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Your Step-By-Step Hard Drive Buying Guide

Step 1: Questions

With so many hard drives available, it can be difficult to determine which hard drive fits your individual needs. Before shopping for a hard drive ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will I be using my hard drive for? (For example: memory backup, music, gaming software or digital videos, etc.)

  • How much will I use it? (For example: constantly to retrieve files or periodically to back up a current hard drive)

  • What storage capacity does my current hard drive have and am I running out of space?

Step 2: Internal or External

Once you have answered the preceding questions you can look at whether you want an internal or external hard drive. Typically, if you want to improve the storage space of your PC, an internal drive would be a good choice. Internal drives are faster and for laptop users they take no additional space to transport since you put it inside your laptop.

Why would you choose an external drive? You would choose an external hard drive if you want a back up for your current files or if you want to store larger files away from your PC. External hard drives are also easier to install since you don't have to open up your desktop or laptop. Additionally, if you plan on using multiple computers you can transport them easily. For example, you can take your external drive to your work and save files onto your drive, then take it home and open your saved files from your home computer with ease.

Step 3: Specifications

Now that you have decided on the type of hard drive you need, the next step is to look at the individual specifications of the drives that are on the market. In order to make the selection process easier, we offer a basic guide to choosing the best drive for your lifestyle. The following is a compilation of the three most important specifications for you to consider:

Capacity: To display the capacity of their hard drives many manufacturers will discuss a hard drive's storage capabilities in terms of gigabytes (GB). The following chart illustrates the storage capabilities of the varying hard drive sizes:

Size MP3* Digital Photos* DVD Quality Video* High Definition Video*
500GB 125,000 Songs 142,000 222 Hours 60 Hours
400GB 100,000 Songs 114,000 178 Hours 48 Hours
250GB 62,000 Songs 71,000 111 Hours 30 Hours
160GB 40,000 Songs 45,000 71 Hours 19 Hours
100GB 25,000 Songs 28,500 44 Hours 12 Hours
60GB 15,000 Songs 17,000 26 Hours 7 Hours
20GB 5,000 Songs 5,700 8 Hours 2 Hours
10GB 2,500 Songs 2,800 4 Hours 1 Hours

*Storage capabilities are estimates due to varying file sizes.

Spindle Speed: Given in Revolutions Per Minute (RPM), this unit of measure tells you how fast the plates within the drive are spinning. The faster the spindle speed, the faster the seek time.

Seek Time: The time it takes either your internal or external hard drive to locate a file. This is given in milliseconds (MS). In this case, less is better. The least amount of time it takes for your files to be retrieved, the faster your computer will boot up and load files.

Step 4: Scenarios

Stephen wants to start recording his son's soccer games, which can last as long as 2 hours each. He currently takes digital photos at all of his son's games and will be storing those pictures on his new drive. He should purchase a 500GB hard drive.

Dawn likes to download MP3's. She has an extensive collection of music and is quickly running out of space on her 80GB drive on her desktop computer. She also wants to start downloading movies and TV shows for her iPod. She should upgrade to a 250GB hard drive.

Bill, a doting father, loves to take pictures of his three children. He takes more pictures than he can develop. Currently he has over 3,000 digital photos on his 20GB drive in his laptop. He should upgrade to a 120GB hard drive.


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