External HD Confusion

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Icey, Aug 11, 2010.

  1. Icey macrumors newbie

    Jun 9, 2010
    South Carolina
    Hey everyone,

    Just to give some background first - I am a rather Mac savvy college student using a 2009 Macbook. I am majoring in Graphic Design and do a LOT of photography as side work. My internal HD is filling up, and I want an external hard drive so that I can stop backing up all of my old photos on CDs, and maybe even move my iTunes library to an external location.

    The problem is that external hard drives have always confused me. In my (limited) experience with them, they tend to be used to back things up and generally have their own software that you use. However, I really want to avoid using an application to view my external drive. I would prefer to just open up Finder and right underneath "Macintosh HD" have a second drive which has its own documents folders including my photos, iTunes, etc - much similar to a USB Flash Drive.

    So this is basically what I'm asking:
    - Is what I'm wanting to do feasible?
    - Can just any external HD be set up this way?
    - What will happen when I disconnect the HD and open up iTunes? If I get a wireless external HD, would that solve any iTunes issues?
    - Could I plug the HD into a different computer and easily access my photos without any installation or other hassles?

    I guess I'm so confused because I bought an external HD a few years ago for the business I was working for, and ended up returning it because there was no easy way that I could find to set it up this way. It seemed like I had to either use their software, or not use the product at all. None of the product descriptions of HDs I've been looking at are alleviating my worries, so I thought I'd ask. I'm usually very technologically savvy, but my one experience in the past just got me confused!

  2. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    You can do that fine with any external drive. You don't ever have to use any software that comes preloaded on an external drive.
    If your iTunes library resides on an external drive that isn't connected when you launch iTunes, iTunes simply won't be able to find your music. The next time you launch iTunes with the drive connected, all will be normal. No harm done.
    There are no iTunes issues to deal with. It just works.
    Yes, as long as the other computer can read the format of the drive.

    Mac Guide on External Hard Drives

    Any external hard drive will work with PCs or Macs, as long as the connectors are there (Firewire, USB, etc.) It doesn't matter how the drive is formatted out of the box, since you can re-format any way you like. Formatting in HFS (Mac OS Extended) or FAT32 or NTFS-3G can be done with the Mac OS X Disk Utility.

    • Read/Write FAT32 from both native Windows and native Mac OS X.
    • No individual file larger than 4GB.
    • Read/Write HFS from native Mac OS X
    • To Read/Write HFS from Windows, Install MacDrive
    • To Read HFS (but not Write) from Windows, Install HFSExplorer
  3. circularforward macrumors 6502

    Jul 18, 2010
    There are many externals that work just how you want them to. You'd have to format most to mac extended, and they should show up in finder and your desktop as you'd like. If you disconnect the external, then it will not show in your apps like itunes. There are wireless externals too or you can hook one up to a router like the airport extreme. However, performance will not be as good as a direct connection. http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_mac/mac_accessories/storage for some choices.
  4. Icey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 9, 2010
    South Carolina
    Thanks guys! That is all I needed to know. I just wanted to clarify all of that before making a big purchase. :)
  5. The Beatles macrumors regular

    Jun 16, 2010
    hard drive manufacturers are trying to add value to their drives by overly complicating them with special features. Just give me a solid drive with none of the poorly implemented bells and whistles.

    you can use most any hard drive as just a place to store and access files, just like your internal drive. all the other stuff just gets in the way.
  6. Icey thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 9, 2010
    South Carolina
    I completely agree! All that overcomplicated stuff is what threw me off so much in the first place.
  7. mgridgaway macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2006
    I would also try to factor in some sort of redundancy if your worried about the safety of your data. I use a Mirrored external drive, and it makes me feel safe about my data. Of course, it doesn't stop me from accidentally deleting my own stuff....
  8. pyramis macrumors member

    Dec 2, 2008
    Palo Alto, CA
    Ditto about data mirroring. Since you say you have tons of photos and work in graphic design you're going to want to take this opportunity to set up a solid backup system if you haven't already.

    In other words, buy a large enough drive so you can use it to backup your computer's hard drive in addition to having extra storage. You do that by partitioning the external into two 'virtual' drives that show up as two different hard drives on your desktop. I use SuperDuper for backup. Works like a charm and means that any catastrophic error on my computer is no hassle at all. I have a complete mirror of the drive always available. Of course, you'll want to have a backup of your external data as well -- either a 2nd external drive or an online backup system like BackBlaze.

    Do you use Aperture, iPhoto or other for your photo management? Aperture has built in functions for managing files on different drives. With iPhoto, you can have libraries on different drives but not one library that spans multiple drives.
  9. DoFoT9 macrumors P6


    Jun 11, 2007
    if you arent after all that garbage - why dont you consider purchasing your own external hard drive case (meaning you can pick your interfaces such as fw400, fw800, esata etc) and then pick the internal SATA hard drive that you want, be it a Western Digital, Seagate etc. :)

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