How does an External Hard Drive Work

How does an External Hard Drive Work

A majority of computer users around the world use external hard drives for some or the other purpose. However, just a few of them know how they actually work...
An external hard drive is a portable device which can be used for storing loads of information that can be accessed anytime. It has proven to be very useful in situations where the computer's hard disk is filled to capacity with the user's data. So instead of the user buying a new hard disk and fitting it in the computer, the user can just purchase an external hard drive and use it for storing his data which can be accessed anytime on any computer.

Components in the External Hard Drive

All such drives have the same basic parts and work in a similar fashion. They have an aluminum covering similar to that of the hard disk inside the PC, which is not supposed to be removed or played with. If the covering is tampered with or opened, the hard disk would be useless. Inside the aluminum covering there is a motherboard-like chip which helps in storing the data, a motor that performs the job of cooling the hard disk, and a disk that actually stores the information. The spinning of the disk allows the hard disk to store data. There is also a head that is positioned over the disk surface which works similar like a record.

How does an External Hard Drive Work

USB Connection
The usual way of connecting the drive to the computer is through a USB port. The hard disk is simply an instant addition to the storing capacity of the computer. Once you put in the hard disk's USB cable into the computer's USB port, the computer immediately recognizes the drive and views it as a removable storage drive in the 'My Computer' window. You would be required to install certain drivers if the computer's operating system doesn't recognize the drive. The drivers are available in the CD which comes along with the hard drive package.

Data Storage
A majority of external hard disks are incorporated with both RAM and ROM storage techniques, which enable the drive to store information as well as retrieve data for future use. Their memory capacity may differ from somewhere around 80 gigabytes to a stunning 4 terabytes. The data is stored on a mirrored disk on which the head runs over to access the needed information. Other components of the drive carry out tasks such as operating the drive and head, and establishing connection with the PC.

Information Transfer
After establishing connection with the computer, information transfer takes place both ways, from the drive to the computer and vice versa. The USB cable carries electric current while the drive is connected. This is the reason why the drive should first be ejected from the computer, and then physically removed from the USB port. If you just pull the drive out of the USB port without first ejecting it from the computer, a high possibility of damage to the computer or the hard drive is created.

The working of an external drive is getting more complicated day-by-day as computer manufacturers are introducing ones with enhanced features and memory capacity up to a whopping four terabytes. People also wonder how long does an external hard drive last. Its life mostly depends on the way it is used and maintained by the user.