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External Hard Drives


External hard drives are plugged into your computer’s USB port and provide extra storage space. They can be purchased online or at electronics stores and usually start at about $60 for 1 terabyte (1000GB). If you work with large amounts of data, you may need multiple external hard drives.


Choosing an External Hard Drive

There are many brands of hard drives. Western Digital, Seagate, LaCie, and Samsung are a few common ones. You can choose between “hard disk drives” (HDDs), which contain spinning disks and are often more affordable for larger amounts of data, or “solid-state drives” (SSDs), which are significantly faster with newer technology but cost more for smaller amounts of storage space. You also want to consider the type of cable that comes with the hard drive - for newer laptops with USB-C ports, you may consider buying a hard drive with a USB-C cable. When shopping for a hard drive, simply Google your preferred size and brand (if any) and look for a product with a large number of positive reviews. Bonus tip: 2TB hard drives are often only $10-$20 more than their 1TB counterparts.


Setting up your External Hard Drive

When you first get your external hard drive, it will need to be “initialized” or “formatted” before you use it. Some hard drives will arrive formatted as NTFS (Windows format) and will prompt you to install a driver to read it. For best results, however, you should instead follow these instructions for reformat it as MacOS Extended (Journaled) using an application called Disk Utility. If you’re planning to use the drive with both Windows and Mac computers, you may consider formatting it as ExFAT. Important: “formatting” your drive is the same thing as erasing it!


If you have any questions reguarding hard drives, please contact the MCAD Help Desk by emailing or by phone at 612-874-3666.



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