Remember when 1GB of memory sounded like a lot? Yeah, neither do we. No matter how much memory you have at your disposal, it seems like you could always use more. But what type of memory do you need? Are you running programs off an external hard drive? Backing up your photos? Or do you just have lots of por… por… portraits of Grandma? (Nailed it.) Whatever you’re holding onto, we can help you find a storage solution to fit your needs.
BUFFALO DRIVESTATION AXIS VELOCITY
- Secure storage and backup solution
- Equipped with a high speed 7200 RPM hard drive
- 256-bit AES encryption and USB 3.0/ 2.0 support
- Horizontal and vertical form factor
- Buffalo Tools
We hear ya: Those portraits of Grandma can really take up a lot of room on your hard drive. If you’re just looking for an easy to solution to quickly add about 1,000 gigabytes (1 terabyte) of extra memory to your system, the Buffalo DriveStation Axis Velocity 1TB external hard drive is a good place to start. A convenient plug-and-play hard drive that is compatible with both Mac and PC, the DriveStation doesn’t require much effort to set up or run.
If you’re running a Mac, the DriveStation is fully capable of integrating with Time Machine to give you more storage for your backups. For PC users, the included Buffalo Tools software allows you to set automatic backups. For either, this device offers optional 256-bit full disk encryption. The world’s fastest supercomputer would literally take millions of years to crack that. You’d think this kind of security would be a given, but a few of the drives we tested in this range had NO encryption. It’s something to keep in mind if you want to stop anyone from accessing your por… portraits of Grandma.
External Hard Drive Facts: Before we go any further: you read the title of this article, right? Right? Okay, so we’re talking about external hard drives. Not portable hard drives. External hard drives use a system similar to that in a desktop computer to access their memory, namely a spinning hard-disk drive (HDD). Conversely, portable drives use flash memory (otherwise known as SSD), which has no moving parts, making them much better at handling the rough knocks of a backpack or bag. An SSD is meant to be portable. An HDD is not.
External hard drives are cheaper per gigabyte, meaning they give you more storage for less money, while the portable drives are less susceptible to physical damage. The two devices also handle data differently. An external HDD is faster when moving large sets of data all at once — for example, saving large photo files or recording TV shows. The SSD is faster at making lots of small calculations at once, like running Photoshop or similar programs. Which one is best for you really depends on how you expect to use it.
We wanted to test these hard drives for a few different things while keeping their main purpose in mind. Namely, we wanted to see how they handled media as well as games. The Buffalo has no fan, making it quieter than the others we tested. This was a nice touch when we wanted to unwind with a Golden Girls marathon. You can hear the spinning disk in operation, but it’s pretty quiet and easily drowned out by Sophia’s classic zingers. The Buffalo stays relatively cool, though, and we never noticed any overheating.
For gaming, the Buffalo was able to wake up and start doing its thang in no time flat. Like, ready to go in less than a second. It easily handled data for the Xbox One, PlayStation4, and Wii U. While we didn’t test it specifically for PC gaming, there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t do just as well. Given its 7200 RPM speed and USB 3.0 capability, it should easily be able to run your modded version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite.
If you’re looking to add a lot of memory quickly for a little money, and you aren’t going to be tossing this thing in your backpack, the Buffalo DriveStation is a good entry-level drive that’ll give you 1TB of extra storage, ease of use, and quiet operation.
SEAGATE BACKUP PLUS HUB 6TB HDD
- Two integrated high-speed USB 3.0 ports on the front allow you to connect and recharge your other USB devices
- Formatted for Windows computers out of the box
- Install the provided NTFS driver for Mac and use the drive interchangeably between 4. Windows and Mac computers without reformatting
- Run a one-click backup or schedule an automatic backup plan to protect your files
- Includes 2-month complimentary membership to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan. Must redeem by January 31, 2020.
While the Buffalo DriveStation is a good entry-level hard drive that works for gaming and media, small-business owners or households that need to back up both PCs and Macs might need something like the Seagate Backup Plus 6TB hard drive. Not only does it offer more memory (there’s even an 8TB version), the Seagate is also designed to handle multiple machines.
This type of capability is clutch if, for example, you need extra storage for your small business. It allows multiple users to store and access data on the hard drive, regardless of whether they’re running a PC or a Mac. Being able to do both at the same time might seem like a no-brainer, but quite a few external hard drives today are still only capable of running one or the other. Why is that? Let’s pause for a second.
