It’s no secret that computers aren’t perfect. Stuff goes wrong and data can be lost. I know this firsthand, as one of my first laptops had the hard drive fail around six times.

I learned from these failures, and as every tech support person or electronics retailer employee will tell you, you should always back up your data. Always.

Sure, it’s another expense, but both macOS and Windows now make it easier than ever to back up your data, from documents to family photos, music and just your general operating system. It’s pretty disastrous to lose all your data and have to start over from scratch.

And remember, while having a backup in the cloud is nice, it generally requires a monthly subscription cost. And you’ll need an internet connection to access it, something that might not always be possible. So having a physical external hard drive is an added layer of security and convenience.

To be clear, an external hard drive with backups will not keep your computer safe from something going wrong. But if something does, you’ll have a backup ready so you can recover your data.

Once you know you want an external hard drive, you’ll need to decide what type and which features are most important to you.

Let’s start with the first choice.

Portable or Stationary?