Glossary of Terms Related to External Hard Drives
When shopping for a product with lots of technical features, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the terminology used to describe those features.
This is the only way to truly find the best product to meet your particular needs.
The following definitions are intended to provide a high-level explanation of terms related to external hard drives. They are geared towards more non-technical visitors who want to understand more about external hard drives before making a purchasing decision. But even those with a little more technical knowledge may find a quick review useful.
If there is a term that warrants a more in-depth discussion, you will find a link to a post with more detailed information.
If you would like to see a term added to the glossary, please leave a comment.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Glossary ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~ C ~
Capacity: How much space an external hard drive has to store data. This is typically measured in Gigabytes (GB) or Terabytes (TB). The actual capacity of a drive is typically less than the manufacturer advertises.
Compatible or Compatibility: Two things are compatible when you can use them without any special modification or adaption. External hard drive manufacturers will typically indicate the type of computer or multimedia device with which their drive is designed to work, as well as with what operating systems.
~ D ~
Data Transfer Rate: How fast data is transferred to or from an external hard drive. It is typically measured in Bits per Second (BPS). Most manufacturers will specify that a drive’s data transfer rate is “up to” a particular speed, as actual data transfer rate can be impacted by multiple factors.
~ E ~
External Hard Drive: A device you can attach to your computer using a special cable on which you can store data files (like movies, music, pictures, etc.).
~ F ~
FireWire: A method for transferring data to and from an external hard drive.
Form Factor: Refers to the size (or footprint) of an external hard drive, which is typically determined by the size of the internal hard drive mechanism. Because customers want external hard drives to be as small as possible, the outer case is typically only as big as it needs to be to house the internal drive. Form factors for internal drives generally start at 3.5” on the high end and go down to 2.5”, 1.8”, 1”, and 0.85”. The larger the form factor, the higher the capacity and the better the performance. The smaller the form factor, the better the portability.
~ G ~
Gigabyte: A unit of data storage equaling 2 to the 30th power, or 1,073,741,824 bytes. External hard drive manufacturers often round this to 1,000,000,000 bytes when specifying the capacity of their drives.
~ P ~
Peripheral: A piece of hardware that can be attached to a computer. Examples include external hard drives, scanners, and printers.
Plug and Play: Refers to external hard drives that are recognized by PCs or other devices as soon as they are connected without the user having to configure it.
Port: An opening or connection on a computer or external hard drive into which you plug in a cable over which the devices can exchange data.
~ R ~
Rotational Speed: How fast the disks inside the drive spin. Faster rotational speeds mean higher data transfer rates, but also mean the drive generates more noise and heat.
~ S ~
Seek Time: The time it takes to find the data to be read or written from the external hard drive.
~ T ~
Terabyte: A unit of data storage equaling 2 to the 40th power, or 1,099,511,627,776 bytes. External hard drive manufacturers often round this to 1,000,000,000,000 bytes when specifying the capacity of their drives.
~ U ~
USB: A method for transferring data to and from an external hard drive.