Your Guide to Buying External Hard Disk Drives on eBay

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Your Guide to Buying External Hard Disk Drives on eBay

Computers are important in this day and age, but they are not invulnerable. Physical damage, theft, a computer virus, or even sometimes just hitting the wrong button can wipe a computer's memory or render it inaccessible. But at least computers can be replaced, while the data the computers carry, once lost, is lost forever. And it is the data that is usually the important part.

The smart thing to do is to regularly back up the contents of a computer. There are several options, including saving to the cloud or using USB flash drives to back up groups of files. External hard drives are another option, one with several distinct advantages. External hard drives have much more capacity than USB flash drives and they are more convenient and reliable than cloud storage. Buying external hard drives on eBay is not complicated, because most external hard drives can work with most computers, but it is still true that some meet particular user needs better than others.

As with the many other electronic devices available on eBay, shopping for external hard drives is a bit easier with some background information. What exactly is an external hard drive? What are they for? What kinds of external hard drive are available? It is easier to discuss how to buy an external hard drive with these basics taken care of.

What Is an External Hard Drive?

An external hard drive is similar in principle to a USB flash drive, or any other external data storage device, except that external hard drives have storage capacities equivalent to those of computers' internal hard drives. The entire memory of a computer can be backed up using an external hard drive, and they are generally about the size of several stacked CD cases, so they are easily portable and fairly durable. Many include their own fans for cooling, and while some require their own power source, many can draw all the power they need from the computer through the USB connection.

Why Use an External Hard Drive?

The most important function of an external hard drive is probably as a backup for the computer's own memory. Computers can and do fail, and while experts can sometimes retrieve the data from a crashed computer, there is no guarantee of success and emergency retrieval services are often very expensive. Computers are also sometimes physically destroyed through accident, or even lost or stolen. While replacing a computer can be expensive, the data on the computer, if not backed up, could be irreplaceable. Having the entire contents of a computer's hard drive backed up on an external hard drive can keep an expensive loss from being catastrophic.

A secondary benefit of external hard drives is convenience and security. People who use multiple computers for the same project can switch the same external hard drive from one machine to the next, thus keeping the entire project backed up to the same device. An external hard drive can also serve as the hub of a local network of multiple machines.

External hard drives are fairly small, so people working on sensitive or confidential projects can save to an external hard drive and then carry the hard drive with them or place it in a lock box. Many people save documents to the cloud or use Internet-based file sharing services, and to a certain extent the Internet can function as an external hard drive in this way, but Internet connections are not always available and they are not always fast. Depending on circumstance, some users find that having a local external hard drive is a faster, more reliable option than the Internet can provide.

What Types of External Hard Drives Are Available on eBay?

External hard drives vary in their capacity, their speed, how they communicate with other devices, and how well they can connect to a local network. The major division between models, including those available on eBay, is between external hard disk drives (HDDs), which contain a spinning disc, and solid state drives (SSDs), which have no moving parts. SSDs are much more durable than HDDs, but they also cost substantially more. For most users, an HDD is adequate; some come with a reinforced shell if durability is a special concern.

What to Consider when Buying a Hard Drive on eBay

There are several factors to consider when shopping for an external hard drive on eBay, but brand is not one of them. Some users have had good or bad experiences with certain brands and so have definite preferences, but the actual performance of all external hard drive brands is about equal. Eventually, all external hard drives do fail, and some individual drives fail earlier than others due to simple bad luck, regardless of brand. Rather than trying to identify a more reliable brand, it makes more sense to find an external hard drive that has the proper connection type, capacity, and other features and to research how many years any drive is likely to last. As a general rule, no electronic device is absolutely fool-proof, but using an external hard drive is a good way to drastically lower the chance that data could be lost.

