Why You Don’t Want to Buy an External Hard Drive


Your external hard drive is going to fail.

Every hard drive out there is going to fail at some point, the question is, when. Hard drives and CD/DVD drives are the components that fail most in computers. Why? They have  bunch of tiny little moving parts that break down and fail when they get dropped or too hot.

So what…? Most of you reading this know that hard drives are unreliable, and if I asked for a show of hands asking who has had a hard drive fail, the scene would look like a bunch of teenage girls at the front of a Justin Bieber concert.

I want you to know that there is a better way to back up your data and to store the files that you don’t need with you all the time.

  • Backing up your computer: I use and recommend a service called Crashplan. This service automatically backs up your computer and any other drives you might have connected to your machine. It’s great for making sure that you’ve got everything safe online, all the time. In my experience, it backs up and restores your data faster than Carbonite and Mozy. At the Apple Store, when someone would come in saying their computer was slow, Carbonite and Mozy were the first things we looked for. Crashplan however, does not slow your machine down.


  • Storing files online so you can delete them off your computer. This is a big deal for some of us. We want to have our files accessible, but some of this stuff just doesn’t need to be with us EVERYWHERE we go. You can use Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or many other services for this type of thing. By default, these services COPY files to an online location. So that means it’s staying on your computer AND it’s online. What most people don’t know is that you can turn on Selective Sync so the files stay online and accessible to you, but they get deleted off your computer saving you space. Read more about it for Dropbox here, and Google Drive here.


  • If you simply need extra space on your computer and don’t want to replace your hard drive: The Nifty Minidrive. This is a really cool device. Most of us have laptops with an SD Card slot on the sides of our computers for our camera cards that never get used. With this drive you can add up to 128 extra GB in your machine and the card fits perfectly flush with your mac. PC users: most normal SD cards will fit perfectly flush. The Nifty Minidrive is to make sure that when you’re using SD cards for extra storage on a Mac, the card is perfectly flush.


  • For those of you who need an external drive to store a ton of data and need it really fast, get an external SSD.categoryhero-m550

You’ve probably already looked into buying an external SSD but shied away because of the price. SSD’s are expensive BUT, there is a way you can get one for about HALF the price that is TWICE as fast as one off the shelf. For example, this drive is on Apple’s website for $249 and has a capacity of 256 GB. With the links I’m going to show you, you can get a drive twice as fast for about $130. A 512 GB SSD from Apple is $599, do it my way and the price is $250.

So how do we do it? Some knock off brand you order from China and wait 3 months for it to arrive? No.

      1. Order an SSD from Crucial.com. This is what I use for all the upgrades I do for my clients. The drive I use most often is the M500. If you want the fastest Crucial has to offer, the M550 might be for you. You’ll want to make sure it says 2.5-inch Internal SSD, then pick the size you want. Not sure exactly which one to go for? Sign up for my updates on the right for a free 15 min consultation and I’ll make sure you get the right thing.
      2. Order an external drive enclosure. This is the link for the enclosure from Crucial and is $19.99. There are cheaper ones out there but I like these.
      3. Unpack your items, put the drive in the enclosure, and plug it into your computer! The first time you plug it in it will need to initialize the drive. Follow this info graphic to set it up!


Now, as much as I love external SSD’s and other small gadgets to store data, a normal old external hard drive might still be for you. I have most devices out there and still use externals, I’m just prepared for them to not work every time I pull one out. The bang for your buck on a standard hard drive is sometimes hard to pass up, but now you know some different options.

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Question: What has your experience been like using an external drive? Do you have some great ideas to share? Post it in a comment below!





Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Shawn, this is a great post. I have an external drive and I use Time Machine back up every 15 days or so. But I also store all of my photos on there and I’m paranoid something’s going to happen to them. I think that Nifty card might work great for those…I could have a new one for every year and they’d be really easy to get to when I need to.

    • Thanks, Joy! I would recommend setting up Crashplan first and Foremost. What happens if your machine gets stolen or God forbid something catastrophic happens at your house?

      Use Nifty for some extra space, but I don’t know that I would use it for a backup.

      • If I use Crash Plan do I need to keep doing Time Machine?

        • I do because I like to have a physical copy with me just in case I need a big file really fast. (This never happens but it makes me feel better.)

  • Kate Sannicks-Lerner

    Hello, Shawn. I’m a Mac user with just enough knowledge to be a danger to my computer, so bear with me. I am getting the “startup disk is full” message, and didn’t realize it was because all the files on Dropbox are COPIES, and the files are still on my computer. Also, I would like to do a complete backup of my computer, but I don’t want a physical hard drive for that. My question is, can I get Crashplan and get rid of Dropbox (after all my files are transferred, of course)?

    • The question I would have is what is Dropbox there for in the first place? Why do you have it and how are you using it?

      Crashplan is meant to be a backup of your system. That being said, if you delete half the files off your computer it will pull those out of your backup as well since it’s job is to mirror what’s on your computer.

      Dropbox allows you to sync selected folders to your computer so they are online, but there is not a “local” copy that is taking up space on your computer.

      If you are running out of space, I would look to see if unsycing some of your folders would make a big difference, and if so, do that.

      If you only have Dropbox to back up your files you might want to use Crashplan instead. You can buy an external hard drive and move some of your bigger folders there and tell Crashplan to back that external drive online as well, that way when if breaks, your stuff is still safe online.

      Does that answer your question?

      • Kate Sannicks-Lerner

        Thanks, Shawn, and yes, it does answer my question. I’m going to get Crashplan, put my files there, and also put my music in the cloud as you suggested. Thanks so much!