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What You Need to Know About Portable Hard Drives
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2019
There's a lot of nonsense in the reviews, so I'm going to give you some facts. Feel free to do some research to verify what I'm saying. This is already a wall of text so I won't go into too much detail. (At the end there's an update about my only problem with this particular model and a simple technique for recovering data when the internal drive is still good.)
1) EVERY hard drive manufacturer has failures. EVERY last one. Some are DOA, some take a month or more. It depends on your use. Moving parts break. Vents clog. Chips fry. Boards crack. I tried finding good data, but [statistics jargon]. Commonly reported rates, industry wide are in the 2-5% failure range with some lines doing better or worse. Personally, I've had a great experience with these.
1b) No matter how good, all hard drives eventually die. Count it a win if you can use it until it's too small and slow to be worth keeping. (When that happens, don't forget to secure erase the drive before recycling it.)
1c) People are more likely to complain than praise. Any drive you research will have fewer good user reviews than bad. (See #8 & 9 below.)
1d) Smaller manufacturers get bought out by larger ones. Last year's high-end product may now harbor a low-end drive. Seriously. CYA. Find manufacturers you trust and give them your loyalty.
2) Every USB hard drive, thumb drive, etc. works on Windows, Mac and Linux. There are a few specialty proprietary devices, especially for professional and enterprise equipment, but consumer equipment works on both. Reformat it if you need to. Check it on all your devices before using it (technical reasons).
2b) ExFAT is the usual suspect for cross-platform file sharing. It's not great. It has nothing to hinder data loss (like journaling) and, in my experience, Macs sometimes choke on it. Consider a reputable cross-platform file driver and stick with NTFS or HFS+. Check your drive on all the platforms before using it (technical reasons). If you're using it for backups, only use it for backups. If it's for TimeMachine on a Mac, let TimeMachine reformat it and take it over completely.
2c) Check the options when you buy it and check again in your cart. There are multiple sizes, styles and "support" options. Make sure you're ordering what you think you are. Seriously. I've seen plenty of reviews by people who are really complaining that they ordered the wrong thing. And watch the price when you change options. Check it again in the cart before you check out.
3) Don't move your data – copy it. And save your old drive until your sure the new one is good. Feel free to abuse your new device, perform surface scans, etc. as often as you want when you get it. It's called a burn in. If the drive's mechanics are good, software will watch for failing sectors later (look up S.M.A.R.T.).
3b) This particular drive isn't an SSD, but since I claim to be telling you everything about hard drives... SSDs don't need scans and should not be defragged. It's actually bad for them.
4) Get an online backup service, preferably a reputable one with a zero-knowledge policy, like SpiderOak or Carbonite. That means the provider can't access your data even if they wanted to. It's called security. Hang on to your old drive until your files finish backing up (in case of a failure). Depending on your service, it may not take very long. (Some services check your data to avoid uploading the same data twice.)
5) Electronic equipment, no matter how rugged or solid-state it claims to be, no matter what the ads say, is not intended to be thrown, dropped, sat on, magnetized, electrocuted, submerged, burned, microwaved, or implanted into living beings. It's certainly not meant to be thrown, left in the rain, dropped in the pool, etc. You do that and it breaks. You lose data. Products actually intended for this behavior are expensive. Water resistant is not submersible. Submersible has limits. Shock resistant does not mean it's ok to drop it.
6) Don't use the included backup software, backup service, or built-in password protection. You are not paying for these things. If they were that good, they would be sold independently. If they are, what you have is an ad designed to trick you into using a service you won't bother to cancel. Get your own service. (See #4.)
6b) The first thing you should do is reformat the drive, even if it came formatted. It doesn't take long. Just do it.
7) Portable is good, but if your laptop comes with an external mouse and keyboard, two external drives, a hub... it's not portable anymore. SD cards are pretty cheap and more durable for travel. They're also faster. Keep your drive safe and bring copies. Unless, of course you need a lot of space. In that case get a second drive and bring copies. If your data is that important, protect it.
8) Think of the stupidest person at your job and assume that every review is written by them. Seriously, I've known professional techs I wouldn't trust to plug in a keyboard. Some of them made a lot of money. I have DECADES of tech experience. I also have a bunch of educational and professional credentials. Of course, I may also be a small pink bunny. You don't know. Don't listen to people on the internet, including me. Look for respected technical sites (I don't think I'm allowed to list any here) and find consensus. Ask what the worst outcome is if the writer is a moron or troll.
9) When checking the reviews, check what the 1-star reviews say. Are they bitter or factual? Drives fail? Did the company treat them well? Are they actually complaining about Amazon or a 3rd party seller?
9b) 12% of the reviews here are 1-star. A quick survey shows me at least half of them are by people that don't know as much about computers as their friends tell them they do. Half of the rest are actually complaining about other stuff. Toshiba's return policies look like they could use some work though, so use your 30-days to burn it in and back it up.
TLDR I've been using The Toshiba Canvio line since it came out and I still have and use my original drive. I've used them professionally, as have people I know in a variety of fields. I've personally owned at least 6 and known many others with them. In all that time I've had exactly one problem (see below). When asked for my professional recommendation, it's my go to. Lately, I've been looking for a higher capacity drive (Macs and laptops are port-deprived), but I keep coming back here.
UPDATE: I had my first problem, an old 1TB I've had so long I can't find a record of when I bought it. The light was on but the system didn't even know it was there. The fix? I pried open the case and unplugged the sliver of electronics connecting the internal drive's connector (SATA) to the outside socket (USB-B). Then I plugged it back in and reassembled the drive. FWIW, it's called reseating. It works on anything with a cord and ranks up there with restarting the system for magical fixes.
BONUS: No guarantees, but if that sliver of electronics is bad, you may be able to access the drive inside with a new housing or SATA to USB adapter kit. I think I paid around $40 for mine. Opening the case carefully is probably more difficult than using the gear, but there are a number of reputable forums where you can get help using it.