Buying External Hard Drive - Questions

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by polycat33, Aug 5, 2007.

  1. polycat33 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA
    #1
    I've had my MBP for about a month and a half now, and it's my first laptop so the idea of an external hard drive for backup is new to me. However, the more and more I read through forums and stuff the more I find I'd probably be more comfortable with an external hard drive. So, I have some questions.

    Reading some other threads on external hard drives I saw that the G Tech G Drives are very highly praised. I saw they are kinda pricey, however when reading reviews on cheaper ones it seems there's always a few people with issues about them flat out breaking. I'd rather invest in something that is going to be great quality instead of risk losing the backup, so I was thinking of going for a G Drive. Is this a good choice, and are there any other super reliable brands that are less expensive?

    I have a 120GB hard drive. I've read I should get at least the same capacity for a backup drive, even if my entire hard drive isn't full (or even close). This is obviously logical because I may have a more full hard drive in the future, but even if I don't plan to ever have that much data, is this an absolute requirement?

    I've read that firewire is a lot better/faster for connecting. I've seen FW400 and FW800, I assume 800 is better, can someone provide some info on each? Also in comparison to USB 2.0?

    Is it better to have the drive plug in to power or be "bus powered"?

    Are there any good free backup programs? Do most external hard drives come with a backup program, and if so, are they any good? I'd probably want something that keeps an eye on what changes are happening and only backs up new files or changed files, to avoid unnecessary transfers. What's a good backup program that does this? I could handle a good one that costs money if it's not that expensive.

    Last question, may be irrelevant depending on the answer to the size thing. I have an old PC that is 5 years old and I will probably never turn on again. I read about people buying hard drives and cases and putting them together themselves for the best deal. Is it possible for me to take my hard drive out of my old computer, reformat it, get a case for it, and use it for backup? If this is possible, is the 5 year old thing an issue? It's only 80GB so if I have to have at least 120GB then this option is off the table anyway. Just curious.

    Thanks for the response and sorry if some of my questions are stupid, as I said I'm a noob to this whole external hard drive backup thing.
     
  2. superleccy macrumors 6502a

    superleccy

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Location:
    That there big London
    #2
    The answers you seek have been covered countless times elsewhere, so I will be brief.

    You need to work out a backup strategy. Let's assume that the best thing for you would be to set up your external HD as a "bootable clone" (although this is not the only choice). This means you can rescue individual files off the clone as required using Finder, or in the event of a total disaster (say, your Macintosh HD dies completely), you can boot from your clone. But, you can't go "back-in-time" to recover files that were deleted prior to the last clone operation (for that, you'd need to use a program like EMC's Retrospect, or wait for Time Machine in Leopard).

    No brand of external hard drive (or combination of enclosure+drive) is 100% reliable. For every brand of hard drive, there's a poster here singing its praises, and another poster damning it to hell. But, if you go for the "bootable clone" strategy, you'll only loose data if your Macintosh HD and clone HD die at the same time (check your smoke alarms, and don't smoke in bed).

    Get a FW drive, mainly because USB drives are not bootable in OS X (someone correct me if I'm wrong). FW will give much better performance anyway. FW800 is nice, but if you schedule your clone operation to run overnight, you won't notice the performance gain over FW400 because you'll be asleep. Go for portable/bus powered if you like. It'll be more portable and convenient, but more expensive. Some bus-powered USB drives require more power than can be produced by the USB port of the MBP, which is another reason to go FW.

    Get a "120GB" drive, but make sure it's actual formatted capacity (in GiB) is no smaller than the actual formatted capacity of your Macintosh HD (in GiB). If you go for a bigger drive, create a partition for the clone that is the same size as the Macintosh HD. You might not have that much data now, but you will! ;)

    Format the clone partition as "Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)".

    Don't use your clone partition for anything apart from the clone!

    Disable spotlight indexing of the clone.

    SuperDuper! is an ideal tool for managing and scheduling clone operations. Sure there's other free/cheaper tools out there, but SuperDuper! is just beautiful. I cannot praise it highly enough. Yes, it only copies across new/changed files.

    Your old PC drive would be fine until your data usage approached 80Gb. But since it's already 5 years old, that means it already 5 years closer to the end of its life. Personally I wouldn't be bothered with the hassle.

    HTH
    SL

    PS: Okay, so I wasn't that brief after all. :rolleyes:
     
  3. polycat33 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2007
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA
    #3
    Thanks for not being brief. While I've seen many threads about external hard drives, everyones situation is slightly different from mine and I didn't want to hijack another persons thread for my questions.

    I think I'll bit on this 160GB G Drive on eBay, it's only about $140, not bad!
     
  4. crazycat macrumors 65816

    crazycat

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2005
    #4
    I always try to buy the best quality i can get, there is no use for a hard drive that fails.

    If you know you will never use more then 40GB you can get a 40GB external hard drive, i however do not recomend that. Get the largest one you can afforde, a few months down the road you might want to start downloading tons of itunes movies and tv shows or backup your DVD's.

    Firewire 400 is much faster then USB 2, from my personal use i found out its 2-3 times faster. Firewire 800 is around 4-5 times faster. Backing up my laptop takes 4 hours using USB 2, 1.2 hours on firewire 400 and 50 mins on firewire 800.

    I have used my external hard drives when my laptop was pluged in, the hard drive was connected to power and without power, it makes no difference except for battery life.

    There are 2 options i use.
    1- For a bootable backup i use SuperDuper, just google it.
    2- LaCie '1-Click' Backup, can be found at www.lacie.com

    Both are free, try them both and see what you like more. Try to do a weekly backup, before you go to bed or while watching a move start backing up. It should not take that long and it should not matter if it takes a lot of time since your doing something else.

    It is possible to do that, you will have to know what kind of hard drive it is so that you can get the right housing. The problem with using such an old hard drive is that its always more likely to die.
     
  5. superleccy macrumors 6502a

    superleccy

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Location:
    That there big London
    #5
    If you pay the registration fee for SuperDuper, you'll have access to the SmartUpdate and Scheduling features. The former makes backups much faster (typically much quicker than 50mins) and puts less strain on your HD. The latter allows you to just forget about remembering to back up (as long as you leave the computer switched on and the HD plugged in).

    SL
     
  6. SMM macrumors 65816

    SMM

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2006
    Location:
    Tiger Mountain - WA State
    #6
    There are so many good options, you can hardly go wrong.
     

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