External Hard Drives—The Cons
Let’s start with the bad news about external hard drives.
1. External hard drives weaken your security. It’s easier to steal external hard drives than it is to steal desktop computers or even laptops. Plus, laptops at least have passwords—but few people go through the hassle of encrypting their external hard drives.
Set for failure
2. External hard drives will eventually fail. Do you plan to use your external hard drive to store all of your data so you can access it at home, work, and school? That’s a problem—external hard drives all eventually fail and few of them are adequately backed up. However there are solutions like a data recovery cable which can restore data from a failed hard drive.
Manufacturers of external hard drives measure drive lifetime using something called Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). A MTBF of three years means that your hard drive should work for three years—but that lifetime can be significantly shorter if you drop your hard drive or it gets wet when you get stuck in the rain.
Still, if you plan to make good—and frequent—backups of your external hard drives, you can cross this con off of your list.
3. External hard drives often require an extra plug to connect to an electrical socket. That’s probably not a big deal at home—although it can be annoying. But have you ever been to a class or a conference where everyone is fighting over too few power sockets? If you come to depend on external hard drives, your computer could be useless without that extra plug.
Old computers are out
4. Many external hard drives are not compatible with older computers. Particularly external hard drives that require eSATA connections—a type of connection that is only a few years old. But even external hard drives that require USB 2.0 might work too slow on older computers that only support USB 1.0.
Worse, many companies and some schools are turning off USB ports to prevent virus infections and unauthorized software installation, so you could find yourself unable to use your external hard drives.
5. External hard drives that don’t require an extra plug all drain laptop batteries. These “low-power” external hard drives all draw about 1.5 volts from your laptop’s USB port—that’s as much as 20% of the total battery output in some laptops, cutting an hour or more off of your battery life.
But I also have good news about external hard drives. They do have a lot of upsides:
Great for backups
1. External hard drives are great for backups. Simply plug them in, copy over some files (or use the Windows backup wizard), and you have a nice, safe backup. You can even drop your external hard drives in a safe deposit box or home safe for extra security. This is a good alternative compared to backing up your data by burning it to a DVD.
2. External hard drives let you use several computers. It doesn’t even matter what operating system the computer runs—external hard drives work on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
3. External hard drives don’t take up much space. You can easily fit one in even a small purse, making sure you always have a copy of your most important data handy.
Makes travel easier
4. External hard drives make travel easier. With 1 terabyte external disk drives now available, you can easily carry all seven seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with you as you cross the continent by bus. Plus you’ll still have plenty of room for every song in your entire music collection.
Makes sharing computers more fun and more safe
5. External hard drives make sharing computers more fun and more safe. If you share a computer at home or at work, you probably don’t want anyone else reading your files, but the security built into Windows doesn’t do a good job of keeping people out of your stuff. But if you save your data on external hard drives—and you take those drives with you—nobody else can access your files.
External hard drives are the number one backup storage device today. I am sure the disadvantages will soon disappear with the progress in technology moving fast. It’s your job to make sure you backup the most important computer files and keep them safe.