The Back-To-School Hard Drive Questions: Use for Backups or Media? Size vs. Size?


Schools are booting up in the coming weeks and students are also Ctrl-Alt-Deleting their brains to get ready to upload GBs of essential data into their minds to help them maintain their upgradability down the line. As part of the back-to-school process, parents often need to think about the tech that they will provide their kids. This is particularly important for those heading out of the comforts of home and off to college. Laptops and computers are very personal choices: do you go Mac, Windows or even Linux? Tablets and smartphones have similar choices based on preferences: Android, iOS, Windows Phone…etc. Luckily when it comes to portable hard drives, the choices are simpler. The hard drive questions boil down to these: Do you go with size or size? And what will you use it for backups or media. Let me explain.

Seagate recently reached out to me to discuss some statistics on college student technology. Obviously this is something near and dear to my heart – technology and family. (Thankfully) my kids are still a few years away from college…not that many actually…and I have been sticking my fingers in my ears and saying “lalalalalalala” when people talk about the expenses of college. In terms of tech expenses, take a look at this Seagate infographic:


There are lots of computers out there that quickly eat up that $500 or more budget that parents allocate and often the entire budget is blown just on that device. However, I think it is important  to consider one more device when you are getting technology for your student – an external hard drive.

Here are some sobering stats to throw at you:

  • 54% of adults personally have or know someone who has lost files
  • 90% of US adults feel their digital content is valuable but only 10% back up daily
  • 72% of US adults photos and videos their most valued asset
  • Of those who DO backup, 27% use a hard drive and 18% use a USB or thumb drive
  • 19% of men and 30% of women do not backup at all

Size vs. Size

But this is where my question of size vs. size comes into play. Do you go with a small, ultra-portable hard drive or do you go with a physically larger hard drive that has larger storage capacity? Take a look at these sizes:

Ultra-portable Hard Drive (e.g., Seagate Slim$64 on Amazon)

  • Super small form factor – 4.47 x 2.99 x 0.38 inches
  • Very light weight – 0.33 lbs
  • USB powered – no need to find a plug
  • Fast transfer – USB 3.0 (backwards compatible for USB 2.0
  • Capacity – 500 GBs


Larger capacity portable Hard Drive (e.g., Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drivefrom $69 on Amazon)

  • Small form factor – 4.86  x 3.19 x 0.57 inches
  • Light weight – 0.44 lbs
  • USB powered – no need to find a plug
  • Upgradable connections – use USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt or Firewire connectors (optional)
  • Capacity – up to 1 TBs


High capacity desktop Hard drive (e.g., Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drivefrom $85 on Amazon)

  • Desktop form factor – 6.22 x 4.38 x 1.73 inches
  • Light weight – 1.73 lbs
  • USB & power adapter
  • Upgradeable connections – use USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt or Firewire connectors (optional)
  • Huge capacity – up to 4 TBs


Seagate has is all broken down for you on this page for back-to-schoolers! Which size you go with really depends on the use case I believe, thus the question in the title: Backups or Media?

Backups are for Old People

I have a theory that college students don’t really think about backups that much, simply because they are young at heart and potentially have the mentality “oh, this won’t happen to me.” This carefree attitude can be devastating when it comes to losing your digital student life. If you are working on a paper, for example, and your computer dies for some reason, you aren’t going to do very well trying to fix the computer. And you will get hit with that “hindsight is always better” phrase from your parents saying “well you should have been doing regular backups.”


When I was in college, I remember working on a computer (an IBM PC with not hard drive, just two 5 1/4 floppy drives) and right in the middle of a final paper, the primary floppy drive (the one used for booting and the word processing application) stopped working. My data was saved on the other floppy disk (the data disk) but I couldn’t use my computer and all of the library ones were in use by students. I was able to open up the PC and switch around the cables so that the working floppy drive became the primary drive and I was able to finish my paper on time. The point here is – hardware fails. You need to have a back up strategy. In this case, my strategy consisted of re-configuring my PC. Computers are much more complicated now so doing this type of “quick fix” is not as easy. Thus, your back up strategy probably should involve copying your critical data and media to an external hard drive.

Living for the Now

I think that students are more concerned with the here and the now and having fun in the process. College is, after all, the first point where you are away from your parents, but still within a relatively sheltered and structured environment. So, I think that if you gave your student a hard drive (again, depending on the “size vs. size” question), they would store their music, photos and movies on there. Being able to port around your entire music or video library on a portable drive that weighs 1/3 of a pound is pretty darn compelling.


However, I think if you (as a parent) teach your kids how to do proper backups or at least copy directories of their school work periodically over to a portable hard drive, then your student can also use the portable drive as a media repository. Seagate provides easy backup software solutions for free with each of their drives where you can set up custom one-click backup plan or a scheduled local backup.

I have been playing around with the Seagate Slim (provided to me by Seagate). Of course, I’m not a college student, but as someone who goes into the office, I must say how nice it is to have a super light-weight but high-capacity (500 GB) hard drive that I can just throw into a bag and go. I can bring personal documents or other media that I need and barely even notice that I’m carrying the drive. I would think that students as well would appreciate this, especially since dorm rooms seem to be getting smaller.

Oh, and one more things about these Seagate drives…with the include free Seagate Dashboard, any of the photos that you have shared on Flickr or Facebook and be automatically downloaded to any of the drives above so that you have a security backup of your digital college life.

Media versus Backups? Size versus Size? What are your hard drive questions? Is it better to have more capacity or a lighter-weight device? And what do you think is your use case? Leave a comment!

Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.

HTD says: Do your student a favor and just get them a portable hard drive! They can choose how they use it themselves!




1 Response

  1. Though portable drives are slim, lightweight and attractive, I’m not really a fan of them. I don’t really know anyone who needs to carry around hundreds of Gigabytes of data around in their pocket, especially when flash drives also come with USB 3.0 and up to 64 GB (and a few 128 GB!) capacity. For large storage I have a 3TB and 4TB desktop externals to backup my entire computer collections.

    I personally feel portable drives are the jack of the trades (capacity and portability) and a master of neither. Modern flash drives have more than enough capacity for most people on-the-go and can still work after being dropped multiple times. And desktop drives have 7200 rpm drives in them and are much faster than portables, even though they require an outlet to work.

    For me personally it’s best to either go all light(flash drives) or go home (desktop externals) haha!

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