What are the main upside and downsides to using an external hard drive versus a hard drive installed in your computer?
There are two major benefits to an external hard drive: portability and the ability to use it with multiple computers. There are two major downsides to externals as well; speed and reliability.
When we talk about portability being a benefit we mean that it is easy to just take the hard drive and travel anywhere with it. You can then easily connect that external hard drive to any computer in the world and access the data on it without any problems. This, however, is not as big a plus as it used to be because it seems like everyone now has a laptop.
The ability to just plug the drive into multiple computers is a great upside especially when it comes to backing up your computers. That brings up another great point: backup. Honestly, that is the best thing to use an external hard drive for. Backing up your data is important so that you will have your data if, well, more likely when, your computer crashes because computers don’t last forever. Check out our post on the basics of backing up.
The biggest downside to an external hard drive is the speed. The external hard drive won’t perform as fast as a hard drive inside your computer because a USB connection isn’t as fast as the connection a hard drive inside your computer uses. This is not a big deal if you're storing word documents, music and videos on it but if you’re trying to run programs or Windows itself off of the external hard drive then it would be very slow.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the more you move the external hard drive the more chances you have of having an accident with it especially if the external hard drive gets knocked over while it is being used. Since an external hard drive is so portable there is a possibility that it could get knocked off a desk or unplugged by accident causing all kinds of problems (like data loss).
So external hard drives do have their place and their place for most of us will be to backup the hard drive in our computer so we have the data in case anything ever happens to our computer. If you find you need any help with figuring out which is going to be a good option, contact your local trusted computer technician.