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I've always used them in a collecting-dust-in-a-drawer-way. Now, I know HDDs in notebooks are somehow protected (my notebook through a bunch of bangs of all kinds and never complained), but I'm not sure about the external models (talking regular kind here, not SSDs). Had a WD Passport for a while but it seems so fragile (most others do as well).

Is it appropriate to have a few of those things, for carrying around in your bag with your notebook, and camera and expect it to last a reasonable amount of time (>2 years)?

The bag and the drive will not be throwed or anything on purpose, but it will take putting in trains in compartments, up above the seats, carried around, putted on a floor in gentle and not so gentle ways and so on. The regular the life of bags and backpacks stuff :-)

They will be, in a way, my working drives, since the one I have installed in my notebook is too small (1Tb), and I need extra storage space. So I will not actually be having backups of data gathered every day (backups will be carried out maybe once a month).

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related to… but not a duplicate – ChrisF Aug 8 '10 at 14:36

Given than desktop drives are not designed to be moved frequently you could experience a shorter lifespan than you would like. Though a lot of external drives are pretty much are desktop drives but housed in a caddy.

However, as long as the drive is off when moved if you invest in a padded "envelope" (something like a Jiffy bag but with more padding) to transport them in then I can't see a serious problem with using drives like this.

A caveat that I would add is to do backups as frequently as possible and certainly before any longish trips.

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To add onto ChrisF's answer I have carried a 500g WD around with me in a cheap metal housing for 2 years no problem. As he says I just store it in a padded case I made. A pullstring bag with 1 inch foam all around the sides. – MrStatic Aug 8 '10 at 14:41
@Idigas - sorry for the confusion over "desktop drives". I meant "not laptop drives". You're right about them being the same as used in external caddies and I've already updated my answer to make that clearer. – ChrisF Aug 8 '10 at 14:57
Most hard drives park the heads when they are shut down, keeping them locked away from the disk, so movement should not hurt them. – Viaken Aug 8 '10 at 15:10
A colleague of mine drove on a bike for years with the same Passport in his pocket, and also dropped it quite a few times. Conclusion: As long as it's not powered on, it's quite robust, even if it looks fragile. – harrymc Aug 8 '10 at 17:10

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