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WD My Passport 1TB portable external hard drive
An external hard drive is a sensible way to make sure that if your computer fails, you won't lose that essay you've (apparently) been working on for months, or the dissertation which is due tomorrow.
While there are many on the market, I particularly like WD's My Passport drives. Available in models with 320GB to 1.5TBs' worth of space, the drives can be password protected, are portable due to their small and compact designs, and can be set to automatically back up software.