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Old Feb 21, 2013, 10:32 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2007
What to do with nine external drives, many of them unused?

Hi there,

one day I was looking at all my external drives, and found nine, and some enclosures:
  1. Two WD 250 GiB, SATA, 3.5", naked
  2. One Seagate 500 GiB, SATA, 3.5", naked
  3. One Seagate 1.5TiB, 3.5", FW400 enclosure
  4. One WD 500 GiB, PATA, 3.5", naked
  5. One G-Technology 750GiB, FW800, 2.5"
  6. One OWC, 750 GiB, FW800, 2.5" (Original MBP hard drive)
  7. One WD 500GiB, USB, 2.5"
  8. One Acer (don't know what's inside) 500GiB, USB, 2.5"

  • One empty 2.5" FW800 enclosure
  • USB-PATA cable + power adapter
  • USB3-SATA cable + power adapter

There's also a tenth drive, a Scorpio Black 500GiB currently sitting in my MBP as it is the fastest 2.5" platter-based HDD I could find.

Current applications:
  • Time Machine
  • movie storage
  • backuped & downloaded software, usually ones hard to come by, or the very heavy ones.
  • Storage for 24 hrs videosurveillance from 3 cams, ideally 30 days archive.

As I tend to forget which holds what what, I put the naked 3.5" drives in coloured plastic cases made for them, but still feel having so many drives is more of an inconvenience than it is flexible. It doesn't seem so rational to me having so many drives, and only rarely do I need to share files with Windows (however when I do, I tend to use a FAT32-formatted partition to hold them, or a USB key).

Then again, what to do with all them?
Sell the unused ones? Cram them in enclosures? If so, which type? 3.5" is not very practical either.

I don't have any special need yet, even when it comes to storage, as long as I can have a year worth of Time Machine backups and 2TiB extra storage, which is already met through the OWC + G-Technology + WD500GiB USB, none of them being anywhere close to full. The last requirement I had was Time Machine, and I upgraded its 500GiB drive with the 1.5TiB one. However, it is still sitting in a somewhat slow FW400 enclosure, which was top-of-the-line when I got it. I don't really feel its drag since Time Machine backups are done at night, even if drive number 3 is a slower 5900rpm one.

On the other hand, considering how unlucky I have been with hard drives (out of these 10, 5 were replaced in their second year, sometimes right from the start, one was replaced twice), I think these spare drives may be dying when I would actively need them. The only one I would never depart with is the one in the OWC enclosure, since it is the original MacBook Pro 8,1 drive, and the WD 2.5" 500GiB USB as it seems to be the only one I have with 5 years warranty.

Still, I would like higher speed from the drive that holds the virtual machines. Currently, I get 60MB/s write, 40MB/s read in Blackmagic Disk Speed Test with this G-Technology drive, which is not bad at all from a single-drive on FW800, but slow in absolute standards. This one led me to think about a bus-powered FW800 with RAID0 such as the G-Raid Mini that can saturate the bus. But if I were to get more speed out of an external drive, why not switch to a Thunderbolt drive instead? Problem is, Thunderbolt 2.5" are very hard to find and there's no option for lower capacity to mitigate their disproportionate cost. If I were to spend so much on a new drive, why not get a SSD to install in the MBP? But OCZ Vertex 4 240GiB (barely enough for internal storage) also come at a staggering price tag of $400, and internal SSD + external Thunderbolt aren't currently feasible.

I was thinking about a NAS, but then again, Synology's ones come at a large premium (over $400), and I don't tend to use my Gigabit switch thanks to the iPad's presence on the network and that I regularly have my MBP on my lap on the couch to watch movies. Besides, OS X provides no easy way to set preferences for one network connection or another for different applications, and long flashy cables accross the room are unsightly. And finally, Synology confirmed none of their home-oriented NASes currently support automated SFTP or FTP uploading, which makes them useless for videosurveillance purpose since offsite backup is a must. As well, so much money for so little performance increase over FW800 made me raise eyebrows. Even the cheapest, non-RAID NAS enclosure do come at a premium so large I wonder if it would be worth it and if I'd rather not set up the videosurveillance machine, or my other MacBook as a file server. On wifi, this white MacBook has a hard time keeping up with demand when I stream 720p content. Maybe the MacBook is too old for that, maybe wifi is too slow, I don't really know. If right, then a NAS could be a solution, albeit an expensive one.

What are your other ideas, considering the current applications?
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