Digital Storage Research Center: Find the right Digital Storage Medium that best works for you.

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Digital Storage Research Center

Your files are important. Keep them secure.

Whether you’re taking personal files on the go, backing them up at home or sharing them with others, Staples has a digital storage solution to fit your needs. Our research tools make it easy to find the right one. Compare hard drive models, shop by brand, and watch helpful videos.

A quick overview

Digital storage solutions are used for storing photos, music, videos, and documents. It only takes a few minutes to safely store your files. You can transfer data from one device to another, access your files on the go, or share your content with others.

Learn more about digital storage

Things to consider

Storage space

Choosing a digital storage solution largely depends on what you are storing. On average, 1GB of storage can hold approximately 500,000 pages or 256 music files. Depending on the quality of photos you want to store, 1GB can hold over 1,000 photos. You can choose from a variety of digital storage solutions including USB flash drives, internal and external hard drives, network attached storage, and online backup.

USB flash drives are small portable drives that are ideal for bringing files on the go. You can transfer files from one computer to another through an available USB connection port. Models range from 1GB to 128GB.

Networked attached storage is a physical drive that connects to your network. This solution allows you to store and share between PCs and devices in your network. Models range from 1TB to 4TB, and these are most often for business use.

Hard drives are a great choice for backing up your entire PC. A hard drive can be installed inside a computer or attached as an external component. Models range from 250GB to 2TB (1 terabyte is equal to 1,024 gigabytes).

Online backup allows you to access your files from any device with an Internet connection. Your files are encrypted and automatically saved to a data center with state-of-the-art security. Storage can be unlimited.


Take your files on the go and share them with others. How you intend to access your photos, music, and documents varies greatly from one digital storage solution to another. Internet access should be a consideration when choosing a digital storage solution.

No Internet connection? USB flash drives, media disks, and hard drives are ideal for locations without Internet access. These devices can easily be carried from one location to the next, making it possible to access and share your files on the go.

Network attached storage and online back up can be accessed from any location of device that has Internet access. These types of storage solutions are ideal for mobile devices or locations that have Wi-Fi or broadband access.


Your files are at risk when you don’t back them up. That’s why security is a very important factor to keep in mind when choosing your digital storage solution. Protect your files on a hard drive to avoid losing your family photos, downloaded music, and important documents forever.

Most digital storage solutions have some form of security, but the strength of that security can vary greatly. From password protected USB flash drives and media disks, to military grade encryption and security technology on external hard drives and online storage. No matter which digital storage solution you choose, each guarantees that your files are safe and secure.

Different types of digital storage

Whether storing, sharing, or simply backing up files there's a digital storage solution for you. Browse by interest to find the
digital storage solution that best fits your needs.

Basic Storage

Key Features

  • For basic, everyday storage needs
  • Accommodates a range of storage capacities
  • Available in small, portable form factors

Available products:

CDs, DVDs, blu-ray discs
USB thumb drives
Flash memory
External hard drives
Internal hard drives


Enhanced storage

Key Features

  • A physical drive that connects to your network
  • Allows you to store and share between PCs and devices in your network
  • Provides remote access
  • Enhanced security features

Available products:

Networked Storage Drives

Online backup

Key Features

  • Files are automatically saved to a secure data center
  • Allows remote access to files from PCs and mobile devices
  • Unlimited storage capacities
  • Requires no hardware, but does require a monthly or yearly
    service plan

Available products:

Online Backup

Storage capacity overview



Glossary of terms

  • All terms
  • ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment)
  • Average Access Time
  • Backup
  • Bad Block
  • BIOS (Basic Input/Output System)
  • Bit
  • Bus
  • Byte
  • Cache
  • Capacity
  • Cluster
  • Controller
  • Central Processing Unit (CPU)
  • Data Recovery
  • Directory
  • Disk
  • Disk Cache
  • Disk Drive
  • Drive Array
  • File Allocation Table (FAT)
  • Fibre Channel
  • Firewire®
  • Format
  • Hard Disk
  • Hard Drive
  • Head Actuator
  • IDE
  • Interface
  • I/O (Input/Output)
  • Kilobyte (KB)
  • Megabyte (MB)
  • Millisecond (ms)
  • Operating System (OS)
  • Partitioning
  • Peripheral
  • Platter
  • Port
  • RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks)
  • RAM (Random-Access Memory)
  • ROM (Read-Only Memory)
  • RPM
  • SCSI (Small Computer System Interface)
  • Sector
  • Seek Time
  • Spindle
  • System-Level Interface
  • Track
  • Transfer Rate
  • Ultra ATA/100
  • Universal Serial Bus (USB)
  • Utilities Program

ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment)
A disk drive interface standard for IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics). This is a standard for storage devices, letting the attachment act as if it were a hard drive on the system. Any ATA-compatible media can be read by an ATA device.

