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[ The PC Guide | System Care Guide | Backups and Disaster Recovery | Backup Methods, Devices and Media ]

Removable Hard Disks

An interesting backup method that most people don't know about is the use of removable hard disk drives. Here's how it works. You purchase a special kit that includes a mounting kit that you install into an external drive bay in your case. You also get special adapters (sometimes called carriers) that attach to regular, internal IDE hard disks. This allows you to insert and remove these internal disks through an external drive bay, turning your regular IDE hard disk into a sort-of removable drive. It works in a way similar to how a removable car stereo works.

To allow for backup flexibility, you will want to have more than one drive. One way to handle this is to buy several identical hard disks and put them all in carriers, so you can swap them easily. Or, if your BIOS supports hard disk autodetection, you can use different types of disks and the system will reconfigure to use whatever is currently placed in the drive bay each time you reboot.

This type of system, even though it sounds strange, can actually be a quite viable backup solution. While it seems that it would be overly expensive to buy hard disks just for backup, the price per gigabyte of hard disks is actually very comparable to drives such as the Iomega Jaz--in many cases, much less. This is especially true if you buy slightly older, smaller disks. A removable hard disk also has the following other advantages: very high performance, random-access capability, standard interfaces and exchangeability, and excellent reliability.

This type of scheme has some disadvantages as well of course. Compared to something like tape, you lose the ability to buy additional backup media cheaply; to add 2 GB of more backup storage on a 2 GB tape drive costs about $25; with this scheme it would be several times more. Hard disks are also fragile; if you drop them they can be damaged. (Note that both of these disadvantages also apply to several of the larger removable-storage drives.) The final and perhaps biggest drawback of this type of scheme is that the disks can only be removed when the power is off; you can switch media in a standard removable drive on the fly with the power on, but not here.

Next: In-Place Hard Disk Duplication

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