How To Use External Hard Drive On Laptop: Important Tips To Consider

Are you looking to upgrade your computer’s hard drive? If the answer to this question is yes, you are most probably thinking about purchasing an external hard drive.

Are you looking to upgrade your computer’s hard drive? If the answer to this question is yes, you are most probably thinking about purchasing an external hard drive. However, most people, even in this modern age, have no idea how to use the external hard drive on the laptop.

A large number of emails, video clips, digital pictures, and other data you store can consume your entire hard disk in a matter of days regardless of its size. There are three solutions to this problem. Replace your internal hard drive with a one with more capacity. Similarly, you can subscribe to a cloud data storage service. The last and easiest option is to use an external hard drive.

In this article, we are going to explain how to add an external hard drive to your computer. However, it is also appropriate that we talk about some of the merits and demerits of this method of expanding your laptop’s data storage capacity.

Merits and Demerits of an External Hard Drive

The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using an external hard drive on your laptop.


First and foremost, you can expand as much storage capacity as you like. Keep in mind that every external hard drive has a limited capacity. However, you can always purchase a new one when your drive runs out of space.

The second benefit is the ease of use. Setting up a new hard drive both on a laptop and desktop is pretty easy. The process is fast and simple and everyone with basic knowledge of computers can connect an external hard drive. Most modern external drives, especially with USB connectors, are plug-and-play. You may encounter issues like obsolete drivers or incompatibility with your device but these instances are few and far between. In most cases, your computer simply detects your hard drive and install drivers automatically. It is as simple as that.


Another thing which goes in favor of external hard drives is comparatively low price. You have to buy both internal and external hard drives only once. It is worth mentioning that an internal hard drive is cheaper than the external hard drive of the same capacity. However, the cloud storage service will have ongoing costs. Therefore, external hard drives tend to be cheaper in the long run.

Remember that even the largest of hard drives will eventually run out of space if you store larger files in the likes of heavy video clips and high-resolution images. Therefore, it is not a viable option to upgrade to a large internal hard drive. In this case, the better solution is to look for a good cloud storage service or an external hard drive.


There are two main issues with the external hard drive. Firstly, they are not aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. However, it is a minor issue and most people don’t care about it. However, an external hard drive creates more clutter and nuisance as compared to a larger internal drive. For example, you have to deal with extra cables and an additional piece of equipment.

Logistics, on the other hand, can become a serious issue. Most computers, especially laptops, have limited numbers of FireWire (IEEE 1394), Thunderbolt, USB, and other ports. Therefore, you may not have any space for setting up a new hard drive if you are already using a webcam, mouse, keyboard, and other devices. Some people use USB hubs for attaching additional devices but it will create more clutter because you are adding yet another device to your system.

Logistics can also become a significant issue, especially for laptop users. You will have to carry your external storage wherever you go in case you are using a laptop. It is not at all convenient and portable to keep connecting the hard drive to the laptop when you are on the go.

Performance is also a major consideration. Keep in mind that not all hard drives are created equal. They are based on different technologies which offer different rate of data transfer. However, none of them can even come close to an internal hard drive in terms of performance.

Data management and housekeeping is also a concern. It especially becomes cumbersome to remember which drive has which type of data when the number of drives increases. What you can do is organize a certain type of data in a single hard drive. Otherwise, you will create a huge mess of massive data you have. In fact, you may end up losing some or all of your data because you will have no idea where to find it. You can use the search option in the modern operating systems to locate your data but it still remains a big concern and hassle.

The Types of External Hard Drives

Before explaining how to use the external hard drive on the laptop, you might as well want to learn the type of external hard drive you actually need. The following lines explain each of these types one by one.

USB Hard Drives

USB hard drives are the most common types of external hard drives these days. Even a USB flash drive will meet most of your immediate and small data storage requirements. However, you may need something larger than the biggest flash drive if you intend to increase your computer’s storage capacity.

Thankfully, the USB ports, both on laptops and desktops, are greater in number than other ports. Similarly, some of the modern computers don’t even have any other kinds of ports. Similarly, you can always go for USB hubs, which are pretty cheap, if you want to connect more devices.

There are a number of things you need to consider while purchasing an external USB hard drive. First of all, check whether your computer has USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 ports. A USB 3.0 port can handle all the latest hard drives and have greater capabilities than 2.0 USB port. Similarly, a USB 3.0 port can run on a USB 2.0 port and vice versa. However, the data transfer speed will always be USB 2.0 in both cases. Therefore, it is better to take full advantage of USB 3.0 ports if your computer has any.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

Solid State Drives (SSD) have been in business for many years now. You can always choose between an SSD drive and a traditional drive regardless of the type of connection your computer has. The SSD has no moving part because it is essentially a larger USB flash drive. The SSD drives are costlier than regular external USB drives but they are more reliable. They have fewer chances of crashing as well. However, they are not as commonly available as their traditional counterparts.


FireWire/ Thunderbolt

Both Thunderbolt and FireWire technologies are trying hard to take over USB as the most popular type of external hard drives. FireWire, in particular, is much more capable than USB 2.0. It is comparatively faster, consumes less CPU and PC resources and transfers data much more safely.

Developed by Intel, Thunderbolt is relatively a new technology and still a work in development. It gives 10 GBs of transfer speed by combining DisplayPort functionality and PCI express in one port.

You have limited options for both Thunderbolt and FireWire. Furthermore, these hard drives are very costly and not everyone can afford them. However, they can be your best friends if performance is your primary concern.

