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Learn More About Data Storage

What kind of data storage device do you need?

Diskette


Ideal for: Storing and sharing memos, letters, spreadsheets, and a few digital images at low resolution.

Key features:

  • Stores up 1.44 MB (megabytes) of information, enough for letters, memos, spreadsheets and a few digital images at low resolution. Large or complex files often require storage devices with more memory.
  • Writes data quickly, often taking just seconds to transfer data.
  • Small size (3.5 inches) makes diskettes ideal for sharing and transporting files.
What you'll need:

  • Floppy drive.
  • If your computer does not have a built–in floppy drive, you can either buy one that fits internally into the computer's drive bay and uses an existing IDE connection, or an external drive that connects to your computer's parallel port.


Zip disk


Ideal for: Storing and sharing letters, large spreadsheets, graphic–heavy reports or design layouts, digital images, and PowerPoint™ presentations.

Key features:

  • Stores from 100 to 750 MB (megabytes) of information.
  • Resistant to scratching and more durable than a diskette. Small size (only slightly larger than a diskette) also makes Zip disks easy to carry and share.


What you'll need:

  • Zip drive.
  • Zip drive options include one that fits into the computer's drive bay, or an external one that connects via the USB port or parallel port. Transfer rates depend on how the drive connects to the computer (and on the interface used, e.g. USB 2.0 vs.. USB 1.1). An internal drive is the fastest (2.4 megabytes/second), followed by the external, USB–connected drive (1.4 megabytes per second), and the external, parallel port drive (.6 megabytes per second).
  • In greater detail, the Zip 750 MB is the fastest (7.3MB/second using USB 2.0) followed by internal (2.4 MB/second for Zip 250 MB ATAPI, 1.4 MB/second for Zip 100 MB ATAPI), and external (0.9 MB/second for Zip 250 and 750 MB USB 1.1; 0.8 MB/second for Zip 250 MB parallel; 0.7 MB/second for Zip 100 MB parallel and USB 1.1).
Tips on choosing a Zip drive: Laptop users should opt for the external Zip drive that connects to either the USB port or parallel port. Desktop computer users should opt for the internal IDE/ATAPI drive that fits into the 3.5" drive bay, unless they're hesitant about opening the computer to install the drive. In this case, they should opt for either the USB or parallel port Zip drive.


CD (CD-R or CD-RW)


Ideal for: Storing MP3 music files and large applications, such as PowerPoint™ presentations, digital images, streaming videos, multimedia presentations, and CAD packages. To save files to a CD, you need a CD–RW drive (also known as a CD burner).

Key features:

  • Stores from 650 to 800 MB (megabytes) of information, enough to manage not only large files and applications, but also to back up virtually all of the important files on a computer's hard drive.
  • Two varieties of CDs: read–only (CD–R) and read–write (CD–RW). A CD–R can only be "burned" (have information written to it) once. A CD–RW can be written over as many times as you like. CD–R, then, is best for backing up information you don’t want to lose. A CD–RW is better for collaboration, since it allows for comments to be included in a file and shared.
  • Easy to carry and inexpensive, with 50 blank CDs costing as little as $20. Not resistant to scratching.
  • Allows for random access. You can click right into a file from an index.


What you'll need:
  • CD–RW drive.
  • CD–RW drives are built into most new computers, but they can also be added as a peripheral. An internal CD–RW drive can fit into a computer's 3.5" drive bay, and external models can connect to computer's USB port, parallel port, or FireWire.
  • CD–RW drive is measured by three speed ratings — write, read, and re–write. The rating for each shown as a numeral followed by an "x" (where "x" stands for 150 kilobytes per second). A drive with a speed rating of 4x4x6x, then, writes and reads at 600k/second (150k x 4) and re–writes at 900k/second. The higher the rating for each, the less time it will take to transfer information to the CD.
  • Works best when the host computer is outfitted with at least 64MB of RAM.
Tips on choosing a CD–RW drive: Laptop users should opt for the external CD–RW drive that connects to the USB port or parallel port (note: not all computers have a USB port). Desktop computer users should opt for the internal IDE/ATAPI drive that fits into the drive bay, unless they're hesitant about opening the computer to install the drive. In this case, they should opt for one of the external drives (Fire/USB/parallel port).


DVD


Ideal for: Storing movies, MPEG files, MP3 music files and large applications, such as PowerPoint™ presentations, streaming videos, multimedia presentations, and CAD packages. Also ideal for backing up all of the files on a hard drive.

Key features:

  • Stores from 4.7 to 17 GB (gigabytes) of information, which is more than enough for almost any purpose, including backing up your entire hard drive and saving 2 hours of video.
  • Small, inexpensive, and easy to carry. Offers all of the advantages of CDs, with the added advantage of much more storage space. Like CDs, however, DVDs are not scratch–resistant.
  • Allows for random access. You can click right into a file from an easy to read index.


What you'll need:

  • CD–RW/DVD–R drive. One of the great advantages of a DVD–R drive is that it can also burn CDs. All DVD–R drives, then, are CD–RW/DVD–R combo drives. Options: A CD–RW/DVD–R combo drive comes built–in with some new computers. It can also be purchased separately, as an internal drive that fits into a computer's drive bay, or as an external drive that connects by FireWire or USB port.
  • To play DVDs, a computer needs a RAM of at least 64MB and a Pentium II (or higher) processor. To record a DVD, a computer needs a RAM of at least 128MB and at least a Pentium III processor. Mac requirements include 128MB RAM, 5 GB free hard drive space, Mac OS 9.0.4 or higher, and a minimum 750 MHz processor.
Tips on choosing a CD–RW/DVD–R drive: Laptop users should opt for an external drive that connects by FireWire or USB port. (FireWire is faster than USB, but not all desktops have FireWire.) Desktop users should opt for an internal IDE/ATAPI drive, unless they don't want to open their PC. In this case they should opt for the external USB or FireWire drive.


Portable hard drive


Ideal for: Small business owners who want to save all of the data and files across their office's network and shared drives.

Key features:

  • Stores from 20 to 160 GB (gigabytes), enough room for virtually any purpose.
  • Writes information quickly and is easy to carry. Keep in mind that portable hard drives are relatively expensive.
What's available: Portable hard drives are available as internal or external versions. Internal drives fit into a computer's drive bay; external drives connect by FireWire, USB port, or parallel port.
Tip: Laptop users should opt for an external hard drive. FireWire offers the fastest transfer speeds, followed by USB and parallel port. (Not all laptops have FireWire, however.) Desktop users should opt for the internal IDE/ATAPI drive that fits into a computer's drive bay, unless they don't want to open their PC. In this case they should opt for the external FireWire, USB, or parallel port drive.


Tape Drive


Ideal for: Backing up data from a small office network or from an entire computer.

Key features:

  • Stores from 2 to 25 GB (gigabytes), enough for most purposes.
  • Reads and writes information quickly, allowing computer users to back up their entire hard drive in minutes.
  • Writes information sequentially. This means information stored on it cannot be randomly accessed as it can on a CD or DVD.
  • Used for massive back up operations rather than for sharing files. Not as portable as other storage devices.
What's available: 4MM, 8MM, and DLT (Digital Linear Tape).


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