Many people have, or are considering, an external hard drive for backing up their computer’s data. With the price of hard drives today, they are a real bargain. If you watch and catch a sale with rebates, you can get a surprisingly good deal.
The best pricing is in the smaller external drives, 40GB to 80GB , although they will be fine for most people for data and even hard drive image backups (see the image backup article in the first issue of Terry’s Computer Tips). Of course, the big ones — 250GB external drives or larger — continue to be priced at premium levels.
Another way to get an external hard drive is to put one together yourself. It’s a lot easier to find a sale price on an internal hard drive than an external hard drive. There are very good prices and choices on external hard drive enclosures, which should include the power supply (if needed). With a small screw driver, an external hard drive enclosure and a hard drive, you can usually put together your own external hard drive at a significant savings.
Pay attention to the computer connection. You will want either a USB 2.0 or IEEE1394 (a.k.a. Firewire) version, depending upon the connections already available in your computer. Unless you know you have an IEEE1394 connection, plan on the USB 2.0 option. It will almost always work on slower USB connections, but they’ll be s-l-o-w. You can even get external drives or cases that provide both USB 2.0 and IEEE1394 connections; they will just cost you more.
If you’re going to build your own external hard drive, be sure to get a standard ATA / “parallel ATA” hard drive. Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives do not work in these kinds of cases.
While there are some cases that are made specifically for serial ATA drives, the connections are not compatible with USB2 or with IEEE1394. SATA drive cases simply pass the same SATA connection through the case. They require the same unique connection to the computer that the SATA drive itself would require for internal installation.