What External Drive Should I Get?

I frequently recommend you purchase an external hard drive for your backups. Backing up to an external drive is probably the most important first step in getting an overall backup strategy in place.

The inevitable question is, “What external drive should I buy?”

The problem, of course, is that the answer keeps changing. Technology evolves, and as a result, so does my recommendation.

Let me give you a few guidelines, and then a few current (as of this writing) examples.

Read moreWhat External Drive Should I Get?

Can a USB thumbdrive “wear out”?

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I have a database application that I share between multiple computers. We keep the database itself on a USB thumb drive and simply move that drive to the other computers as needed. The database is never copied off the thumbdrive, we just update it in place. Seems very simple.

A friend of mine just told me that I was asking for trouble. He said something about thumbdrives “wearing out”, and that sooner or later, probably sooner, the data on my thumbdrive would become corrupt. Is that true? Do these USB drives actually wear out?

Yes.

I strongly recommend that you backup the contents of that drive – yes, sooner rather than later. And perhaps even rethink how you’re sharing that data.

Inexpensive flash memory, the type used in USB thumb drives, memory sticks and other devices, is very, very cool. But there is a dark side that people don’t talk about much.

Flash memory “wears out”.

Read moreCan a USB thumbdrive “wear out”?

Should I backup to an SD Card?

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Now that you can buy a 256 GB SD card for about $100, would that be a good way to back up a laptop? I always hate plugging in an external drive to backup my laptop. This way I can schedule automatic backup and not worry about the media. The 256 GB card has a lifetime warranty and so if fails you can, in theory, get a replacement. Any idea about the expected failure time for reading or writing the SD card daily?

You know, my gut tells me that this is a bad idea. There are a few things that make me uncomfortable.

Read moreShould I backup to an SD Card?

How Should I Use My SSD and HD Together?

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I’m building myself a new Windows 7 machine. It will have a 250 GB Solid State Drive; a 1 TB SATA 3 hard drive and a 250 GB IEE HD. I assume the OS will be on the Solid State Drive but what about the other programs? Will a dynamic partition be better? Does the 1 TB need to be only backup? Can I run the OS only from the Solid State Drive and programs from the 1 TB drive?

I’m not really sure by what you mean by IEE HD, but I do have some ideas on how to set this thing up. You can, of course, do whatever you really want and it will probably work just fine, but here’s the approach that I would take.

Read moreHow Should I Use My SSD and HD Together?

Would it be worthwhile to upgrade my RAM?

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Hi Leo. I know that in the past you said that increasing the RAM on your machine is probably the first thing that you would do to increase performance. But I’m wondering: These days, when machines come with generous amounts of RAM already installed, if that would still be your advice? I have an HP computer that came with 8 GB of RAM, but it will take 16 if I sacrifice the two 4 GB wafers. Do you think this would be worthwhile? I’ve already optimized the machine by fitting a Solid State Drive and this has made a big difference in performance. A RAM upgrade seems the other obvious thing to do.

Machines are definitely coming with more RAM these days. Prices dropped, so increasing RAM became very feasible for manufacturers to do.

So, let’s talk about RAM.

Read moreWould it be worthwhile to upgrade my RAM?

Will a power loss cause data loss on SSDs?

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If I buy an SSD hard drive to replace my dead mechanical hard drive, what are the drawbacks? I have no UPS. If the electricity goes out during writing, will the data be gone like a USB flash drive?

I’ll admit that the phrase “like a USB flash drive” in your question bothers me. It kind of implies that flash drives always lose their data on power loss and that simply is not true.

Sudden power loss will actually affect all three of the different devices (physical hard drives, a Solid State Drive, or a flash drive) in pretty much the same way.

There are three things that can happen when power is suddenly removed from your computer while you’re using your hard drive.

Read moreWill a power loss cause data loss on SSDs?

What’s the Easiest Way to Upgrade an Older Machine?

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What’s the easiest way (other than buying a new machine) to upgrade my 10-year-old computer?

Unfortunately, there’s no blanket answer I can give to you. It depends on what you’re trying to do with this machine, and how it isn’t meeting your needs today.

If you’re considering an upgrade, it’s obvious there is something about this machine you don’t like. You either want to improve it or do something with it now that you can’t do currently.

Let me throw out a few ideas.

Read moreWhat’s the Easiest Way to Upgrade an Older Machine?