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Making Your Portable Hard Drive Stay Alive

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/12/2009

Here are a few tips to make your sensitive portable hard drive live a long life.

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    Going Portable

    Portable hard drives can be the heart and soul of some people's work, often because it is something that they need to take with them or back up. A dead portable can spell absolute disaster for many people using them, and that is why special care to help extend their life is important. Here are a few tips for making your portable hard drive outlast its data.

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    Correct Storage Methods

    The first thing to remember is to use the portable hard drive as a storage device, not as a reference memory location. What this means is that all work needs to be done and saved on an internal hard drive and then moved over to the portable hard drive once you are done. For example, if you are doing some video editing you need to set a scratch folder on the internal hard drive each time when you are working. Save it there, then save a copy onto your external hard drive. Next time you go to work on that project go to the file you saved on your external and open it, then set the scratch drive on the internal hard drive again. This will help to not burn out your external hard drive. Each time you do a casual save it has to go through all the motions, which is likely too much for your portable. Save it for only the big saves at the end of work time or when backing up your work.

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    Physical Safety

    Portable hard drives are not as physically resilient as many other types of computer hardware. It will not bounce back from physical trauma or irresponsible exposure to the elements in the same way. Try to get a carrying case for it and its peripherals, such as cords, and make sure to put in extra care not to bang it around.

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    Avoid using USB ports when you can. They tend to draw excessive power from your computer and can be dangerous for the hard drive. Go ahead and use FireWire 400 or 800 instead. They are faster and more reliable.

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    Every time you are removing the hard drive from the computer it is important to actually eject it from the computer. This often means right clicking or control clicking and selecting its removal from the menus. This official way of removal will help maintain the data and avoid damaging errors.