Bus-Powered Drives


Today’s Question: I like to keep my catalogue and photos on an external drive. Is a “desktop” external drive more stable or otherwise preferable over a “passport” drive like the LaCie where one does not have to deal with plugging it to power?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In my opinion a bus-powered hard drive (one that gets its power through the data connection rather than from a separate power connection) is absolutely preferable compared to a “desktop” external hard drive that requires a power connection in addition to the data connection. In my view there is a tremendous advantage to not needing to use a separate power connector, and bus-powered hard drives are also generally smaller than “desktop” external hard drives.

More Detail: A bus-powered hard drive obviously has the advantage of not requiring a separate power adapter. Instead, the same connection used for data transfer also provides power to the drive. This is beneficial when traveling in terms of not having to pack a power adapter for the drive. Frankly, I always prefer bus-powered drives when possible because they also eliminate the risk of having the power get accidentally disconnected for the drive.

I have often heard about risks of data corruption or inadequate power for bus-powered hard drives, especially when connected to a USB port. From my perspective this was an issue with lower-powered USB ports in the past, but is not a real concern for most hardware available today, both in terms of computers and bus-powered hard drives.

I have extensive experience in this regard, and have never had any problems related to the lack of a power adapter for bus-powered drives. All of my photos are stored on a 4 terabyte bus-powered hard drive, with backup copies on an additional bus-powered drive. In addition, all of the content I produce, such as the video training courses I publish in the GreyLearning video training library (http://timgrey.me/greylearningnew), are stored on another bus-powered hard drive. In other words, I make extensive use of bus-powered hard drives, and have done so for many years, without any problems caused by the fact that the drives I’m using don’t have a separate power supply.

No storage device is completely immune to potential data loss, caused by a variety of factors. In my view, there is no need to avoid bus-powered hard drives based on fears of risk to your data. In fact, I feel that bus-powered drives offer considerable advantages. Of course, it is also always important to have an excellent backup system in place to minimize the risk of data loss.