The Best External USB Hard Drives For Backing Up Your Computer

A good backup is like an insurance policy for your files. If you are infected with a virus, if the hard drive crashes or fails, or if you just accidentally delete your files, a thorough and recent backup can be a life saver.

 

External USB hard drives come in various sizes, styles and configurations. There are the larger desktop sized hard drives designed to be set up and kept in one location, but be aware these usually require a power cable in addition to the USB cable.  The there are the smaller 2.5 inch external hard drives that are much smaller and lighter and are usually powered via the USB cable itself. These are much more portable and will easily fit in a laptop bag, backpack or purse.

You can see the size difference between the 3.5 inch desktop drive and the smaller, more portable 2.5 inch drive. Desktop drives come in larger capacities, but usually require a separate power supply.

 

External USB drives generally connect with some type of USB cable. USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 cables are the same size and shape on the end that goes in your computer, and work in the same ports, but USB 3.0 devices are capable of faster file transfer speeds. If  you’re not sure if you have any USB 3.0 ports, look and see if you have any blue USB ports on your computer.

Here you can see the different types of USB connections common in external hard drives.

 

Blue cables and blue connectors are an easy way to distinguish 3.0 devices and cabled from 2.0 devices. Either way, USB 3.0 drives are backward compatible to work in a 2.0 port, they will simply run at the slower 2.0 transfer speed. Some newer drives may connect with USB 3.1 cables (USB-C) , but your computer needs to have a USB 3.1 port in order to use them.


This chart above from Amazon.com can give you an idea how much storage you need. The estimate is calculated based on average file sizes- professional photographers will use more space per photo for example, especially if they shoot in RAW mode. People will movie collections should know that movies can be in various formats that range in size. But the graphic is a good indicator for the average person’s files.

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This is a USB 3.0 1TB hard drive that works with both Apple MAC OSX and Windows PC’s. It comes with a free trial of WD SmartWare Pro auto and cloud backup software, or you can use the backup software of your choice. It is one of the smaller drives, measuring 4.4 x 3.2 x 0.6 inches and weighing only 4.8 ounces. This is perfect for the average person’s needs and works well for backing up both desktop and laptops. Also available in 2TB, 3TB and 4TB sizes.

 

 

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This is another 1TB USB 3.0 external hard drive, but this one is specifically designed to stand up to the rigors of travel. The casing is made of specialized rubber with a custom suspension system to reduce damage from accidents. The drive passed both crush testing and transit drop testing to US military MIL-STD-810G standards. It’s also resistant to being sprayed by water, which should protect against spills. If you are prone to accidents or just want the extra peace of mind, this is the drive for you. Also available in 2TB, 3TB, 4TB and 5TB sizes.

 

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This 4TB USB 3.0 desktop style hard drive includes an NTFS driver that allows it to be used by both Windows and MAC computers interchangeably. It also includes a 2 port USB hub so you can plug USB devices directly in to the hard drive, including cell phones and tablets. And the ports will work for charging even if the computer is turned off. The hub is especially helpful if the ports on your desktop computer are hard to access or if your laptop computer doesn’t have many USB ports. If you install the Seagate Mobile Backup app on IOS or Android devices, you can back up to this drive from those devices via the cloud. Available in 4TB, 6TB and 8TB sizes.

 

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8TB of storage space in this desktop drive, but it weighs a little over 2 pounds so it’s certainly made to be left in one place. It connects via USB 3.0 and works with Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 right out of the box with no drivers to install.

 

Any of these drives will be helpful in setting up a backup system for your personal or business files.

 

2016 Back to School Cleanup Special

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After a school year of  web browsing, term papers, music and movie downloads, and game playing, your computer can use a good clean up before school starts in the fall. I’m offering a deal on total cleanup of your computer. Either a complete Virus and Malware cleanup on your laptop or desktop computer, or a total PC Overhaul.  Either service is now a $80 flat fee, a $20 savings off regular price.

Once it’s all cleaned up, you might want to consider getting a professional backup of your important files.

$20 for 16GB of data, $40 for 32GB of data, $80 for 64GB of data. Those prices include a USB flash drive. pcoverhaul - usb16 You’ve got plenty of time to get your computer cleaned up before school starts in the fall, but don’t wait until the last minute! This special deal lasts until August 22nd.

