So I'm looking into the world of external Hard Drives bigger than I can easily comprehend (1-2TB sort of sizes. A few years ago I thought 100GB was big. Blimey), and just wondering what possible uses open up here?

Things like imaging my boot drive once I have everything installed, so I don't need to worry about stuff, setting up personal version-control, and such.

I figure I'd never, ever use that much space treating it like I do now, so how can I use it to improve my workflow and computing time in general?

  • 1
    "Things like imaging my boot drive" That's definitely a good idea, but if you do it too much, you'll end up like me with hundreds of gigabytes of former operating system installations.
    – Joey Adams
    Dec 15 '09 at 17:44
  • You mean I WON'T one day want to go back to my old win98 install? Darn! :P
    – Phoshi
    Dec 15 '09 at 19:14

The #1 sales reason is video, either your own or copying DVD's (may be illegal in your jurisdiction).

Digital photographs can often fill tens of Gigabytes, but you have to be a real shutterbug to fill a Terabyte.

Another use is off-line partitions for backups or mirrors of your boot partition.

Yet another is keeping on-line ISO's of CDRom's, either for production use (developing a Linux Distro for example) or as an online substitute for actually having a physical disk in the drive to allow children's games to run.

  • Video is a big draw. I'm a sucker for 1080p, but don't have the space! ISOs is a good point. Close to home, too, I spent 2 hours this weekend searching for an old disk :|
    – Phoshi
    Dec 15 '09 at 15:43
  • Yea, I use mine to keep ISO's of virtually every CDROM/DVDROM I've got so I don't have to go searching for CD's through pile after pile. When I wanna use one, just mount it virtually and away I go.
    – BBlake
    Dec 15 '09 at 16:03

For me, the biggest use for large harddrives is the availability to store uncompressed video and uncompressed audio on a single drive instead of multiple drives when working on large video editing projects. Sometimes, a 30 minute segment of video and audio can get up to tens of gigs, and storing multiple copies of such makes that add up even faster.


I use mine for backups. I've been saved more than once through having complete hard drive backups going back a long way; a full backup every week of selected folders on my main drive going back about a year.

The specific times I've used it, the most recent dozen backups didn't have the file I needed, as it was a file I'd deleted accidentally and not noticed for a while, or a file that had been corrupted and the corrupted file was being backed up for some time before I noticed.

I could burn DVDs and store them somewhere, but being able to have an automated weekly backup with a long archive makes both the backup and restore processes so much easier.

I also use the drives to store most of my data CDs (audio CDs are, naturally, ripped already). I find it far easier to find a .iso CD image and mount it than hunt through stacks of physical CDs for the one I want. This also means I don't have to worry about scratched disks.

Finally, Kije mentions saving off web pages. I don't do that, but I do save off application installers and web comics that I find interesting, as archive.org doesn't always pick up data and images.

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    I assume you use external hard drives that are normally not plugged in. Dec 15 '09 at 15:08
  • Yeah, that's what I mean by Version Control. I've had a taste of it through DropBox, but I'd love something I can trust a little more <3
    – Phoshi
    Dec 15 '09 at 15:44
  • Drives that're not normally plugged in lose the advantage of automatic backups IMO. Things that're irreplaceable (specifically, personal photos and my password database) I back up onto the cloud regularly. When I tried having even a partly manual system for large backups, though, I found the backups just didn't happen. I'd rather be covered against some risks than not be covered against any.
    – me_and
    Dec 15 '09 at 23:57

I am plodding through scanning 40years worth of photographs (slides) to convince my self that a 1TB Raid NAS was a good idea.

I also keep local copies of really good web pages - too many early book-marked pages have simply disappeared over the years.

Good luck to the Archaeologists in 10,000 years time.

  • The Internet Archive (archive.org) does a pretty good job at maintaining the history of the Web. They don't store everything, but most of the textual data is there. I, too, used to store my favorite sites locally, but now I don't bother anymore.
    – efotinis
    Dec 15 '09 at 14:44
  • It'd be great as a NAS! Only have one PC to link it to, though :(
    – Phoshi
    Dec 15 '09 at 15:43
  • 2
    Phosi, Phosi, Phosi - It's Christmas time - Once you have the Raid/NAS This is the perfect opportunity excuse to add more PC's. Remember - Its always easier to get Forgiveness than Permission.
    – Kije
    Dec 15 '09 at 18:01
  • Haha :P If only I had the money for a few new PCs, eh?
    – Phoshi
    Dec 15 '09 at 19:14
  • Which NAS is it? It sounds quite intriguing.
    – JFW
    Aug 23 '10 at 4:21

Another option that I like to use is a smaller faster drive for booting and applications, and a large drive for all of my personal data (music, movies, pictures, backups, etc). It's also nice because the drive that's got the stuff that's hard to recover after a disk failure is not being accessed nearly as much as your main drive.

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