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External Hard Drives

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Extend your computer’s internal storage capacity by adding an external hard drive. External hard disk drives (HDDs) are standalone storage devices suitable for backing up internal hard drives to prevent against data loss caused by system crashes. Browse the large inventory of data storage devices at Staples® to find a wide selection of external HDDs from leading computer storage brands.

Choose Between Portable and Desktop External Hard Drives
Portable external storage drives are compact, mobile storage units with 2.5-inch HDDs. They connect to computers via USB cables and also use this connection for power and data transfers. These USB-powered, plug-and-play storage devices make transferring files between computers easier. Choose one with a rugged, shock-resistant casing that protects the mobile drive ensures it survives accidental drops.

Desktop external HDDs are desk-bound storage units available in higher storage capacities. Compared to portable units, these storage devices mostly use 3.5-inch HDDs, have higher energy consumption, and draw power from included AC adapters. Some external drives have multiple hard disk drives and have built-in fans that help prevent overheating and drive failure.

Consider Speed When Shopping for External Hard Drives
The speed of an external HDD depends on the rotational speed of its hard disk and the type of interface it uses. The two rotational speeds available for consumer HDDs are 5400 revolutions per minute (rpm) and, the faster 7200 rpm. Most external drives connect to computers via USB interfaces. For fast file transfers, pick a unit with a USB 3.0 or 3.1 port. USB 3.1 is twice as fast as USB 3.0 and 20  times faster than USB 2.0. Some models have Thunderbolt™ interfaces. While only a handful of computers support Thunderbolt, the interface competes favorably with USB. If you’re looking for Thunderbolt external drives, pick a model with Thunderbolt 3 support. This port is much faster than USB 3.1 and uses the increasingly popular and reversible USB-C interface.

What External Hard Drive Capacity Should You Choose?
The smallest portable hard drives offer 250 GB to 500 GB of capacity. Choose one of these if you only wish to carry essential files. External storage drives with 1 TB capacity are ideal for backing up laptop hard drives. Ideally, the external drive to get is one with at least twice the capacity of the internal HDD that requires regular backup. Opt for hard drives with 2 TB or higher capacities to store large multimedia files. Such high-capacity external drives are perfect for gaming PCs and media servers.

What Are the Benefits of External Hard Drives with SSDs?
Solid-state drives (SSDs) use flash memory, rather than spinning magnetic platter, for data storage. Unlike HDDs, they have no moving parts. This difference makes SSDs more reliable and more durable. They also run silently, generate less heat, and consume less power. However, the major benefit of external SSDs is their superior read and write speeds. They’re five to seven times faster than external HDDs.

What Are Wireless External Hard Drives?
These are external HDDs with built-in Wi-Fi® and rechargeable batteries. A wireless drive creates its own Wi-Fi® network and doesn’t require USB cables to connect to PCs. Get one to stream movies and music to multiple computers and mobile devices on the go.

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