Internal Data Storage Tips

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Bigger and Better

Terabytes of storage are coming to an internal hard drive near you, along with cost per GB falling under 50 cents and still going down. For you, the consumer, this is a great deal. Soon enough, your internal hard drive is going to have so much capacity that you'll have to work to fill it, even if you're recording uncompressed TV or video. You'll even be able to put your information on a reasonably priced file server, in order to share it with family, friends and co-workers.
Bottom line: More storage space at lower prices means that every computer user will be able to use their home PC as their media center soon enough. Everything is going digital. Get ready now.


Why Go Internal? Price, Price, Price

Here's why you should buy an internal hard drive over and external hard drive: price. For example, as of March 2006, you can by a Samsung 250GB SATA internal drive for $97 online. A 250 GB USB 20 external hard drive from Western Digital costs $159, about 33 percent more for roughly the same storage capacity. Some argue that an internal hard drive has less vibration and will last longer. Others think it's more convenient to deal with a drive within the machine, rather than connected through a USB or Firewire port.
Bottom line: The only difference between internal and external hard drives is price. You pay more for an external drive because it includes a housing and connection.


Do It Yourself?

So you've decided to purchase a new internal hard drive to upgrade your PC. Good plan. You'll have more capacity to do things like build an MP3 or video connection. Next question: How are you going to put it into your PC?
You need to think about a couple of important factors before attempting to install an internal hard drive in your PC:

* Where are you going to put it? If you have an open bay on your PC, you can add a second internal hard drive without disturbing the first one. If not, you're going to need to replace your current hard drive, which is much, much more complicated. This would involve backing up all your data and then formatting and removing the hard drive, before you can replace it with the new one and load your data back onto it.

* Do you have the skills to do this? Unless you're pretty good with computer hardware, DON'T TRY TO DO THIS AT HOME. Consider hiring a professional, especially if the replacement is going to involve backing up and offloading all of your valuable data. Don't take a chance here. Your information is way too valuable.

Bottom line: Unless you really know what you're doing, hire a professional to help you do the actual replacement or installation of the new drive.


Check the Cost per GB

When shopping for an internal hard drive, a good way to measure your potential choices against each other is to look at cost per gigabyte of storage. After all, what you want is the most possible storage at the lowest price, right? Simply take the price and divide it by the number of GB. For example, if you have a 100 GB machine that costs $100, the cost per GB is $1 (which is very high).


Converging on Your Hard Drive

Like most other digital storage options, internal hard drives are getting faster and bigger, storing more data for less cost than ever before. While internal hard drives are having less of a pop culture impact than iPods and the rest of their external cousins, internal hard drives are now offering the kind of capacity that can change the way people use computers.
What does this mean to you? It means you can live more of your life digitally than ever before. Your stereo, your typewriter, your VCR and your TV can all converge into your PC, with the capacity to store thousands of songs and hundreds of hours of TV or video.
Bottom line: Next time you're thinking about buying a new stereo, TV or VCR, think instead about a new internal hard drive and how that could help you listen to music or watch movies and shows directly on your computer.


Shopping for Hard Drives

The first thing to think about when shopping for a new internal hard drive is capacity. After all, that's why you want a new internal hard drive in the first place, right? Go for the most capacity you can afford. It's better to have too much space on your internal hard drive than to not have space when you need it. Think about at least 250GB, more if you can afford it. You'll be happy later.
Next is rotational speed. This is how fast the internal hard drive reads and writes. It will make a big difference if you're doing multimedia or gaming. You want at least 7,200 RPM. Go for 10,000 RPM if you can afford it.
Interface speed, seek speed and buffer are really minor considerations.
In terms of actually shopping, this is something you can easily research and shop for completely online. Do some power searching, decide which make and model is right for you and then shop for the lowest price. Remember to add in tax and shipping charges, too, when making your final decision.


Do Your Research Before Buying

If you've decided to go with an internal hard drive to expand the storage capacity of your PC, you have the folowing types to choose from:

SATA hard drives: SATA hard drives have emerged in two years to become the new standard for internal hard drives, replacing the PATA standard. SATA hard drives offer better performance through new engineering. Your PC must be SATA compliant.

PATA hard drives: PATA hard drives were the previous standard, slower than SATA but still very useable for most applications. You can still buy PATA hard drives, but most new machines use SATA hard drives.

SCSI hard drives: SCSI hard drives are by far the fastest hard drives, but can be expensive. They are used mostly for industrial and business applications where high performance is critical.

NAS hard drives: NAS (Network Attached Server) hard drives serve networks through a client-server protocol. Good for when data on one machine needs to be shared regularly with a group.

Bottom line: There are different types of internal hard drives available to meet different needs. Do your research before buying.


Failure Happens: Prepare for It Now

It happens. Internal hard drives fail. Newer internal hard drives are more reliable than older ones, but it can still happen. Here's what you can do to avoid having your internal hard drive fail and be prepared for if and when it does happen:

* Make sure the inside of your computer isn't too hot. Running a hot hard drive is a fast ticket to failure. Make sure your internal fan is working. You can even install an extra fan, if needed.

* Run a hard drive diagnostic tool regularly. Basic diagnostic tools come with Windows. You can purchase additional diagnostic tools online, often as part of a package with virus protection. Then set those tools to run regularly on an automatic basis.

* Back up your back-up. If you have a second internal drive, you are probably using it to perform automated back-ups, which is smart. But what if that drive fails? Back up your data to a removeable media like DVD-ROM on a regular basis as well.

Bottom line: Hard drives fail and yours might someday, too. You can prepare for the worst, though by making sure your PC isn't running too hot, and performing regular diagnostics and back-ups.


Automated Back-Ups: Help When You Need It

If you're purchasing an internal hard drive to do back-ups of your initial drive, make sure your drive comes with software to perform the automated back-ups for you. Then set it up and use it regularly. But don't rely on this as your only back-up. Make sure to perform regular back-ups on a DVD or other removeable media, too.

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