A storage drive is something that, in this day of digital photography and digitized music and movies, more and more people are seeing as a necessity. They can be portable or not. They can be small enough to drop into a pocket and take with you, or big enough to take up a few square inches of desk space. What type you use depends on your needs and the projected use.
If you just need something for family members to store media on for use at home, a desk top storage drive might be perfect for you. However, if you like to be able to take those photos or music with you, one of those pocket drives might be just the ticket.
What Exactly Is a Storage Drive?
This is a pretty difficult question to answer because how you plan on using your storage drive with have great bearing on the answer. For those that like to drop their music and photos in their pocket, a storage drive can be nothing more than a USB media stick, thumb drive or pen drive. There are also media cards, which are those storage devices we use in our cameras, cell phones, and media players.
If you ask several people the question above, both within and outside the tech industry, you’ll likely get several answers. For me, I boil the answer down to its lowest common denominator: A storage drive is a device that can be used to temporarily or permanently store digital content of any sort. I have several of these devices, and each one has a different name from the manufacturer.
- I use one external drive to store movies and music, and one to back up my system on a weekly basis.
- I have a thumb drive/pen drive that I use to store portable versions of the computer tools I use on a regular basis to help customers and friends with computer problems.
- I have a micro-SD card to store music, movies, and photos for my tablet and phone.
- I have two internal hard drives in my laptop, one for the operating system and one for my digital media and document storage.
- Lastly, I have two SD cards for use with my camera.
Different Types of Storage Drives
As I mentioned above, what defines a storage drive depends greatly on who is doing the talking. I consider the five types of storage media I listed above as both media and drive. Some people, purists, won’t agree with me in that definition. They’ll state that a drive uses rotating platters to store digital content. I say that’s fine, but how come Kingston (and others) calls their storage media that is inserted into a USB port a thumb drive or pen drive?
Going by the purist definition of a device with rotating platters as drives, you have two main choices: internal and external. The problem with internal drives is they aren’t portable, whereas an external drive normally is. The internal type will vary in size, depending on if you have a laptop or desktop computer. The internal drives can be either a 2.5-inch drive or a 5.25 inch drive, with the size corresponding to the size of the location it fits in. Desktops use the larger size, since they have more internal space.
External drives can be further broken down into Network Attacked Storage (NAS) and USB drives, both of which can be either of the two sizes mentioned above. These days, they are both typically equipped with a USB interface. However, the NAS is designed to be shared on the network. Some of the newer routers on the market have USB ports to facilitate this, just plug the drive in, go to the management console, and assign the drive a name and letter. Once this is completed, everyone on the network can share the contents of the drive.
This process is also possible with one connected directly to a computer’s USB port, or even connected internally, but it requires some manipulation within the operating system. Technically, this process turns the host computer into a server.
There’s also a new type of drive that’s beginning to gain quite a bit of market traction these days — the solid state drive. This type of drive looks like a regular drive, either internal or external, but instead of having spinning platters as the physical storage medium, they use memory chips, much like an SD card or a thumb drive. This makes them ideal for use as a portable drive because there are no platters inside to wobble or delicate read/write heads to smash into the wobbling platters when the drive is moved around. Yes, they are a bit more expensive, but as their acceptance becomes greater, their prices will drop. Additionally, because they use memory chips instead of platters, their capacity is significantly lower than regular drives, with 260 GB being the largest currently available.
What Sizes Are Available?
Taking a quick look online and in some of the stores near where I live, there are storage drives available in sizes (storage capacity) ranging from around 100 GB, all the way up to 2 TB. However, this is bound to change as technology improves. I can remember my first teacher in computer sciences telling us, as we ordered the parts for the computers we would build in class, that we should buy the 40 MB option for an extra $40 because it would be all the space we would ever need. To put that into context, I have over 10 GB of photos of family and friends on my drives, this means that my photos take up 250 times as much space as that first drive I bought had available. That was a little over 20 years ago.
Photo Credit: Doug Kennedy