External Hard Drive Fact: When shopping for an external HDD, you might run into alphabet soup like NTFS and FAT (or exFAT or FAT32). Okay, here’s the TL;DR version: FAT32 is the oldest filing system format (or how it saves your data) and Macs can still use it, but many newer versions of Windows cannot. This is because there are limits on the sizes of files it can handle. NTFS doesn’t really have those limits, which is why Windows prefers to use the NTFS system. Macs can still read from the NTFS, but they can’t write to a drive formatted in NTFS. Since you usually have to format a brand-new external hard drive when you buy it, you have to choose between NTFS and FAT, depending on whether you have a PC or a Mac.
Although the Seagate arrived already formatted for PC, it also comes with an NTFS driver for Mac. If you don’t like that they pre-formatted it for you, you can also just erase the entire thing and start from scratch. Once you install the driver (which we found to be pretty easy — it took us just a few minutes), you have a hard drive that both operating systems can use. Again, we thought we lived in the freakin’ future where this should just be standard, but it’s not. Having the ability to switch between the two really came in handy, especially since our team uses both Macs and PCs. Ordinarily this would have been a headache, but with the dual ports, we could plug in multiple computers without worrying about reformatting.
During operation, the Seagate stayed pretty quiet and could handle fairly large data transfers with ease, thanks to the USB 3.0 ports. A 10-gigabyte file transferred from computer to drive in a little under three seconds, which made large-scale backups much easier. Instead of staring at a slowly moving progress bar, we could hit the button and get up to fetch a snack, and before we sat back down again, the backup was complete.
The Seagate does everything a decent HDD should do, but it does have a few weaknesses. For example, it worked just fine with the Xbox One, but not with the PS4. (To be fair, this seems to have more to do with PlayStation than the Seagate.) Also, since it comes with Adobe Creative Cloud, we decided to find out how it would handle a graphics-heavy program like After Effects. The results were exactly as we expected: It didn’t operate as fast as it would on an SSD, but then again, HDDs aren’t really meant to run those kinds of operations.
For a simple, flexible storage solution, the Seagate worked a treat, giving us a ton of space and the ability to use just about any computer without hassle. For users looking for something even more capable, meet us in the $$$ section below.
WD MY CLOUD HOME (6 TB)
- One central place to store all your photos, videos, music and files
- Quick and simple setup from your phone
- On-the-Go access with the My cloud home mobile app, desktop app or mycloud.COM
- Auto backup for photos and videos on your phone
- USB port to import photos, videos and docs from USB Flash drives and external Hard drives
Okay, this is what the future was supposed to be. The WD My Cloud Home is exactly what it says it is: your own personal cloud. Seriously — it does everything you would want your personal cloud to do. Automatically back up your phone when you walk through the door? Yup. Let Alexa play the music you’ve saved on the hard drive? Sure. Save photos from your vacation in Costa Rica to your home drive while you’re still on vacation in Costa Rica? Yes! It can do that.
First, a caveat: The WD My Cloud Home is made for the average consumer. In fact, when you start reading its one-star reviews, it becomes clear rather quickly that the majority of those were written by “advanced” computer users who are disappointed that they can’t configure it in all the ways they can a Raspberry Pi or whatever. “This POS isn’t a true NAS device!!! I can’t even assign a static IP address or DNS!!” Um….kay. For the rest of us, though, it does all the stuff you would want, and it does it simply.
When you unbox the drive, you just plug it into your router, turn it on, and then use your phone to complete the setup process. This involves signing up for a WD account; and this is where a lot of the one-star reviews took issue, because because it means having to go through WD to get access to the drive. However, it also means that when you’re halfway across the world, you can see your My Cloud Home drive as though you were sitting right next to it — and save to it as though you were.
External Hard Drive Fact: RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a data storage system that creates a mirror image of everything you save on one hard disk drive to another. So instead of having only one HDD, you have two. If one gets corrupted or stops working, all of your data has been backed up to the other one, so you’ve lost absolutely nothing. Why doesn’t everybody do that? Well, because it costs more; you need at least two hard disks instead of just one.
This version of the My Cloud Home is not a RAID, but there is a version that has two drives: the My Cloud Home Duo (basically the same thing, except it has that extra hard disk, which is why it costs almost twice as much). If you’re the type of person who needs to back up your backups, the My Cloud Home is a good first step.
We had a few issues trying to sync text files to the drive, when newer changes wouldn’t be automatically saved. The My Cloud Home seems to be geared more toward media files, which always synced without issue. You can also email someone a link that gives them read-only access to any file on the drive that you might want to share, without letting them delete or alter it. You can also set up different users for the drive (which came in handy during testing), and each user’s data is automatically hidden from the others.
One of our favorite features was being able to set your phone to automatically back up to the drive whenever you’re on Wi-Fi. You can even ask Alexa to play songs you’ve stored on it. The WD My Cloud Home is a great storage solution for the typical user who doesn’t worry about “subnet masks,” whatever those are. For people who just want a “set and forget” option for backing up their photos and media, the My Cloud makes it easy.