Recommendations for external hard drive?

I back up (well, copy, via two open Finder windows) my scriv files to a thumb drive, and they regularly fail on me. I am sick of dealing with them so I am ready to spring for a real external drive. I don’t need anything fancy or huge (my son has a mega Lacie thing that he took to college and when it died, I got him a Seagate), just RELIABLE. Any recommendations? And while you’re at it, I am guessing there is a way to backup drives that’s a little more sophisticated and proper than just copying them from one Finder window to another. I did find a great thread here and intend to study it carefully: [url]]

Thanks. Sorry to be such a neophyte. :blush:

Flash drives regularly failing is a bit alarming. I’ve never had one fail yet, lost a few though …

If cost is not a consideration try Apple’s Time Capsule, otherwise most external USB drives are much the same as each other.

As for software, I use rsync which is a Unix solution and not for neophytes so can’t help there.

A Seagate external drive (e.g. FreeAgent DeskTop) plus SuperDuper back-up software would be my recommendation. I wouldn’t rely on thumb drives for back-up; they are too fallible.


I have an Iomega 500GB USB, and it’s rock solid. I backup generally with Time Machine, which handles everything I need.

But I also use Dropbox for specific Scrivener backups; I use the Backup To command in Scriv, then copy the resulting .zip file into Dropbox. Works perfectly.

I have 320 GB externals based on an Oxford something drive and a Toshiba drive I think – I’m not at home at the moment to check – in cases with a FireWire connection and they are proving utterly reliable. Here in China you pay about 5 times the price for Iomegas --. My wife has a couple of Western Digital MyBooks, though the power brick for one of those is kaput, but the drives are fine, and a 320 GB drive from here that I passed on to her. And I have an underused 1TB TimeCapsule.

My wife also has an Iomega USB drive, and I have a portable 120 GB USB drive. Again, both seem rock solid.

For software, I use Synchronize Pro! X … It may seem to be overkill to use an industrial-strength back-up system at home, but when I first moved onto OS-X it was the only one I could find which would do bootable back-ups. I swear by it; and I have found the developers to be unfailingly courteous and helpful. It does a full back-up of my MBP at 3 a.m. every morning.

On the other hand, I got SuperDuper for my wife – much cheaper! – though it’s not set up to do the back-up automatically, and she’s not very consistent in doing it.

I will get this MBA set up with Time Machine when I get round to it. But all the important files on here are synchronised with the MBP via DropBox, and the installers for all the software are on CD, or on the MBP and its back-up, so for the moment I’m not too worried.

Drives are cheap – though last year there were comments going around about problems with Seagate drives – and SuperDuper seems to do the job pretty well, so don’t rely on thumb drives!


Time Capsule. Never have to think about it – just backs up everything automatically. And saved my bakin’ ( I don’t eat pigs) when my MacBook hard drive failed.

I would really recommend the drobo for all your digital storage. It is a bit on the expensive side (compared to regular external HDs), but your data is protected against drive failure and it is extremely easy to expand when you reach the storage limit.

And, they call it a storage robot… how cool is that?

You can check it out on

I’m really paranoid when it comes to data safety, I wouldn’t even trust a single drive system… what if it breaks? It is hard to put a price on all your data, but I value it quite high, what if I would lose all my photos, documents or source code. Terrible.

Hmmm, I think I should also store a monthly off-site backup somewhere.

I’ve turned off Time Machine. It worked well, I suppose, but its constant need to back up in the background was distracting. I returned to my combination of approaches:

For global backups, I use Super Duper on a fairly regular basis – no less than every other night. It makes a perfect (and bootable) replica of my hard drive on an external, and updates only what it needs to thereafter. I partitioned that same external, and use the second partition to dump movies and podcasts I want to keep, but are too large to keep on my hard drive.

For daily backup of my writing: I keep my current projects in a single folder, which in turn is attached to an email I send to a dedicated gmail account at the end of every day. I’m thinking, though, of using Dropbox instead – seems more secure.

I also work in Mariner’s Montage quite a bit these days, which makes automatic backups on my iDisk. So there’s that, I guess.

My backup goals are as follows:

  1. I want an up to date copy of my writing to live in more than two places, one of which is off site.

  2. If my internal hard drive fails, I want to be able to boot up and keep working without missing a beat (if I need to).

Yep Sean, exactly the same … 'cept as I said I use Synchronize Pro! X rather than SuperDuper. And DropBox, though as I said in a different thread, I need to revise the way I use that. It’s secure and solid, but the problem of losing the connection while the ‘live’ files are being backed up can result in a problem. Antony’s got that process right.


