Over the years people eventually learn, one way or another, that backing up data is as essential as the computer itself. The task became easier as technology has grown from floppy drives, to CD and DVD burners and finally an external hard drive. For those who are data hogs there are also online services that can be had for a relatively modest price.
The first thing a person has to do is decide which of the methods best meets their needs. We can safely reduce the choices to either an external drive or an online backup service. Floppy drives have, for the most part, been replaced with card readers that are capable of accommodating an ever growing number of mini cards that hold data that used to take hundreds of floppies. CD and DVD burners seemed to be all that someone would ever need to save, until we had to label them 1 of 12. And the sixth one, with that tax return information we needed, was the one scratched or misplaced.
Fortunately, as our need to back up more and more data grew, technology saved us with external hard drives, and finally online backup services. But what most people never realized was the alternative, and advantages, of making their own USB backup drive. The major manufacturers of hard drives had no incentive to market a device that holds a hard drive, typically with three year warranties, when they could sell the drive and enclosure with a one year warranty. The average consumer probably never looked twice at an enclosure and a hard drive, if they were able to see them in retail stores in the first place. Given the choice most users would think it was beyond their ability to make their own backup device.
The hard drive enclosure can be something that acts as a data retrieval tool also. Like times when a computer operating system or hardware, like a motherboard for example, fails and we are stuck with a working drive and no access to the data. The same device that holds the backup data can be opened and used to hold the computers main drive. Plugging that into a working computer through the USB connection and many times it will work seamlessly like it did in the original machine. Most importantly it will usually allow you to access the stuff you meant to save last week.
Of course for occasional use to retrieve data simple USB cables would work. Those simple cables, which can cost under $20, is what many computer repair shops use to charge people up the nose to get their files transferred to another computer or some DVDs. On the other end of the spectrum are hard drive docking stations which can hold multiple hard drives. As your need for space increases from 500 GB you can simply insert a 1 TB drive in the other station and transfer everything over. Remove the smaller drive and you’ll be ready for a 2 TB upgrade.
The possibilities and storage ability can grow with the technology. The likelihood to save you or an acquaintance some money, even perhaps make you some money, will increase the longer you have an external drive enclosure. If nothing else those cables costing under $20 will eventually be the most cost effective accessory you can buy.
Best of all is the ease of use. With data retrieval cables that will only be used now and then people should choose a one size fits all. These cables will connect to IDE or SATA hard drives for both laptops and desktops. For a permanent backup device people would normally buy an enclosure that holds a 3.5″ desktop drive.
There are however also docking stations that will accept both 2.5″ and 3.5″ hard drives. The user will choose the drives data capacity on their expected needs and product costs. All products on Amazon have feedback details that are very useful in selecting products. Consider also that most of the data you will want backed up are not that large and would most often consist of My Documents folders. That being said, if you can wait and watch for sales a 1 Terabyte drive is often the most economical. A good shopper can find one with good feedback for about $65. Inquire about the enclosure to be sure they include cables that fit the type of drive you choose.