View random article

What Is an External Hard Drive?

An external hard drive is a kind of computer component. All computers will have at least one hard drive, in which it places important software (including the operating system), files, and user data. However, this hard drive is built into the computer.

The external hard drive is thus a second (or third, or fourth…) drive that is attached to the computer with a cable. The need for it emerged when file sizes or data requirements grew so big that it was necessary to have an alternative storage device. This is true of both companies that have thousands upon thousands of business files and heavy-duty software, to individuals who download MP3s, photos and other multimedia that can take up a lot of space on the drive.

Others see the external hard drive as a kind of protection. With all of the security threats (like spyware and viruses) most individuals and companies see the need to back up their information in another device—so, come what may, there will always be another copy of important files. An external hard drive also allows them to keep critical, high-security files in a place that won’t be accessed each and every time somebody boots up the computer. Thus, spyware will be unable to detect corporate secrets, or people can share a computer without fearing that another person will view their electronic secrets.

All external hard drives have a protective enclosure (to protect it during transport or storage); some units even come with a cooling fan. It is also built so that it can rest on a table. A high-speed interface cable connects it to the computer, allowing the two devices to “communicate” when plugged.

Featured in Technology