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Portable Hard Drive Recommendations

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Unlucky_Pete, Aug 24, 2011.

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  1. Unlucky_Pete

    Unlucky_Pete Thread Starter

    Aug 30, 2008
    This is a little embarassing but I recently learned that computers have an average life-span of about 5 years. I'm not sure how to check the age of my computer but according to a diagnostic program I have, the System BIOS Date is 02/09/2002 and the OS Installation Date is 12/01/2005 (I'm not sure which represents the age itself).

    Over the years my family and I have accumulated about 7.13GB of documents, pictures, and music, which we would like to save to a back-up in case we ever need to replace the computer. Currently what I have are a few old floppy disks from almost ten years ago; these disks will obviously not be able to hold so much information, and there is a chance that most of these disks no longer work anyway.

    I've been looking for information about ways to back-up our documents and from most reviews I've read, portable flash-sticks aren't always reliable as they can become corrupted unpredictably, or their moveable parts can break. The best option I am aware of is to purchase a portable external hard drive, but I don't have a clue which one is best to purchase and will have the longest life-span.

    Assuming I'm correct about external hard drives operating something like floppy disks, we would probably plug it in once in awhile just to back-up files (maybe once a month) and occasionally use it to view older documents. When not in use the external hard drive would be turned off and unplugged from the computer and stored in a safe place where it won't get moved around.

    The following are features that I consider important before I make my decision:
    1. Ease of use - I'm not very tech savvy, so something that won't require installing too many programs to use.
    2. Reliability - Won't become easily corrupted, or suddenly stop working.
    3. Longevity - I want something that will last a long time before having to be replaced.
    4. Compact - It doesn't have to be small, but I'm not interested in something the size of a shoe box and weighing about as much as a cat.
    5. Affordability - I understand that better quality means a higher price, but I don't want to end up broke either so anything you would consider 'reasonable.'
    6. Efficiency - I'm hoping it won't take too long to transfer files from the computer to the hard drive and vice-versa.
    7. Space - In the event that I have more to save than expected, it wouldn't hurt to have a little bit more space on hand.
    8. Durability - I don't know if there alot of moving parts on these things, but generally speaking I would prefer to avoid anything that will fall apart easily or for no reason.
    My current computer:

    Tower: HP Pavilion 751n
    Windows XP Version: Service Pack 2
    Processor: Intel Pentium 4 CPU 1.80 GHz
    BIOS: AT/AT Compatible
    System BIOS Date: 02/09/02
    Video BIOS Date: 12/13/20
    Disk Drive: SeaGate ST380020A (80 GB, 5400 RPM, Ultra-ATA/100)
    OS Installation Date: 12/01/2005
    Memory 191.53 MB
    Hard Disk: 70.22 GB

    Any recommendations would be appreciated. I would also like to know if there are any companies or products that I should avoid.

    Thank you,

    - Unlucky Pete.
  2. Unlucky_Pete

    Unlucky_Pete Thread Starter

    Aug 30, 2008
    Okay I realize people are busy so it will take awhile to get a reply, but I have one more question to add to this:

    Would a Lexar 9GB Flash Drive be suitable for long term storage purposes? I ask, because I've seen mostly positive reviews for this product, and most places sell it for about $10.00 which is much more cheaper than an External Hard Drive.

    I would still like to get an External Hard Drive, but for the time being I could just get the little Lexar 9GB drive and save copies of my most important files to it, that way if my computer suddenly dies I will at least have a back-up on hand. So what do you think?:confused:

    Edit: I'm not sure but I think the Lexar drive could have been 8GB.
  3. DoubleHelix

    DoubleHelix Banned

    Dec 9, 2004
    You're looking for a lot of detail for what is essentially a commodity product. There are hundreds of external hard drives out there, and they're all pretty much the same. Pick a known name brand in a capacity, size, and form factor you like in your price range.

    Flash drives should not be used as backup media. They don't have the level of reliability and durability that hard drives do.

    Also, there are no legitimate 9GB flash drives. Capacities are factors of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64).
  4. Snagglegaster

    Snagglegaster Banned

    Sep 12, 2006
    I think a pendrive is perfectly acceptable as a means of copying data for transfer to another computer, and they are really cheap, but I agree with DH that they don't make a good long-term backup solution.