Average Access Time
The time (in milliseconds) that a disk drive takes to find the right track in response to a request (the seek time), plus the time it takes to get to the right place on the track (the latency).

To make a copy of a file, group of files or the entire contents of a hard disk either for archiving purposes or for safeguarding valuable files from loss should the original copy be damaged or destroyed.

Bad Block
A disk sector that can no longer be used for data storage, usually due to media damage or imperfections.

BIOS (Basic Input/Output System)
A collection of computer routines that control peripherals, such as disk drives.

A binary digit is the smallest piece of information that can be recognized and processed by a computer. A bit is either 0 or 1 and can form larger units of information called bytes (8 bits).

A term used for an electronic device in which a number of elements are wired together with a single wire so that all the elements can use the same wire to transmit information to other devices on it. Buses are used internally in computers to attach computers to peripherals. Only devices addressed by the signals pay attention to them; the others discard the signals.

A sequence of adjacent binary digits that the computer considers a unit. A byte consists of 8 bits.

High-speed RAM used as a buffer between the CPU and a hard drive. The cache retains recently gathered information to speed up subsequent access to the same data. When data is read from or written to a disk, a copy is saved in the cache, along with the associated disk address. The cache monitors the addresses of subsequent read operations to see if the required data is already in the cache. If it is, the drive returns the data immediately. If it is not in the cache, then it is retrieved from the disk and saved in the cache.

The amount of data that a disk drive can store after the drive is formatted. Most disk drive companies calculate disk capacity based upon 1 megabyte = 1,000 kilobytes and1 gigabyte = 1,000 megabytes.

A hard disk term that refers to a group of sectors, the smallest storage unit recognized by DOS. On most modern hard disks, four 512-byte sectors make up a cluster, and one or more clusters make up a track.

A device that transfers information between the computer and peripheral devices. The controller (or control unit) acts as a traffic manager.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The CPU is the main processing chip of a computer. It interprets and executes the actual computing tasks, and has the ability to transfer information to and from other resources over the computer's main data-transfer path, the bus.

Data Recovery
Data recovery is the procedure used to recover data from a variety of media and operating systems that is lost by either hardware failure, human error, software bugs, a virus or a natural disaster.

A list of file names and locations of files on a disk.

A circular metal platter with magnetic material on both sides that stores data. Disks are rotated continuously, so that read/write heads mounted on movable or fixed arms can read or write programs or data to and from the disk.

Disk Cache
A portion of a computer's RAM set aside for temporarily holding information that was read from a disk. The disk cache does not hold entire files as does a RAM disk, but information that was either recently requested from a disk or was previously written to a disk.

Disk Drive
The motor that actually rotates the disk, plus the read/write heads and mechanisms.

Drive Array
A storage system composed of several hard disks. Data is divided among the different drives for greater speed and higher reliability.

File Allocation Table (FAT)
The operating system uses a file allocation table to keep track of which clusters are allocated to certain files and which clusters are available for use.

Fibre Channel
A technology for transmitting data between computer devices at data rates from 100 to 400 MBps over optical fiber or copper. Fibre channel is optimized for connecting servers to shared storage devices and for interconnecting storage controllers and drives.

FireWire (IEEE1394 High Performance Serial Bus) is a very fast external bus that supports data transfer rates of up to 800 Mbps. These devices can be connected and disconnected any time, even with the power on. When a new FireWire device is connected to a computer, the operating system automatically detects it and prompts for the driver disk.

A DOS command that records the physical organization of tracks and sectors on a disk.

Hard Disk
A mass storage device that transfers data between the computer's memory and the disk storage media. Hard disks are rotating, rigid, magnetic storage disks. (Also called a hard drive.)

Hard Drive
The hard drive is the primary storage area (the C: drive, for instance) of a computer. (Also called a hard disk.)

Head Actuator
In a disk drive, this is the mechanism that moves the read/write head radially across the surface of the platter of the disk drive.

Integrated Drive Electronics, also called ATA, is a connection standard that integrates the drive's controller chip on the drive itself.

