wait until something happens to your computer and your one and only backup stored on a failing internal hard drive becomes inaccessible. External hard drives are available in all price ranges and sizes. We suggest a 160GB external drive. It's an ideal size for most backup and storage requirements. You can find them for less than $100.00 and have it installed and up and running in less than 10 minutes - including the 7 minutes it will take you to get the darn thing out of the box and shrink wrap!

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