Portable Hard Drives

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) About Portable External Hard Drives

Whether you're sharing music files with a friend, bringing important business documents to a client, or storing vacation photos, you'll find a convenient companion in a portable hard drive. If you're in the market for one, check out these answers to questions you may have when shopping for the best portable hard drive for your needs.

What is a portable external hard drive?

A portable external hard drive combines high-capacity storage and convenient portability in one compact unit. Unlike a desktop external hard drive, a portable hard drive doesn't need to be plugged into a wall outlet and draws power from the connected computer instead.

What should I consider when choosing a portable hard drive?


Portable hard drives range in capacity from less than 500GB to 2TB. When considering capacity, think of how you plan to use the drive. If the portable hard drive will act as your primary storage unit or a backup solution, consider a larger-capacity unit of 1TB or 2TB. If you'll use the drive for temporary storage of files, a smaller capacity of 500GB should suffice.

Rotation Speed

Rotation speed affects how fast the hard drive reads and writes data. If you're a creative professional who's constantly transferring large video files, opt for a quicker rotation speed of 7200rpm. If you use the hard drive for occasional file transfers, a 5400rpm rotation speed should be sufficient.

Size and Weight

Size and weight are important to consider if you're often on the go with your hard drive. While most portable hard drives sport a compact design, mini external hard drives are lighter and smaller than rest, some slipping comfortably into pockets.


Do you toss things into your bag, backpack, or purse without much thought? If "Careful" isn't your middle name, you may want to consider a portable hard drive with a rugged enclosure. A tough, shock-resistant exterior can help protect your precious photos or critical work documents from life's bumps and mishaps. It can safeguard your files from the jolts of travelling, too.

OS Compatibility

Do you have a PC or Mac? When choosing a portable hard drive, ensure it's compatible with your computer's operating system. While some drives are preformatted to work with both systems, others will need to be reformatted to work with the other OS.

Drive Interface

Most portable hard drives feature a USB interface, offering easy plug-and-play capability with your computer. USB 3.0 is the latest USB standard, offering transfer speeds 10x faster than USB 2.0. Thunderbolt is a high-speed interface twice as fast as USB 3.0 and is compatible with Macs and some PCs.

Wireless Connectivity

If you need a hard drive to back up selfies on your smartphone or home videos on your tablet, then consider one with built-in WiFi. WiFi-enabled hard drives have their own wireless network built in, so you can wirelessly transfer data between your mobile device and the hard drive, anywhere, anytime. You can even store movies and your favourite playlists on the hard drive for streaming on your mobile device.

Want more info? Check out some of our resources:

Storage Solutions Buying Guide