You connect your external Toshiba hard drive to your computer and suddenly it shows a blue light or white light sudddenly ? In this article we show you what it means and also explain how a hard drive works, which different features a hard drive has, what they mean and which features are the best
- Blue light on your external Toshiba Hard drive means, that you are connected to your USB 3.0 port on your computer/laptop. USB 3.0 has faster data transfer rates than USB 2.0.
- White light on your external Toshiba Hard drive means, that you are connected to your USB 2.0 port on your computer/laptop. USB 2.0 has slower date transfer rates than USB 3.0. Connect to your USB 3.0 port to get your data transfer faster done, if you need to transfer a lot data (>2GB)
What is an external hard drive ?
An external hard drive is a storage drive that is connected to a computer via an external interface such as USB, Firewire, eSATA or Thunderbolt and is operated outside the computer case. The hard disk enables external storage of data and can be used for data backups, for example.
An external hard disk is connected to a computer via an interface such as USB, Firewire, eSATA or Thunderbolt and, unlike an internal hard disk, is not operated inside the computer case but outside. As far as storage technology is concerned, internal and external hard disks do not differ. Usually, it is a
Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with rotating disks and read/write heads.
In principle, an external hard disk drive can also be a Solid State Drive (SSD), which stores data using semiconductor memory. However, due to lower prices and higher storage capacity, HDDs dominate the market for external hard disk drives.
The external hard disks can be used for external data storage or for data backups. Due to their small size, the devices are easy to transport and can be stored regardless of the computer’s location. The hard disk technology is protected by a robust housing.
What are the differences between the features of an external hard drives?
External hard disks can be distinguished according to various criteria. The most important distinguishing features are:
- Technology used: SSD or HDD,
- 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard drives,
- interface technology used (USB, Firewire, eSATA, Thunderbolt etc.),
- external power supply required,
- Storage capacity.
Depending on the diameter of the rotating magnetic disks used, whether 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch, the external hard drives have a certain size. 3.5-inch hard drives are larger and heavier, but achieve higher write and read speeds. In addition, larger hard disks with higher storage capacity are available.
2.5-inch hard disks can often be supplied with the electrical power required for operation via the data interface. For 3.5-inch hard disks, an additional external power supply unit is usually required.
High-quality external hard drives can also be designed as a RAID system and consist of several individual HDDs. Some external hard disks are equipped with particularly robust housings that protect against moisture, magnetic fields or external forces, for example.
How to connect to external hard disks?
Very often USB interfaces are used to connect external hard drives. Depending on the USB variant (2.0, 3.0, 3.1 or 3.2) certain data transfer rates are achieved. With USB 3.0 the achievable data rate is in the range of about 450 megabytes per second. Other common interfaces are Firewire and Thunderbolt.
All three interfaces offer the possibility to supply the connected devices with electrical power at the same time.
Another interface for external hard disks is eSATA. With eSATA an external hard disk works as fast as an internal hard disk connected via SATA. In principle, there are also external hard drive solutions that are connected to a computer via LAN or WLAN. However, these solutions do not fall under the term external hard drives, as they are NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices.
External hard drives : 3.5 vs 2.5
There is already one loser in the battle between SSD and hard disk: the large 3.5-inch models. With up to 12 terabytes (TB), they offer a lot of storage, but meanwhile they only play a subordinate role in the market. The reasons: They are bulky and heavy; and because they practically always need an external power supply, they are only suitable for stationary use. This should leave room in the market for the large 3.5-inch hard disks: as internal storage for desktop PCs and servers, for example as a practical NAS server for home and smaller companies.
Are 2.5-inch hard drives better?
In addition, only a few users need hard disks with 12,000 GB of storage. The 2.5-inch hard disks with a capacity of 4,000 GB tested here already have space for more than 800 feature films in Full HD format, 800,000 music titles or half a million photos. But regardless of whether a classic hard disk or modern SSD: External storage devices can do much more than just back up important data or archive music, photos and films:
- Memory expansion: The notebook or tablet offers too little space? An external hard drive or SSD with a USB port solves the problem in no time at all and is also perfect for data backup, as an external data carrier can be locked away without any problems.
