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  • How to Connect Disks to a Computer

Modern computers use drives, also known as disks, to store data. The amount of data you can store on a system is ultimately limited by the size or capacity of these disks, but most desktop systems can accommodate several internal disks. External disks are available, too, and these let you expand your storage capacity even further without having to physically install the device within your computer. These external disks also have the added convenience of portability.

These drives - whether they're internal or external - need to be connected to your system in some way. As mentioned, external drives can simply be plugged into an external port, like a USB or Thunderbolt port. Internal drives, on the other hand, need to be connected directly to an internal port such as an IDE or SATA port.

Also known as an Integrated Drive Electronics port, the IDE port was introduced to computing in 1986. One of the oldest ports still in use today, IDE ports are generally meant for older hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), and CD / DVD / Blu-Ray drives. While the IDE interface is quite reliable, hence its longevity, its data transfer speed peaks at 133 MB/s. When compared to many of the other ports on our list, speeds like this just aren't fast enough to handle the amount of data produced today.

The Serial Advanced Technology Attachment port, sometimes known as the Serial ATA port, was introduced in 2000 as an upgrade to the earlier IDE and PATA ports. There are numerous levels of SATA, each of which accommodates increasing data transfer speeds.

  • SATA I: 150 MB/sec
  • SATA II: 300 MB/sec
  • SATA III: 600 MB/sec

While the performance of SATA I is on par with the IDE interface, SATA II and SATA II are significantly faster. Considering the popularity of high-quality video and audio files, these updated interfaces can save a lot of time when it comes to downloading or copying files.

If you're an IBM PC user and you want to connect an external drive, USB is pretty much your only option. Much like SATA, there are different USB standards - or levels - that have been developed over the course of time. These different standards also correspond with the overall data transfer speed of the device.

  • USB 1.1: 12 Mbps
  • USB 2.0: 480 Mbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 1: 5 Gbps
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2: 10 Gbps

Modern USB drives are incredibly versatile. They're available in a variety of form factors, including thumb drives that plug directly into the USB port and full-scale, external drives that are connected to your USB port with a USB cable. With so many options, it's easy to find a USB drive that meets your needs.

While many macOS users also utilize the USB port for external storage, macOS also includes a Thunderbolt port that can be used to connect external hard drives and other devices. The Thunderbolt port is also available in different standards, each of which features a greater data transfer speed than before.

  • Thunderbolt 1: 10 Gb/s x 2 channels
  • Thunderbolt 2: 20 Gb/s
  • Thunderbolt 3: 40 Gb/s
  • Thunderbolt 4: 40 Gb/s
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I`m an IT professional who has worked from home for over a decade. Early on in my career, I configured an HP ProLiant Server (Raid 1+0) as a workstation that I would remote into from my laptop. As technology evolved, I began to use it only for email and as a config file repository.

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