External Harddrives......any differences?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by Abstract, Jul 11, 2005.

  1. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #1
    Are there any differences between external HDs other than price? They're all basically 7200rpm, and the ones I'm looking at are 80GB to 120GB (only need basic storage, don't care about capacity, really). Some have 8MB buffers, and some don't say anything about that. Not quite sure what that is, so maybe its not such a big deal. I'm sure I wouldn't notice the difference.

    I went looking for one today, and I saw what they told me was an "older model" Maxtor 80GB (or maybe it was 120GB model) one that takes FireWire. It wasn't one of their "OneTouch" models, but it was cheap, and around the same size as the others (I was told). After I read that it had FW, I'm pretty convinced that I want an external HD with FireWire and not just USB 2. But Maxtor has some for beginners and experts and professional designations in their line-up and its all getting to be a bit too much for me.

    I'm sure its more of a marketing thing than anything else, right?

    I also saw some IoMEGA externals, but I wasn't sure if that company was good. What happened to Seagate? Western Digital? Are there others? I realize that LaCie are well liked around here (I do hang around MR sometimes ;) ), but I don't know why they're better than the rest. Also, LaCie HDs start at around 160GB at the nearby store and are approximately US$60 more than a poor student wants to spend. :eek:
     
  2. dubbz macrumors 68020

    dubbz

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    #2
    LaCie just use harddrives from other manufacturers like Maxtor..

    Segate and Western Digital certainly still have external drives. Just saw a 400GB Seagate one recently, but I'm not sure if it were FW or USB2.

    Can't give you any recommendations, though, since I've never used any myself.
     
  3. cube macrumors G4

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  4. MacDawg macrumors P6

    MacDawg

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    #4
    I think each brand will have their set of cheerleaders as well as complainers.

    I personally have had no problems with my 250GB LaCie

    Woof, Woof – Dawg [​IMG]
     
  5. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

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    #5
    Both, it's a combo, if it's the same I've had home here for testing. I really recommend Seagate (Barracudas). They are really high quality and extremely quiet. Actually, my girlfriend hooked it up to her Pismo yesterday and Spotlight immediately started indexing it. The HD on the Pismo (might be a Hitatchi in that, I don't quite remember what I put in :eek:) was very easy to hear, chirping away, but the external HD was impossible to hear... :)
     
  6. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    #6
    I've had both and the Maxtors are quieter, but I prefer the form factor of the Lacie. :eek:
     
  7. joshysquashy macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    You can buy an internal hard drive and then buy an enclosure to make it external. I have an 80GB seagate barracuda left over from a fried computer. I just bought an enclosure (firewire and usb2) for £26.

    Can anyone explain daisy chaining, my enclosure has 2 firewire ports, does this mean that I can add 2 hard drives to one firewire port on my comp?

    Also, I started a new post elswhere, but got no replies, is it safe to put a hard drive inside a drawer, it is not fan cooled, but is in the enclosure (aluminium).
     
  8. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

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    #8
    Yes, it means just that. Theoretically you can have 63 devices in such a daisy chain.
     
  9. Black&Tan macrumors 6502a

    Black&Tan

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    #9
    Something to consider is the variety of ports. If you get a drive with both FireWire and USB, you can interface with a larger number of computers. Also, if FireWire ever gets borked again with an Apple update, you won't lose access to your data.

    Generally, FireWire is faster than USB. USB2 is a newer standard, but so is FireWire800. Also, FireWire drives are "bootable," while USB drives aren't. I just bought an external combo drive, FireWire400 and USB2. No problems as of yet.
     
  10. iMeowbot macrumors G3

    iMeowbot

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    #10
    Another vote here for buying drives and enclosures piecemeal. I've had decent luck recently with both Bytecc and Macally enclosures (but the former can be seriously ugly), drive preferences are kind of random from week to week.
     
  11. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

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    #11
    What? I booted my old Pismo off an external HD in an USB1.1 enclosure... :confused:

    Good thing I didn't know I could do it... :p
     
  12. dubbz macrumors 68020

    dubbz

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    #12
    Was actually thinking about buying it, since I'm beginning to run out of space.
    I have an internal 400GB Seagate which have behaved so far. I do hear it when it's active, but not when idle... My old 250GB Hitachi, which I unfortunately don't have anymore, was quieter (oh, how I miss it..)

    It'd be for storage only anyway, so low idle noise is the most important anyway. Good to hear that it's quiet.
     
  13. Abstract thread starter macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #13
    Well I guess my question is whether there's a noticeable difference in terms of reliability or quality, or whether they're all basically the same s*** in a different pile.

    If even the "cheap, previous model" Maxtor (the non OneTouch model....as if it matters....) has a FW and USB2 drive, then that's what I'll go for if nobody here can make any solid recommendations, other than to tell me that theirs works fine.

