Your guide to buying a hard drive as a festive season gift

By Farhad Alli, WD Product Specialist at DCC

Hard drives make excellent festive season gifts – they are perfect for digital junkies who need to store loads of downloaded content, for students, home users and office workers who need somewhere to back up their important information, and for anyone who wants to keep their content safe for the future. However, buying the right hard drive for the right person can be a challenging task. This handy guide will give you the run-down of the various features of a hard drive and help you choose the best gift for friends and family.

Desktop vs. Portable

There are typically two different types of external hard drives available – portable and desktop. The main difference between these, as the names suggest, is their portability. The price also generally differs, with desktop drives offering more capacity at lower cost compared to portable drives that offers portability.

Desktop drives, such as My Book Live, are often larger than portable drives, and require an external power source as well as USB connectivity. These drives are ideal for people who need backup, but do not need to carry their drives with them, such as parents who need somewhere to store their photos or family videos and students and professionals who need to back up their work. WD offers desktop drives for Mac and PC users, ready formatted for ‘plug and play’ ability.

Portable drives from WD’s My Passport range, also available for PC and Mac users, are designed for people on the move who need extra storage wherever they are, or for those who want to be able to take their content with them to share with others. These drives are small enough to slip into your handbag or pocket and are powered solely with USB, so you can use them practically, anywhere with your laptop, notebook or media server. The new My Passport Ultra drives also feature USB 3.0 for lightning fast data transfer, making them perfect for sharing large files like music and High Definition (HD) videos.

Basic storage or vital backup?

Not all external hard drives offer the same features and functionality. Other drives, in the My Book and My Passport family feature WD Smartware Pro software to automate backup. This ensures that whenever they are plugged into your PC or notebook, the files and folders you have selected will be kept current on the external drive, ensuring that you never lose anything important.


Capacity is one of the most important considerations when buying a hard drive – how much space do you need? Portable hard drives typically range in capacity from 500 Gigabytes (GB) to 2 Terabytes (TB), while desktop drives offer between 2TB and 4TB of storage space. A 500GB hard drive allows you to store up to 100 000 images, 38 hours of video or 125 000 songs, depending on the size of the files and the quality. This scales up, with a 1TB drive allowing you to store up to 200 000 images, 76 hours of video or 250 000 songs, and so on, all the way up to 4TB, which allows for the storage of 800 000 images, 304 hours of video and a million songs.

It is always advisable to buy a larger capacity drive than you think you need, since with the rapid growth in content creation and the need to store it, it is a fairly safe bet that you will need more space in the future. The price per GB of storage space also decreases the larger the capacity of the drive, making a single 1TB drive more cost effective than two 500GB drives. For example, with the My Passport drives, the cost per GB on a 500GB drive is R1.60, on a 1TB it comes down to R1.07, and on a 2TB drive the price per GB drops to just 95c. On the desktop side, a 2TB My Book drive costs 75c per GB, a 3TB 63c and a 4TB only 60c per GB.


What a hard drive actually looks like is an important consideration for many people. Whether the drive sits on a desk or is carried around, a stylish design is always more pleasing than a functional but ugly device. The My Book range of desktop drives are available in designs that complement both PC and Mac, with sleek lines and a glossy finish. The My Passport range has also been designed with style in mind, featuring a durable and elegant outer case. These drives are also available in different colours, including red, blue, black, white and silver, to suit any personality type.

The warranty

Apart from the capacity, price and design of a drive, the warranty is an essential consideration. Hard drives store some of our most important memories, and if these drives fail quickly these memories could easily be lost. The warranty ensures that should your drive fail, the drive can be replaced within a certain time period after the purchase date. The newer WD external hard drives typically feature a three year limited warranty, so consumers can rest assured that they are of the highest quality – after all, a manufacturer would not offer a long warranty if they were not confident that their product would last.

A gift that keeps on giving

When it comes to gifts, choosing what to buy for friends and family can be a daunting task. An external hard drive is an excellent option for just about anyone – a useful gift that will quickly become part of their everyday lives, and will continue giving well beyond the festive season.


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Your guide to buying a hard drive as a festive season gift