There are few things more frustrating that running out of space on a hard drive while saving a large file. An external USB drive is the perfect solution to this common problem. No longer do computer users have to frantically search for old files to delete to make space for new ones. They simply plug in the drive and move the files over to it, then unplug the drive and take it wherever they like. The drives are compact and will fit into any carry bag, and some are even small enough to fit inside a shirt pocket.
An external USB drive is a hard drive that connects to a computer through a USB cable. The drive and the USB adapter are usually the only things inside the case, although some models also have a fan and heatsink to keep the parts cool. The drive is the same type used inside a computer and can even be swapped for one with a different capacity. When connected to a computer, it appears in the file manager as just another drive. Files can be swapped back and forth between the drive and the computer, but at a slower rate due to the USB connection.
The most popular method of backing up computer files is to burn them onto a CD or DVD. This is fine for small files that will fit onto a disc, but very large files need to be broken up into parts. A better way to store large files is on an external USB drive. Setting up and using one of these drive is simple and easy. They can even be connected or removed without shutting down the computer first. A large capacity drive may also be cheaper and faster than burning many discs. A drive can also be reused later on, unlike non-rewritable discs.
The outside appearance of an external DVD drive is often plain and boring. Apart from the plugs on the back and the small lights on the front, there is nothing remarkable about the case. Manufacturers try to spice up the appearance with chrome trims and exciting colors but it often resembles a thick book or a plastic box. Some models have a stand that holds the drive upright on its side, with plugs in the base for the data and power cables. These are good for saving desk space and keeping the cables out of the way.
The most important feature to look for in an external USB drive is its capacity. The price of a drive is directly related to its capacity, so that is good indicator of how much media it can store. A fast transfer speed is also an important feature to check for. The drive should be the faster USB 2.0 type, not the slower USB1 type. Transferring files to one of these slower drives takes a very long time. Along with a power light on the front of the case, it is good to have an activity light to show when the drive is ready to be removed.
To use an external USB drive, its power and data cables must first be connected. The data cable simply plugs into a USB port on the computer. Some drives have a power adapter that plugs into a wall socket, while others get their power from a second USB port. These drives often have a split plug that allows another USB device to use the port as well. This is not so important for desktop computers but many small notebooks have a limited number of USB ports. Once the cables are connected and the power light comes on, the drive should appear in the file manager and be ready to use.