External computer storage is becoming increasingly affordable. In December 2014, I bought a Toshiba Canvio 2 terabyte portable hard drive for just under $90 dollars. The hard drive is powered by a USB 2.0/3.0 cable, so there is no need for an extra electrical connection. The drive measures 3 by 4.5 inches (8 by 11.5 cm) which is about the size of a small phone or camera.
Backing up your data to local storage allows you to use it on different computers, like a desktop machine or a more portable laptop. The portable drive can serve not only as a backup medium, but also as a an extension of the computer's storage capacity.
Frequently we read reports of hacking exploits of cloud-based accounts. It may be convenient and tempting to store your personal data to accounts such as Dropbox, but there are hordes of hackers trying to crack these accounts using various methods. A personal external hard drive, which can be encrypted, provides a more secure way to store sensitive data. For maximum security, you can disconnect the drive from the computer and store it in a safe when not in use.
The Toshiba Canvio 2 terabyte portable hard drive comes already formatted as NTFS for Windows, although non-Windows operating systems such as Ubuntu can also read and write to the drive. The Toshiba documentation indicates that the disk drive needs to be reformatted for Mac OS X Mavericks, Mountain Lion and Lion. A USB 3.0 port is required for high speed transfers.
I was very ambitious when I first used the hard drive and tried to copy 20 large video files with one copy command which I knew would take several hours. I continued working on other tasks on the same computer, and then I noticed that the copy process had stopped. Only one video file had been copied and the disk drive light was blinking. The copy command could not be canceled and the hard drive did not work after rebooting the computer. The hard drive got stuck in a loop trying to start up. The CHKDSK utility indicated that the boot sector of the drive was corrupted.
Fortunately, I had just started to use the disk drive and there was not much data on it. I had to reformat the drive on a computer that had only USB 2.0 ports, so I could not take advantage of the high speed transfers. I started formatting the disk drive on another computer at around 3:30 PM and the process finished at 12 PM the next day. Two terabytes is a lot of storage and it took about 21 hours to format the disk drive! From now on, I will only attempt to copy to this drive in smaller increments and I will avoid running other processes that may interrupt the copying.
The Bad News. When I plugged the hard drive into a 4-port USB extension on the original computer, the hard drive could not start up. The LED blinked and then it turned off while the disk was still spinning with the clicking symptoms of an I/O error. The Windows operating system could not mount the disk drive. I unplugged the drive from the USB hub and plugged it directly into a USB port of the motherboard, and then the drive worked normally! I had not experienced this problem with a Western Digital (WD Elements) 1TB hard drive which is slightly thinner than the Toshiba 2TB drive. From this experience, I concluded that the Toshiba 2TB drive is just barely functional with a USB 2.0 connection and not functional at all when plugged into a USB hub extension.