Of course everyone knows what a hard drive does but what makes one hard drive better than the other, and more importantly; which one is best for you? That’s what we are going to get into today.

Why Should I Get An External Hard Drive?

Having an external hard drive makes life a whole lot easier when it comes to media management. Whether you want to have a dedicated “Travel Drive”, or one that never leaves your desktop computers side there are several reasons why an external hard drive might worth purchasing. Here’s why I use external hard drives:

  • I have several drives that never leave my desktop surface, their sole purpose is to back up the files and expand the overall memory I have access to on my computer.
  • I have one 2TB SSD Drive(Detailed Below) that I use as a “Travel Drive”. This drive is to dump media on when I am on the road or have to pass off/receive project files and media while working on a team project.

Without my external drives, I would quickly run out of room on my computer, have no safe place to back up my media, and would struggle with data management while traveling.

Types Of External Hard Drives


Hard-Disk Drives(HDD): Hard-Disk Drives aka HDD drives are the cheapest type of hard drive you can buy; with a physical disk inside that holds all of your information. Compared to solid-state drives they are noticeably slower but they are very affordable. A HDD drive is best left in a permanent spot in your home where they don’t get moved around very often. With such fragile components inside, traveling with HDD drives can be risky as they can be easily damaged by bumps in transit.

Solid-State Drives(SSD): Solid-State Drives aka SSD drives are drives that have no moving part inside them. There are no spinning disks to scan, or overly fragile components inside them. A key point to know about SSD drives is that they are extremely fast, but extremely expensive compared to their Hard-Disk Drive counterpart. If you have the ability, SSD drives are the best option for external memory and handle extremely well while traveling.

It is important to note that both SSD and HDD drives are delicate to different degrees and should be handled with care while traveling. Certain brands of hard drives offer “Rugged” drives with a beefier exterior to keep the interior components safe.

How Much Storage Do I Need?

Hard drives come in everything from as low as 64Gb all the way to several hundred terabytes. The struggle is just trying to find what amount best suits your needs? The first question you should ask yourself is: will I be using this drive for photo or video? maybe both?

Depending on how you answer, that will really help you make the decision. If you are using your drive for strictly photography, a 1TB or 2TB drive will suffice for quite a while, especially if you routinely clean out extra unwanted images every once and a while. If you are dealing with mostly video, particularly in 4K, you should be looking at a 2TB to 4TB drive at the very minimum. Trust me when I say you will fill up that space faster than you can imagine.

If you are needing more storage space than what you can find in most singular external hard drives, you should consider a RAID setup. Long story short, a RAID is a series of hard drives merged together to create 1 giant hard drive that has incredibly fast transfer speeds, automatically backs up your files, and can be sending information to multiple computers at once. How amazing does that sound? Unfortunately RAIDs are several thousand dollars at the least. For today, we are just sticking with more affordable storage devices.

Considering Drive Speeds

This may be the most important piece to consider, how fast is the drive you are getting? You could have a 3TB hard drive but if it has a low max RPM and/or an older model of USB or Thunderbolt, it will just be slowing you down. Here are the things to consider for drive speeds:


  • Connectors: What cable connects your drive to your computer? There is actually a massive difference between different types of cables. The main cables you will come across in new external drives are USB 2.0 and 3.0, and Thunderbolt 1 or 2. USB 2.0 has a maximum transfer speed of 480Mb Per Second while USB 3.0 has a maximum transfer speed of 5GB Per Second. Thunderbolt 1 and 2 both have a max transfer speed of 40GB Per Second; however Thunderbolt 2 has a bidirectional transfer speed of 20GB Per Second while the Thunderbolt 1’s bidirectional speed is just 10GB Per Second.
  • Drive RPM: Depending on the drive, some can process incoming and outgoing information faster than others. If you are dealing with photos in bulk or high resolution video, I would recommend a drive within the 5400rpm – 7200rpm range.

Also note the performance you get out of your drive will also come down to the abilities of your computer.

Final Thoughts

Buying a good hard drive may seem like a big investment. But just remember, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than trying to recover lost files after your computer crashes, or your cheap hard drive bites the dust. Hopefully this helps you to make a more informed decision on finding the perfect home for your media files!

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