The CNET Lounge forum

General discussion

What do you use your external hard drive for?

by Marc Bennett CNET staff/forum admin / July 12, 2006 7:39 AM PDT

What do you use your external hard drive for?

Backing up files (tell us more)
Additional storage space (tell us more)
Organizing media files (tell us more)
As a shared storage drive (tell us more)
Locking up important files (tell us more)
Other (please explain)
I don't have an external drive

Post a reply
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: What do you use your external hard drive for?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: What do you use your external hard drive for?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Very handy inexpensive file dumping ground
by rgfitz / July 12, 2006 9:57 AM PDT

I use my external Western Digital USB hard drive to store all of my .jpg files and the backup files for my desktop and laptop. In fact, I recently deleted some .jpg files from my internal hard drive by mistake and couldn't get them back using PC Inspector Smart Recovery so I just restored my hard drive using the Acronis True Image backup. It worked like a charm.

It was a great investment for the $50 cost.

Collapse -
Additional data storage
by rbarkley / July 13, 2006 9:35 PM PDT

I work a lot with video and need the addtional space to store large video files. I run an HP Media Center 3.0Ghz with 250Gb (primary) and 150Gb internal hard drives. I have 300Gb and 120Gb WD externals for storage of video files after capture. When I am ready to edit and publish video I transfer the files to my 150 internal. I know externals are not the best for data storage, but I need the space!

Collapse -
XT Hard Drive
by fnelson / July 13, 2006 9:39 PM PDT

I use mine for additional storage space. Add my internal HD and the internal one together and I have 140 GB. Without it I have only 20GB. That was fine when I bought the computer but certainly insufficient these days. All my programs for working day to day I keep inside. Frieda

Collapse -
External hard drive= waste of money.
by farhansyed / July 13, 2006 10:44 PM PDT

Why pay a lot of money for an external hard drive? Often times they use poorly designed enclosures, cheap ''off-brand'' hard disk drives, and require mediocre driver/utility software be loaded on your computer. More importantly, there isn't anything that an external hard disk is good for that another device/medium wouldn't be BETTER for.

If your comuter's hard disk is getting too full to hold your important documents/data, or if you want to have a backup copy of that important information, then it's time to put the data onto good quality CD-R or DVD-R discs. TDK and a few other companies make special premium ''archival'' CD-R discs that are individually tested at the factory to ensure that they have zero bytes in bad sectors and are guaranteed to hold data for at least 100 years. That would be a far better choice than any hard disk for backing up important information.

If your computer's hard disk just isn't big enough to hold the programs you need to run, or if it's getting so full that your computer is slowing to a crawl, then you should back up your data and upgrade to a larger capacity drive. And of course if you suspect excessive bad sectors or other problems with it, then you might as well replace it now, rather than wait for it to completely fail and risk having an inoperable computer and lost data. Now is a very good time to purchase a new hard disk, as all of the major electronics retailers are running ''loss leader'' sales on both IDE and SATA models.

In either case, I fail to see the usefulness of an external hard disk, for any purpose.

Collapse -
valid points, but they aren't absolute
by ackmondual / July 14, 2006 2:13 AM PDT

ext hd shouldn't be used for very long term storage. While it's fail rate and 'shelf life' are shorter than CD-Rs and DVDR, it's still good

ext hd still offers conveniences:
-practical incremental backups
using read only optical discs forces you to backup data in huge chunks. Ppl don't want to waste a 700MB CDR for just 50MB of data. Yet, if they fill it up to get the near full capacity, that may take days or even weeks. If the work/data is that crucial, that's too long to be without recent backups

even if you use RW optical discs, there may be a small chance (haven't done this a while, so not completely sure) of failure. You burn something on a certain, and when you try to restore it later on using the same PC with the same burner and burner software, the data is mysteriously inaccessible. Even if this has become a moot point, there's still a chance that a DVD-RW burned with say, Nero on one PC may not work with another burner software of another PC or even another version of Nero. With ext hd, it's all either USB1 or USB2. If your PC has any of these (which most nowadays do), then there's a high chance it'll be compatible

-more sheer capacity
as another poster alr mentioned, ext hds have high enough capacity that one wouldn't be forced to backup stuff across 8 DVDs, or 50 CDs. This is actually fine for archives, but for stuff that one needs to access often, it may be quite a chore to have to swap discs all the time

-not every1 can just "clear out" internal hd space
true, for some ppl this is easier said than done b/c they're not exactly up to snuff on maintaining and organizing their data (as in they should've concerned themselves with this when they were about half capacity and not when they're down to 3% to 6% freespace), but for whatever the reason that they can't bear to lose their precious data and files (either over sentimental or legitimately important files), having an extra hd to dump some keepsake files is helpful to give them more time and space to organize stuff and maybe even burn some of it to permanently relive space from both HDs

-drag and drop interface
You can't beat that. Granted burner softwares are that way too, but there's still the actual process of burning the data, which isn't as quick as to an ext hd

Collapse -
Your post= not always right! :)
by Ultrafast / July 14, 2006 7:07 AM PDT


I totally disagree with your post!

