As the world gets more digitised, our data storage demands are constantly increasing. Pen drives have become an indispensable part of our daily digital lifestyle. But pen drives normally come in sizes of 1, 2 and 4 GB. You also have pen drives with 8 and 16 GB but these are exponentially expensive.
The best alternative is a laptop hard drive, coupled with an external enclosure, which connects to a computer using a USB port. It’s instantly recognised as a removable device and you don’t have to install any drivers (unless you’re using Windows 98, in which case you will have to install the drivers).
The enclosure, as the name suggests provides a cover for the hard drive. Besides that it has the interface that converts IDE (the interface used by the Drive) to USB.
A laptop hard drive is also known as a 2.5 inch hard drive. In comparison, the hard drives used in desktops are 3.5 inch hard drives. The biggest advantage with a 2.5 inch drive is that when used with an external enclosure, it doesn’t need an external power source and actually powers from the same USB port that it plugs into to transfer data. In comparison when a 3.5 inch hard drive is used with an external enclosure, it requires an external power source.
Besides the 2.5 inch enclosures are just about pocketable whereas their 3.5-inch counterparts are almost brick sized. Desktop hard drive or laptop hard drive? You get portable hard drives in much smaller sizes as well, but we are only looking at the 2.5 inch range as it offers the best value for money.
Hard drive options There are two ways of laying your hands on a portable hard drive:
1) Buying the hard drive and enclosure separately You can buy a laptop hard drive and an external casing separately and assemble them. This way you can mix brands and by products that suit your needs.
Hard discs Brands — Hitachi, Western Digital and Seagate are the top hard drive brands. The replacement service for Hitachi and Western is very good.
If the product is still under warranty, they will take care of everything from pick up to repair and drop off the repaired hard disc within two weeks, all free of cost.
With Seagate, you will have to take your hard drive to their service centre. And there is only a single service centre in Mumbai.
Warranty — All the brands carry a 5 year warranty
Price — Prices are more or lesser similar across the brands. They range from Rs 2,200 for a 40 GB hard drive to Rs 7,500 for a 160 GB one. (See box for detailed prices)
External Casing or Enclosure An external case ranges from Rs 200 up to Rs 1,600. The package includes the enclosure, the USB cable and a cover to put in the enclosure. And all of them come with a one-year warranty. There are many generic brands for enclosures that cost about Rs 200.
For more reliability and transfer speeds, we recommend branded ones. (See box for details)
2) Buy a completely finished product If you buy a finished product, you get a hard drive and the enclosure as a single unit sold by the company In most cases you will not be able to dismantle the case to replace or exchange the hard drive. And even if you are able to do so, you will void the warranty.
Brands — Western Digital Passport: Comes with a rubberised bottom for a good grip. LaCie: A French brand known for its styling. These drives are slightly expensive.
Warranty — All the brands come with a one year warranty.
Our pick The problem with finished products is that these only come with a oneyear warranty which includes the hard drive as well. In comparison, the ‘hard drive-enclosure’ setup will have a separate 5 year warranty for the hard drive and one year for the enclosure. Besides, you can also upgrade the hard drive, without causing the warranty to go void.
We chose the Hitachi 80 GB for its wide availability, good support and excellent value for money. Coupled with Vantec’s NexStar 3 enclosure, it is a killer deal. The NexStar 3 was chosen mostly for its neat looks (mirror metallic finish), good transfer speeds, reliability of operation and an excellent carry case. The total cost: Rs 3,200 (hard drive) + Rs 1, 550 (enclosure) = Rs 4,750.