External hard drives are great for backing up your computer. They enable you to accomplish some of the important facets of backing up:
- you can back up your entire hard drive or your your boot partition (usually these are the same thing as most Windows XP computers come with one big C: drive) (see my June 20th issue)
- you can back up your individual files (except those that are locked by Windows)
- you can easily back up individual files that have changed — either from the whole drive or just from the directories you specify (see my June 20th issue),
- and they enable you to disconnect the drive so that it can not be affected by a trojan, virus, worm, lightning storm or user brain freeze — so you have a real, useful backup sitting on the shelf.
You can also build your own external hard drive. It is not difficult and it can be a much cheaper alternative to buying an external drive, especially if you have an old hard drive sitting on the shelf.
If you plan to put a BIG drive in an external drive enclosure, check test it promptly in case you have to return it. I have an external enclosure that’s about 2 or 3 years old, which was before hard drives had broken the 132 GB barrier. WinXP Pro SP2 will only use a maximum of 132 GB on the drive, even if the drive is larger, despite the manufacturer’s web site that says the case will handle drives over 250 GB.
While WinXPSP2 removed the 132GB limitation from IDE drives, but this problem was apparently in the enclosure’s interface hardware, as other people have reported successfully building external hard drives with large drives and without having to install special drivers
Of course, huge external drives are available in retail packaging. Most of them come with special software to easily back up your system.
Don’t forget the other end of the external hard drive spectrum – you can build or purchase your own small 2.5-inch hard drive enclosures, too.
Read more in my External Hard Drives article.