    My preferred backup solution is something like this Seagate drive. I've found these to be very reliable compared to Western Digital My Book drives or Passports. Inside the case is a standard 3.5 " SATA drive that makes data transfer and recovery easier than external drives that use a proprietary interface. I think that if you look at most of the negative reviews on newegg, you'll see that many of them contain remarks like "I broke..." Personally, I've sold dozens without a failure so far. Still, external hard drives need to be handled with TLC. Don't move them or shake them while running, always stop the device before you disconnect it.
  5. Unlucky_Pete

    Unlucky_Pete Thread Starter

    Aug 30, 2008
    Thanks for the advice!

    I did some looking around and I think I will get an external drive and a pen drive.

    The ones I'm considering are the:

    Seagate - 250GB External USB 2.0 Portable Hard Drive - I really only have about 8GB of important documents so the 1TB or higher drives seem a bit excessive. I will have enough space for the important files and plenty of room for extras. So far the only negative reviews I've found are about the length of the cable and a lack of instruction manuals, but everything else about it seems okay.

    HP - 8GB USB Flash Drive - Since pen drives aren't known for being to reliable in the long-run, I plan to use this for transferring files between computers if the need arises and to serve as a short-term back-up. The low cost of this item means that I won't lose a great deal of sleep if it suddenly stops working.

    The only thing that concerns me now is that my computer seems to have only USB 1.1 ports. I checked the Device Manager in the Control Panel and there is no mention of "Enhanced" so it's unlikely that I have USB 2.0. Now I will have to look around for a USB 2.0 Interface.
  6. Elvandil


    Aug 1, 2003
    Portable drives are just about the most unreliable way to back up something that you want to save that exists. Even thumb drives are a better idea. They are subject to all sorts of risks, being dropped, power surges from getting unplugged, and just getting knocked from being moved around. If you want to back up your system to something attached to the computer, use a second internal drive.

    But it sounds like the things you want to save are things that you may want an even more permanent record of. Saving to DVD is also a good idea. At least those won't go dead from a hard knock, though they do lose their data over time.

    For things that really matter to you, you should have at least 2 backup copies, and those copies should be in a different location from the computer. Preferably, they should also be in different formats. Saving copies online is also an option.
  7. Unlucky_Pete

    Unlucky_Pete Thread Starter

    Aug 30, 2008
    Ummm... Unfortunately shortly after I made my post on September 1st I went and purchased the 250GB Seagate hard drive, and I didn't see your post until now, Elvandil. The sales-rep I spoke with at the store said that the thumb drive was probably unnecessary, so I only purchased the portable hard drive.

    So far the Seagate seems to be working alright. My computer only has USB 1.1 ports so it took awhile to transfer my documents (roughly two-and-a-half hours). I checked it a couple of days later and my files weren't corrupted or anything, but I'll probably do another check next week. The only thing that worries me about it, is that it does generate a fair bit of heat while it's working and sometimes it can take awhile before I can safely remove it (I would click the icon in the task tray and a pop-up will appear saying that the drive is still being used).

    Since everything I've read so far seems to indicate that portable hard drives are very fragile, I've avoided moving it as much as I can. After I've safely removed it from the computer, I pack it in a box and leave it on my shelf where it won't get bumped around. I'm only using this hard drive to store information in case my computer suddenly dies. When I do eventually replace my computer, the portable hard drive will be used to transfer the information to the replacement. In other words, the Seagate is performing the function I used to use floppy disks for.

    Out of curiosity I was wondering why a thumb-drive would be better than a portable hard drive? Most of the people I've asked have told me that thumb-drives have short life spans and are prone to data corruption. Are the thumb drives faster or more durable?

    Also, what is an online back-up and how easy is it to use one?

    Thank you,

    - Unlucky Pete
  8. Hughv


    Jul 22, 2006
    I use Acronis online backup, and it's very simple. Sign up, pay your money and select a plan.
    In addition, there are many free cloud services like MS Sky Drive and Google Docs.
    I've dealt with many people who lost all their data due to failure to have a plan at all, or who relied on hard drives. I'm especially against portable drives for all the reasons mentioned previously.
  9. dustyjay


    Jan 23, 2003
    First Name:
    I have one of these in each of my 5 desktop systems. Antec Easy Sata only 21.99 at new egg http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...99 50001516&IsNodeId=1&name=Antec&Order=PRICE there is no image on the site but I am able to keep my back ups on 3 1/2" Sata disks. I keep my System Images and System backups (2 drives for each computer) in my fire safe. I also store DVD copies of my digital photos and important documents in my Safety Deposit box along with all my Paper documents.
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