questionswhat is the best deal on an external hard drive?

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So, there are two categories of external drives - portable and, well, not portable.

Portable drives are powered by the USB bus, which means no AC power adapter, hence good for attaching to a laptop without needing extra cables cluttering things up. These are generally smaller drives (2.5" form factor, like you would expect to fit inside a laptop). The highest capacity is smaller than non-portable drives, and they tend to be a little more expensive.

Non-portable drives will have an AC adapter and may have an eSATA port in addition. The biggest advantages are capacity and speed.

Are you looking for a portable drive or a non-portable drive?

You may also be able to save a lot of money if you have an old drive laying around that you could put into an enclosure.

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@durkzilla: thanks for the clarification - I need a portable drive that is USB powered. I have a drive or two laying around, unfortunately they are too small for what I need.

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@kappelzs: Take a look at the Western Digital Essentials line - the 750GB model is on sale at NewEgg.com for $80 with free shipping. I have the 640GB version in this series and it has served me very well.

If you want to go to a full Terabyte, there are two Western Digital models that look good for $110:
Silver - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136641
Black - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136540

The Silver model has a three year warranty but $7 shipping.
The Black model has a one year warranty and free shipping.

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I don't need one quite as big and think I want a portable. Is Western Digital a brand that I could usually buy with confidence? Are there other brands that have good reputations? Obviously, I am not well versed in this kind of thing.

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@eremita: Western Digital is a brand you can buy with confidence, but realize that all hard drives that aren't SSDs are mechanical devices and have a chance of catastrophic failure. Even the SSDs have a chance of failure...

Read reviews for products on sites like Amazon.com and NewEgg.com and make an educated purchase.

I personally have had excellent success with three different Western Digital external portable drives, but there are undoubtedly others out there with different experiences. Warranties are therefore an important consideration in your purchasing decision.

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@durkzilla: hm, well put. I am taking a second look at the ones with warranties now. Although I have never had problems with my current external, you make a very good point of potential failure. I typically hate paying extra for warranties on electronics, but perhaps this may be a worth while investment?

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@kappelzs: I'm not suggesting purchasing an extended warranty - they are usually very bad investments.

But I do think it's important to point out that the same manufacturer may have different warranties for different products. A three year warranty on a disk drive is a significant potential value, especially when you consider that three years from now the drive you buy today will probably be sitting unused in a drawer, like the "drive or two" you mention being too small for your current needs.

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Newegg almost always has the best options and their reviews are great. I got this Toshiba (actually last year's model and they're out of it but this one is basically the same) and the thing is absolutely perfect. It fits in your pocket and is USB powered. 1TB for $119 and free shipping.

4.7" x 3.1" x 0.65"

0.39 lbs.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822149191