What Is an External Hard Drive? What Does It Do?

An external hard drive is a storage device that is connected to your computer externally rather than internally. They operate the same way as your computer’s internal drive, allowing you to move and save files on it. Hooking up an external hard drive is very easy and anyone can do it. Typically, they are connected to your computer with a USB cable. This makes their setup extremely simple and fast, potentially making them a worthwhile option. 

Over time you use your computer, you will commonly build up files using your storage. Once you have utilized most of your storage, you are faced with two options. First, you can delete old files you no longer use. Or you can just upgrade your computer’s storage to give you more room. External hard drives make upgrading your PC’s storage very easy and simple. They also come with some added benefits. 

How Do I Use an External Hard Drive?

As mentioned above setting up an external hard drive is very simple. All you have to do is plug it into your computer’s USB port. Once you have done this you can move and save files to it just as you typically would. This is the easiest and most efficient option when compared to an internal drive. Your computer should have the external hard drive available in your file explorer. From there you can open it up and import or export files and applications.

What Are the Benefits of an External Hard Drive?

External hard drives offer a variety of benefits depending on their use. I personally believe that they are a must-have accessory for every computer user. They provide benefits that an internal hard drive simply can’t.

samsung external hard drive in hand


This is by far one of the best benefits of an external hard drive, they are portable. If you use more than one computer or travel around, their portability will benefit you a lot. You can transfer files onto the external drive that you may need to use at another location. This can be extremely beneficial as transferring files over the internet can be a pain. This allows you to bring essential files or information with you wherever you go. I find this to be extremely beneficial. 

Larger Capacity

Of course, a flash drive can perform the same capabilities, but you are limited to size. USB flash drives commonly come in smaller sizes such as 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB. This can potentially be a problem as it limits you to how much you can save on them. Not to mention, once you start getting into the bigger sizes, they can cost the same as an external hard drive. For essentially the same cost you can get a 1TB external drive. 

It is also worth mentioning that the external drive’s overall storage size can be a lot more. You may find some that are even 10TB large. However, they are a lot more expensive. I personally have a couple 1TB drives that I use for different purposes. 

external hard drive plugged in

Backup Capabilities

Whenever you are storing important information on your computer, it is often advised to have 2 copies saved in different locations. With electronics, we have to plan for the unexpected as they commonly break or stop working. Sometimes this can be caused by something simple, like spilling a glass of water on your laptop. This could cause you to lose all your important information saved to your device.

I have an external hard drive dedicated to backing up my important or personal files. This can even include family pictures that you do not want to lose or even important documents. For anything that I find important I always save a second copy to my external drive. This way if one device decides to stop working, at least I don’t lose my valuable information. 

portable hard drive being passed between hands

Do I Need an External Hard Drive?

I advise external hard drives for anyone with a computer. Even if you don’t use them to transfer files between locations, they are still super beneficial. If you find that you are running out of precious storage space on your device, they offer a simple fix. They allow you to increase your storage size in a fast and efficient manner.

As mentioned above computers can fault for a variety of reasons. Having a second copy of any important information will give you some peace of mind. This way if your computer decides it does not want to work anymore, at least you don’t lose all your important documents.

It is also worth mentioning the cost here as well. The prices of external hard drives have gone down significantly over the years. They come at relatively low costs for a significant increase in storage space. However, you do not want to purchase anything too cheap as you might sacrifice quality. It is important to do some research on the brand and model to establish the level of quality you will be receiving. As a general rule of thumb, I would stick to the big brands like Samsung, Western Digital, and Seagate.

How Big of an External Hard Drive Do I Need?

The size that you will need totally depends on what you plan to use it for. The most popular option that people go with is 1TB. But, if you save a lot of files to your computer you may want something larger. For example, if you save a lot of movies or videos to your device, you may want to consider 4TB+. On the flip side, if you typically save Word documents or Excel spreadsheets to your computer, 1TB should be fine. Basically, I would recommend taking a look at what you primarily save to your computer and adjust accordingly. The nice thing about external hard drives is that you can always get more. If you eventually run out of space on your computer and external drive, you can get another. 

Final Comments

All in all, external hard drives offer a fast and efficient way to increase your computer’s storage. They work in the same way as an internal hard drive but offer some additional benefits. External drives are super easy to set up as they only need a USB cable to function. They can basically be hooked up to your computer in a matter of seconds. I personally have been using them for many years and they have saved me more than once. I cannot recommend them enough to computer users.