First I will explain why I use external hard drives on my computer. I have a quad 2.5GHz powermac (Just got it, with 8gb of RAM it flies!). Inside I have two 500GB SATA drives, which is just abou the max I can fit (physically) in this computer. I use one drive for applications and usual stuff. The second drive is reserved for a Photoshop CS2 scratch disk and photo storage. This may seem like overkill until you realize that with a Nikon D2x it is usual to return from an even with 8-10GB of photos or much more from a full day of shooting. These images end up around 1GB each once they have been double processed and recombined with lots of layers and finally upsized to 30x40 @300DPI. So, basically I have a 2/3rds full computer, just from this crazy stuff. This is fine for now, but I have the eternal problem: BACKUPS!

I could use CDs, but it would need nearly 1000 to backup my computer. I could use DVDs but it would take around 140. I could use DL DVDs, but it would still take about 75. This makes any optical media a totally non-viable backup method, since the cost would be more than a new external hard drive every time and I would need a ton of closet space.

Now, to some extent I agree with your point about the unreliability of hard drives- I have had several of them fail (though far fewer than scratched "archival" DVDs). So, I bought a two and a half terabyte (2500GB) RAID SATA II external enclosure from Lacie. I have had great experiances with their pro equipment in the past, and this followed that legacy. I have it set up as a RAID array with more than 1000GBs of redundant storage space. This means that even if one of the extremely reliable drives were to fail I can simply pop another one in ($300) and it reconstructs the fail-safe in a matter of hours.

The speed of this system is at least equivalent to that of my internal drives (perhaps faster, since it is connected through PCI-Express with a tremendously fast interface). And add to that, that the system is extremely secure.

My only issue is if I were to have a catastrophe like a flood all my stuff would be lost. I am considering adding a network attached storage system that would be enclosed in a secure location, but after this buying spree I am flat broke.

In conclusion, external drives have a clear purpose.

Collapse -
I like mine
by Steves1030 / July 16, 2006 5:10 AM PDT

I have a Western Digital 120GB which when i purchased it I got a $40.00 rebate back, i use it to store music files and encoded movie files for my palm lifedrive, I have had it for well over a year and really like it, just my two cents worth, I think external harddrives are great,,

Collapse -
I agree, partially.
by Bhagwan069 / March 29, 2012 10:46 AM PDT

i agree that cd's are somewhat practical, but a HD about 5-6X thicker can hold upto 100x more than a single layered dvd.

Collapse -
security and piece of mind
by eugene555 / July 13, 2006 10:51 PM PDT

My sister and I both purchased external hard drives to back up an ever increasing number of digital pictures...We both take a lot of pictures and with a high quality camera that uses a lot of memory. I use mine mainly for backup but also to help clear out files from my computer drive...I also back the pictures up on cd or dvd so I feel they will be there when I want or need them...The 250g Lacie external drive (my sis had to top me with a 500g) works fine but I do not keep it plugged into the USB or turned on except when I am using it...

Collapse -
Backup and storage
by CWatkinsNash / July 13, 2006 11:26 PM PDT

One of my external drives is used for backup with Ghost. The other holds my mp3s. When I have the money to get back into video work, I'll have one for that too.

I disagree with the post discouraging the use of external drives. Why? The Ghost files would fill 2.5 DVDs. My desktop backs up automatically three times a week in the middle of the night. Yes, I back up the Ghost files to DVD occasionally.

The other reason - the mp3s. I have those backed up to DVD as well, but using the DVDs (six of them) to access those files regularly would be a nightmare.

There is no reason not to use external drives. You just have to treat them with the same care and common sense as you do with the rest of your system. The same goes when buying one - don't cut corners to get the largest capacity for the least money.

Collapse -
care to elaborate on that?
by ackmondual / July 14, 2006 12:59 AM PDT
In reply to: Backup and storage

If i didn't ask, I'm sure some1 else would'v

"The same goes when buying one - don't cut corners to get the largest capacity for the least money."

-Can you recommend some name brands for ext hds?
All i know of are Maxtor, Western Digital, and SeaGate

-is there a limit to the price per GB ratio?
I know prices vary by sales/promos, brand, and venue but what's a reasonable ratio we should be looking for then? $0.75/GB?

-Are pure ext hd decent or should we really shoot for a hd enclosure?

-what else should we look for or be aware of?

