Why I'm done with portable hard drives

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- I've owned six portable USB hard drives over the past 10 years, and all six of them have failed unrecoverably. Is it just me, or is there a wider problem out there?

These portable drives of mine were all big-brand drives. They've failed on three operating systems (Windows 95, XP and Vista) and always in the same fashion: Suddenly, the system can no longer recognize the drive. The errors don't seem to be caused by physical damage. It's happened on devices from small, pocket-size drives to massive multi-hundred-gigabyte drives.

You'd think I would have learned my lesson four drives ago. But I've always come back to portable hard drives because of a belief that vendors will continuously improve problems, and make the drives better and more reliable over time. This time, it won't fail!

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Sure, the data on my drives is recoverable if I take it to an expensive forensic data recovery service. But I don't want to shell out that kind of money. Nor do I plan to waste another nickel on a new portable drive. From now on, I'll spend my mobile storage dough on monthly payments to my online backup service (Amazon S3 via JungleDisk).

My questions are: 1) do portable USB drives fail at far higher rates than internal drives?; 2) If so, why?; and 3) Are USB drive failures radically under-reported in the industry?

What's YOUR experience been with portable USB hard drives?

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