- Network data storage: If the hard drive or SSD is connected to the USB port of the WLAN router, all users in the home network can access photos, music and videos via PC, tablet, smartphone or notebook – it couldn’t be more convenient. Only those who very often want to transfer very large amounts of data are better off using a NAS server.
- Playback and recording device: With an external hard drive or SSD, many smart TVs also take over the work of the video recorder and store films, series and reports.
Are external SSD hard drives better?
Compared to hard drives, SSDs offer enormous advantages: Because they have no mechanical parts such as rotating magnetic disks and nimble read/write heads, they work much faster and are also noiseless. And they are much more robust: If an SSD crashes to the ground, no read/write head rattles over magnetic disks, which has already caused the early death of many an external hard disk – especially in the larger 3.5-inch models. The tested 2.5-inch hard disks are considerably less sensitive, but can also resent a fall from the desk if they aren’t packed the same way as the Freecom Tough Drive tested here: with a thick rubber cover.
There are also SSDs with an especially strong case, which offer a bit more robustness on the road, such as the Lacie Rugged Storage in the test. On top of that, SSDs need less energy. Hard disks don’t swallow too much power either – usually about 3 watts are enough for a 2.5-inch disk – but SSDs are even more frugal with a power consumption of about 1.5 watts. Notebook users in particular benefit from this economy, as it hardly affects the battery life.
A further advantage is the smaller size and light weight: the Samsung Portable SSD T5, for example, is barely half the size of a 2.5-inch hard drive. Most SSDs tested weigh significantly less than 100 grams. For comparison: The external 2.5-inch hard disks tested here weigh an average of 250 grams, which is more than double the weight.
Internal vs external hard drive, which is better?
In view of the clear advantages of the SSD, is there still anything to be said for an old magnetic storage device? Yes – the price! Whoever buys a hard disk simply gets more storage for the money. To be more precise: about six times as much. With the external hard drive Western Digital My Passport Ultra 4TB for currently 120 euro, the price is only 3 cents per gigabyte. For the external SSD Samsung Portable SSD T5 1TB, 180 euro are due at the checkout, the price per gigabyte is 18 cents, the smaller 500 GB version costs about 95 euro, which is 19 cents per gigabyte. But the prices for SSD memory have started to slide: Five years ago, 1 GB of external SSD storage cost an average of 85 cents, almost five times as much. And this downward trend is likely to continue in the coming years.
SSDs are therefore (still) more expensive, but quieter, more economical and more robust than hard drives. But what about the speed? Are SSDs also faster outside the computer or does the USB port slow down the turbo memory? The SSDs in the test achieved on average more than twice the speed of external hard drives. But the test also showed that a Generation 2 USB 3.1 port is mandatory for this. If the SSD and computer are only equipped with a USB 3.1 port of Generation 1 (formerly USB 3.0), the speed is significantly reduced.
An example: The Intenso Portable SSD 500GB with a USB 3.1 Generation 1 port managed 254 megabytes per second (MB/s) when writing data, and 379 MB/s when reading. In contrast, the Lacie Rugged, equipped with a USB 3.1 Generation 2 port, wrote data at 394 MB/s and read data at 448 MB/s. And it goes even faster: with a Thunderbolt 3 SSD like the Samsung X5. This is very expensive, even the 500 GB version costs 225 euro, the 1 TB and 2 TB models even 460 euro and 900 euro respectively. But the SSD is also megafix: The X5 managed up to 1,566 MB/s in the test when writing, and even up to 1,655 MB/s when reading. Currently, such a speed is still reserved for expensive professional SSDs. But with the new USB 4 standard, cheap SSDs should also become significantly faster in the future. Internal SSDs with PCIe technology remain the fastest memories, while the fastest models transfer up to 3.4 GB per second.
Cable lengths of external hard drives
Some manufacturers are surprisingly stingy when it comes to the equipment: The included USB connection cables are very short in some test candidates. Freecom took the cake with the Tough Drive HDD: The permanently installed connection cable is a measly four centimeters long. After all: With the exception of the Intenso Portable SSD, all tested SSDs have a modern USB-C connection. A corresponding socket is missing on the computer? Suitable USB-C to USB-A adapters are included with the SSDs.