2nd External HD advice, SATA vs PATA

mkrishnan

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Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Okay, so shock of shocks, that I am starting a thread in the buying tips section... :D But hopefully it's Sunday night and no one wants to think about work in the morning. ;)

Here is the scenario. My Mac has a failed SATA controller. I figured out that this was the issue preventing booting (and that the drive, 7200RPM 160GB, was perfectly fine) and got an Icy Dock MB559UEA-1S ($65 shipped, 3.5" enclosure, SATA-I/II, FW400 and USB2) and put the drive into it.

Now, this really reinforces the fact that I need a backup device for this computer. Which means I need another enclosure. :rolleyes: Here is the dilemma:

Option 1: Buy a really nice SATA drive (like a 7200RPM / 750GB Barracuda) and another Icy Dock, cost about $270. At some point then, as I have far less than 750GB of stuff, I can transition this to being the primary drive and the 160GB for user directory backups, and then ultimately get another 750GB drive or 1TB drive for backup, so that I complete the process of getting to a much larger HD size, which I had wanted to do at some point (and I always would've needed two 750GB drives to do this; just now, I need two enclosures as well).

Option 2: Go for a much cheaper two-drive pre-built enclosure. There's a 750GB Western Digital kit for $180 through 9/1 (link), but it seems (1) to use two drives, which are (2) probably PATA, and (3) uses only USB2, so it will likely never be anything better than a backup drive.

Option 3: Conclude that pricing of 750GB drives is still not favorable, and perhaps get the Icy Dock with a 500GB Barracuda ($180, or $90 less than opt 1). This would be one still fairly nice drive, and a nicer enclosure, but a smaller volume.

Or other options? Thoughts? :)
 

CanadaRAM

macrumors G5
What Mac is it?

Keep in mind that most third party SATA controllers will not be bootable, they need to load drivers to work, so they can't bootstrap.

AFAIK, only Firmtek SATA cards in specific G4s and G5s are bootable

So for a bootable solution Firewire is the only answer for most Macs.

For some unknown reason, Dell has the Seagate FreeAgent Pro 750 (USB, FW, eSATA) on for absurdly cheap price. The link is the Canadian store, you'll have to dig for it in AmeriDell.
 

jsw

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Mar 16, 2004
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Andover, MA
As far as the SATA/PATA issue is concerned, SATA is really only an issue if you're ever going to use them in an internal enclosure or can use eSATA. If you're stuck with FW400/800 or USB 2.0, it doesn't much matter which you get.

As far as drives go, I completely agree that you should go with 500GB drives. They're almost half the cost of a 750GB drive, and I'd rather spend a bit more getting two 500GB drives than one 750GB one (or four 500GB drives as opposed to two 750 GB ones). I'm fond of the enclosures from OWC, but any non-ugly one would do.
So for a bootable solution Firewire is the only answer for most Macs.
Intel ones can boot from USB, IIRC.
 

filmgirl

macrumors regular
May 16, 2007
215
8
Seattle, WA
Here's the link for the Dell US Store: http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=dhs&cs=19&sku=A0984277

And yeah - I mean, for FW400/800 - SATA or PATA won't really matter, but you would probably be better off with a 500 GB drive than a 750. I've had some problems with some 750 drives (I only have 500 GB drives myself, but I have used a few 750's at school - with FW800 enclosures for video editing), the error rate and the cost per GB doesn't seem to be as beneficial, right now, to doing even 2 500 GB drives.

ETA:

Intel ones can boot from USB, IIRC.
Yeah - I haven't booted OS X off of a USB2 drive but I have been able to boot Windows XP off of a USB2 drive, so I assume OS X should be no different - assuming this is an Intel system.
 

mkrishnan

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Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Keep in mind that most third party SATA controllers will not be bootable, they need to load drivers to work, so they can't bootstrap.
As far as the SATA/PATA issue is concerned, SATA is really only an issue if you're ever going to use them in an internal enclosure or can use eSATA. If you're stuck with FW400/800 or USB 2.0, it doesn't much matter which you get.
Sorry, I should've explained that part better... I'm booting off the firewire interface right now. This is an iMac, so there are limited options for external SATA. The performance is actually more or less acceptable off the FW bus, for my needs.

I brought up the SATA issue primarily for the option of putting it back inside a Mac at some point (i.e. if I buy a new iMac, it's probably not going to have a 750GB drive in it, and I can re-use mine). The drive cost itself is negligible, so it's really just the $20-30 extra for a more expensive SATA enclosure. I guess the advice I'm asking for there is whether this thinking is silly and I should save some money and go PATA for the drive, even though it's re-use potential would be more limited (i.e. it would only be good as an external drive).

