External Hard Drives - What to avoid?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by MacRobert10, Apr 30, 2014.

  1. MacRobert10 macrumors 6502

    Nov 24, 2012
    I bought a WD MyBook at a discount and it turned out to be a lemon, but unfortunately I had opened the case voiding the warranty and now I'm suck with it. It kept seeming to lock up. Tests with Scannerz (http://scsc-online.com/Scannerz.html) revealed periodic timeouts or head parking events that would happen almost intermittently and lasted over 30 seconds each. The link for the thread is below:


    In spite of the fact that some of the people on that thread seem to think it might be OK to use it, the fact is, I just don't trust the thing!!! The data is supposed to be backup data of important stuff. Every time I use Time Machine I half expect to see smoke coming out the thing followed by a melt down.

    I've decided to just get a new one and chalk that up to experience. Unfortunately, now I'm seeing a fair number of posts about how some external drives are incompatible with Mavericks (do the headaches ever end???:mad:)

    Anyone have any recommendations for a good external drive? It should have over 1TB of storage, preferably 2TB.

  2. smellalot macrumors 6502

    Dec 6, 2011
    OK, people will tell you all kinds of drives are great. My advice: don't overthink it. I never had a single drive fail, others will tell you to avoid some brand at all cost. Choose a drive that suits your needs and if the price is good and the rating on amazon isn't horrible, take it.

    Things to consider:
    - number of bays
    - 2,5" / 3,5"
    - on/off switch
    - drive removable or not
    - pick USB 3. you'll be fine.
    - design
    - possibly docking capability (like the seagate backup plus)
  3. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    Amazon charges state sales tax. Shop at Newegg instead. You can sort drives by buyer ratings, sizes, interface types (for external drives)....etc.

    Good retail prices on external Seagate and WD drives can be had at Costco and Sams.
  4. redmac macrumors regular

    Apr 7, 2008
    San Francisco
    If you are in CA, Newegg charges sales tax as well. Unless you live in NY, I would recommend BH Photovideo. Their prices are great and they don't charge sales tax outside NY.
  5. ZVH macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2012
    Quit being obsessed with the 2TB drive that went bad on you an learn from the experience.

    There are a fair number of problems with external drives being reported. They seemed to start appearing in Mountain Lion and they seem to be getting worse, but the question is whether or not it's the drives or the OS that's to blame.

    Here's what's happened:
    • Apple modified the EFI from 32 to 64 bit in ML and (of course) it's still this way.
    • Some external HD manufacturers appear to have gotten rid of "software add-ons" and are now doing "firmware add-ons" meaning they're a lot more dependent on firmware for changes and corrections than they used to be.
    • Mac's appear to be at the bottom of the update list because they're only 10% (if even that) of the market and many manufacturers do not keep drivers/firmware current.

    In a nutshell, things are changing from both Apple and vendors simultaneously, so it's difficult to tell which one is actually causing the problems.

    With that said, a basic USB or Firewrire, or I suppose even a Thunderbolt case should not require firmware changes or drivers. If it does it should be avoided. Likewise I would think the same would occur for external drives. If they require firmware updates and/or drivers, even if you don't have problems now you may have them in the future.

    If it was me I'd just get a good case and a good quality drive.
  6. Mr. Retrofire macrumors 603

    Mr. Retrofire

    Mar 2, 2010
    The OS (ML or OS X 10.8.x) does not change the EFI.


    In that case use the firmware updates via Boot Camp. Easy.
  7. OldGuyTom macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2013
    The Western Digital external that I have must have their drivers and firmware updates installed or it won't work properly. If they aren't in, the power switch will not work and the indicator lights will not work. The drivers/firmware have been buggy, FWIW, causing some people to lose their data. From what I can tell the drive has been designed to be totally dependent on their software.
  8. ZVH macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2012
    Mr. Retrofire:


    From that article:

    Another link:


    Read the first paragraph.

    The idea of putting boot camp and a Windows partition on a system just to change firmware is preposterous. I haven't used Windows in 10 years and I wouldn't load it on my system just because vendors are lagging behind on what they're claiming they support.
  9. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Want to solve forever the problem of buyng pre-packaged drives, and avoid the "I don't know what's inside it" blues?

    Do this:
    - Get a USB3/SATA docking station
    - Get one or more "bare drives" of your choosing from a vendor you like
    - Put the drive(s) in the dock, initialize them, and use them that way.
    - If you have more than one drive, swap when necessary.