The drive interface is the "language" or protocol a drive uses to communicate with a host computer or network. The three main types of drive interfaces are ATA (IDE), SCSI and Fibre Channel. The ATA and SCSI interfaces have evolved to include many subtypes, which may or may not be backwardly compatible.

I/O (Input/Output)
Input is the data flowing into your computer. Output is the data flowing out. I/O can refer to the parallel and serial ports, keyboard, video display, hard disks and floppy disks.

Kilobyte (KB)
1,024 bytes, but it is often used loosely as a synonym for 1,000 bytes and sometimes abbreviated as k (lowercase), K-byte, K or KB for kilobyte. Data transfer rates are measured in kilobytes per second, abbreviated as KBps, and count a kilo as 1,000 bytes.

Megabyte (MB)
1,048,576 bytes (1,024 times 1,024). This is used to describe the total capacity of a hard disk or the total amount of RAM. Sometimes abbreviated as Mb, M, MB or meg for megabyte.

Millisecond (ms)
1/1,000 (one-thousandth) of a second. Hard disks are rated in milliseconds and higher numbers mean slower performance.

Operating System (OS)
The operating system performs basic tasks, such as recognizing input from the keyboard, sending output to the screen, keeping track of files and directories on the disk, and controlling peripheral devices, such as disk drives and printers. PC operating systems include DOS and Windows XP, and Apple Mac operating systems include OS 9 and OS X.

A method for creating a logical file structure that the operating system can access. Partitioning divides an area on the disk drive for use by more than one disk operating system, or for dividing large disk drives into areas that the file allocation table (FAT) can deal with when in use.

A device that performs a function and is external to the system board. Peripherals include displays, disk drives and printers.

A metal or other rigid material disk that is mounted inside a fixed-disk drive. Many drives consist of multiple platters mounted on the spindle to provide more data storage surfaces. Each platter may use one or both surfaces to store data.

This is the interface between components of a computer system. These can be internal or external, in SCSI, EIDE, IDE and other varieties.

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks)
RAID is a way of storing the same data in different places (thus, redundantly) on multiple hard disks. By placing data on multiple disks, input/output operations can overlap in a balanced way, improving performance. Since multiple disks increases the mean time between failure (MTBF), storing data redundantly increases fault-tolerance.

RAM (Random-Access Memory)
Also known as read-write memory, this is the memory used to execute application programs.

ROM (Read-Only Memory)
The memory chip(s) that permanently store computer information and instructions. Your computer's BIOS (basic input/output system) information is stored in a ROM chip.

RPM is a measurement of how fast a hard disk’s platters are spinning (in revolutions per minute). The faster the spin rate, the less time it takes for the drive to read or write a given amount of data.

SCSI (Small Computer System Interface)
A system-level interface designed for general-purpose applications that allows up to seven devices to be connected to a single host adapter. It uses an 8-bit parallel connection that produces a maximum transfer rate of 5Mb per second. The term is pronounced "scuzzy."

The basic storage unit on a hard disk. On most modern hard disks, sectors are 512 bytes each; four sectors make up a cluster.

Seek Time
Seek time is an average of how long a drive takes to move the read/write heads to a particular track on the disc. It includes controller overhead but does not include drive latency.

SMART (Self Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology)
SMART is an industry standard compatible with most modern hard drives and employs predictive diagnostics and analysis to help foresee a drive failure before it happens.

One part of a hard disk, around which the platters rotate.

System-Level Interface
A connection between the hard disk and its host system that puts control and data-separation functions on the drive itself (and not on the external controller). SCSI and IDE are system-level interfaces.

The circular path traced across the spinning surface of a disk platter by the read/write head inside the hard disk drive. The track consists of one or more clusters.

Transfer Rate
The speed at which a disk drive can transfer information between its platters and the CPU. The transfer rate is typically measured in megabytes per second, megabits per second or megahertz.

Ultra ATA/100
Ultra ATA/100 is an extension of the current Ultra ATA/66 interface. Ultra ATA/100 is a high-speed interface that has the capability of a 100 Mbytes/sec transfer rate and a maximized disk performance under the current PCI local bus environment.

Universal Serial Bus (USB)
A serial bus with a bandwidth of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) for connecting peripherals to a microcomputer. USB can connect up to 127 peripherals, such as external CD-ROM drives, printers, modems, mice and keyboards, to the system through a single, general-purpose port. This is accomplished by daisy chaining peripherals together. USB supports hot plugging and multiple data streams.

Utilities Program
A program designed to perform maintenance work on a system or on system components, e.g., a storage backup program, a disk and file recovery program or a resource editor.

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