Choosing an external hard drive -- portable vs. desk top

Okay, so I’ve got a new computer (HP Pavilion desktop w/Windows7HomePremium64) and it’s past time I set up a good backup system. Since I’m still on dial up I figure the best solution is an external hard drive, yes?

From what I’ve read, Win7 includes a decent backup utility, and thus any plug and play drive will do. Yes?

The external hard drives seems to come in portable and desktop, various sizes. I don’t need the drive to be portable, it’s unlikely I’ll ever move it other than during furniture rearrangement, and I have plenty of spots left on the surge protector to plug it in. OTOH, it looks like the portable drives actually cost somewhat less than the equivalent capacity desktop ones.

From looking at some specs, it seems the portable ones weigh around 8 oz. while the desktop ones are 2 pounds plus. Does this mean the stationery ones are built better or something? Aluminum vs. plastic parts, maybe? Maybe making them more reliable?

And the portable ones are smaller physically, but that doesn’t matter in my set up – I’ve got a biiiig desk.
Is there any reason I should lean towards one kind or the other?

Oh, and are their brands I should look for or avoid?

Thanks for any advice. :slight_smile:

It took me a second to figure out what being on dial up could possibly have to do with what backup system you use, but I finally realized you meant that you were choosing to do on-site backup as opposed to one of those off-site services you can do over the internet. :slight_smile:

The inexpensive portable external drives you’re seeing are (I’m guessing, since you didn’t link to any) designed to draw power from a USB port. The others probably draw power from a wall outlet like your computer does.

The key to getting an external hard drive is, in my opinion, to buy a quality hard drive and then buy an enclosure to put it in. That way, when (not if) the hard drive fails at some point down the line, you know for certain that you can swap it out.

Outside of that, if you really care about your data, buy two of whatever it is you buy so that you can keep one of them off-site (work, a friend’s house, whatever) at all times.

A portable will usually be limited to USB connections (and USB speeds). A desktop may have esata or firewire interfaces, and will probably come with the esata cable and adapter. If you are backing up a huge amount of data, this may be a factor for you.

I would suggest that you put some deep thought into your full backup solution. It’s too easy to think that an external drive is a backup—it isn’t. In my own search for a good backup solution, convenience of transporting was important so I selected two of those small Passport drives.

My mantra on this is always If there aren’t two copies in separate places, it isn’t a backup!

Points to consider:
[li]Are you going to use online storage? (e.g. Mozy) If so, then you can be more relaxed about your other backups.[/li][li]Do you want to keep two drives and swap them out, one at home and the other at work?[/li][li]What happens if someone steals your hardware or there is a fire?[/li][li]What keeps you from accidentally replicating corrupted files to your backup, destroying any chances of retrieval?[/li][/ul]You also might want to do a bit of research into the file system you choose. NTFS should do the trick if you are Windows-only, but many of those drives come formatted out of the box with FAT32, and if you have a mixed environment you might wish to try other options such as the *nix file systems.

I think the entire HP Pavilion series has a Personal Media Drive bay (I have the e9290f myself).
This lets you hot swap an external drive that plugs directly into the enclosed bay when you have it docked.
I have a second internal hard drive but I also just bought the dockable Personal Media Drive (1 TB for about $120, I think) to use as a backup. (goes on sale occ)

The advantage is that it comes with backup software already installed, and an external plug and USB cable for use with other computers. And when it’s in the Pavilion, it’s completely out of sight, in the drive bay behind the door.

Because it’s so easily swappable, you can carry it around if needed; nice for transferring the occasional large files.

The obvious drawback is that your backup is in the same location as your computer. But you can back up critical files online, and you can yank the personal drive out and put it in some other physical location if it contains critical stuff and you are leaving town or something.

Just my 2c with this particular computer.

Wow. Thank you for the replies, but you’ve left me more confuzzled than when I started. :frowning:

I thought I was going to finally be a ‘responsible’ use by getting an external drive. But apparently that’s hardly good enough. I need to get two of whatever, and rotate them somehow, and keep one somewhere else, and…

Then minor7flat5 asks:

What happens if someone steals your hardware or there is a fire?
What keeps you from accidentally replicating corrupted files to your backup, destroying any chances of retrieval?

Which is a damn good question. File X gets munged without my noticing it. As a ‘changed’ file it would be automatically written to the external file that night (or whatever the schedule is) and then, when I swap the external drives that week – as a changed filed it’ll get written to the second back up, too. Leaving me with three copies, none of them good. :confused:

This doesn’t sound at all useful. At least when I used CD/DVDs for backup, the older versions don’t get changed. It’s a lot more hassle writing to the disk, but at least it preserves the files.

Until the disk fails. :mad:

I think I’ll just spend the money on booze instead.

In addition to the automatic backup, do a manual backup as well. All that means is making a folder named 2009-December-backup, and copying your important files onto it.

If something becomes corrupt, and the corrupted file gets backed up, you still have all those manual backups to fall back on.

The main thing to do is decide which files are really, truly vital. If your house burned down, what files would you absolutely have to recover? Those are the only files that really need an off-site backup.

You can also copy your most vital files onto an inexpensive flash drive, and throw it in your pocket or purse.

I backup huge amounts of stuff on my external hard drive - saved games, MP3s, funny cat pictures, etc. These are things I would like to have back if my computer crashes. I don’t bother to make an offsite backup of them, because they’re not really that important.

As for your original question, I really like the portable hard drives. I don’t think there’s any difference in reliability. A portable drive is just a laptop drive. I’ve never heard of laptop drives being any less reliable than desktop drives.