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transientgrifter

Shopping for external hard drives.

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I'm looking for a decently-priced external hard drive. But I've never shopped for HDs before. I'd probably carry it around with me a bit between college and home, so it's got to be fairly portable (in both design and durability). And I want a decent brand, not something that's going to crap out on me a year down the line and trash several gigabytes of data. Any tips on shopping for these?

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And I want a decent brand, not something that's going to crap out on me a year down the line and trash several gigabytes of data.

Hard drive branding does not work this way. Most major suppliers have nearly the same amounts of failures, simply because hard drives are mechanical and they are much more likely to fail than any other computer part because of this. In other words, its not an if, its a when. Especially if you carry it around and chunk it everywhere.

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For something that suits your needs, I'd probably get something like a Western Digital Passport. It's really quite small and has only one plug. You don't need an additional cable for power, just one USB 2.0. The thing with most portable external hard drives is that the cooling isn't that great. Usually they will use the shell or casing to disperse heat, though a fan is always superior. Even though it has a special case, generally made from aluminum, I would suggest that you don't keep your hard drive plugged in all day.

As for brands, Maxtor has been given a bad rap by a lot of people. But ever since they were purchased by Seagate some time ago, I can't say I've heard too many complaints about them. Seagate has often been thought of as the most reliable brand, and Western Digital, slightly less so. But there are always a couple of bad eggs in the bunch. I would keep away from hard drives that are 'too fast.' 10000 rpm is too fast by my definition. Anything less than that is usable. They used to make these Raptor hard drives that used those speeds and all it ended up doing was making a hard drive that died sooner. That being said, most hard drives on the market run less than 10000 rpm, so that really isn't an issue.

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This may not always be true, but you'll save money by buying an OEM hard drive and the casing for it separately. I bought a 500 GB 7200 RPM Western Digital HD from newegg.com and a Mad Dog aluminum case from Radio Shack a while back for a combined total of $120. A pre-built external HD cost $200 at the time.

Putting it together is easy. Just unscrew the opening of the case, connect the wires that come with the case to the HD (one for power, one for data transfer), slip it into the case, close it, put the screws back in place, and you're done.

For the drives, I'd go with either Seagate or Western Digital. Make sure the case works with the interface of the drive (SATA case with SATA drive, etc.) and that it's not too cheap ($20 - $30 or so). An aluminum case will do just fine. Some come with a fan, but it's a bonus, not a necessity. Also, avoid the Mad Dog case; The screws that keep it together are the most stubborn pieces of metal I've ever had to work with. At least I haven't had any problems with it once I put it together.

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I have a really cute Bytecc external enclosure/case for my hard drive. It's an IDE hookup though, but I'm sure there are SATA versions of it out there. Picked up that case for about $30, perfect for the price, it's durable, has some stand pegs to help prevent overheating, and cute penguins on the side.

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