The Most Important Features of an External Hard Drive to Consider When Buying

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How to choose an external hard drive? With so many hard drives in the market, you will wonder how to pick the right one for yourself. Let’s go through the most important things to consider when buying an external hard drive.

You will need an external hard drive for different purposes. Like backing up your system, backing up your valuable data, sharing files with others, and extending the internal storage of your laptop, tablet, or game console.

The most important of them is backing up and extending the storage.

Your laptop can crash or get damaged at any moment. Once you back up your files, you will have peace of mind. No matter what happens to your computer, your important files are protected.

Also, the storage capacity of many gaming consoles is not enough for your gaming adventures. You will need an external hard drive to increase the storage capacity of your game console.

External hard drives are a cheap option and quite reliable for these purposes. When stored at proper temperature and humidity and kept safe, the external hard drive can keep your data for a very long time.

Also, it could be a nice extension to the storage capacity of your computer or game console.

File-sharing can be done using a flash drive, CD/DVD, or a memory card. But with an external hard drive, you can share more files and data, although a flash drive could be more convenient.

Anyway, when working with computers, tablets, or game consoles, you will need an external hard drive sooner or later. Here I am going to explain the most important factors to consider when buying an external hard drive. Without further ado let’s get started.

Sold-State Drives vs Hard Disk Drives

The first decision you have to make is whether to choose a solid-state drive (SSD) or a hard disk drive (HDD). There is a big difference between SSDs and HDDs. Although an SSD is much more expensive than an HDD, they are far more superior.

SSDs are ultra-fast compared to HDDs and are resistant to shock and movement. HDDs are very vulnerable to shock. Also, SSDs are more lightweight and portable compared to HDDs.

Read this thorough and in-depth comparison between SSD and HDD for more information.

Storage Capacity

You can choose the capacity of the drive starting from 128 GB up to 14 TB or even larger. It depends on how much storage will be enough for your needs.

PS4 and Xbox One require the external hard drive to be larger than 256GB. You can go up to 4TB. If you want to play big games you have to choose a capacity of at least 1TB. Although 2TB is preferred.

Backing up your system or files also requires a decent capacity. 1TB of storage would be enough for most of the users. But if you have videos and HD pictures, then 2TB or more may be required.

For file sharing, it depends on the type of files and how large they are. Normally 256GB would be enough, but you can choose a larger capacity if you are sharing many large files.

Read and Write Speeds

No doubt an external hard drive with very fast read/write speeds would be ideal for any purpose. You don’t want your games to become unresponsive or start lagging behind. This is one of the most important features of an external hard drive.

But the fastest speeds come at a high price. The read/write speeds of an external hard drive depend on the rotational speed of the hard drive’s disks, its mechanical parts, and the connector.

The rotation speed of the hard drive is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). It is the number of rotation the disk makes in one minute.

Common hard disk drives in the market are 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM. There are hard drives with higher RPMs like 10000 RPM or 15000 RPM, but they are very expensive.

5400 RPM would be enough for most of the users, but if you want a smoother gaming experience, 7200 RPM is preferred.

And if you need super-fast transfer speeds then the solution would be to buy an external SSD drive.

G-Technology Rugged External Hard Drive is faster compared to other external hard disk drives. It can reach a read speed of up to 140MB/s. Plus it is designed for extreme outdoor conditions. So it is very durable and reliable.

Size and Portability

This is another very important feature to consider. One of the main purposes of getting an external hard drive is portability. It must be small, lightweight, and portable.

Most people think all hard drives are same size and weight, regardless of their capacity. But the truth is the size and weight of an external hard drive depends on its capacity. Low-capacity hard drives are smaller and lightweight. The higher the capacity goes, the heavier and larger the hard drive becomes.

Another feature that affects the size and portability of an external hard drive is increased durability and protection against shock. There are rugged external hard drives that are designed for outdoor use. And they are large and heavy.

If you don’t need higher capacities and you are not going to use the external hard drive outdoor or under extreme conditions, then buy a smaller and more lightweight hard drive. It will also be more portable and cheaper.

HYWEELL External Hard Drive and AIYYE External Hard Drive are ultra-slim and lightweight. With such a small size, these two are extremely portable and convenient to use.

Another option as an extremely lightweight and portable external hard drive is the Maxone Ultra Slim External Hard Drive.

Durability and Reliability

External hard disk drives are very vulnerable to shock and movement. You must use them with care. Also, they must be stored in a safe place. The temperature and humidity affect the hard disk drive.

Some external hard drives have extra protection against shock and movement and even a car crash. These hard drives are designed for outdoor use and for extreme terrain.

Being waterproof or rain-resistant also makes it more durable and reliable.

Some hard drives have shock sensors to detect the shock. These sensors will immediately turn off the hard drive when the shock is detected, to protect the drive against damage.

Keep in mind that these extra protections increase the size and weight as well as the price.