Hard Drive Connection Type and Speed

Most external hard drives available on eBay are designed to connect through a standard USB 2.0 port; some of these can connect to the newer USB 3.0 ports as well. There are also several other technologies available, some of which have faster transfer speeds than USB 2.0s do. The faster connections often require external drives to have their own power source. If considering something other than a USB connection, make sure that all the devices to be attached to the drive can use the same technology, and that any required cables are available and within the right price range. Be wary of buying connection types that are becoming outdated, as it is more likely that associated hardware could become hard to find before the external drive would otherwise need to be replaced.

Hard Drive Data Capacity

External drives found on eBay vary in the amount of data they can hold, but bigger is not always better. Users who wish to save mostly text-based documents do not need much space, and while high-capacity drives are much more affordable than they once were, they still cost more. There is no reason to spend extra money on storage capacity that will not ever be used. Video and music files, on the other hand, are much larger, so for users who want these types of files the extra capacity is important.

Hard Drive Security and Durability

Some external hard drives feature their own security programs, while others are simply passive storage devices. Security features cost extra, so again the eBay buyer needs to decide if the extra functionality is worth the price. As noted earlier, SSDs are substantially less prone to physical damage and may therefore offer another type of security, especially for accident-prone users.

Using External Hard Drives

Owning an external hard drive is, of course, not enough. It is also necessary to know how to use the device. And knowing the various ways a device can be used also makes it easier to decide which one to buy on eBay, especially since there are so many models available at similar prices.

Using Networks

Both businesses and private users with several different machines, such as multiple computers and a television, may appreciate external hard drives that can store data for the entire network. These Network Attached Storage drives (NASes) require much higher capacities than standard external hard drives do, and are accordingly more expensive. Some NASes are designed to link primarily through televisions for audio-visual use. Others feature their own Wi-Fi router and work on battery power.

Bridging the Gap Between Macs and PCs

Some external hard drives set up to work with Macs either do not work with PCs at all or have limited functionality. The reverse is also true. The problem is not with the external drive itself, as the hardware is neutral and can work equally well with either type of system. The problem is with formatting. There are formats that work for both PCs and Mac, although some impose a maximum file size limit and do not fully support all Mac applications. Other PC formats can be read by Mac computers but not written to by them. Mac formats can only be used by PCs with added software.

A simple thing to do is to pick either Mac or PC and stay with that choice and buy an external hard drive that is already formatted appropriately for that type of machine. If the same hard drive does have to serve both Macs and PCs, the situation is a bit more complicated as the user must gain at least some familiarity with different formatting types in order to make a choice. Additional software may be necessary, or the user may have to reformat the hard drive. Be aware that reformatting completely wipes a hard drive's memory. However, the point is that any external hard drive you can find on eBay can work with any machine or group of machines, regardless of the Mac-PC distinction, if properly set up.

How to Buy External Hard Drives on eBay

eBay is a convenient place to buy all types of electronics. This is not only because of the wide selection of many different brands but also because you can find good deals. Some tips on how to find and buy external hard disc drives specifically may help.

Finding External Hard Disk Drives on eBay

A quick way to find a specific external disk drive model is to use eBay's Advanced Search feature. For those who prefer to browse around through available models, conduct a simple search by typing 'external hard drive&' into the search box. Then, using the menu options, narrow the results to hard disk drives or, further, to specific brands, prices, or storage capacity.


An external hard disk drive is a simple and relatively affordable way to make sure that if something takes down an important computer, the data on the computer is not lost as well. External drives are also useful for sharing data among computers, for backing up whole networks, and for keeping sensitive data more secure. Buying external drives on eBay is fairly simple, since brand does not matter much and there are ways to make virtually any external drive compatible with virtually any machines. Just check to make sure the drive has enough memory capacity and the right features, such as a security program and the right kind of connection capability, to meet the needs of the user. If the external drive does not have the correct formatting to work with the user's machine or machines, it may be necessary to reformat the drive, but this is not a difficult process. Regardless of your choice, you are likely to find on eBay an external hard drive that meets your data storage needs and is within your budget.

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