The thing I love about Dropbox, and which solves “Backup Goal 1” for you, is that it’s not just a cloud backup; it’s also file sync across multiple computers. When I move a Scriv backup (i.e. a .zip file) into the Dropbox folder on my desktop, it automatically uploads that file to the DB servers (and uses diff file comparison, so even large files are pretty quick after the initial upload). It also keeps the file on my HD, in the DB folder.

When I then go to, say, my laptop - which also has DB installed - it automatically scans the DB server, and any changes in the cloud are also made to the Dropbox folder on the laptop’s HD. I don’t have to do a thing, just wait a few minutes while it syncs everything, and then I know - absolutely know - that the .zip file in the DB folder on my laptop HD is now the same one I uploaded from my desktop. And, of course, this works fully in both directions.

Further, if I find myself on a different computer entirely, I can log in online and view/retrieve files direct through the DB website.

And DB keeps copies of old files on the server. So you can roll back to a previous version using the online interface.

I realise it sounds like I’m getting paid by the signup or something, but really it’s just that Dropbox is what I’ve always wanted and expected from online sync. It works exactly how “cloud syncing” should, and takes almost no effort. I absolutely love it :slight_smile:

I really like the two WD Passports I have. Nice and quiet and - so far at least - no problems. I also have a Time Capsule that I have set up for Time Machine. Works almost invisibly (I keep the little icon that spins in the menu bar) and since the Time Capsule is on a different floor in my house - unobtrusively.

The one I would not recommend is the LaCie Porsche design. It’s a rectangular dark silver box and while it’s fine to look at, it whirs when it’s not doing anything but sitting there on, which in a quiet room is annoying, but when you have disk access it starts sounding like an insect nest with a chittering that drives me nuts.

Don’t know why you’d have such trouble with the USB flash drives, though. Are you unmounting (= ejecting) them before removal?

The only time I have seen a flash drive fail was post rinse cycle. That and the one that we intentionally fried with 110v right to the USB connector (not enough smoke to repeat). You may want to review your use and storage methods to see if there is something amiss such as 717’s suggestion that you might not be ejecting them properly.

That said, flash DOES have a limited write life. It is in the Millions (and BILLIONS on the expensive stuff) so in theory you COULD wear one out. To do that you would have to write to the EXACT SAME BIT 1 time every second for 11.574 days. WHile this sounds awful, the flash drive itself will detect a failing bit and force you to write to a new location (it will actually fail the byte). This will eventually show up as a shrinking drive.

The only other things I can think of is that you are using a micro-SD with a USB adapter (those things do have a higher failure rate) or that you are using the same drive on Windows and Mac (you need to be careful as I have run into 2 drives that would not work post Mac without being formated on Winblows).

Anyway, back to the question…

laCie is made by EMC these days. EMC is a heavy iron vendor who I deal with at work. Good stuff, but noisy! Same is true of their consumer stuff these days. If you want “ultra-XX” hardware these guys are probably for you. Just remember that you have been warned on the noise. (I just bought the 2big Triple as I needed the raid1 and FW800. I am looking to build a noise damper ASAP.)

I avoid matrox due to issues I have had with them. It could simply be the consumer focus for their product but I get to many DOA. I have heard that folks have good luck with them and given the price it might be worth your while.

If, I repeat IF, you or someone you trust is computer competent* you can always DIY with an external enclosure and a regular drive. I have done this a number of times and will do so again (but then again I get paid to do this stuff). It is typically a little cheaper and allows you to pick your specs a little better. If I hadn’t needed a commercial product for a contact I would have gone this route over the laCie.
[size=75]* Competent means that you can ID basic parts and know a little about how to handle components. If you have installed RAM you are more than qualified. Unless your name is vic-k, in which case you are certified. Certified insane.{/size]

Let us know which way you go and how it turns out.

I don’t know why I keep frying them either, Studio77. :frowning: I am careful always to eject them as warned. I’m using the little cruzer micro 2 GB’s and I’m on my third one in as many months. They cost about $20, so they seemed like an economical alternative, but at this point, I probably should have been saving for a nice little external.

I’m using Tiger on the old G4 that looks like a lamp (and has a swivel monitor arm that I LOVE), so I don’t have Time Machine.

I’m leaning towards DropBox, it sounds almost too good to be true. And saving for one of those FreeAgent thingies.

Thanks. :smiley:

You may have a USB power issue (not enough power or too much power to the device). I use the cruzer micro 2G as well and never have issue. A USb hub may provide a short term fix.