    If it makes no difference, I'm going the el cheapo route and going for the worst one possible. :D

    And I thought about buying an internal HD and buying a separate enclosure, but I think it works out to be the same price, and so I don't see the benefit to me if internal HDs aren't of better quality. In fact, I would think that external HDs need to be more reliable because they're meant to be carried around. But that's just a complete guess, so.... :eek:
     
  14. chelseasian macrumors regular

    chelseasian

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    #14
    Don't buy the Iomega HD. It is bloody noisy. The Maxtor is great. 16MB Cache buffer vs. 8MB on a LaCie... also LaCie does not really produce the HD themselves. I think they use Hitachi or some other brand internally, wheareas Maxtor produces HD themselves, though the LaCie casing is much more pleasing to the eye... :)
     
  15. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #15
    The pre-packaged externals from Maxtor, seagate et al. usually have a one year warranty. If you buy a case and a Seagate Barracuda internal, the case will likely have 1 year, but the Barracuda will have a 5 year warranty. That's significant.

    Although the drives in External Firewire pre-packaged models are mostly all 7200 RPM, you have to read the fine print to see if they have an 8 Mb cache or a 2 Mb cache. If it doesn't specify, assume 2 Mb.

    The Maxtor pre-packaged externals have one annoying feature: it voids the warranty to open the case. So if the FW bridge card c#@^s out, you cannot remove the drive mechanism to put into another case and recover your own data. You lose everything, even if the data on the drive is OK. Or you lose the warranty.

    The things to watch for on external cases are:
    Heat management - can the case keep the drive cool? 2 approaches, fan, or radiant cooling. Aluminium cases are generally set up as a large heat sink with the intention of wicking the heat from the drive and radiating it to the air passively. Cases with fans rely on air movement through the case. Cheap cases have cheap, noisy and unreliable fans.

    Power supply quality: An unreliable power brick or wall-wart AC adaptor can cause loss of data, drives disappearing from the desktop, and finder crashes.
    If you are experiencing this wih a LaCie drive, they have a power supply exchange programme. Cheaper cases, you are on your own.

    Firewire Bridge chipset and firmware: The speed and reliability of transfers depends on the Firewire - IDE bridge circuitry and its firmware. The buzz is that Oxford chipsets are the best -- however there have been several models of Oxford, and many different firmware revisions -- some have had catastrophic problems so it's not enough to say "oxford is good". The drive or case manufacturer has to stay on top of OS and hardware changes and issue new firmware to maintain compatibility.

    It's hard to tell what is the best for reliability long term. A research project for someone here to track down reviews and tests to come up with specific and supportable results.

    I have had the best results personally with the aluminum MacAlly cases and Barracuda drives.

    Thanks
    Trevor
    CanadaRAM.com
     
  16. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #16
    Well, we know that all the mechanisms are going to be Seagate, Maxtor, Western Digital or Hitachi.

    It's not a question whether LaCie makes their own drive, it's a question of whether Maxtor makes a good, reliable and Mac comptatible case. In my experience, they don't. My customers' external Maxtor failure rate is significantly higher than those of LaCie or homebuilt.

    I refuse to sell iomega drives. &!$$-poor warranty service in my experience.
     
  17. pianojoe macrumors 6502

    pianojoe

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    #17
    </begin nitpick>

    63, if you use hubs. The max. daisy chain depth should not exceed 8 devices.​
    </end nitpick>
     
  18. deebster macrumors 6502

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    #18
    What CanadaRAM said :)

    A five year warranty on an 'internal' drive is worth something. If and when it craps out you pop it out of the case and get a free replacement. Plus you nknow that should your requirements change, or hard drive specs improve significantly you can put another internal in there.

    Get a good case though, and be aware that some of the no-name brand, cheaper (probably non Oxford chipsets too I guess) may not support drives greater than 128 GB. Would be a bummer to stick a juicy 400 Gigger in a box only to find out you can't fully use it.

    As has been said, USB 2.0 is not currently supported for booting, but I have read one or two reports of them booting Macs (in one instance it appears that a bootable firewire volume was connected at the same time and this somehow tricked the Mac into allowing the USB volume to boot, but the jury is still out on that).

    Boot support is due in the Intel Macs but unlikely ever to be on the current PPC side.

    I daisy chain my firewire HD through a fw combo drive, and it works fine. Even allows burning direct from the ext HD to ext drive without transferring to my Mac's internal HD. But of course you must leave the device(s) through which you are daisy chaining powered up or your HDs will unmount and baaaad things may happen.
     
  19. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus

    Mitthrawnuruodo

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    #19
    :D

    Ok... I just checked what the FireWire Bus could handle...

    But I think that you, theoretically, can have more in a daisy chain, just that at some point the accumulated cord length becomes too much for those devices furthest away...
     
