If you use your computer for simple tasks such as surfing the Internet and writing an occasional letter, hard drive space is probably not a concern. But if you create or download a lot of high-resolution videos on your computer, no hard drive may seem big enough. If you find your computer is running short of storage space for videos, music and other large files, it may be time to upgrade to a larger hard drive or add a second one. When shopping for a new hard drive, though, there are several factors you should consider, such as the connection interface, storage capacity, model reputation, portability and performance.
1Determine the type of interface your motherboard uses if you are planning to install a new internal hard drive. If you purchased your computer in the last four or five years, it probably uses Serial ATA, or SATA, hard drives. However, if your computer is older than that, you should open the case to determine the type of storage interface used. Some older computers have only Parallel ATA (also known as enhanced IDE) interface ports. Newer motherboards often come with both Parallel ATA and SATA ports. SATA drives use newer technology and are faster, so if your motherboard supports both types of interfaces, opt for a SATA drive. You can tell the difference between the two interface ports rather easily. The older Parallel ATA ports are about two inches wide, while newer SATA ports are about the width of a USB connector, or about one-half inch.
2Purchase the largest hard drive you can afford. There is usually a wide price gap between the latest/biggest hard drive and the one that formerly held the title. For instance, when 2TB drives came on the market, the prices on 1TB and 1.5TB drives dropped almost immediately.
3Narrow your search to two or three models in a capacity range that interest you, and then check out hardware forums and review sites for comments from owners and reviewers regarding the reliability of the drives on your short list. Most major hard drive manufacturers produce quality products. Nevertheless, certain models do seem to hold up better and last longer than others. In many cases, problems with a drive's design or manufacturing process are not limited to a few isolated units. If a drive has a reputation for early failure, consider another model. Most manufacturers do a good job of replacing faulty drives, but that is of little help if you lose data that you cannot replace. Moreover, you should be aware that no hard drive manufacturer offers a guarantee that your data will not be lost due to a defective or faulty unit. Consequently, you should perform as much due diligence as possible on models that interest you before you make a final purchase decision.
4Decide if portability is something you need in a hard drive. External USB drives connect to virtually any desktop or laptop computer easily and are small enough that you can take them with you on the road. However, large capacity portable drives are relatively expensive when compared to internal hard drives. Furthermore, the small form factor of external hard drives and their dependence on a USB connection means that they generally are not as fast as internal drives. On the other hand, an internal hard drive requires a certain level of technical knowledge to install.
5Evaluate your computing needs to determine how much of a factor disk performance should play in your purchasing decision. Generally speaking, hard drives with larger on-board memory caches and faster platter-spin rates perform better than drives with smaller caches and slower spin rates. If you perform only modestly-intensive tasks such as creating documents or spreadsheets, and simply need more storage space, opt for a less-expensive 5400 or 7200 RPM hard drive with a 2- to 4MB cache. If you need a big drive for tasks such as video editing and rendering, consider buying a faster 10,000 RPM drive with a 8- to 16MB cache. The faster spin rate and larger cache makes a considerable difference when performing processor-intensive tasks that write a lot of data to the hard disk.
- Hard drive dependability should always play a major factor in your buying decision. Therefore, avoid drives from lesser known manufacturers and select one from reliable drive manufacturers such as Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate and Western Digital. Major drive manufacturers guarantee their drives for significantly longer periods than do smaller OEM producers (usually about 3 to 5 years) and usually replace faulty or defective drives in a matter of days. With lesser-known manufacturers, warranty periods usually cap at about a year and replacing a defective drive may take considerably longer.