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How to buy a storage drive

Storage Capacity

The first step in choosing a data storage device is figuring out what you need to store, which will help you figure out how much space you need. If you have thousands of vacation photos, a huge movie collection, and an ever-growing music compilation, a larger-capacity drive of 1TB or more would be ideal. If you mainly store documents, photos, and occasional media files, a 500GB or 1TB drive may suffice.

Transfer Speed & Performance

Transfer speed is the time is takes for data to transfer within a device or from one device to another. Transfer speed is an indicator of storage performance which is defined by the Serial ATA interface standard (SATA). There are three generations of SATA, with the latest being SATA 3, which is capable of transferring large volumes of data within seconds. Rotation speed (rpm) is the rate at which your hard drive disc spins and will determine how fast your PC will retrieve and serve up data.


The most portable data drives are USB flash drives and portable hard drives. USB flash drives, also known as thumb drives or jump drives, are both affordable and portable, making them one of the most popular and accessible storage solutions for both PC and Mac. Portable hard drives are just that – extremely portable – and can hold colossal amounts of data. Some even have rugged enclosures that are water-, shock-, and crush-proof, making them ideal for those who need to store or transport files in inhospitable conditions.

Data Buffer

Data buffer, or cache, is the amount of memory available for short-term information storage. Like RAM, it's where data is temporarily stored when moved between the hard drive and computer. Ranging in size from 8MB to 128MB, data buffer can affect how the hard drive transfers information to the computer. If you're a hard-core gamer or creative professional who needs constant access to multiple files, opt for a higher data buffer of 64MB or more. If you're a casual computer user, data buffer between 8 and 32GB should be sufficient.

Cloud Storage

Also referred to as personal cloud storage, NAS solutions not only allow you to store files on more than one high capacity hard drive, but let you access those files from any device on your network. Ideal for businesses and family homes, network attached storage lets users pull and save data including movies, RAW images, music, and PowerPoint presentations from any laptop, desktop computer, even network-enabled TVs. It also serves as great extra storage for your tablet or smartphone.

Want to learn more about storage drives?

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Finding the Right Storage Solutions

Here’s a basic rundown on finding the ideal storage option to store, carry, and instantly access your personal documents, photos, music, videos, and more. The first step is figuring out what you need to store, which will help you figure out how much space you need, how the data needs to be accessed, and how much you’re willing to spend.

Home Storage

Avid users who want to maximize their home storage system will love network-attached storage (NAS). They offer amazing speeds, tons of features, and state-of-the-art user interfaces. Adding internal or solid state drives (SSD) to your PC might be the best option if you’re working with limited desk space, or if you have an additional drive bay to fill up. And, because they’re internal, they don’t use up any of your USB inputs. However, in most cases they require a more elaborate internal installation.

Portable Options

Want to extend your laptop's storage space? There are tons of compact and affordable external portable drives that will do just that.

USB flash drives (also known as thumb drives or JumpDrives) are tiny, increase your storage capacities and are generally affordable. Tiny enough to throw in your purse, bag or pocket, a USB flash drive is straight-up convenient.

Personal Cloud Storage

The Cloud is perhaps the coolest of them all—it’s storage that you can access via the internet from anywhere. The newest and fastest option, Thunderbolt drives use the newest data transfer technology developed by Intel and Apple, giving you unrivalled speed and versatility for an input/output device. Data can be transferred up to 20x faster than a USB 2.0!

4 Tips on How to Find the Right Storage

1. Figure out what is it you need to store or backup.

Are you looking to store home videos and family photos? Or how about a large mass of miscellaneous files like text documents, emails and more? This will help you pinpoint exactly what your storage needs are.

2. Determine how much space you need.

Apart from transfer speed and security, the question of how much storage space is enough is an important consideration. Determining how much storage space will be enough comes down to what type of data you will be storing on the drive and what the drive will be primarily used for—for example, video will require more space than digital photographs, and photos more than just text documents. Here are a few examples of capacities: 320GB lets you store up to 5,000 hours of music, 100,000 digital photos, up to 320 hours of digital video and up to 80 hours of HD videos. A massive 3TB hard drive, on the other hand, can store up to 49,980 hours of music, 960,000 digital photos, and up to 750 hours of HD videos.

3. Decide if you need portability.

The big plus side of external portable and USB drives is that they’re compact and great for people on the go. They’re small enough to pop in your bag, and durable enough to stand up for transporting.

Need more info? Check out one of our resources:

Storage Solutions Buying Guide

Cloud storage platforms compared: who do you go with

Leef iBridge can bump up your phone or tablet storage anytime

SSD vs. HDD: The Scoop on Storage

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