Buying a hard drive is an important part of owning a computer. If you’re a student going back to school in the fall, then certain types of hard drives will match your needs better than others. Today, I’m going to explain some of the most important features to look for when buying a hard drive for school:
Internal versus external storage
If you have a laptop, then an external hard drive is your best option. In fact, it may be your only option. Meanwhile, if you have a desktop computer, you can have your choice between an internal and external drive. Internal drives feature more memory for a cheaper price, but you’ll have to install the drive into your PC on your own. External drives are also portable, and portability is important for college – just throw the drive into your backpack and you’re good to go.
Student recommendation: external hard drive
SSD vs. HDD
Next, you have to choose between SSD and HDD. Today, most smartphones and higher end laptops use SSDs, which contain no moving parts and are significantly faster than HDDs, which are the traditional hard drives used by most computers over the last few decades.
However, SSDs are about 8 to 10 times more expensive than a traditional hard drive, and the speed boost isn’t exactly noticeable if you’re just moving Word documents around. SSD benefits will be most noticeable for:
-Improving startup times (your computer will start in seconds with an SSD)
-Improving PC gaming framerates and load times
-Improving file transfer speeds when moving large files around or swapping files between computers
If these benefits are worth the extra cost to you, then get an SSD. But if you’re like most students, you’ll sacrifice a little extra waiting time if it means saving a hundred bucks. After all, you’re a student and you’re poor, right?
If you’re looking for speed but don’t want to pay the extra cost of an SSD, then consider purchasing a USB 3.0 drive or a Thunderbolt drive.
Student recommendation: save your money with an HDD
Desktop-class versus laptop-class drives
I made a key mistake when I purchased my first external hard drive. I found a good hard drive that had lots of space and it was available at a surprisingly cheap price. However, it needed its own dedicated power source in order to start up. In other words, I couldn’t easily take it with me to class or to the library because I would need an extra power plugin while carrying around an extra bundle of wires in my backpack.
Those types of external drives are good if you plan on keeping your computer at home. But if you move around a lot, then you’re going to want a more portable option.
-Desktop-class hard drives: Must be plugged into the wall, but have a larger capacity
-Laptop-class hard drives: Do not need to be plugged into the wall, but have a smaller capacity
Student recommendation: laptop-class
Avoid it all and use cloud storage
Cloud storage services like Dropbox have made student life significantly easier. Thanks to Dropbox, I was able to type up lecture notes on my netbook in class and have those notes instantly accessible on my smartphone as well as my desktop PC at home. I could do homework from any device and relax knowing that I wouldn’t have to rush home to transfer a file from my computer if I somehow forgot something.
Cloud storage services are great for transferring small files. However, if you’re transferring larger files, then a portable hard drive is definitely the better option – the download/upload speeds on most university networks will simply take too long to transfer large files from the cloud.
Student recommendation: free services like Dropbox are excellent options for students, especially if you’re just transferring around small documents like lecture notes or presentations. However, if you want a good place to store larger files like movies, songs, games, or programs, you should get a portable hard drive.