Questions about External hard drives

I'm going to be away from home for several months and I'm trying to figure out the best way to transfer both my applications and data files, both of which I have LOTS of.

Someone recommended a 160 gig external western digital firewire dual option 160 gig hard drive, instead of a "memory key".  I have a few questions:

- Is the physical size of the external hard drive something that I could travel with?  (i.e., can I take it with me on a plane to hook up to the new computer?)  

- Can I save both programs and applications on it?

- Is there a way to configure the external drive to automatically back up files?

- If I can travel with it and hook it into the new computer, can I access files directly from the external hard drive, or will I have to transfer everything over to the main computer's hard drive (c:) in order to use the files and applications.

- Would you recommend this option, rather than a memory key or just saving to tons and tons of CDs?

Thanks for your advice,
Artella

artellaAsked:
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Hi artella,
> - Is the physical size of the external hard drive something that I
> could travel with?  (i.e., can I take it with me on a plane to hook up
> to the new computer?)

Could you?  Probably - it would depend on the model and if the plane had a power connector.  Would you want to?  Probably not.  Most external drives are about the size your average dictionary.  Maybe a little smaller.  Not the most convenient thing for traveling with.  As an alternative, you might want to look into an enclosure for a notebook hard drive.  These are only a little bigger than a deck of playing cards - far more manageable.  However, they only hold up to 80 GB (currently).  They also cost a little more.

> - Can I save both programs and applications on it?
Sure - it's read/write random access storage.  There's no problem doing this.  HOWEVER, it will be slower than if the programs were installed on a hard drive inside your computer.  Firewire and USB are just not up to speed with speed - best case 800 Mb Firewire (Firewire 800).  MAX throughput, in theory, is 100MB/s - realistically - expect 30-60.  Internal drives can do noteably better.  (But this will be faster than a "memory key")


> - Is there a way to configure the external drive to automatically back up files?

Can you be more specific?  How would YOU envision this working or at least what do you mean - backup from the external drive to where?  Or do you mean backup from somewhere to the external drive?  The external drive is really just another drive.  You can use backup software, a script, just about anything to back it up.

> - If I can travel with it and hook it into the new computer, can I
> access files directly from the external hard drive, or will I have to
> transfer everything over to the main computer's hard drive (c:) in
> order to use the files and applications.

You'll be able to access everything directly.  It's just going to look like another disk in your computer.

> - Would you recommend this option, rather than a memory key or just
> saving to tons and tons of CDs?

A memory key is, at best, going to hold 1GB - maybe 2GB.  A CD holds 700 MB (.7GB).  A DVD - if you have or buy a DVD burner - holds 4.7-8.5GB.  An external hard disk holds (nowadays) at least 20GB up to 400GB depending on what kind you get.

I would say you really need to determine how much data you need to bring.  And Applications are going to have to be reinstalled on your (presumably) laptop computer you're bringing with you.  The vast majority of programs today can't be copied from one computer to another - they need to be reinstalled on the other.


Cheers!
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artellaAuthor Commented:
Thanks so much for your help - you helped me know what I need to determine.  Thanks a lot!

~A.
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