An external hard drive with 2 terabytes of storage space saves a lot of data such as photos, videos or documents. But which record is right for you?

An external hard drive is often the savior in dire need. If the computer goes on strike for mysterious reasons, every user is really happy if he or she has backed up his or her data on an external storage medium.

As photos and videos have grown in size, older external hard drives are now bursting at the seams. A replacement is needed and it should last as long as possible. This is exactly what a hard drive with 2 terabytes (TB) of storage space promises. Before you make a rushed purchase, however, there are a few things to consider.

External hard drive 2 TB: Mac, Windows and file systems

Before you even decide on a hard drive or SSD, you need to know what operating system you will be using it on and the size of the files you want to store on it. This is due to different file systems used by Mac and Windows.

The Windows standard is the New Technology File System (NTFS), Apple’s likeness is either the Hierarchical File System Plus (HFS) or, in newer systems, the Apple File System (APFS). The Apple operating system recognizes a hard disk formatted on NTFS just as little as Windows recognizes a disk formatted on HFS or APFS.

The solution is File Allocation Table 32 (FAT32) or Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) formatted storage media if you want to share data between Mac and Windows computer. Both Mac and Windows recognize both file systems. That’s why most external hard drives are formatted to FAT32 by default.

Unfortunately, only files with a maximum size of up to 4 gigabytes (GB) per file can be moved under FAT32. Reformatting the hard drive or SSD to exFAT is mandatory if you want to share larger files, such as 4K videos, between the platforms via external storage media.

However, exFAT is optimized for flash storage media such as solid state drives (SSD) or USB sticks. If you want to exchange large data between Mac and Windows, it is better to use an external SSD and format it to exFAT if necessary. You don’t need any additional software for this. Simply attach an external SSD to the computer via USB and open the “Disk Utility” (“Disk Management” under Windows) under Mac.

Then select the SSD, click Delete, select exFAT under Format and confirm. Caution: All data will be lost during formatting! Once the process is complete, both operating systems will recognize the SSD, to which you can also drag files larger than 4 GB.

Enough of the colorful theory, get to the gray boxes: Are you looking for a hard drive (HDD) with a USB-C connection? Then the Toshiba Canvio Flex is a solid memory companion for the next few years. The hard drive transfers data via USB 3.2 Generation 1 and thus with a maximum data transfer rate of 5 gigabits per second (GBit/s).

The external hard drive works with Macs from Apple and serves as a disk for Time Machine backups as required. A USB-A cable is also included in the scope of delivery so that the Toshiba Canvio Flex can also be connected to older computers. By the way: The hard drive also connects effortlessly to Windows computers.

Same manufacturer, different name: Flex becomes basics. The only difference between the two Toshiba hard drives is the connection options. The Basics only connects to the computer via the USB-A interface. As a reminder: These are the “old” and square USB sockets. USB-C, on the other hand, is the newer format and nestles gently in an oval shape on the laptop or PC.

By the way: The form says nothing about the transmission speed. This results from the USB protocol and both Toshiba disks use USB 3.2 Gen. 1. So they transfer data at a maximum of 5 GBit/s. If you only want to use USB-A sockets, you can save almost ten euros with the Toshiba Canvio Basics.

Hard drives are extremely delicate creatures. They digest bumps, dust and blows poorly or not at all. External hard drives are no exception – on the contrary. They come with us on trips and their owner is only too happy to carelessly throw them in their backpack. An absurdity for the delicate plates.

Anyone interested in external hard drives who knows themselves well enough and knows how carelessly they have dealt with their previous external hard drives appreciates a somewhat more robust housing. This is what the Adata HD710 Pro offers. According to the manufacturer, the external hard drive even has shock sensors that tell you if the drive has been damaged or has been knocked over. Technically, it is in no way inferior to the Toshiba models.

External SSD 2 TB: More expensive but faster

SSD or HDD, isn’t that the same? no An SSD is a flash memory. In comparison to the classic hard disk (hard disk drive, HDD for short), the flash memory naturally has no read head or anything similar. A hard drive, on the other hand, reads the data mechanically, which is significantly slower than direct access to an SSD.

If you move large data and don’t want to wait forever, you’d better use an SSD. In addition, the flash memory is more resistant to falls or other environmental influences. When traveling, it can therefore also be the external SSD. If you want to save money, have time and treat your hard drive with care, you can use an external hard drive.

Unfortunately, most external SDDs now only offer USB-C as a connection option. This also applies to the Crucial CT2000X6SSD9 X6. It harmonises with Mac and Windows as well as with iPad Pro or consoles. But not without further ado: If you want to connect the Crucial SSD to the computer or the PlayStation 4 via USB-A, for example, you need the right adapter.

According to the manufacturer, the reading speed of the SSD is 540 megabytes per second (MB/s). In order to be able to really use this speed, you need a decent amount of data throughput, which the hard drive also offers thanks to the USB 3.2 Gen. 2 protocol: 10 Gbit/s rush through the line.

The SanDisk Extreme is even faster. The manufacturer relies on an NVMe M.2 SSD for its model. PC enthusiasts are already familiar with the memory sticks from self-made computers. The highlight: You do not connect to the mainboard via a cable via the SATA controller, but dock directly to the PCIe connection on the mainboard.

This enables┬ásignificantly faster data transfer rates. However, a USB port acts as a “bottleneck” for particularly fast SSD storage devices, slowing down their speed because it cannot let through as much data as the SSD could theoretically write or read. Read and write speeds over around 950 MB/s are not possible with USB 3.2.

However, this does not apply if you choose an external Thunderbolt SSD. Although it costs more than some laptops, it offers read and write speeds of up to 2,800 MB/s according to the manufacturer. Thunderbolt is an interface developed by Intel and Apple that transfers data at up to 40 GBit/s.

In the third generation, it looks like a USB-C port. Accordingly, Thunderbolt also harmonizes with all USB protocols. You can recognize the Thunderbolt connection by the fact that there is a lightning bolt over its socket or on its cables. However, private users can do without the interface. Thunderbolt only becomes interesting if you want to save particularly large files such as 4K video material on the external SSD.

Easily recycle hard drives and SSDs

If you have an older hard drive lying around or want to remove it from a computer or laptop, you don’t need to buy an external hard drive. It’s much cheaper to just put the disk in a small case and use it as an external hard drive from now on. If the operating system is installed on it, you must first format the storage medium, i.e. delete all data.

By the way: If you want to use a fast NVMe M.2 SSD as an external SSD, there are also cases for that. Depending on how fast the M.2 SSD is, the USB port will of course slow it down. Until that is no longer the case, we will have to wait for M.2 housings with the USB 4 protocol. It shouldn’t be long before they hit the market. The first laptops and computers with USB 4 are already commercially available.

Note: This article was first published in January 2022.

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