You can add extra fixed storage to a PC in one of two ways. You can open it up, slide in an internal hard drive, secure it with four screws, connect up a data cable and a power cable and set the jumpers on existing and new drives to handle the changed configuration. Or you can plug in an external hard drive, like Seagate’s descriptively-named External Hard Drive.
This is a 7,200rpm, 3.5-inch hard drive with a capacity of 200GB and an 8MB cache, of the same type you would fit internally, but built into an external case and equipped with both USB 2.0 and FireWire connections. Plug the drive into a spare socket on your PC, power it up and Windows XP sees it as a new, available drive which you can write to and read from immediately.
If you have the choice of both kinds of data connection, use USB 2.0 for preference, as it has a theoretical maximum data transfer rate of 480Mb/s, as opposed to FireWire’s maximum of 400Mb/s. The FireWire option, however, includes a second socket, so you can daisy chain other FireWire devices through the External Hard Drive.
Even when using USB 2.0, it’s this connection that governs the speed of the drive, as it’s still much slower than either a parallel or serial internal cable. For many applications, however, it’ll still be fast enough. Under test, we saw an average data transfer rate of about 35MB/s, rather slower than the theoretical 60MB/s maximum. The access time, at around 15ms, is very similar to the equivalent measurement on an internal drive.
The case, with its low-to-the-desk, vertically-mounted stand, takes up little space, though you have to connect a separate ‘black block’ power supply, which adds to the space needed.
The drive comes with BounceBack Express software, which takes care of one of the main tasks for an external hard drive like this one; data backup. Once you’ve let the software know which folders you want to archive and where you want the backup files stored, you can initiate the process by pressing a single button on the Seagate drive; it could hardly be simpler. You can use the drive for other tasks too, of course, and it’s fast enough, for example, to play back digital video data during editing sessions.
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