As for Firewire, although I can't use FW800 with what I have, I prefer 400 to USB2 for the reasons that have been discussed before.

I'm going to check out the Freeagent thing... as far as enclosures go, I guess I'm happy with the Icy Dock if I'm going to spend the money anyways. OWC is very nice, too, though.

Thank you for the suggestions! And EDIT: filmgirl, I just saw your post after typing all this, so I'll go back and read. :)

EDIT2: The Freeagent US pricing seems to come out so that it isn't particularly a good deal vs., say, getting an enclosure of my choice with similar specs and a 750GB drive off Newegg, sadly (and I'd rather have another Icy Dock or OWC or something that matches stylistically than the Seagate enclosure). Although it does seem very nice in general.

To clarify some more: I have not made the Intel transition. :eek: A Firewire drive would probably be better even for backup, right? Since it will be moderately faster, but more importantly, will possibly be bootable on my G5, depending on how I do the backup.
 

mkrishnan

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Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
If 500GB is definitely the way to go, how is this combo:



Icy doesn't do a FW + eSATA enclosure. This is a USB2 / FW400 box.

I'm not entirely sure how likely my future use of eSATA is, considering I don't see myself getting a Mac Pro in the too near future. There are 500GB enclosures that do eSATA and FW for about the same price, although they're not nearly as pretty. :p

This is my current Icy:



(eep, the photo makes me notice the scratching on that bookcase...sigh. Some new shelving is my furniture buy for next year. :) )
 

filmgirl

macrumors regular
May 16, 2007
215
8
Seattle, WA
Yeah, I think that 500 GB option looks really good.

And yes, overall I still think Firewire trumps USB2 -- plus, as you said - you might even be able to boot off of it from your G5.

Edit:

Are those Icy docks toolless by any chance? I ask because I always find myself needing a good enclosure that I can quickly open without tools (if I'm working on a project at school and I'm switching from one drive to another to take home to do work - and screwdrivers and Dolce & Gabana handbags don't always go together.
 

mkrishnan

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Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Yes and no... they have a rail system. The drive screws (2-4 standard rail screws) into the rails, but then the rail goes in sans tools. You do need a phillips screwdriver to get a hard drive into the rails. And you can get extra rails so that you can keep drives "prepped." But it could easily have been fully tool-less.

And I need to get back to buying some D&G and BCBG and away from getting new electronics. :p
 

Analog Kid

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2003
4,796
2,830
I've gone SATA on my external enclosures because I get the sense the PATA drives are going start getting harder to find as they go obsolete.

I have a 2 drive RAID for backup. I think this is the one:
http://www.cooldrives.com/sata-to-firewire-enclosure-raid.html

I've got a 2 drive RAID in the PowerMac, and this as my backup. All four slots loaded with 500GBs, and the external enclosure linked by FW800.
 

mkrishnan

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Jan 9, 2004
29,641
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
That's not bad! :)

So... 500GB drives. I looked back through old threads, and there were a few recommendations here and there for the 7200.10 Barracuda (and a few recommendations against Maxtor :p ) ... I know that this is one of those things where not very many of us have used 50 or 100 of these drives to form a good statistical sense, but any strong feelings to share vs. the DeathStar or the Caviar? :)

EDIT: Also, one more question...my apologies if this is silly. If I'm backing up a small hard disk onto a large one (say 160GB -> 500GB, as in this case), with SuperDuper, is it possible to create three partitions (in this case) on the 500GB drive and roll through them, so that I have bootable access to the last three backups from a single backup drive?

EDIT2: This old thread from Apple's support base seems to suggest it's fine, but if anyone here can confirm, I'd still appreciate it. Thanks again for all your help! :)
 

mkrishnan

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Jan 9, 2004
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Wow...



It's amazingly well featured. That's quite a piece of engineering, and I'm very impressed that they sell it for $55. I do have to admit my vanity though.... :( I think I'll stick with the Icy.

Also I might actually use the FW daisy chaining, which is the one tiny hard feature that the Icy has over this. Also assembly sounds a lot easier on the Icy and it's a bit smaller. And, sigh, my vanity.

But my gosh, that's some impressive engineering to be able to sell all that for $55.

