Choosing a bus-driven hard drive for backup

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by macstatic, Oct 20, 2012.

  1. macstatic macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    My sister needs a backup drive (Time Machine) for her 13" MacBook Pro 8.1 and I'm suggesting a bus-powered type since that means just one cable and thereby less hassle. Her internal drive is 750GB so I assume she'd need something like 1TB.
    The computer's got both Firewire 800, Thunderbolt and USB ports. I assume the former two would be best.

    I've personally got a G-drive Mini connected to my Powerbook G4's Firewire port, but it's a little pricey and I don't think they go past 750GB. Which other drives can she consider which won't need messy cables and power adapters?
  2. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    I purchased a Western Digital My Passport Studio 1 TB FireWire 800, currently $125 at Amazon (here).

    The 2TB version is $214 (here).

    I've been very happy with mine. I use it for backups on both my iMac (via FW800) and my wife's XP laptop (via USB2). I've only had it for 5 months, but it's been quiet, reliable, small, easy to carry/switch computers, bus-power works great, and spins-down when idle. Looks nice and all metal case has a quality feel.
  3. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Feb 20, 2009
    "My sister needs a backup drive (Time Machine) for her 13" MacBook Pro 8.1 and I'm suggesting a bus-powered type since that means just one cable and thereby less hassle"

    My advice:

    Why, you're asking?

    Because laptop Macs can often have problems with "bus powered" (only) external drives. For reasons they have never disclosed, Apple's laptops seem to provide less bus power than do Windows PC's. What this means is that plugging a bus-powered drive into a laptop Mac -might- result in either nothing (no sounds from the drive, nothing on the desktop) or a "half-mount" (drive seems to spin up, but never mounts on the desktop).

    If you're going to get her a drive (even a "portable" drive), get one that comes with an external power block (even if the drive works from bus power, as well).

    Then, if you get a call from her saying "the drive isn't there", or something along that line, tell her to connect the power block and try again...
  4. velocityg4 macrumors 68040


    Dec 19, 2004
    Op, if you are just using this drive for backups I would get a USB drive as they are the cheapest. Speed won't matter much as it is just an occasional backup. Unless she has large files that she is changing constantly as with video editing, virtual machines or large databases (such as lots of email in Outlook).

    After the initial backup, which will take a long time, incremental backups are quick. However, if you are planning on using Time Machine and she keeps her hard drive nearly full I would get a backup drive that is at least double the capacity or at least double the space she actually uses. I have found that Time Machine can have problems not deleting the oldest backup which is the original full backup for the latest backup and simply stops backing up.

    Another alternative is Carbon Copy Cloner. It doesn't keep every iteration of old files. Rather keeps just the most recent revision and actually removes files you deleted from the backup. Also the backup is a clone of the boot drive. So you can boot off it if the boot drive fails. Then clone it onto the replacement drive. Plus your backup drive only needs to be as large as the data being backed up although matching drive sizes is preferable.

    I've also found CCC to be faster than Time Machine and less of a nuisance as it only runs once a day.

    I'm not sure where you get this from. I do a lot have tech support and have plugged at least 50 different USB powered drives into my Macbook and never had a problem powering them.

    I've seen a fair number of Windows computers with this problem though they were old ones. But those drives would work fine with my Macbook.

    Perhaps this could be a problem with Thunderbolt or Firewire powered drives but not USB. I've yet to come across a Thunderbolt drive and all the Firewire models are 3.5" which use a power adapter.
  5. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    I've been very pleased with both this model in various capacities, from Other World Computing (OWC):

    OWC Mercury On-The-Go Pro

    Nonsense. I've never had a problem and never talked to any Mac notebook owner who had a problem with bus powered drives. I've been using one for CCC backups for 4 1/2 years. It works flawlessly.
  6. marzer macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    Disagree big time. I've been using bus powered drives with portable Macs for years. Never had an issue, for external data expansion and Time Machine backups. Seagates, WD, Toshiba portable drives with ibooks, macbooks and currently an MBA. No problems whatsoever.

    OP, i currently use a 500gb bus powered portable to backup my daughters 250gb Macbook. Works like a charm and very convenient. Highly recommended.
  7. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    For backup, go with an external device that has its own file system...such as Time Capsule or a NAS. This minimizes the risk from user error, virus, or malware attacks. Personally I like Time Capsules as they have disk space for backups, a wifi hotspot, an ethernet switch, and an external USB 2 port.

    Consider a refurbed Time Capsule from Apple.
  8. marzer macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    What do you mean "its own file system"? TC formats drives in the native Mac OS X format (HFS+).

    What error, malware or virus checking does Time Capsule have? I'm not aware of any. Any error checking is inherent to the network file protocol which is no more robust than using a local filesystem of a direct connect external drive.

    There's no more reduction in risk in backing up to a TC or NAS than there is backing up to a direct connected external.
  9. macstatic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2005
    Thanks for all your comments.

    I think I'll suggest to my sister that she gets two 1GB Western Digital My Passport Studio drives (I've read a couple of reviews and they seem a good buy) where one is used with Time Machine for hourly backups while the other one is used for off-site archive backups (in case of theft, fire etc.).

    I'm not sure what would be the easiest/best software to use for the archive backups but Carbon Copy Cloner shouldn't be such a bad choice, right? The free version still works with 10.6 Snow Leopard which she has, so she won't have to buy the current version which is US$ 40 IIRC.

    Yes, USB would probably suffice, but since she uses those ports for other things then Firewire 800 would be better in my opinion.

    As for the bus-power problems mentioned in this thread: I've personally got problems I believe relate to that, but that's with a 1.67GHz Powerbook G4 and multiple Firewire drives and not just a single drive as my sister will be using. My Powerbook has a bus-powered G-tech Mini drive attached to the Firewire 400 port and a Proavio S4UF (4-bay hard drive rack) which goes to the Firewire 800 port. For some reason file copies run really, really slow at times when using both drive enclosures (I usually just have 1 or 2 drives in their bays running at once with the rack), so in cases like that I have nothing else to do than physically switch off the G-drive Mini (there's no response when trying to unmount it from the Finder) which of course results in a warning/error message about unmounting it incorrectly. But all of a sudden the Proavio drive continues copying files again (what's really strange about this is that just the G-tech drive is bus-powered. The Proavio enclosure is AC-powered and also runs on the Firewire 800 connector, but I think I've read somewhere that Firewire 400 and 800 share the same data-bus hardware).
    It could also have something to do with the Proavio containing Western Digital "Green" drives which automatically spin down after a very short period of time according to various threads on the subject. Apparently this is a Western Digital Firmware feature, but I'm not sure if Mac users are affected or not. In any case WD only supplies a firmware utility for MS-DOS, so there's not much I can do about it.

    But my sister likely won't have to deal with this kind of stuff using just a single external drive. There should be plenty of power available for that on a Macbook Pro.
  10. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Yes, CCC is a good choice and the free version will work fine.

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