Collapse -
Reliable external drives
by Ultrafast / July 14, 2006 7:13 AM PDT


You enquire about a reliable external hard drive. This does not exisit :).......(just joking)

The brands you mention are fairly well regarded, as is LaCie, for their high end stuff. If you want true security for your data, you have to go to a RAID (redundant array of inexpensive drives). While, contrary to the acronym RAID systems are expensive (though not as expensive as the SCSI ultra 320 drives), they offer the ultimate in fail safe reliabilty with at a minimum two copies of all the information.

You may not want to get the cheapest stuff there is. I made that mistake and it cost me. I had to replace the cheap drive with a good one, after the first failed. Cost= cheap drive + expensive drive, and I could have eliminated the intermediate step.

External enclosures CAN be great. The problem is some cheap ones cut corners and this really hurts either the power supply system or the data transfer system, which will kill in the long run. If you get a good one you can save some $$$$ and end up with a high quality product.

Collapse -
Some aren't as good as they used to be
by CWatkinsNash / July 15, 2006 12:03 AM PDT

LaCie does make some great drives. I have one myself. My boyfriend, a filmmaker, has a ton of them actively in use. It's really creepy when he fires up his editing rig and they all wake up at once. A faint humming sound, the air feels kind of energized - like in sci-fi movies when a portal is about to open up.

I have heard of a few problems but it seems the worst problem is dealing with the people at LaCie in the rare instances when something does goes wrong.

Another problem with enclosures is proper cooling and ventilation.

You know how some online retailers have "people who bought this also bought" like on Amazon? I've seen evidence of a lot of people buying a really good drive with a really cheap enclosure. Then later, they give the hard drive a bad review. Go figure. The same is true in reverse. Sadly, when someone combines something expensive with something cheap, the expensive component will usually get blamed for the failure.

Collapse -
Wrong subject line
by CWatkinsNash / July 15, 2006 12:06 AM PDT

Okay, when I wrote that subject line, I was going to refer to an enclosure manufacturer, but I couldn't find the name of the one I was looking for. I just kinda forgot to change the subject line. Happy

Collapse -
Automatic Backup
by regcnet / July 14, 2006 3:00 AM PDT

I have an external Western Digital hard drive always plugged into my computer. I backup the entire "c" drive every night using the Retrospect program that came with the drive. I take digital photographs daily and oftentimes improve them. I would hate to lose any of my work. I also use that external hard drive to "drag and drop" files I only access upon occasion. I also have done a Ghost back-up to dvd's. But I am not going to spend that time very often. So the external hard drive always attached gives me one layer of hope that if I lose the data on my computer it will be available on the external hard drive.

I also have a second external hard drive. When I have time I copy the entire My Documents file there (including any pictures) and move that away from the computer. I never want to lose year's worth of data and pictures.

All of this is not very time consuming once it is setup.

Collapse -
Automatic backup with Ghost 9 vs. manual on an external H/D
by jhalber / July 14, 2006 7:51 PM PDT
In reply to: Automatic Backup

I have read in your post that you keep your WD external hard drive plugged always to your computer and you are backing up automatically. I am just in the process of buying a WD external drive and I wonder if it is not safer to disconnect the drive from the computer after every back-up session. This means, of course, that I have to backup manually but I am protected 100% against power surges and other evils.

Collapse -
Additional data storage
by mcummins / July 14, 2006 5:03 AM PDT

This might be a little off topic; but what about network hard drives. My family is returning from a summer in Europe with tons of digital pictures and video. My home network is wired with an access point serving 2 laptops. My computer has 100GB hard drive. I was thinking of the network hard drive to store the media files with easy access from all computers.

Slightly different: do you have an opinion on the Mirra Personal Server from Seagate?



Collapse -
Edit to my last post
by mcummins / July 14, 2006 5:06 AM PDT

I plan on creating slide shows and movies, using Ulead, and having them available in some way to friends and family. Still learning how to do that via some cnet classes.

Thanks again,


Collapse -
Use of External Hard Drive.
by Kakez.b $ / July 14, 2006 5:21 AM PDT

I use a 160 GB Hard Drive to store data during processing of Video Files.
The files in quwtion, at the moment, consist of 16 and a Half hours of silent movies I had converted to DVD.
I edit, add comentary and music and burn to the finished product.
If the drive should fail then I have only lost the data on the current 1 hour of video.
As I can copy the original again the worst that can happen is I lose the time I have spent editing and adding commentary and music.
In passing I must add that this process considerably enhances the movie as it is converted from 18 frames per second to 25, (PAL) thereby giving a smoother picture.
I use ULEAD Studio 9 as I find this a more stable and user friendly application than its rivals
I also store second backup of 1500 colour slides I
have scanned and compiled on a database

Keith Hume

Collapse -
I use it for two things
by paul dexler / July 14, 2006 5:36 AM PDT

I have my external drive divided into two logical partitions. The large one is for backups of my C:, D:, and G: drives. The (much) smaller partition is used for the scratch drive for video editing. I currently have a 160 GB drive, but it is shortly being replaced with a 250 GB unit. I run two internal hard drives, one partitioned into C: and G:, the other into D:, E:, and F:. C: is for programs, including the operating system, D: is for data, and G: is for graphics, mainly images from my digital camera. Periodically, G: is backed up to CDs for more permanent storage and to free up disc space. E: is the scratch drive for Photoshop, and F: is exclusively for the Windows swap file.