The Icy is actually (still) on sale at NewEgg right now, and I just found an additional $15 coupon for the Seagate, so I went for it. I ordered it to be shipped to work, so I should have it later in the week, with any luck, for $171 shipped, and I can stick with a style match to my current Icy. :)

Thank you again for all your help! :) Now I'll just have to see how I do with formatting it and getting SuperDuper working. I've heard it's not too too complicated.
 

Coprolite

macrumors member
Aug 1, 2007
68
2
Fort Worth, TX
Thank You!

I have found this particular thread particularly useful/interesting. Unfortunately(and ironically), even though many of these drives are made in SEAsia, they seem to be more expensive here than in the USA.

I did manage to pick up a USB2->SATA+IDE enclosure. It is not the prettiest in the world, but it has an internal fan and only cost $25.

Thanks again for this enlightening thread!
 

mkrishnan

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Jan 9, 2004
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Coprolite, welcome! I'm glad you're benefitting also! :)

Now I know this is getting silly, but...

:D

So Disk Utility apparently could care less if you put many, many partitions on a HD. Something tells me this is a bad idea, but I can't find any hard reason to know that it would fail... but if I want to use this for the time being both with my iBook G4's 40GB HD and my iMac's 160GB HD, can I partition it suchly:

1-2: 160GB each (that is, the equivalent formatted capacity, i.e. 148.93 GB apparently)
3-4: 40GB each
5: ~100GB leftovers

So that I have two backup partitions each for my iMac and iBook? I guess the only major downside I see is that I will get five drive icons on the desktop!
 

jsw

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Mar 16, 2004
22,819
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Andover, MA
Now I know this is getting silly, but...
I don't think you're being silly. :)

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you'd only have two backups of each drive because you'd need to use each partition completely. However, using incremental backups or Leapard's Time Machine, you'd probably want more room to store what would, in essence, be a series of backups in slightly more room than the original partition would require.

So, if it were me, I'd split it up into two partitions of suitable size ratio (more space for the larger and/or most frequently changing drive).
 

mkrishnan

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Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
That's a good point, although I suppose I can re-partition when Leopard comes (I'm definitely not upgrading to it right away...).

If I use SuperDuper, is there any advantage of having the partition size be larger than the physical drives being backed up? Does SD handle the situation okay when you're trying to backup and it realizes the formatted capacity of the source partition (on the backup drive) is larger than the destination partition, even if the amount of data fits?


And okay, I admit it, the 100GB partition was going to be for t3h donk3y pr0n.
 
As a recovering computer tech (it's a long story involving stress, international intrigue and bandages) one paranoid concern I'd have is why did the SATA controller fail? What caused it, and could this be an indication of the motherboard crapping out completely at some point in the future?

(Sorry to be the one to throw a wet towel into the works, but someone had to do it!)

I like the stuff I've seen at CoolDrives, too.
 

mkrishnan

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Jan 9, 2004
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Ahhh, don't feel like going to bed and getting up for work tomorrow! :p

This is a valid point... I'm waiting to see exactly how this iMac behaves with the firewire boot drive. It's only been back up since Friday night, so I don't have a strong opinion yet (although it appears to be working flawlessly otherwise).

At some point I may have to consider piecing this iMac for parts and getting a new one. Poor me! ;) That's part of the reason I was looking at some future proofing issues like resisting getting a PATA external drive.
 

mkrishnan

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Jan 9, 2004
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Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Okay, so two updates.

1) To MikeTheC's point, my iMac continues to be stable with no interval changes in function. The 7200RPM / 160GB HD continues to work fine in its Icy Dock. I just got my UPS and charged it up overnight; the Mac and the drives are now running through it, but I haven't tested it yet.

2) The 500GB 7200.10 arrived today from NewEgg. Again, excellent deal, $171 shipped. :) It's now plugged in, partitioned as the 2x150 + 2x40 + 1x100 (FAT32 on the last partition only) very easily.

3) SuperDuper is currently making a bootable backup. :) Both drives are on the same FW400 bus, so I don't know what to expect realistically, but SuperDuper rates the effective copy speed as 11.3 MB/s at present with 19.2 gigs copied so far in 33 minutes, which would make it quite a bit slower than, say, filling up a FireWire iPod in my past experience. So any feedback on whether this sounds out of sorts? I guess I'm halving the max possible Firewire speed because of the two drives, at least.

Picture:



Thank you all again for your help! :)

EDIT: Gah, I made a stupid mistake! I foolishly partitioned my external HD with MBR so I could 1337ly make a FAT32 partition. But then after that I read from the Superduper website that G5s can't boot off MBR. :mad: So I re-partitioned it the same, except with all HFS+ partitions, and now I'm re-doing the backup....