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There are several different types of removable storage devices. We discussed removable full-sized hard drives in the section on RAID. There are additional uses for these. One is for drives containing data only (no OS or programs) that can be easily switched from machine to machine, although networks usually do that job. Another use is as an easy way to switch OSs on a single computer, a job usually done by setting up the different OSs on different partitions.
USB and FireWire are external drives that connect easily into the appropriate port. They are especially good for backup and transferring large amounts of data from one machine to another without using a network connection, and they are hot-swappable (consult the manual to be sure). These take drive letters, just as internal hard drives. They cost a bit more than internal drives because of the housing and external power supply. When installing one of these drives, make sure you follow the directions exactly, especially order of installation. You can expect problems if you don't. If you are asked to get one of these drives working after someone installed it incorrectly, you'll have to uninstall the drive and start over again.
PC-Card hard drives are credit card sized drives that fit into the appropriate Type II or III PC-Card slots on notebook computers and the occasional full-sized computer. Recent models by Kingston (kingston.com) and other companies hold several gigabytes of data. However, because of their extraordinarily small size, they don't have much buffer, so they are good mainly for data archiving on notebooks. These drives are usually easy to set up and they do get a drive letter from the system. They are also hot-swappable, but if Windows is running, make sure to stop the device by clicking the Eject or Unplug Device icon in Windows' system tray, or in the Add/Remove Hardware wizard (or equivalent depending on Windows version) in Control Panel. Failure to stop a PC-Card device before ejecting it can damage the device.
Microdrives are even smaller drives used in certain computers and digital cameras. A Hitachi (hgst.com) 4GB drive using a single 1-inch platter should be coming on the market as this book is released. There are adapters available to plug microdrives into PC-Card slots.
When formatting an external hard drive, take into account the different computers in which it might be used. You wouldn't want to format a drive as NTFS if it will be shared with a notebook running Windows 9x.
Flash memory is memory that doesn't need continuous power to maintain its data. Therefore, it can be used in place of a disk drive. Flash memory has the advantage over disk drives of having no moving parts, so it is much more resistant to damage than the spinning platters and fast-moving heads of a hard drive. If flash memory eventually gets to the point where it exceeds the speed of hard drives for a comparable cost, it will possibly replace hard drives and possibly all disk drives. Flash memory is also adaptable to PC-Card slots.
These devices can fail just as regular hard drives can. Follow all drive troubleshooting instructions that apply to these devices. Moreover, with the USB and FireWire drives, drivers could be a problem—either the driver could be corrupted or the installer didn't follow the instructions. Uninstall the device and reinstall the drivers, making sure to follow the directions to the letter. See Chapter 2 for more information on device drivers.
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