In today's world, we often don't have physical copies of important documents, such as bills and credit card statements. All sorts of records are digitized because they're much easier to organize and manage in digital format. We store most of our media in digital format for the same reasons – it makes our music and pictures fast and easy to manage. Going digital is a great thing for many reasons, but there is one major downside: Everything can disappear in an instant if something goes wrong.
In order to protect important documents and media, you should always have your data backed up in at least two places. Desktop external hard drives are an excellent way to back up all of your important files because they're designed to last for a long time. Computers crash, smartphones break, and tablets go out of style. With an external hard disk, you get a central place to store all of your important information and media and not have to worry about losing them. If you are a little tech-savvy, you can hook an external desktop hard drive up to your wireless router and use it to stream media like music and movies.
It's important to note that desktop external hard drives are not the same as portable hard drives. The primary distinction is that they need to be plugged into an outlet and they're built to last longer. We've looked at the best desktop external hard drives, and the Western Digital My Book, Toshiba Canvio Desk and Buffalo DriveStation Axis Velocity come out at the top of the pack. To learn more about these products and their potential uses, check out our articles on desktop external hard drives.
Once you've reached the point where you need a desktop external hard drive with at least 1TB of storage space, you're a bona fide digital-content connoisseur. Make sure the hard drive you choose to hold copies of your precious content meets a certain quality standard by following the specifications we've outlined.
Ease of Use
Backing up your files shouldn't be intimidating; it should either be automatic or easy and useful. After all, what good is an external hard drive if you don't feel comfortable using it? You should be able to easily back up your files and access them with little fuss. In particular, you should look for an external hard drive that allows you to customize backup settings and makes retrieving backed-up information easy.
Be careful with the term "plug and play." Most of the time, it doesn't mean that you can immediately start transferring files, as most desktop external hard drives come with pre-installed software that you have to configure first. Ideally, you want a drive that strikes a balance between security options, backup options and a quick initial setup process.
We looked at the drives on our lineup and scored them in the following manner: Drives that score 90% or higher don't make securing or backing up data much of a hassle. Drives that score in the 80% to 90% range require a few extra steps that make security and data backup more tedious. Any drives that score 75% make securing and backing up data tedious and also make the whole process somewhat confusing. We didn't run into any drives that were absolutely terrible to use, so 75% is the bottom of the scale.
Remember when 25GB seemed like a ton of storage space? Now, with downloadable movies, high-resolution images and PC gaming permeating everyday life, our data storage needs have skyrocketed. Some of the best external hard drives now offer up to 6TB of storage and make use of USB 3.0 for much faster data transfer speeds than older external hard drives have.
When you're in the business of securing data and files, an external hard drive's security features can make or break the product. Look for the ability to secure the hard drive with a password and for automatic backup settings. Built-in diagnostics and hardware encryption are also must-have features. One of the biggest risks of purchasing such a portable piece of equipment is the ease with which someone could walk off with it. The best USB external hard drives feature a security slot that allows you to physically bind the hard drive in place. Removal of the lock without the designated key would cause damage to the exterior of the hard drive.
It's always important that you have several communication lines with manufacturers in case something goes wrong. Easy access to manuals, FAQs and other helpful materials makes troubleshooting a little less stressful. You should also look for products with a strong warranty. You want your desktop external hard drive to last for a long time, and if a manufacturer won't cover it under warranty for very long, well, that doesn't inspire much confidence in the device's longevity.
There are many different things to consider when you want to buy an external hard drive, but when you find the best desktop external hard drive for you, go for it. Delaying backing up your digital content is not a luxury many people can afford.