External hard drives are great for cheap portable storage, but sometimes you get a bum drive. Performing a secure erase on the drive gives it a stress test before you put it into service.
Photo by Karen
TidBITS offers a variety of suggestions for maintaining hard drives, but the secure erase trick stood out for us. This writes data to the entire drive and verifies that it can read and write data on every sector. If it survives the secure erase, then it's good for holding data. Check out our guide for full details on performing a secure erase.