Hard Drive Recommendation?

I have two external LaCie FireWire drives, and one of them has gone belly up. There’s a baffling array of options out there: FireWire, USB 2, etc. I use an external drive for nightly backup of the Home folders, so I need at least 80 gb of storage. Mostly text, but also some music and graphics–no video.

Where do you go for reviews? Where are the best deals? (USD) Should I stick with Firewire? (I already use a 4-slot USB 2.0 hub). Should I go for lots more storage? Appreciate any advice and warnings you can give.

Which Apple computer do you have? If it is a tower, I recommend getting an internal drive and installing it in the second slot. This is surprisingly easy to do, and as by far the fastest and cheapest way to expand storage. Second to that, I did a lot of research on external storage a while back, and came to the conclusion that external SATA is the best way to go. It requires a little more work, and you might have to buy an interface card, but speed will be just as fast as an internal drive, and the connection is vastly more stable than either Firewire or USB. It is essentially just like plugging it in internally, except the drive is outside the case. Empty SATA2 enclosures cost about as much as empty Firewire or USB enclosures, and many of the hard drives sold today are SATA2. Initial cost is higher because you’ll probably need an interface card, but the benefits are worth it. Finally, if you do build your own external, which I recommend if you can, don’t skimp on the enclosure. That is an extremely important part of the kit because it is responsible for keeping the drive cool. Most pre-built enclosures have heating problems because manufacturers install cheaper fans that do not have enough power to sufficiently move cool exterior air through the unit. LaCie is one of the guilty ones on this score. Cheap interface cards and cheap fans are the two reasons why external drives have so many failures. The third reason is probably just user negligence. Putting the drives on an unstable or vibrating surface, and so on. I’m generally opposed to external drives unless you need portability or have just completely run out of interior space (which happens by default on iMacs, Mac Minis, and laptops).

If you don’t have a tower, or all of that went completely over your head, then I recommend sticking with Firewire. It just has better performance and stability than USB2.

Thanks–I should have said that the drives are for two computers, and both are G5 iMacs. I may be upgrading to the next iteration of iMac, which is possibly out this August. So, alas, I am stuck with external drives for now. I’m glad to hear that FW is preferable, since I have 2 slots there and all the USB slots are taken. I have found that the LaCie site offers good prices, better than Amazon, for drives in the 160 gb range. So I’ll probably go with that. Thanks, especially for responding so thoroughly and promptly.

There was another thread on the subject of external drives recently. I noted in that thread that I am happy with the Western Digital My Book Pro 500 GB external drive I bought in February. Comes with three connections: Firewire 800 and 400 and USB 2.0. I just noted somewhere that Western Digital My Brook 2TB is on the market, for around $750. That is how cheap hard drives are becoming.

Where to look for information? I usually check macworld.com for reviews. They had just given a high rating for the WD My Book Pro 500 that I ultimately purchased. I also checked the following sources: CNET reviews, PCWorld reviews, newegg.com and amazon.com for customer ratings and reviews.

I use my external hard drive exclusively for backing up my new iMac duo. About the only wisdom I can pass on is to purchase as large a hard drive as you can afford, or better yet, to purchase a larger hard drive than you can afford. I always seem to run out of space. I use the Firewire connection without any problems.

One little issue I’m anticipating once Leopard is out is how I’m going to use Time Machine in some combination with my current back up program SuperDuper. I’m not sure I need to use both. I’m not sure which will be better for me.


Just got this from David Pogue’s NY Times Circuits email list:

A few weeks ago, I reviewed removable-cartridge hard-drive
(nytimes.com/2007/05/30/techn … pogue.html).
I tested drives from Quantum, Iomega and Dell (which is one
of several companies that manufacture cartridges in a format
called RDX).

I absolutely love these drives. How else are you supposed to
back up the 320-gigabyte hard drives that come in new
computers? Burn them onto 68 DVDs? No, you need something
fast, rugged, expandable and reliable-like these removables.
(They blow slow, expensive, fussy tape-backup systems
completely out of the water.)

The downside, I noted, is the nosebleed pricing of the
cartridges. A 120-gigabyte Quantum cartridge, for example,
costs $250. That’s nearly triple the cost of a self-contained
pocket hard drive.

What I didn’t realize was that there’s a fourth removable-
drive cartridge system, called the Imation Odyssey
(Imation.com). It offers the same virtues as the Quantum and
RDX dries-including shockproofing that withstands three-foot
drops to concrete-but adds two more. One is compatibility
with Macs as well as PCs; the other is price.

The Odyssey drive itself costs $185 with a starter cartridge-
already an enormous savings over the $300 to $500 pricing of
its rivals.

The cartridge prices are also far better: 40 gigabytes for
$91, for example, or 120 gigabytes for $188. The comparable
RDX cartridges cost $118 and $270-that’s 22 to 30 percent
more. The Odyssey cartridges can save you a heck of a lot of
money over time.

Like the Quantum and RDX drives (but unlike the Iomega Rev),
the Odyssey drive is just a shell; you won’t have to replace
it as cartridge-capacity technology improves. Just this
month, for example, Imation added 160-gigabyte Odyssey
cartridges to its catalog.

Now, even Odyssey cartridges cost more than standalone pocket
drives. But if the ruggedness and convenience of a cartridge
system appeals to you, there’s no less expensive, more
convenient backup/full-hard-drive solution than the Odyssey.
If I hadn’t missed it in my original roundup-dang it!-the
Odyssey would have won the derby.

For a longer travel on which I plan to shot RAW photos and catalogue them every evening on my ibook, I bought a USB 2.0 HD Fujitsu, 120 GB, for about 80 USD (less than 10000Yen anyway). It runs with just USB connected to the computer, so no extra weight to carry for electric cable etc. My trial period here since a few weeks shows it is reliable, fits into any pocket, weighs something like nothing. And I hope I can buy additional HDs of that kind when needed in Korea.

Transportable and reliable as storage at home, I am very pleased.


I’m guessing Time Machine will only address the types of backup concerns that involve user error and mild machine error. Because the drive always needs to be plugged in to the computer though, it will not substitute as a really safe backup to guard against fire and other catastrophes. You’ll still need something cheap and easy to store in a different location, or a fire-proof case.

I wouldn’t give up on tapes just yet. LTO is extremely cheap. For $50 you can get a 400/800GB cartridge, which should be more than enough to back up ordinary drives and run incrementals for a while. If you’ve messed with tapes years ago and gave up on them because of speed, LTO is generally pretty fast too. These tapes can handle up to 200-300GB per hour for mid-range drives. If you need more, there is always LTO-4 which can store up to 1.6TB per cartridge, at about $120 per.

About 6 months ago I bought a Seagate 500 GB for $270 US. It has been flawless and offers both USB and FireWire connections.

If you’re networked, then get one big one that will stay in one spot. Some desktop units are fragile so buy quality.

I have a Western Digital 120G portable that has stood up to ~9months of use and being moved and loaned out.