External Hard Drive

What Does External Hard Drive Mean?

An external hard drive is a storage device located outside of a computer that is connected through a USB cable or wireless connection. An external hard drive is usually used to store media that a user needs to be portable, for backups, and when the internal drive of the computer is already at its full memory capacity. These devices have a high storage capacity compared to flash drives and are mostly used for backing up numerous computer files or serving as a network drive to store shared content.


External hard drives are also known as removable hard drives.

Techopedia Explains External Hard Drive

Two interfaces are usually used by this storage device: FireWire or USB. The difference between these interfaces is the rate at which data can be transferred. USB connections can move data at a rate of 12 to 480 Mbps (megabits per second), while FireWire supported external devices boast transmission speeds ranging from 400 to 800 Mbps. Newer external hard drives are now USB 3.0 and 4.0 ready, although most PCs and laptops do not even support USB 3.0 yet.

Users may employ the massive memory capacity of an external drive for a number of reasons:

  • Most users who use this device are those who do video or audio editing. These media files require high-quality settings, and therefore take up a large amount of disk space. One advantage to these external drives is that they can be connected or daisy chained, meaning they can be connected together and be used all at once to create unlimited storage capacity.
  • There are those who use these devices as back up for their computer files. They can accommodate the exact copy of the files from another drive. Because an external hard drive is portable, it can also be stored in a safe, secure location.
  • With portability, hard drives nowadays are designed to be lightweight and can be carried anywhere. Some external devices come with security features like fingerprint recognition, which prevents other people from gaining access to the stored data.

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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…