External Hard Drives

What is an External Hard Drive?

An External/Removable hard drive attaches to the outside of a computer. External hard drives are useful for backing up computers and transferring data between computers.

Merits Limitations
  • An external hard drive can be disconnected from your computer. They can be used to back up files or an entire computer depending on size.
  • External hard drives do not require an internet connection to access files. They can be connected using various interfaces such as FireWire or USB.
  • Depending on the model and size of the external hard drive, prices can range anywhere from $50 to $200.
  • External hard drives are available in various sizes (both storage and physical size).
  • External hard drives can fail (similar to computer hard drives). This possibility increases if they are dropped, shaken or have liquids spilled on them.

How do you set up an external hard drive on a computer?

Connect the external hard drive to the USB port or FireWire port on your computer. Most come with an auxiliary power adapter that needs to be plugged into a wall outlet.



Once the external hard drive is connected, how do you begin to back up files on a Windows computer?

Many external hard drives come with pre-installed software to facilitate back up and file transfers. Other options include Drag-and-drop, Copy-Paste or using Back-Up Wizard.

To begin transferring files on an external hard drive, go to “My Computer” either by clicking the desktop icon or going to the start menu and selecting “My Computer."



On “My Computer” an external hard drive will appear as a drive letter, usually E or F. If the hard drive does not appear within 30 seconds of connecting, check to see if the hard drive is properly connected to the computer.


How does Drag-and-Drop and Copy-and-Paste work to transfer files onto my external hard drive?

To use Drag-and-drop method:

  • Select desired document or folder and use the left mouse button to drag the document or file to the external hard drive icon.
  • Once the document or file is over the external hard drive icon, it will turn blue.
  • Release the mouse button and the document or file will transfer to the external hard drive.

To use Copy-and-paste method:

  • Select and then right click the document you would like to add to the external hard drive and choose “Copy."
  • Go to “My Computer" and double click the external hard drive icon and Right Click.
  • Choose “Paste” to add your desired document onto the external hard drive.

Using the Backup/Restore Wizard: How is the  Backup/Restore Wizard used to back files onto my external hard drive?

  • Click “Start” -->  “All Programs” --> “Accessories” --> “System Tools” --> “Backup"
  • The Backup/Restore Wizard will begin.
  • Click "next"
  • Select “Back up files and settings”
  • Click "next"
  • Select files to back up.
  • Select where to back them up. 
  • Click "next" for back-up to begin. (The amount and size of files being backed up or transferred is proportional to the amount of time it will take to complete.)


On a Mac

  • Connect external hard drive to your computer using the appropriate port. Turn it on.
  • Open System Preferences
  • Locate and click on "Time Machine".
  • Slide the indicator to the "on" position.
  • Click the "Select Disk" button and choose your external hard drive. (The initial back up of your computer will likely take several hours. Leave your computer on during this time. You may continue to do work during the back up process.)

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