G-Technology Rugged External Hard Drive and LaCie Rugged External Hard Drive are specially designed for extreme conditions and they are shockproof, dustproof, and rain resistant. They can even withstand a car crash.

Silicon Power Rugged External Hard Drive is another reliable hard drive. It is also designed for outdoor use. It is shockproof and rain resistant.

ADATA HD710 Pro External Hard Drive is equipped with G-Shock vibration sensing technology. It will turn off the drive when it is dropped or shocked. The drive is also shockproof, dustproof, and waterproof. And it has a reasonable price.

Data Security

You may have very critical data or private data that you don’t want anyone to have access to. What happens when you lose your external hard drive with very important and personal data on it?

And what happens if someone gets a hands-on your hard drive without you knowing. This is where data security comes into play.

Some external hard drives have hardware encryption. Once you set the password, the files will be automatically encrypted upon writing to disk. No one can read the files without the password.

For example, you are a photographer and you have raw photos that you don’t want anyone to use without your permission. You should buy an external hard drive with hardware encryption.

The downside to high security is that file encryption will slow the read/write process a little bit. But when you need high data security, you will be OK with this small drop in performance.

WD My Passport and WD My Passport Ultra are both equipped with AES 256-bit hardware encryption. They have their own software to set the password. After the password is set, you just save your files and the drive will automatically encrypt it. When you connect the drive to your computer, it will ask for the password.

Compatibility With Different Operating Systems

External hard drives come pre-formatted to a default file system. Every operating system support some specific file systems.

For example, Windows supports NTFS, FAT, FAT32, and exFAT. Mac OS supports APFS, Mac OS Extended, HFS, and HFS+. Linux supports ext3 and ext4 along with NTFS and exFAT.

If the external hard disk is formatted to NTFS, you will not be able to use it with Mac OS. And if the drive is formatted to Mac OS Extended, Windows will not be able to read the drive.

When choosing an external hard drive, it is better to check the compatibility of the drive with different operating systems. And choose the one which fits the system that you are using.

You can always reformat the drive to a different file system. But there is the possibility of losing your files and data.

WD My Passport Ultra for Mac External Hard Drive is designed to be used with a Mac computer and it is pre-formatted to Mac compatible file system.

Seagate Game Drive for PS4 is specially designed for PS4 and pre-formatted to work with your PS4 game console. And Seagate Game Drive for Xbox One is designed and pre-formatted for Xbox One.

Connectivity with Different Devices

Each laptop or tablet will have different ports to connect storage devices. There are three types of ports commonly used for external hard drives, listed below.

  1. USB Type-A
  2. USB Type C
  3. Thunderbolt 3
Laptop's USB-A and USB-C along with HDMI Ports with Descriptions
USB-A (Tyupe A) and USB-C (Type C) Ports

USB-A is common to laptops and computers. USB-C is found in newer laptop models and tablets/mobiles.

Thunderbolt 3 could be found on some of the latest laptop models and some tablet/mobile devices. It could be used as a USB-C port. Since Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C are compatible.

You must check to make sure the external hard drives come with the cable that fits your need. If your laptop does not have port USB-A, then you should choose an external hard drive with a USB-C connector. Otherwise, you will have to buy an adapter separately.

Some external hard drives come with a connector cable and an adapter to connect to other port types. For example a USB-A connector and a USB-C adapter.

WD My Passport Ultra comes with a USB-C connector and a USB-A adapter.

WD My Passport Ultra with a USB-C connector and a USB-A adapter
WD My Passport Ultra with a USB-C connector and a USB-A adapter

Manufacturer Warranty

The manufacturer warranty covers the defects in material or workmanship. If the drive does not function because of defective manufacturing, the vendor will repair or replace it for you without charge.

The warranty period 1 year up to 5 years depending on the product and manufacturer. Usually, this period for external hard drives is 3 years limited warranty.

Some vendors offer data rescue services along with a limited warranty. If your data is lost because of a hard drive failure, they will provide you with professional data recovery.

Check the warranty period of the hard drive. The longer the warranty period the better. Also, check to see if the vendor offers repair or recovery services along with their limited warranty.

Seagate Backup Plus 4TB External Hard Drive comes with two years limited warranty and two years of Rescue Data Recovery Services.

Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive offers a one-year limited warranty and one-year Rescue Data Recovery Services.

G-Technology Rugged External Hard Drive offers 3-years limited manufacturer warranty.


There are many external hard drives from different manufacturers in the market. Every external hard drive has its unique set of features. Now you know what features to consider when buying an external hard drive.

There will always be a trade-off between different conflicting features. Like higher capacity and smaller size. You should decide which one is most important for you.

Also the price goes up when the drive offers best set of features. You should only pay for what you use and need. Only choose the external hard drive that offers the features that you need and not more.

Please also read this thorough review of the 8 best external hard drives. It gives you a more in-depth insight into the different hard drive models and their features.

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