Storage expansion is particularly good news if you’re a shutterbug who has an increasingly large image archive, a music hound who has thousands of digital albums or a video buff who has a wealth of high-definition files. For instance, a 1TB drive could store up to 666,000 images, 245,000 songs or 526 high-definition movies, whereas a 4TB drive could store at least 2.5 million images, 1.1 million songs and at least 2,000 HD movies. Large families who have multiple computers yet share one external hard drive might find this helpful, too.
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In addition, USB 3.0 connectors now are standard for all external hard drives, which means that you no longer have to pay a premium to get data-transfer speeds that are at least 4.8 gigabits per second (Gbps). You’ll pay a premium of as much as $140 to step up to an external hard drive that has a Thunderbolt connection, which is twice as fast as USB 3.0 is.
Although Thunderbolt was introduced 2 years ago, primarily only Mac computers have a Thunderbolt port, and it’s unclear when that will change. The price, coupled with Thunderbolt’s high transfer speeds, means that Thunderbolt drives appeal largely to media professionals who transfer many large files.
In 2014, we expect to see new versions of USB and Thunderbolt. USB 3.1 will transfer data at 10 Gbps (twice as fast as USB 3.0 and the same speed as the existing Thunderbolt), and it will have backward compatibility with existing USB devices (albeit at the maximum speed that the previous device supports). Thunderbolt 2 already is available on the newest Apple MacBook Pro notebook computers. It also has backward compatibility, and it transfers data twice as fast as what’s expected from USB 3.1.
It’s unclear when external hard drives that are compatible with USB 3.1 will arrive, but the first Thunderbolt 2 drive is on the way. In January 2014, LaCie announced that it would make a Thunderbolt 2-compatible external hard drive. LaCie hadn’t announced pricing at press time, but we can’t help but believe that it will cost at least $699, which is the same as an existing premium Thunderbolt drive.
NETWORK NEWS. If you want to step up to a network-attached storage (NAS) drive so you can back up at least two computers at once over your home network, you should know that such drives increasingly allow you to back up at least some of your data to cloud-based storage. You’ll pay at least $150 for an NAS drive that allows you to back up at least 2GB of data to a storage website.
Such a feature is appealing particularly for people who want to share files or who want to have access to their files when they’re on the go. However, if the company that provides the online storage goes out of business, then you face the possibility that your data will disappear, too, data-storage experts tell us. In other words, if you use such online storage, you’d better have a backup plan.
Freelance writer Melissa J. Perenson has covered computer technology for 20 years.