  20. pna macrumors 6502

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    #20
    Recommendations:

    250 gb seagate 7200.8 PATA drive from Monarch Computers: $102 shipped

    seagate 250 gb drive

    Macally phr-100AF firewire enclosure: $35 + $6 shipping from Newegg:

    macally firewire enclosure

    or the Firewire + usb2 version for 10 bucks more:

    FW + usb2 version


    As mentioned, the seagates have a 5 year warranty, and if you buy a standard external drive, it'll likely only have a 1 year warranty. Drives *do* die, and I'd say that having them in an external enclosure is probably harder on them than having them inside a case where there's likely to be more airflow. Those macally enclosures are well made, easy to assemble (less than 5 minutes), but don't have a fan and depend on the aluminum case for radiating heat to keep the drive cool. This is probably fine, and makes them quiet, but having a long warranty is never a bad idea, and particularly not under those conditions.

    One caveat, is that there are still some older power supplies that are shipping with those macally enclosures, that have trouble powering up the larger seagate drives (other brands appear to be fine). Macally knows about it, so all you have to do is to call macally tech support, talk to Tom, tell him you got the enclosure and it won't work with a seagate 250 gb drive, though it works with smaller drives, and he'll ship you a replacement power supply with no more questions asked. That phone call also takes less than 5 minutes. If you order this enclosure and that drive, you might as well call him up and tell him that you have the issue before you even get the drive, so that the replacement power supply shows up at the same time as the rest of the parts.

    I've had good luck with all of my seagates, and all of the macally enclosures (once that issue was sorted out). Tech support is good as well.

    External enclosures are only the same price as building your own when they're on super sale, and usually that's if they don't include firewire (which you want, having a mac).

    As for the guy asking about leaving his external drive in the cupboard or drawer, it really depends. I'd expect that drawer to really heat up over time, and at that point, the drive really isn't going to stay cool. Let it hang out in there for several hours, and then check on it. If it's just warm to the touch, you're probably ok. If it's downright hot, then you know it's not going to work. If it's got a really long warranty and it's not your only backup of that data, then I wouldn't worry too much, and would enjoy the extra bit of quiet that having it put away affords you.
     
  21. Steven1621 macrumors 6502a

    Steven1621

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    #21
    I second that suggestion.
     
  22. Abstract thread starter macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #22
    Well then I guess I'm going with an enclosure of some sort (Oxford being the one company backed by people here) and a Seagate or Maxtor internal harddisk.

    I'd order from Newegg, but I'm in Australia and the choices for companies must be a lot different over here than over in America. Lots of weird asian companies that I have never heard of, but probably make a great case, and may even be from the same manufacturers that do the casing for bigger North American company.

    Whatever, I'll try to find something aluminium and decent.

    Thanks. :)
     
  23. Zachariah macrumors member

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    #23
    I prefer Western Digital drives all around (internal or external) -- been really happy with them for years now.


    (and Abstract ... you're the first person on any forum I use who I've seen is from the same Location I am)
     
  24. pna macrumors 6502

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    #24
    Ok, ok.. I'll be the first to bite with the obligatory anecdotal story to contradict your experience. Is everyone ready to chime in with their own? Please follow this template:

    "5 of the 6 western digital hard drives I've used in the past 5 years had to be RMA'd after they died. The RMA process was fairly painless, but that didn't lessen the pain of them dying. Even the refurbished ones they were sending out would die -- one of them even showed up DOA. I haven't bought Western Digital since.

    On the other hand, I've never had a seagate drive die on me, and the 6 seagate drives I've bought over the last 5 years are all still going strong. Plus they have a longer warranty."

    Now if we could have someone jump on and do this in an anti-seagate fashion, and pro maxtor, then anti-maxtor and pro-hitachi, then anti-hitachi and pro-western digital, we'll have come full circle, and this thread will have reached its one true destiny, evolved to completion, as all threads involving choices between various brands of hard drives must do. And the best thing is, we'll all believe that we're right! That's what I love about these threads.

    C'mon, who's going to play along? You know you want to. You've all bought hard drives, and you've all had them die. Sound off!

    Woofta, strange mood I seem to be in...
     
  25. Abstract thread starter macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #25
    Haha, well strange mood or not, me likes. There's not enough "strange" around here. ;)

    Oh, and........ahem.......I have had a Seagate HD die on me. :cool:

    However, that was ages ago and Western Digital was ace back then. I'm talking about late 90's here.....not at any point relevent to todays tech.


    Anyway, I saw a case today and it was nice. It was aluminium as well. However, now people got me concerned over what case to buy. The case I saw wasn't a nice brand name case. But if I stick a 100 GB Seagate or Maxtor drive in there, will it make a difference what casing I use as long as it "breathes" well? I don't want one with a fan, so that's sorted, but if the case heats up and radiates well, then I guess I'm set.

    Whatever, I'll wait for one of these Oxford cases to show up.

    Thanks a lot. :)
     

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