Hard Drive Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

Hard drives are a standard feature on all computers. These electronic libraries store the software and files that your computer operates. This hard drive buying guide includes basic concepts and features that will help you to find a compatible hard drive to store important files, photos and music on your computer.

Buying a Hard Drive:

Hard Drive Buying Guide

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  • Internal hard drives:

    An internal hard drive is designed to be installed inside your computer's case. Hard drives rarely fail, so you might only find yourself replacing your internal hard drive to install one with more memory. You may also be able to add a second internal hard drive to your desktop computer. Many computer cases and motherboards have space for two or three internal drives, known as "master" and "slave" drives. Depending on the model, you might even be able to replace your laptop hard drive. In all cases, the internal hard drive needs to have the right connection type and form factor to fit your computer.

  • External hard drives:

    An external hard drive is a stand-alone unit attached to your computer system via USB or FireWire cable. A USB hard drive is one of the easiest, most secure ways to create backup copies of all your files. Some external hard drives include software that allows you to backup your internal hard drive automatically according to a schedule that you choose. An external hard drive is also an easy way to move large files between computers.

  • Hard drive connection types:

    Your hard drive uses different types of connectors to communicate with your computer. Choose a hard drive with a connection that is compatible with your computer's motherboard. SATA and PATA (or IDE) connections are the most common in small business and home computers.

  • Storage space:

    Like other types of computer memory, hard drive memory is measured in bytes. Internal and USB hard drives can both hold as little as 40 GB, several hundred or up to a terabyte or more of data. The amount of storage space the hard drive has will vary depending on what type of device or computer it will be used with:

    A desktop computer for work or studying will usually need less than 100 GB of storage space.

    You may want a few hundred gigabytes if you plan on storing large numbers of music files, movies and digital photos on your hard drive.

    A home or business server might require as much as a terabyte of hard drive storage space for storing large amounts of data and programs for multiple computers.

  • Hard drives and RAID settings:

    The "redundant arrays of independent disks" (RAID) feature is a setting for your computer system relating to one or more hard drives installed on a single computer. With RAID settings, your computer can write data to several internal or external hard drives at a time. Your computer may support one or more of the following RAID settings for multiple hard drives:

    RAID-0 makes your computer system run faster by writing the data to more than one drive. Your hard drives can then be searched simultaneously.

    RAID-1 writes the same data to more than one hard drive, creating instant backups of your programs and other data. Should one of your hard drives crash, you still have the same data on the other drive.

    More advanced RAID configurations are available, but they are beyond the scope of this guide.

Tips from Overstock™

Many new computer hardware components and computer accessories are plug-n-play, meaning you plug them in and start using them immediately. Other hardware may require you to install a driver. If you want a faster motherboard, better sound card, an extra computer fan or a new Blu-ray drive, you can easily do the installation yourself.

If you need a completely new computer system, deep discounts are ready and waiting for you, and refurbished computers are a great way to save even more money.

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