Storage Upgrades: Internal and External Drives - dummies

Storage Upgrades: Internal and External Drives

By Mark L. Chambers

Why limit yourself to the sorry patch of digital real estate that originally shipped with your PC? Upgrading your PC’s original hard drive, or perhaps a slower, older DVD recorder is a storage upgrade because you use these devices to permanently store (or record) data for later use.

Hard drives and DVD/Blu-Ray recorders are both continually dropping in price (and adding extra capacity and features), which is fortuitous because today’s operating systems and applications tend to take up more and more hard drive space. Therefore, it’s only natural that most serious PC users will eventually decide to add a second drive (or replace their existing drives with new units).

Adding a hard drive

The majority of today’s PCs use Serial ATA (or SATA) hard drives, which can be mounted internally (within your PC’s case) or externally (by connecting to a USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire port). You’ll also encounter older Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE, sometimes called PATA) hard drives, which are fast disappearing from today’s PCs — they’re significantly slower than SATA drives and harder to configure.

Finally, some high-performance machines can use external SATA drives by connecting to an eSATA port.

Here’s how to tell which type of drive you should choose:

  • Internal: Choose an internal drive if you don’t mind opening your PC’s case and installing a new drive. Internal drives are significantly cheaper than external drives and are somewhat faster than external FireWire or USB 3.0 drives. Finally, you won’t use any more of your precious desktop space.

  • External: Choose an external drive if you would rather not open your computer or if you have no available hard drive bays left in your computer’s case. (Don’t laugh — techno-types can fill up even the largest tower case with all sorts of devices.) External hard drives can be shared among computers that have the same ports, and you can simply unplug an external drive and carry it with you. (How’s that for security?)

Adding a recorder

DVD recorders have been around for years, and they’re equally attractive as internal drives or external devices. Today’s eSATA, FireWire, and USB recorders are almost as blazing fast as their internal brethren!

Therefore, as long as you have an eSATA, USB, or FireWire port, you now have the same choice with hard drives: Either stick it in your machine or leave it outside. It works like a charm either way.

The new generation of recordable Blu-Ray drives can hold 30 or 50GB on a single disc, and prices have dropped drastically on Blu-Ray drives! Blu-Ray drives can also read and record standard DVD discs. Therefore, before you invest in a simple DVD recorder, consider buying a rewriteable Blu-Ray drive instead.