usb stick -v- portable hard drive

usb storage

I recently bought my first portable hard drive (portable as in passport size, not the ‘small brick’ size). I also have a pretty fancy usb stick, so i’ll run through the pros and cons of each under 5 different headings and try to come out with a winner.

1. Storage Space (verdict: portable hard drive)

Creative Commons License photo credit: darkomen

Right now, portable hard drives can store more than usb sticks. You’ll find 64GB usb sticks these days but 1TB portable hard drives aren’t uncommon either.

Portable hard drives win the storage space war.

2. Durability (verdict: usb stick)

Diamond Cut Metal
Creative Commons License photo credit: GrungeTextures

A couple of years ago, i bought a super fast usb stick. A month later it snapped in half as i was about to use it. It was listed as being ultra durable, but obviously it couldn’t withstand all the mountain climbing and extreme sports i do 🙄 Moral of the story?

Don’t read the packet. A manufacturer will tell you something is bombproof if they’ve buried it 100ft under ground in Afghanistan for a day. Look for reviews and proof it has survived bombs. As the old internet forum saying goes… “pics or it didn’t happen”.

Although i’ve never bombed my usb stick or portable hard drive, i’d probably favour the hard drive over most usb sticks simply for the fact that usb sticks have a tendancy to snap whereas hard drives can’t. Although for this unique comparison, it’s hard to see how my plastic coated hard drive can win over my ‘aircraft grade aluminium’ usb stick :mrgreen:

3. Ease of use (verdict: usb stick)

dumb move
Creative Commons License photo credit: the mad LOLscientist

This is a massive deal for me. The way i measure this is i ask myself if i was being held a gun point and told i had 60 seconds to grab data and copy paste it on to my storage device, what would i choose? A pretty twisted way of thinking but it ensures you make the best choice.

With a usb stick, some of them have covers. Some flip around, some have a push button, mine has a screw on cover. That takes time to remove. With a portable hard drive, you must like have a usb cable. That needs to be connected to the PC and the hard drive itself in most cases.

The usb stick wins this one. It takes less time to plug in and eject and is smaller and lighter, so therefore it’s easier to use.

4. Speed (verdict: portable hard drive)

Creative Commons License photo credit: photographphil

Read and write times anyone? Most people probably don’t even look at them but there are big differences. Usually the faster the drive, the more it costs 😉 Typically a usb stick will be faster at reading, slower at writing, so in a ‘gun to the head 60 seconds to transfer’ situation i’d favour a portable hard drive. It really depends what you’re doing though. Personally, i’d always prefer fast write time over fast read time.

5. Value (verdict: portable hard drive)

Nothing is as valuable as you are.
Creative Commons License photo credit: NotoriousJEN

A 64GB usb stick will cost you about €70 but you’d have change out of that if you were to buy a 500gb portable hard drive. My 16GB usb stick cost about €65 as did my 320GB Portable Hard Drive.

Hard drives in general have more space but usb sticks are handier to use. It depends where you’re using it and how often, but for me i’d prefer a Passport 320GB hard drive than a 16GB usb stick. That’s because i can pretty much throw anything on to my portable hard drive and not have to worry about running out of space. It doubles as a portable backup facility. So in terms of value for money, the portable hard drive has to win this one.

And the winner is…

Creative Commons License photo credit: gavinzac

The portable hard drive by a 3:2 vote. Other things worth noting are that the portable hard drive is much less likely to be left behind or stolen simply because it’s bigger and more noticeable. The usb stick also needs room to slot directly in to a free usb slot. If you have a bulky usb stick, quite often you’ll have to unplug another usb device to allow the two to fit side by side, but of course you don’t have that problem with a portable hard drive because you have a nice slim cable and extensions at either end.

Here’s a few pictures of my usb stick & portable hard drive. I got a little carried away with the old camera but it’s amazing how you can turn simple every day stuff in to art work 🙂

usb stick v portable hard drive

usb stick v portable hard drive

usb stick v portable hard drive

4 thoughts on “usb stick -v- portable hard drive”

  1. One more thing that probably needs comparing – if the storage were to break down for any reason, how easy would it be to get all the data off of it?

    I'm not sure the process for USB sticks, but recently my external WD Passport stopped working, and after a bit of Googling around, apparently the bit between the hard drive and the USB cable itself had screwed up. About ten minutes let after a bit of wrestling with getting the cover off, and then popping it into my external enclosure, I had my 320GB of hard drive again.

  2. yeah good point – if a connection goes on a usb you're pretty screwed – certainly not a DIY fix it job if it's snapped in half 🙂 and how many times do usb drives get bent or snapped because they stick out of a pc? i'm guessing lots!

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