Testimonial Alert: I would not go so far as to say “regularly fails” but I have noticed that flash drives tend to corrupt at a monumentally more rapid rate when left with the factory format (FAT16). All of the flash drives I have ever formatted with HFS+ work fine for years. I wouldn’t recommend journalling because that involves a lot more write access, and as Jaysen pointed out, that can lead to premature ageing of the cells. I think most of their bad reputation comes from FAT16, really. There is a huge industry for photo restoration off of messed up flash drives, and having worked around professional photographers for years, I know it happens more often than should theoretically be possible. All cameras use FAT16 as well.

That said, I still agree that hard drives or some form of off-site 'net backup is far superior. I treat flash drives as floppy drives, HFS+ or not.

Just wanted to thank you guys for mentioning dropbox. I installed it at home and for both our computers at work, and it seems like a great program and very easy to use. Scrivener files open in textedit on our work macs. So thanks! I’m grateful for the mention because, when my drive failed, I tried to pull stuff back from my iDisk and couldn’t actually see any of the data that was supposedly stored there. No such problem with dropbox!

Otherwise - I picked up a couple of firewire/usb hard drives from the Apple store, and like them very much so far. I’m backing up my text files on a thumb drive as well. But I do think it’s a good idea to have important stuff stored in “the cloud”, off-site. You can’t have too many backups, can you?

No. No, you cannot.

Okay, I am making progress, but I still need to be spoonfed a little.

Antony, many thanks for the DropBox suggestion. I actually installed it, a few weeks ago, and just now got the nerve to upload my .scriv projects. Piece of cake. As you so neatly described, the “Backup to” function in Scrivener compressed them into .zip files and deposited them as instructed in my Dropbox Folder on my HD. Miraculously they then transferred themselves to the cloud, where I checked on their safe arrival. Mirabile dictu!!

Now for my confusion. Tried to figure this out via. Scrivener Preferences, but I am lost. When I open Scrivener, the projects I had open when I last used the program open up again. Stupid question number one: How does Scrivener know where to look for those projects? If I had not specified that the Backup files were to be converted to zip files, might they get confused with the files in my regular Scrivener Stuff folder on my HD? (I.e., say I backed up “Story About my Dog” to Dropbox as a regular file, and then proceeded to work on the project again, in Scrivener, without backing it up to Dropbox in my next session. So then when I closed Scrivener, it would still be called “Story About my Dog” but the revisions would appear only in the file in my Scrivener Stuff folder. How does Scrivener know where to go fetch that file).

Stupid question number two: Say I want to look at the file that was originally dropboxed, instead of the newly revised file. So I click on the file name, either in the cloud or in the Dropbox folder on my HD, and choose to open it via Scrivener. Will that drive Scrivener out of its mind trying to open the .scriv file of the same name, but now revised, from where it is usually stored ? (My preferences are set to reopen the files that were open when I last closed Scrivener) How will it distinguish between the two files?

I’m probably making things FAR more complicated than they need to be. Forgive me. :frowning: It’s the Irish blood and the fact that the cocktail hour hasn’t yet arrived. Three minutes to go and counting…

(I have a nice new hard drive on my desk as well, in its original carton, unopened since I purchased it about three weeks ago. I’m NOT the most adventurous type, though you can’t possibly have guessed that yet.)

No. When you use the backup feature without zip, Scrivener never opens the project, so it does not get added to the recent files queue. The backup feature allows you to spin off milestones of your work in progress, without switching from the current project. What you might be thinking of here is “Save as…” which is found in other applications. When you use Save as, then in fact the working copy becomes the one you just created. Backup to simply creates a copy in another location, but you keep working in the source project. So if you close Scrivener and re-open it, you’ll still be working off of the original, not the copies, no matter where they may be or how many exist. Scrivener doesn’t keep track of them.

It doesn’t, and it never would fetch the backups. It will only open those if you specifically tell it to.

All Scrivener saves in its preference file is the full path and file name for a project. It doesn’t bother itself with titles. You can have ten projects all titled the same thing, in different locations—you can even have them all open at once—and Scrivener will not mind, and will keep track of them separately in terms of which to open automatically. This is because the full name of a file is actually something more like:

/Users/mollysmum/Documents/About My Dog.scriv

And the other might be:

/Users/mollysmum/Dropbox/Scrivener Stuff/About My Dog.scriv

To you, you only see the last part of it before the ‘.’ in the title area. But Scrivener takes into account the full name, and thus it is not confused.

Try looking in the File>Recent Projects menu. If you have two projects with identical names, they will automatically be prefixed with their location. This helps you disambiguate between the two (or more) copies.

Thanks so much, Amber. This answers my questions perfectly. I’m going to print out your response and keep it close at hand.