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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) About Desktop External Hard Drives

It's one of the most stress-filled, anxiety-inducing messages you'll ever see pop up on your computer's screen: "You're running low on hard drive space." After you pick yourself up off the floor and dry your tears, you can console yourself with the knowledge that there's an easy solution to this horrible conundrum: Get a desktop external hard drive.

We're here to provide answers to your questions about desktop external hard drives so you can choose the one that best fits your needs.

What is a desktop external hard drive?

Simply put, it's a hard drive that lives in its own enclosure, instead of being inside a laptop or desktop computer. A desktop external hard drive requires a separate power source, so you'll need to connect 2 cables: 1 for power and 1 to plug into your computer for transferring data. As you can tell from the name, desktop external hard drives are designed to live on your desk and aren't very portable.

Why do I need a desktop external hard drive?

Connecting a desktop external hard drive to your laptop or desktop computer is the quickest and easiest way to give your computer an instant storage upgrade. These drives start with storage capacities around 1TB and go up from there, so they'll provide plenty of room for your photos, music, videos, documents, and other files. Enjoy peace of mind by backing up those valuable, I-don't-ever-want-to-lose-these files onto the external drive.

What are the different types of desktop external hard drives?

A regular (3.5") desktop external hard drive provides extra storage for a single computer. You can also get network attached storage(NAS) drives that add storage to a network, so all the computers on the network can access the external drive.

If you want a ton of storage you can take on the go, check out our selection of external hard drives.

What should I consider when buying a desktop external hard drive?

The connection type is pretty important because it helps determine the speed of data transfers. USB 3.0 is up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt is a newer technology that's also extremely fast. To take advantage of those speeds your computer will need a compatible USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt port.

If you want to use the desktop external hard drive as a backup system look for a model with automatic backup software. After all, a backup system isn't terribly useful if it isn't done regularly and often.

An external hard drive's RPM (spindle speed) and cache (internal RAM) are other factors that affect the drive's speed. These are important to consider if you're a graphic designer or video editor who tends to transfer huge amounts of files on a regular basis (or just don't like waiting).

Want more info? Check out some of our resources:

Storage solutions buying guide 

External drives are a must-have computer accessory