Purchasing an External Hard Drive
Because we are currently living in an age in which our photographs are simply stored as code that our cameras and computers can read, we need to ensure that we don’t loose our artwork due to a hardware failure or accident. I tell people (not to scare you) that EVERY computer hard drive WILL fail eventually. It could be one day after you buy it or after many years, but sometime it will go bad. Usually with little or no warning.
For this reason, I like to always have at least one backup of my images on another device, in this case an external hard drive. I personally like to store all of my images on two separate external hard drives. This way, my internal hard drive won’t be bogged down with the tens of thousands of images I have taken. Each external drive acts as a backup for the other, if one fails, you still have the second one with all your photos on it. Great!
Capacity: The first thing to look at is “how many photos can I store?” This is where capacity and the kind of camera that you own comes into play. If you own a 21 megapixel camera, your files are going to be a lot larger than those from an 8 megapixel camera. For most people, I would recommend something around 500GB or larger. Any smaller and you would be filling up your hard drives very fast. If you are a tough editor and delete a lot of your shots, a 500GB should last for years.
Portable or Desktop: There are two main types of hard drives out there: portable and desktop. Portable drives can run solely on power from your computer, which means they only need to be plugged into your computer (not the wall). They are also quite a bit smaller than desktop drives. A desktop hard drive is slightly bigger, and must be plugged into both your computer AND the wall for power. These drives are usually cheaper. I personally own both. I have a desktop drive that stays on my desk and a couple of portable drives that come with me wherever I go. Which drive you purchase is totally up to you and depends on your needs. If you primarily work on your images on a desktop, then a desktop drive would be perfect. If you travel with a laptop, you might want a more compact, portable drive to bring with you.
Speed (RPM’s): Yes, here is another device where speed is a concern. The way I like to think of it is, the higher rpm, the better. For the most part, hard drives come in two speeds: 5,400 rpm and 7,200 rpm. Most portable hard drives are 5,400 rpm, but there are nicer ones that are 7,200 rpm. Most desktop drives are 7,200 rpm, with some reaching 15,000 rpm! If you will be storing your images, not just backing them up on external hard drives, it is nice to have a hard drive with at least 7,200 rpm.
Connectivity: Another thing to consider when choosing an external hard drive is how you go about connecting it to your computer. This really depends on the computer you currently own or are planning to buy. If you own or plan to own a Mac, the Firewire 800 connection would be great. Mac’s new Thunderbolt connection, which is much faster, can be found in some very new external hard drives. If you own a PC, you really have two options, depending on whether or not your computer has an eSATA or USB 3.0 connection. If it does, you can buy an external with eSATA or USB 3.0 connection options. If your computer does not have the eSATA option, then USB 2.0 would be your best bet. Many external hard drive manufacturers are adding these new connection types to their devices, but there is nothing wrong with going with the old USB 2.0 connection. Basically, buy the fastest connection type that you can afford and make sure your computer can use the connection type you decide to purchase.
These are main concerns when looking for an external hard drive. Remember, we live in an age in which all of our photographs can disappear in an instant, make sure you have a backup of everything!