External storage

Updated: 12/30/2019 by Computer Hope

More commonly referred to as an external drive, external storage is storage that's not part of the internal parts of a computer. These drives often connect to the computer using USB, eSATA, or FireWire connection. The picture is an example of a Drobo and an example of a popular external storage solution.

Examples of external storage devices

The following list is of external storage devices used over the evolution of the computer. Clicking any of these links open further information about that external storage device.


Some of the devices mentioned below could use an internal reader. For example, a floppy disk drive could be an internal drive that reads an external storage floppy disk. Also, new computers that no longer support floppy drives could use an external USB floppy drive that would make the drive and diskette external.

Why is external storage used?

Below is a list of advantages to using an external storage device with a computer.

  • Easy way to add additional storage or options to your computer without having to open the computer.
  • With an external hard drive, you can store a lot of data for backup or to move between computers.
  • An external disc drive can allow a computer without a disc drive to read CDs, DVDs, or other discs.
  • Devices like the Drobo can give your computer additional features such as RAID help keep your data protected.

How do you access external storage?

Once connected, external storage is treated the same as internal storage (e.g., your hard drive) on your computer. For example, if you're connecting a USB thumb drive to a computer, it appears as a new drive letter in Explorer. If the next available drive letter was F:, the F: drive should appear in Explorer. Once visible, you can double-click the drive letter to open and browse the files on the thumb drive.


External storage drives that have not yet been formatted (e.g., new external hard drive) must be set up before it's accessible on the computer. For help with setting up a new hard drive, see: How do I set up a hard drive and partition in Windows?

Enclosure, External, Hard drive terms