How to Add an External Hard Drive to Your Computer

As mentioned above, using an external hard drive allows you to easily transfer files from one computer to another or backup important data. Similarly, most of the modern external hard drives are very small and portable. Therefore, you can easily carry them even if you are on the go. Similarly, they can store a massive amount of data despite their small size. As a result, they also help you free up a huge amount of space form your internal hard drive.

Most external hard drives use SATA or USB ports to connect to the computer. Furthermore, they also draw power from these ports to run. The following are instructions about how to use the external hard drive on the laptop or on any other computer.

How to Use External Hard Drive Windows 10

Here are the main steps to add an external hard drive to your PC if you are using windows 10. However, the procedure is almost the same for earlier versions of Windows as well.

Connecting the External Hard Drive

We recommend reading the manual if you are using the hard drive for the first time. The manual will have detailed instructions about how to use the external hard drive on the laptop. It will also help you get familiar with all the settings and configurations.

Setting up an external hard drive should not be an issue because the majority of such hard drives are plug-and-play. All you need to do is to plug the drive’s cable in the USB port and turn it on. Sometimes, the system may ask you to install the required drivers to run the hard drive. However, it is not difficult to find these drives as they are easily available on the manufacturer’s website.

Making External Hard Drive a Primary Partition

Your computer will instantly recognize the external hard drive the moment you connect it with the system. Every personal computer has the ability to immediately detect all the new devices thanks to its advanced input/output system.

Keep in mind that the external drive will not become your primary drive automatically. You have to install Windows on the external hard drive if you plan to use it as a primary disk. The best place to get help in this regard is searching for Help and Support for “Installing and Reinstalling Windows.”

Installation for Windows

Click the Start button to start installing the external hard drive in Windows. Now detect your hard drive in the Computer section. If the hard disk is not visible, you need to take some additional steps to find it.

  • Once again click on the Start button. Now go to the Control Panel and subsequently open the System and Security section. Go to Administrative Tools, find Computer Management and double click on it. You may also have to type the system password if you have set any and get the confirmation.
  • Search for new hard drives in the Storage section under Disk Management.

Sometimes, you cannot use your hard drive before formatting it. In most cases, the system will prompt you to format the disk. However, if you still cannot find the new external hard drive, consult with the user manual and figure out what is going wrong.



How to Use External Hard Drive on Mac

Just like Windows, the hard disk should be ready to use as soon as you connect it with a Mac computer. However, it is better to take some precautionary measures before using the hard drive. For example, it is necessary to preformat the drive to FAT32. FAT32 is the only format which both OS X operating system and Windows can read. This particular format enables you to use the device on different operating systems without frequently formatting it. Unfortunately, it does not allow Mac systems to encrypt external hard drives in the Master Boot Record Partition (MBRP) scheme. This is because MBRP is not compatible with Apple’s Core Storage Routines.

Follow these instructions to install an external hard drive on a Mac computer.

  • Simply plug your external hard drive with the computer. Most often, an external hard drive comes with FireWire or a USB cable. In some instances, you will get both. Plug the cable in the compatible ports of both the computer and your hard drive.
  • Now search for Disk Utility and open it. The search option is available on the top right corner of the OS X operating system.
  • Your desired hard disk is on the left side of the dialog box. Click on the hard drive.
  • Now click on the Erase tab. You will have four options to choose from the drop-down menu.
  • Chose the desired format for your hard disk. Select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) if you intend to use the external hard disk only for Mac.
  • Now, format your disk by clicking on the Erase option. Once the formatting is complete, your hard disk is ready for use and now you can read and write your data on it.

How to Maintain an External Hard Drive

Not many people can differentiate between using and maintaining an external hard drive. It is very easy to use an external hard drive but maintaining them is totally another story. Typically, it is imperative for you to horizontally place the magnetic hard drives. Similarly, you should pay special attention to maintaining their cable.

The following are a few points you need to keep in mind in order to use your external hard drive efficiently and effectively.

  • Always choose a hard drive that meets your requirements. Purchasing a hard drive that you cannot use later on will only result in sheer frustration and loss of money. Furthermore, create a list of your requirements before visiting the market to purchase the external hard drive.
  • Backing up your data is of utmost importance. Backing up data means you have to store it in multiple locations, at least two. It is also very easy to create a backup of your data. You can either use the copy and paste method or drag or drop option. Perhaps the best method is to use a good copy software. Such software automatically copy your files and paste them to their final destination. Finally, using an automatic backup facility is also highly recommended.
  • Using an external hard drive also entails a lot of security issues. A good option to secure your data is encrypting file information. However, any smart hacker will easily access your file regardless of the encryption level. The better method is to use passwords to ensure the security of your data. Similarly, you can also encrypt the important data on your drive using certain security files on your computer.
  • Finally, also thoroughly read the accompanying manual to learn how to add an external hard drive to your computer and use it. Consulting the manual will also save you a lot of trouble in case you have any problem.

Best External Hard Drives to Consider

In case you are wondering. what are the best external hard drives to choose from, we have you covered as well. Here is a list of the top external hard drives available in the market. 

  1. WD 2TB Elements Portable 

  2. Toshiba Canvio Basics 2TB 

  3. WD 1TB My Passport Portable

  4. LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C 5TB

  5. LaCie 1TB USB 3.0 Portable

Final Thoughts 

It is necessary for you to know how to use the external hard drives on laptops and desktop. Using an external hard drive requires proper installation and regular maintenance. Similarly, good maintenance also ensures the longevity and sustainability of your hard drive. Therefore, any ignorance in this regard can result in data loss or breach. More importantly, it could permanently damage your hard drive resulting in a waste of time and money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top