    If you don't know what a dock is, go to amazon and enter "usb3 sata dock" into the search box -- you'll see many choices. They cost as little as $23 or so...
  10. thedeske macrumors 6502a

    Feb 17, 2013
    Agree with the wise Mr Fishrrman ;)
  11. Southern Dad macrumors 68000

    Southern Dad

    May 23, 2010
    Shady Dale, Georgia
    I've got three of the WD MyBook Essentials 1 TB drive all in different uses. I have been using them for years without issue. Maybe you got the one bad drive but I'd still give them a shot.
  12. MyiBill macrumors 6502

    Feb 8, 2012
    I like WD myself, seagate just doesn't seem to be reliable, only brand of HD that ever failed on me.
  13. TheBSDGuy macrumors 6502

    Jan 24, 2012
    I'd go with a docking station or a home made....home made meaning you buy a case and put the drive in it. I got a 2.5" enclosure for 7 or 8 bucks and put an HGST in it for a grand total of less than $60.
  14. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    Everyone has different experiences - I've had more WD HDDs fail on me than other brands. I've also had a single Hitachi and Samsung HDD fail on me also, but I still buy HGST HDDs. I'd also recommend the Toshiba (formerly Hitachi) hard drives as well.
  15. ZVH macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2012
    Hitachi is now owned by WD, but they still operate independently, at least for the time being. The way these companies get bought and sold you never know who owns what anymore.
  16. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    WD had to sell some of HGST assets to Toshiba, hence why the Toshiba hard drives in 3.5" size are ex-hitachi.
  17. TheBSDGuy macrumors 6502

    Jan 24, 2012
    There's a thread under the MacBook section. Someone was able to get a 500G Hitachi 2.5" 7200 RPM drive for just over $50 and put it in a case for probably another $5.

    There's a $55 backup solution that you probably won't need to worry about. Just plug it in and use it when you need it. No magic drivers, no weird formats, just a plain, simple, ultra reliable unit.
  18. MacRobert10 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 24, 2012
    Checking things out these days isn't an option, I think it's a requirement.

    I just found out about the following on the Apple web site and find it confusing:


    Are these guys saying the drive is actually in NTFS format? The line:

    It doesn't say "install the pre-loaded HFS drivers and use it with Windows" it says the exact opposite.

    Are these guys actually selling an NTFS drive as a Mac drive.

    ....can't possibly wonder why people are having problems!:eek:
  19. UKgaryb macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    Manchester, UK
    I have 2 Seagate Go-Flex desktop drives: x1 3tb + x1 4tb they are awesome drives, the dock is actually a standard SATA Connection so you can plonk a standard 2.5 / 3.5" SATA disk on there. They have been running for a year or so 24x7 without issue.


    The problem I have found with numerous standard caddies is this: The USB 3.0 controllers are usually of the same chip some JMicron cheap ass thing and in OSX i found many of them to unmount / spin down (Even when told not to) so they have to be unplugged and plugged back in, you have to fanny around with flashing the firmwares.

    Also the WD MyPassport Essentials (don't pay a tonne for the Mac Version) you can get the Firmware utility (on windows) to turn off their stupid Virtual CD. then nuke the NTFS Partition and create a HFS+ partition.
  20. OldGuyTom macrumors regular

    Sep 6, 2013

    Yes, that's the way I read it too. An NTFS drive with Mac translation drivers.

    As an FYI, the guys who designed that put their shoes on first and then put their socks on over them.

    Just thought i'd let you know that.:)
  21. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    Nearly all the external hard drives out there on the market are pre-formatted for PCs, all you need to do is REFORMAT them to HFS+
  22. ZVH macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2012
    That's not the point. Seagate is deliberately formatting the drive for NTFS, putting in their Mac adapter software driver kit, and then selling it as a Mac drive.

    I mean hey, I'm no rocket scientist, but wouldn't they have just been better off formatting it with HFS and selling it like that?
  23. Barney63 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 9, 2014
    Bolton, UK.
    That's just how they dress for a clean room lol

  24. matreya macrumors 65816


    Nov 14, 2009
    All the Seagate drives I've seen sold in stores have been labelled as being for PC/Mac. Since Macs can read NTFS and PCs cannot read HFS+, it seems logical that they are formatted for the majority of customers (i.e. PC).

    For drives that are marketed as for the Mac (not PC/Mac), then yes, it would make sense for those to be formatted HFS+. But you'd probably find you're paying extra for that.. :/

    Since it's a trivial thing to format a disc, it doesn't bother me that PC/Mac labelled drives come pre-formatted NTFS.
  25. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    A word of advice to all:

    If you have a drive you want to use with the Mac to save data that is IMPORTANT to you, save it ONLY to a drive that is initialized HFS+, journaling enabled.

    Do not - repeat, DO NOT - use a "cross platform" format (such as fat32, etc) for anything that you consider "important".

    I've seen numerous posts from individuals who were using a cross-formatted drive with the Mac, and had their data (at least, "on the Mac side of things") just go…. POOF! on them.

    If you need cross-platform formatting, use a drive dedicated for this purpose, that will not have important Mac files on it.

    If you buy a pre-packaged drive that is in cross-platform format, and you want to save important Mac files to it, RE-INITIALIZE it to HFS+.

    Again, my opinion only.

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