Internal hard drives are getting larger, with capacities of 160-320GB standard even in PCs under $800. For "high-end" PCs or workstations, 400-500GB or even larger capacities are now common. Thats lots of room to keep all of your work, music, or digital memories like such as photos and videos. External hard drives are the safety blanket that keeps your digital life safe from the eventual failure of your internal hard drive. Even the most casual user will see his or her hard drive start and stop thousands if not millions of times a day, and each access takes its toll on the mechanical drive parts. While drive mechanisms are getting more reliable every day, they will fail eventually, like everything else thats mechanical.
To keep your digital files, music, and most importantly your memories (photos and videos) safe, you need an external hard drive to backup your data. Sure you can backup your data to DVDs or (shudder) CDs, but they are bulky at best and downright clunky at worst when you need to recover lost files. Unless you have the organizational skills of a super-clerk, you wont be able to find Disc 38B when you need to recover that original photo from last year—you know, the one you accidentally deleted off of your C: drive five days ago.
External drives are quick, convenient, and most importantly, they are searchable using Vista and Mac Os Xs built-in search functions (or Google Desktop on Windows XP). Each drive has its own strengths and focus. Some, such as the Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo, are dual drives (two hard drives residing in a single case). The Maxtor is a 1-terabyte behemoth that if arranged in a RAID 1 configuration provides 500GB of redundant backup. It has a triple interface (USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800), as does the Western Digital MyBook Pro. FireWire 800, common on Macs, is a particularly fast data transfer method. Drives like the LaCie SAFE focus on protecting your data from intruders, providing both biometric and physical security.