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Storage buying guide: Finding the best storage device for you

Elias Plastiras | May 5, 2015
The advent of streaming music services, and more recently of video on demand services (SVOD) in Australia such as Netflix, Stan, and Presto, has put a lot of audio and video content within fingertip reach. You can access it whenever you want, without you having to worry about the amount of storage space in your computing device. But not everyone has the ability to stream, and local storage is still as important as ever for backups. Here's our guide on the best storage solution for your data storage problem.

Another consideration for laptops is a solid state drive (SSD). SSDs are superior to hard drives in many ways. Primarily, they are much faster in their retrieval and writing of data. They also don't have any moving parts, which makes them silent in operation, lighter in weight, and a little less needy when it comes to power consumption.

Most Ultrabook-style laptops have SSD drives of the mSATA or M.2 form factor, which are stick-like devices that plug into the motherboard, rather than 2.5-inch drives that reside in a drive bay; these notebooks without drive bays can not be upgraded easily and external storage solutions should be looked at instead.

The downside of SSDs is that their capacities are limited compared to hard drives, and they should be considered for speed rather than storage capacity. However, there is another solution that can give you both traits in one drive.

Solid state hybrid drives (SSHD) are a type of hard drive that has both an SSD component, and a traditional hard drive component in the same 2.5-inch form factor. A hybrid drive like this uses a small SSD (for example, 8GB) as a way to speed up the operating system and common applications that you use. The benefit is that the hard drive can still be large (1TB or more) while still giving you some of the characteristics of an SSD.

You should consider an internal hard drive if you want to increase the capacity of your desktop or laptop in the neatest possible manner, without relying on an external drive. Although we do recommend you get an external drive anyway to store all your backups.

External desktop hard drives

Secondary to internal hard drives for your computers' storage needs are external hard drives, which mostly use USB 3.0 to connect to a desktop PC or laptop, and which require a wall adapter for power. They are the simplest way to add storage to your computer system, and they are available in all manner of sizes, from 1TB, to 8TB, or even more depending on the model and its physical size.

No installation is required for such a drive; you can simply plug it in and have it be detected by the system. Since they are pre-formatted (some are pre-formatted for Mac systems, so be vigilant when you're purchasing), you can just open up a Windows Explorer window and start dragging and dropping files to them. They can also (and should) be used as a location for your system backups.

Typically, an external hard drive can also be plugged in to a smart TV's USB port and used to play videos, photos, or music files that are stored on it (even 4K video files if you have a 4K, Ultra HD TV). Be aware that some TVs may not recognise drives that are more than 2TB in size.


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