Infinit- File Sharing App

Infinit – This very useful little app lets you “send any file in less than 4 seconds”.

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Simply create links to your files that can be shared anywhere on the web-  Facebook, Twitter, via email, SMS messages or online forums.

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You’ll have a dedicated inft.ly webpage for your files and you can grant access to anyone you choose. Infinit uses P2P Bitorrent technology so your files are not stored on a server where they can be accessed by any unauthorized users (like the recent celebrity icloud hack).

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Here is a more complete list of features-

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It’s fast, free, and unlimited, so check it out.

 

 

Help, My Hard Drive Failed!

Why do some hard drives crash and others seem to run forever? Most of the time you probably replace a computer before your hard drive stops working, but if you let them run long enough every hard drive will crash, fail or die.

There are 3 types of hard drive failure you have to concerned about.

First, there’s a physical problem with the drive. The most common things that fail are the PCB board, or the chips or power connector on the board, but there are dozens of moving parts in a typical IDE or SATA hard drive and they can all fail. I explain this kind of failure in more detail here. Symptoms vary. If there’s certain physical damage you may hear a loud clicking noise. Sometimes if the heads are stuck on the platter you’ll hear more of a buzzing or beeping noise. Or if the power connector is damaged, you may hear nothing- no spinning, no whirring- and the drive may not be seen by Windows at all.

The green circuit board seen on the underside of this hard drive is the PCB board. The little black chips contain the firmware. At the bottom right you can see the gold data and power connectors.
The green circuit board seen on the underside of this hard drive is the PCB board. The little black chips contain the firmware, which is the software that tells the drive how to function. At the bottom right you can see the gold data and power connectors.

Your hard drive can also crash if it has too many bad sectors. Sectors are small clusters of storage space that hold your data. When a sector goes bad, software on the drive is supposed to try to move the data to a good sector, and mark the bad one so it never gets written to again. In some cases, sectors can become so damaged that the computer can have trouble reading the data, lock up, refuse to boot or crash.

in this example, the hard drive shows problems with the reallocated sectors count, the current pending sectors count and the uncomfortable sectors count. Each variable has exceeded the allowable threshold, so the data on this drive needs to be backed up right away.

CrystalDiskInfo has reported sector problems with this hard drive.
CrystalDiskInfo has reported sector problems with this hard drive.

The second possibility is called logical failure. This is not a problem with the physical drive itself but with the file system on the drive. Imagine your hard drive is a library, and the files on it are books. Your computer has its own version of a card catalog to find the books, called a File Allocation Table, or FAT. If the FAT is corrupted, Windows can’t find the files it needs to run Windows, and you will be unable to boot. This can be caused from a virus infection, system driver conflicts, damaged Windows files and other software issues. In most cases I can perform a data recovery if this is your problem. I can back your files up to a good hard drive or flash drive, wipe your drive and reload windows with a new FAT. Then I can transfer your files back over to your new Windows installation. I can backup any user created files (photos, documents, music, videos, etc) but not your programs – I would need the software and licensing information or serial numbers to reload your software.

One of the most common errors when your hard drive has a logical error,
One of the most common errors when your hard drive has a logical error,

External hard drives are susceptible to physical and logical issues as well, but they also have a potential problem that doesn’t exist in internal hard drives.  External drives are really just an internal hard drive in a fancy enclosure so you can connect them with a cable and move them around from place to place. The enclosure has its own power supply and data connector and sometimes these die or break after dropping the drive. In that case, the hard drive itself may work perfectly and the enclosure itself may be the issue.

 

Two different external drives. The one on the left has a larger desktop hard drive inside which requires a power adapter and the one on the right contains a USB powered laptop drive inside.
Two different external drives. The one on the left has a larger desktop hard drive inside which requires a power adapter and the one on the right contains a USB powered laptop drive inside.

 

With all ways your hard drive can fail, this is a good time to remind you, please keep an updated backup of your files. Spending $100 on an external hard drive or a cloud backup service can save  $1000 in data recovery fees, so backup, backup and then backup again.

Whatever issue you may be having with your hard drive, or if you need to create a backup plan for your data, feel free to contact me for help.