Need More Storage? Expand with External Drives

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Performance is also a drawback for external drives. There are many different external drive technologies that deliver varying data transfer speeds, but few come close to matching the performance of an internal drive.

Another concern with external storage is housekeeping and managing the data. When you start having multiple drives you need to have an organizational system to govern which types of data go where, or you run the risk of creating a huge mess of gigabytes, or terabytes of data, and “losing” your own data on your own drives. Thanks to the universal search capabilities in operating systems, and tools like X1 Search, this isn’t as much of an issue as it once was, but it is still a concern.

Choosing an External Drive

Assuming this option makes sense to you, and you want to expand your storage with an external drive, the next question you need to ask yourself is “what kind?”


USB drives are the most obvious, and most plentiful option. For small, immediate data storage needs you could even resort to using a USB thumb drive. For expanding your storage capacity, though, you will want a much larger drive than what even the biggest flash drive has to offer.

Most PCs and laptops have more USB ports than other kinds of ports—if they have the other ports at all—and USB hubs are cheap and plentiful if you need to connect more devices. One thing you need to pay attention to with USB is whether your device is USB 2.0 or USB 3.0, and what the capabilities are of your USB ports. There is backwards compatibility, so your USB 2.0 device will work in a USB 3.0 port, or your USB 3.0 device will work in a USB 2.0 port, but in either case it will run at USB 2.0 speeds, so you are losing significant performance by not taking advantage of what USB 3.0 has to offer.

ioSafe recently launched a Thunderbolt version of its Rugged Portable drive.
FireWire / Thunderbolt

FireWire and Thunderbolt are both technologies that compete with USB. FireWire is generally faster than USB 2.0, transfers data more reliably, and requires less PC and CPU resources than USB. Thunderbolt is a newer technology developed by Intel that combines PCI Express and DisplayPort functionality in a single port capable of 10Gbps transfer speeds.

For both FireWire and Thunderbolt drives, your options are limited, and the drives are more costly. But if performance is your primary consideration, these make a better choice for expanding with external storage.


Regardless of the connection type you go with, you can also choose whether to use a traditional disk drive, or a solid state drive (SSD). The SSD is a flash drive—essentially a much larger USB thumb drive—so it has no moving parts. SSD drives are more reliable, and less prone to crashing, but cost significantly more, and are not available in the same massive sizes as traditional drives.

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