A lot of people find it difficult to choose between a USB flash drive and a portable external hard drive. Both offer different features and benefits. Read on to learn everything you need to know about them.
In this article:
- How is a Portable External Hard Drive Different from a USB Drive?
- What Should I Consider When Choosing Between an External Hard Drive and a USB Drive?
- When Should I Use an External Hard Drive?
- When Should I Use a USB Drive?
- How Much Does An External Hard Drive Cost Compared To A USB Flash Drive?
- How Long Do They Usually Last?
Portable External Hard Drive | How It Compares To USB Flash Drives
How is a Portable External Hard Drive Different from a USB Drive?
These days, promotional drives are fairly common. External hard drives, on the other hand, are probably not as common.
A portable external hard drive is a storage device that can be attached to a computer using a USB or Firewire connection.
Due to their high storage capacity, people often use a portable external hard drive to store media for backup. Some people also use them when the computer’s internal drive is already full.
For some, an external hard drive also serves as a network drive.
Network Drive Definition: A network drive, otherwise known as a mapped drive, is a computer drive that one installs and operates over a computer network. Often, this is done on a local area network (LAN) to give the same shared storage and access services across all the users on the network that one selects.
They also typically utilize two interfaces. This can either be a Firewire or a USB, with the main difference being the rate at which each can transfer data.
- USB connections have the capacity to move data at a rate of 12 to 480 Mbps (megabits per second).
- External devices that support Firewire, on the other hand, can move data at much higher speeds, which can go from 400 to 800 Mbps.
What Should I Consider When Choosing Between an External Hard Drive and a USB Drive?
There are numerous types of USB flash drives and external hard drives out there. The choice between a USB flash drive and a portable external hard drive, however, should depend solely on the user’s needs.
Below are some of the factors you should consider.
- Storage – USB flash drives have far smaller capacities compared to external hard drives. These days, you can easily get a 4TB external hard drive. On the other hand, a 4TB USB drive is unfortunately still just a prototype for now.
- Price – External hard drives are a lot more expensive compared to USB flash drives because of the higher storage capacity they have.
- Durability – USB flash drives, though often smaller, are typically far more durable compared to external hard drives. This is especially true of HDDs, which have moving parts as compared with USB flash drives, which have none.
- Lifespan – Both have fairly similar lifespans with enough care and protection.
- Portability – Given their size and weight, USB flash drives are far easier to carry compared to external hard drives. They also don’t need extra cables or power cords.
- Read / Write Speed – Generally speaking, hard drives can accommodate faster data transfers, especially for bulk data.
When Should I Use an External Hard Drive?
There are plenty of situations when people would require the massive memory capacity that a portable external hard drive can offer.
- Audio and Video Editing — Those who edit audio or video often use these external hard drives as storage for high-quality media files. These files, if left on a PC or a laptop, can take up a relatively large amount of disk space.
- Daisy Chaining Storage Devices– People can also connect or “daisy chain” them. This allows users to create a virtually unlimited storage capacity since the users can connect them and use them all at once.
- Taking Larger Files On-the-Go — Hard drives are lightweight, but they can pack a punch when it comes to how much data they can store. They’re also ideal for sensitive or more confidential files as they can also come with security features such as fingerprint recognition, preventing other people from accessing stored data.
When Should I Use a USB Drive?
Here are some instances when USB drives will come in handy:
- Promotional Campaigns — USB drives are cheaper than portable external hard drives, making them ideal as promotional giveaways. They can also be printed and designed to reflect an individual or organization’s branding. They’d even make unique business cards.
- Organization of Files — Flash drives may have smaller capacities than external hard drives, but this is also what makes them more ideal to help organize files. Want to separate personal and professional files? Want a dedicated device just for medical records? It’s all possible because USB drives are smaller and cheaper, so having several of them won’t take up too much space or burn a hole through one’s pocket.
- Carrying Files On-the-Go — Whether on a lanyard or keychain, flash drives are extremely portable and won’t take up too much space. If you have a small bag or just want to put your storage device in your pocket, it’s not difficult choosing between a 2TB external hard drive or a 2TB flash drive, right?
How Much Does An External Hard Drive Cost Compared To A USB Flash Drive?
External hard drives are a lot pricier compared to USB flash drives.
HDDs are typically cheaper than SSDs. A 1TB external hard drive could cost as low as $65, while some 5TB HDDs cost less than $130.
SSDs used to be more expensive, but because of the highly competitive market, these prices have also started to go down. Still, it remains a bit pricey with a mere 1tb SSD costing at least $250.
Because they offer significantly lower storage capacity, USB flash drives cost much less. A typical 16GB flash drive, for example, costs around $7 on average. They’re even cheaper when bought in bulk.
How Long Do They Usually Last?
Generally speaking, hard drives last for about three to five years on average. The better one takes care of the hard drive, the more likely it is to survive longer.
In a study conducted by Backblaze, an online backup company, it was revealed that 90% of hard drives survive for three years and 80% for four years. Of course, this number varied across different brands.
The same goes for USB flash drives. More or less, these also last for about three to five years. USB drives, however, are more durable compared to external hard drives given that they do not have moving parts.
While they’re both storage devices, portable external hard drives and USB drives are two distinct devices. They have different advantages, disadvantages, and features that make them more ideal for some purposes than others.
When it comes to deciding between an external hard drive or a USB drive, it’s best to think about your purpose since this will dictate which features you’ll ultimately need. We hope this guide has helped you figure out which device would be a better fit for your purpose.
Are you leaning more toward a portable external hard drive or a USB drive? Let us know which storage device you’re more interested in and why in the comments section below.