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Hard Drive Buying Guide

 

Overview

It is said that there are two kinds of computer users - those who have lost data, and those who will.  One way to avoid becoming the latter is to simply back up your data.  Owning an additional hard drive , whether internal  or external,  is one of the best ways of doing this.  A additional hard drive not only provides extra space for your important work, but also a sense of security in the event of a meltdown. It can store your pictures, MP3s, video files, and whatever else you need as well.  Remember that data, like the clutter in your home, takes up space: the more data you have, the more space you need.  Luckily, unlike your flat, which has a finite amount of storage space, you can buy additional hard drives at lower costs as your needs for data storage expand.

Interface Types

There are several interface types on the market today.  Unless you are buying a new computer, you simply need whatever your computer supports. Depending on whether you're purchasing an internal or external hard drive, there are some things that you should pay attention to when deciding which to buy.

  • Capacity
    • Depending on what you have on your hard drive, you may need more or less space. Digital imaging, graphic design, video editing; these all eat up your computer's available storage. 80GB  is the average amount of storage that comes with a new computer these days, but 250GB ,500GB  and even 1TB  drives are much better suited for gobs of data. Again, think of your needs.
    • 120GB drives typically go for between £20 to £40 online, with larger drives costing fewer quid per gigabyte higher up the ladder. There are frequent drive specials online, with 300+ GB drives going for well below market value. External drives, however, tend to cost a bit more.
    • If you only have one hard drive on your PC, you may want to consider purchsing another since most PCs will support two hard drives minimum. This also means that you can get two lower-capacity hard drives instead of one very large one, which will cost more in the end. Just be sure to check that your case has space for an extra internal drive.
  • RPM
    • Disk seek time and rotational speed both significantly affect disk performance.
    • Revolutions per minute will usually determine how quickly your system can retrieve and copy information.
    • A drive with 7200-rpm  (the standard nowadays) is probably fast enough for most. The slower 5400-rpm  drives still exist and are typically less expensive than their faster counterparts.
  • Buffer Memory
    • This is another speed measurement. It allows your computer to set aside some extra room for simultaneous processing. It is basically what helps your computer think ahead.
    • The range can be as low as 2MB but as high as 8MB, which is usually better for running larger, more memory intensive applications.
  • ATA Interface
    • Out with the old parallel ports  and in with the new serial ports . Whichever way you decide to go, just be certain that your computer has the type of port to support the hard drive.

Internal vs. External

The first consideration is probably whether or not you are up to installing an internal hard drive. Savvy PC people can get a bare drive . Otherwise, there are internal hard drive kits  available with plenty of instructions, mounting hardware, and cables. If you are planning to go to take this route, always double check to make sure that your PC case has a free hard drive bay. However, if you aren't exactly known for your techie skills, external drives can be handy, simple to install drives that are also portable.

Internal Drive Interface Types

  • ATA  - older technology, but works.
  • Serial ATA (SATA)  - the new ATA type technology. Smaller cables, less clutter, faster transfer speeds. High performance.
  • SCSI  - SCSI is a mature, high performance server class drive interface. It tends to be expensive and not very useful to the average home user.

External Drive Interface Types

  • USB  - USB is an external disk connection interface common on PCs and Mac computers.
  • Firewire  - Firewire is an IEEE standard interface type supported by Apple Macintosh computers. It is faster than USB 1.0 interfaces, but slower than USB 2.0. Apple has recently dropped Firewire support from their Macbook  like in favor of USB 2.0.

Other Data Management Options

Compact Flash Memory 

Portable Hard Drive 

Portable Flash Drive 

SD Card