By far the most popular backup solution is to use an external hard drive. It can be connected to either your computer or your home network. It has the same moving parts as the drive inside your computer. Among the biggest players in the consumer market for these are Western Digital and Seagate, and they make a range of products at different price levels and different sizes. For example a 350 gigabyte drive might back up your laptop, while you might want a 2 terabyte drive to back up pictures, music, and video from all the computers on your home network. External hard drives come in all shapes, sizes and prices. Some can be set up to backup only the files with your own data such as pictures and documents. Others can be configured so they backup everything on your computer including the system files. Even though the notion of backing up everything is attractive, many experts recommend against it. The Windows operating system uses lots of different pieces to make your programs run. And when you try to backup all of those pieces and then restore them, not all the jigsaw pieces go back into place correctly. It's a much safer bet to store your own data files and reinstall the programs if something goes wrong. Most external drives come with software that will automatically back up your files either incrementally, or on a fixed schedule.
You can get drives ranging from portable drives that hold several hundred gigabytes to desktop models with as much as 3 terabytes of storage. And now Seagate is introducing a wireless drive, the Satellite ($200), aimed at tablet and smartphone users. Seagate's consumer oriented GoFlex line runs from about $90 to $200, depending on model. Western Digital's Essentials lines of Passport portable drives and MyBook desktop drives run anywhere from $50 to about $200. The company's recently introduced MyBook Live backs up files from every computer on your home network and has remote access. It costs about $200 for 3 terabytes.
External Drive Pros and Cons
- Pro: Cost-effective — You can get enough storage to hold everything on all your computers for less than $100 a Terabyte (1000 gigabytes).
- Pro: You can use several for different kinds of storage, such as pictures, documents, etc., or to create a second backup.
- Con: Because they have moving parts, they too can fail.
- Con: They can be stolen or damaged in a household catastrophe such as fire or flood.