Buying Guide

In this guide, we will show you what to look out for when buying a hard drive and how to determine the best hard drive for your needs.

There are an ever increasing amount of hard drives,  with a range of different features, so much so that knowing what to buy can seem like a daunting task!  

Step 1: internal or external?

The first thing to determine is if you need an internal hard drive or an external hard drive. An internal hard drive is connected directly to your motherboard inside the computer housing. An external drive is connected via an external port to the computer, for example, USB.

At this point the guide forks in the road, Continue reading for external Hard Drives

Click here to skip to internal drives.

External Hard Drives

external hard drives

External drives have an increasing amount of features and functions but figuring out which best suits your needs can be broken down in the following steps. 

Step 2: Portable or desktop?

Will the hard drive be moving around with you or will it always remain at your desk?

A portable external hard drive will have smaller dimensions and typically will be powered by its interface connection. Its speed will be limited by the connection. 

A desktop external hard drive will be larger for faster disk speeds and require an additional power source in most cases, typically a mains plug making it inconvenient for travel and portability. 

Step 3: What connection type do you need?

The correct connection type will depend on the ability of the device for which the hard drive is going to be connected. Check the ports available on your device and choose accordingly. 

Bear in mind different ports have different capabilities, some may not provide enough power for certain hard drives so make sure you know exactly what port you need to be able to connect to in general newer hard drives should work well with older propriety ports but it is worth checking the specifications. 

Another aspect to consider is the read and write speeds of the connection as this could create a bottleneck for the usability of your drive for data-heavy tasks for example video editing. 

Step 4: What hard drive speed do you need.

Faster hard drive speed usually comes at a higher price, and that is the main consideration at this step especially for data-heavy operations and large transfers. As file sizes continue to grow in size with higher resolution imagery and increased metadata, getting a drive that can handle files quickly is a good idea to future proof usability. 

 Step 5: Should you buy HDD or SSD?

To buy a Hard Disk Drive or a Solid State Drive. 

In brief, an HDD uses mechanical parts to read and write data to a storage disk. An SSD has no moving parts and stores the data to chips. 

SSD drives are faster and are becoming more reliable and more durable than HDD’s. Almost all consumer use cases are heading in the direction of SSD’s but they are still more expensive and in some cases less suitable than HDD’s.

the factors to consider at this point are as follows;

  1. Form factor: SSDs can be made a lot smaller. 
  2. Price: HDDs are a lot cheaper
  3. Durability: with less moving parts, well made SSDs are very durable
  4. Capacity: This falls under price really but you can get a lot more storage for your money with HDDs
  5. Speed: SSDs win hands down. 
  6. Range of options: There are more tried and tested HDDs to choose from with more options. 

Step 6: What additional features do you need form a hard drive?

This might seem like an odd question but you would be surprised at just how many additional features are out there. There is likely a hard drive tailored to your specific needs. 

Here are the main things to consider. 

Form Factor

Hard drives can come in all shapes and sizes so choosing one that works for your needs is crucial. You don’t want to put a brick in your carry on luggage when you could of brought a smaller drive with the same capabilities. 

Connectivity

There are numerous options available with different connectivity options. Some have wifi connections, some can be run as a home server, some can back up your camera memory card by themselves without needing to be plugged into a laptop. Think about where your drive will be used and what options might be useful to you. 

Durability

When your at home this might not be an issue unless you have a cat like mine who loves to knock stuff off my desk all day long. For travelers this is something to consider, you will need a drive that can survive a fall as well as airport baggage handlers! You might need a waterproof drive, you might need a drive that could survive a fire. There are options and an increasing number of Hard drives available. 

Design

If you are anything like me then you want a drive that matches your laptop for no other reason than it is aesthetically pleasing. There is nothing wrong with that and there are plenty of hard drives to explore! 

Internal Hard Drives

Internal hard drives are worth taking some time to decide on. Not all hard drives are born equal.

Step 2: What type of drive do you need?

So you know you need an internal hard drive, did you know there was more than one type? We are going to cover SATA drives and M.2 drives.

For SATA drives there are two form factors.

3.5″ drives which are usually used in desktop PCs and servers. And 2.5″ drives which are usually used in laptops.

The number is a reference to their physical size but there are several differences: weight, speed, cache, power consumption, capacity, and price.

3.5″ drives are faster, have more capacity, and are cheaper.

2.5″ drives are lighter, smaller, and use less power.

Both form factors can be HDD and SSD.  SSD SATA drives typically come in the 2.5″ form factor and outperforms the best 3.5″ HDD drives although they come at a higher price.

M.2 drives are exclusively solid-state and are usually reserved for start-up drives for their super fast speeds and the fact that higher capacity M.2 drives are very expensive.

Step 3: How fast does your drive need to be?

There are a few definitions of the speed of a hard drive but in this instance, we are concerned with read/write speeds.

This seems like a no brainer, the faster the better, but in reality, the installation of an extremely fast solid-state drive might be overkill for a home office PC. We suggest you weigh up the costs and find a drive that is fast enough for your needs.

Step 4: Which should you buy, HDD or SSD?

Whether to purchase a Hard Disk Drive or a Solid State Drive.

HDDs use mechanical parts to read and write data to a storage disk. An SSD has no moving parts and stores the data to chips.

SSD drives are faster and are becoming more reliable and more durable than HDD’s and while the price point is coming down they are still far more expensive especially when you require large amounts of capacity.

Step 5: reliability

This is a simple step, check the reviews and go for the best! There is nothing worse than a hard drive failing on you. It can cost you time and money and precious files can be lost to the ether. We cannot recommend strongly enough that you should only buy hard drives from trusted retailers and manufacturers with highly reviewed products. 

Conclusion

There is a perfect drive out there for you somewhere! Use these steps and you will be well on the way to finding it and making sure your data is secure.