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Another common device you'll most likely to use, at some point or another, is an external hard drive or storage device. An external drive can be a simple flash or thumb drive, like this one. These typically plug into your computer's USB port, and have capacities of around 128 gigabytes or so, although you'll usually find them at around 8 or 16 gigabyte capacities. For significantly more storage space, you'll have to go with an external hard drive like this one. These can also connect to your Mac via USB or by FireWire. They often require that you plug them into their own power outlet as well, although you'll find some models that are powered through the USB or FireWire port.
Using an external hard drive or thumb drive is simply a matter of plugging it into your Mac. After a moment, the drive should show up in your desktop. Now, if your drive did not show up, first click somewhere on your desktop to make sure you're in the Mac's Finder, then choose Finder > Preferences. Under the General tab, make sure that External disks is checked. With it checked, any external drives will show up on your desktop. This is where you can also check Hard disks if you want to see all the internal drives in your Mac, but I tend to leave those off, because I have quite a few, and I don't like seeing them taking up that space on my desktop.
Besides, I can also get to those drives in other ways, so I don't need them taking up space on my Desktop. So along those lines, you might also want to click the Sidebar tab and make sure External disks is checked here as well. This option makes it so your external drives appear in the Sidebar area of any Finder window. You can see there's my drive right there. This is also where I keep hard drives checked, so I can see my hard drives listed here under Devices. So I'll go ahead and close that. So I can get to my flash drive's contents, either by double-clicking on the drive to open a window, or I can just select it in the Sidebar.
Once you see your external drive, you're free to copy files to and from it simply by dragging them on the drive or off the drive. Essentially, the external drive acts just like any other folder, in that you can create new folders on the drive, add any files to it as long as they fit on the drive, and you can also drag files to the Trash. For example, here in my flash drive, I'll create a new folder, but then let's say I just changed my mind. I'm just going to drag that to the Trash. Now, just like with other files you drag to the Trash, the files aren't really deleted until you empty the Trash, and that holds true for external devices too.
If you unplug the drive and then plug it in later, that folder will still be sitting in the Trash, until you choose Finder > Empty Trash. So just be aware of that, especially if you have sensitive materials on your external drive. You can also access your external drives from any application you're trying to save a file from. I'll open up TextEdit, and I will just type some text and choose File > Save. Notice my external drive shows up, just like any other location on my computer. So I can select it, give this file a Name, and click Save.
You can see the file now sitting here on my flash drive. Now, another important thing to know about using external storage devices with a Mac is that when you need to disconnect the drive, you can't just yank it out of your computer. But I'm going to do just that, so you can see the message that appears when I do so. So I get this alert telling me that disk was not ejected properly, and if possible, I should always eject the disk before unplugging it or turning it off. It even tells me how to do that by choosing File > Eject. Let me go ahead and click OK, and plug the drive back in. So basically the Mac needs to, in essence, prepare the drive before you can remove it.
Just yanking the drive out can theoretically cause files to be damaged, especially if your Mac was writing any information to the drive when you removed it. So to properly eject the drive, you should first click it to select it, then choose File > Eject, or press Command+E, or another way to do it is to drag the drive to your Trash icon, which seems counterintuitive, but notice when I start dragging the Trash icon turns into this Eject icon, letting you know that you're not actually trashing your drive. Once the drive's icon disappears from your desktop or sidebar, you can then safely pull it out of your computer's USB or FireWire port.
That's how you work with external storage devices on your Mac.
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