External USB hard drives and what they are really for.
I would say that a large portion of our physical data recovery business comes from hard drives inside USB external enclosures. For someone who has been dealing with hardware and technology for over fifteen years it makes perfect sense why. For those not in the know I am going to explain to you why, and what you should be using these devices for, and what you should not be using them for.
First, you have to understand that a hard drive’s worst enemy is heat. I am sure you have seen it maybe in a cheap frying pan: you heat it up while cooking in it and then turn around and stick it in the sink and run water over it. The next time you bring that pan out it does not sit quite right on the stove any more and over time it really gets to rocking. This is because over time heating the metal and then cooling it down has caused the pan to warp. The same thing happens with hard drives that get too hot. Since, with the external USB chassis, the hard drive is completely encased in metal with a little tiny fan they can get very hot. (We actually call them hot boxes around here). Sometimes they get so hot that the motor will seize.
The next thing you should know is that I am a huge fan of these devices. I think they have the ability to really be helpful, and useful if not abused.
What NOT to do with your external hard drive:
- They should never be used as an upgrade to your computer. If you want more constant hard disk space, buy a new hard drive and install it into the internal machine.
- Although hard drives over the years have become much more durable, they are still a fine tuned piece of equipment and should be treated as such. You shouldn’t be moving it around and banging into it while it is on and running.
- When you are not using it turn it off. Remember: Heat is bad.
What I feel are good uses of external USB devices:
- As a back up they are great! You plug them in, back off the data, and unplug them. This will keep run time down to a minimum, and you will have a large amount of storage area, unlike backing off to CD’s.
- To move data from one machine to another. A perfect example of this is from a work machine to your home computer.
- They are a great tool for data recovery. You can plug the bad hard disk into the device, and now have access to it without having to open your machine up. (I personally use them for this reason and I never put the cover on.)
I hope this helps you make a decision about whether an external USB hard drive is the right option for you. Remember to back up and avoid data recovery!