Collapse -
backing up data
by ackmondual / July 14, 2006 6:53 AM PDT

-pictures (clips from online DLs, screenshots, photos, and scanned items)
-video clips
-PC game save files
-personal and other documents
-files for my PDA

I had my HD die on my before. Didn't keep recent backups for the bulk of my stuff, but that was fine since I actually did backup the more important files. Everything else was nice to have, but i could easily do without. Having an ext hardrive is convenient b/c u just drag and drop. w/DVD and CD burners using R discs forces you to get as much of the max capacity full as possible. RWs may not be compatible across other PCs and burner softwares. With ext hd, just plug into any USB PC and you're good to go.

That said, I do commit stuff that's suited for archival like picture to optical disc. I will also be getting a bigger ext hd. I've got an 80GB hd for my 160GB IDE. Got the former on sale, but now that several years have passed, I can count on higher capacities 200GB+ to be cheaper than ever

Collapse -
Good company!
by tomemak / July 15, 2006 12:00 AM PDT

With an external hard drive you can work on your own documents anywhere you are, provided that there is a computer of any kind, without caring about a laptop. An external hard drive is much safer than a laptop and you can keep it anywhere you want. Besides, you can use it as a safe 'storage space' of important data in case of any damage to your computer.

Collapse -
External Hard Drive usage
by waggoner / July 15, 2006 11:29 PM PDT

1]Back up

2]Any software I download prior to loading

3]Some times use the drive for data transfer when helping friends with problems

Collapse -
Movie Storage for D-Link Media Center
by romanman69 / August 1, 2006 6:38 AM PDT

I'm a movie fiend and save all my movies to external hard drives. I have one dedicated media server computer and the D-Link Media Center. I currently have 6 external hard drives on that computer (3-120GB Seagates, 3-200 GB Maxtors. All run 24 hours a day inside a home entertainment case with exhaust cooling fans at the top rear. So far no problems and they've been running for almost a year.

I also have 2 more of the 200GB drives on my main computer as spares when I fill the others up. I bought all the drives when they were on sale $30 for the Seagates and $40 for the Maxtors then put them in inexpensive aluminum external hard drive cases ($15 each).

The media computer is a "reconditioned" IBM (low profile) 1.8 GHZ Pentium with 256 MB RAM that I got from "TigerDirect" for $200. I upgraded the RAM with another 256 MB ($19) and a 16x DL DVD R/W on sale for $30.

I would recommend using ext. cases with an exhaust fan though as they do run hot but at the price I paid and with the original movies on DVD's I'm not too worried about drive failure after the warranty is out.

The IBM form factor only has room for one hard drive so the external drives were the only way to keep my whole media center under budget.

I have no monitor on the media computer and use "LogMeIn" to access it for maintenance and transferring files. With over 200 high quality movies to choose from with a click of the remote and under $500 I'm happy. Happy

Collapse -
As a portable HDD
by Bhagwan069 / March 29, 2012 10:43 AM PDT

i am 14 yrs old, and i use an external drive to store all my passwords and such to save time when i need to use social networks like Facebook. furthermore, you can install portable apps on it and run them anywhere without having to install it on the machine you're running it on. and ofcourse, backup is always the top choice for an external hard drive. this is my first comment on Cnet, enjoy!

Collapse -
Transferring Games
by manikunis / August 17, 2012 4:20 AM PDT
In reply to: As a portable HDD

I use external HDD mainly for transferring Games and Movies.

Collapse -
by claudekaz / March 26, 2013 3:38 AM PDT

my desktop is freezing while i'm trying to download music..would an external hard drive be able to transfer the music to my ipod ??

Collapse -
Community poll forum: What do you use your external hard ?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / March 26, 2013 3:53 AM PDT
In reply to: desktop
Popular Forums
Computer Help 49,613 discussions
Computer Newbies 10,349 discussions
Laptops 19,436 discussions
Security 30,426 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 20,308 discussions
Windows 10 360 discussions
Phones 15,802 discussions
Windows 7 7,351 discussions
Networking & Wireless 14,641 discussions


Free trip to the Grand Prix

Don't miss your chance to win a trip to the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco for you and a plus-one.