In recent columns we have discussed discarding or donating older computers. This morning one of our best customers, Dr. Napoleon Mills, came in with a need to retrieve some data that had been saved on an old machine. He had been in a few weeks ago to discuss his intention to donate two older computers. Fortunately, before letting them go, Dr. Mills uninstalled the hard drives in each desktop, and stored them away in his office. Over the weekend, Dr. Mills remembered certain files may have been stored on the old hard drives.
There is an easy, inexpensive solution to this problem: an external hard drive enclosure. This device provides a port and a case for hard drives to be used outside of a computer system. The hard drive which has been removed from a computer is plugged into the connection inside the enclosure. A casing fits securely over the hard drive with two connections, one to power, and the other through USB to the computer.
External hard drives provide a large amount of file storage in a location that is separate from the computer system. While its portability can increase the risk of damaging the drive, the convenience of moving files to another office or home can outweigh that risk. In addition, backed up files are more secure in a location that is physically separate from the host computer. It is important to remember that in order to retrieve files from an external hard drive, a computer must have the needed software installed, such as Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, or TurboTax. Software that had been available on the hard drive when it was in use inside the computer will not be available via an enclosure.
Hard drive enclosures come in many varieties. In order to make use of a hard drive from an old computer, purchase an empty enclosure. There are two specifications to match to your hard drive, the first is size, 2 1/2 inches for a laptop hard drive, or 3 1/2 inches for a desktop hard drive. The second specification is the type of connection on the hard drive, IDE or Serial ATA (SATA). Serial ATA is the newer technology, and has been on the market since 2003, and widely used for the past three years. The label on the hard drive itself will specify the connection type.
External hard drives are also sold with the hard drive included. Ready to plug-and-play, they provide an extra amount of storage that is portable and stable. Make your purchase not solely on price, but on reliability of the hard drive. Better brands will provide a three to five year warranty. If a hard drive fails it must be replaced, but more significantly a failed hard drive puts your saved files at risk. Attempting to salvage data from a damaged hard drive can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, which is a great reason to invest in quality components and back up valuable files on a regular basis.
Dr. Mills was able to retrieve his missing data. With a bit of foresight, we can all rest assured that our files are close at hand.
Patty Harshbarger, the owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton. She can be reached at patty@cr- bradenton.com.