For Storage, Is there any benefit of external HD's instead of SD cards?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Turnpike, Sep 22, 2015.

  1. Turnpike macrumors 6502


    Oct 2, 2011
    New York City!
    Other than storage space.... is there any benefit of using an external hard drive to back up photos and movies instead of a high end, large capacity SD card or brand name, high capacity flash drive?

    My Dad never ever ever (I know this is hard to fathom to tech-savy people here) will use more than 8-10GB of space, he has a few old family movies that were transferred to digital files and a handful of pictures he takes with a point-and-shoot camera. I think he's up to 5GB now after 5 years or so. He won't ever end up with a collection of photos and movies that will be over 8-10GB in size. (at least not for the next few years, and even then they wouldn't fill up a 128GB SD card).

    So for the sake of argument, lets assume he wont ever need more than 10GB of space, is there ANY disadvantage WHATSOEVER in getting him a large capacity (I'd get a 128GB size or so, just for good measure) high-end (name brand, for the sake of dependability) flash drive or SD card he can more easily take with him for his collection (to show or share on the holidays when we all get together, or when he travels or something) or is there some quality-related (or dependability-related) advantage for using an external hard drive with the data cable? If there's even 1% of an advantage to using a slim external hard drive over a quality SD card or USB flash drive, in the areas of dependablility or quality/security, this is what I'm looking to know.

    *By the way, I'd get two, so he'd always have one as a backup.
  2. MiniD3 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 9, 2013
    best cheapest option IMHO would be a flash drive (memory stick), get a good one,
    The question I have to ask, "where is TM backing up to?"
  3. mofunk macrumors 68020


    Aug 26, 2009
    The SD can only be connected to a computer either with a reader or through the camera. If you have an external drive, most of them have more than 2 access points. I have an old external drive that uses USB, firewire and ethernet. I can't connect my Mac using the USB hub but I can use the firewire and ethernet ports.

    Down the road at some point you might have to upgrade your drive or move to another source.
  4. Garsun macrumors regular


    Oct 20, 2009
    The only thing I would worry about would be the speed. If the card does not have a speed written on it such as 32 MB/s or 80MB/s then it has a good probability of being slower than a external HD. The faster SD cards are usually more expensive than the slower ones. Sometimes it can get hard to tell on the packaging.
  5. Turnpike thread starter macrumors 6502


    Oct 2, 2011
    New York City!
    Thanks for the input everybody, but specifically is there a quality issue at all? Is a folder a folder is a folder with a file that is a file no matter if it's on a computer, external hard drive, or SD or USB memory stick? Does whatever it's actually on ever impact the integrity of the picture or movie? Does anything loose quality when transferred, or over time with age, even a little? Or is a file in a folder the same on all, and it's just a matter of what you prefer to plug in with or carry around?
  6. bgd macrumors regular

    Aug 30, 2005
  7. kenoh macrumors demi-god


    Jul 18, 2008
    Glasgow, UK
    Nope, no real downside apart from access speed which is a non-issue in this use case. Just make sure you get best value for money. Dont buy a 128GB unless you need the storage. By the sound of it a few 16GBs, using multiple copies would suffice for the foreseeable future. No point paying extra for empty space. Also, an external magnetic/platter hard drive (not SSD) could fail more as it is mechanical, drops and bumps could damage it. Solid state storage is a little more robust when dropped (not when stood on of course).

    If you go SD rather than Flash, then buy a few USB card readers - they are pennies.

    Also consider a USB on the Go cable and he can access them on his Android tablet/phone... :)

    Key is backups. Make copies and store them safe...

    Other than this, you should be absolutely fine.
  8. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    No, there's no quality issue. There's potentially a reliability issue. There's potentially a performance issue.

    A file is a file. To lose quality, it must be manipulated in some way by the computer/computer user (for example, the large, high-quality JPG that came from the camera is converted to a small, low-quality JPG for sharing in a text message. Save the original and nothing is lost, even if the converted version looks worse).

    All that's asked in terms of reliability is that the numbers that make up a digital file be accurately stored and retrieved as needed. This tends to be a pass/fail situation. When necessary, error-detection techniques are used to isolate the occasional dropped bit and to then set things right ("the trailing digit of the sum-of-the-bits should have been X, but it's Y, please send that again"). Reliability is generally a go/no-go situation. It doesn't matter whether it's text, an image, or numbers on a bank statement. Over time, "Four score and seven years ago" is not going to become "Vier skor ant devin beers ergo." It'll become, "Error, this file can't be opened."

    In most cases, performance boils down to speed. That might be raw, point-a-to-point-b speed, or it might be due to reliability (too much error-correction going on - one step forward, two steps back). For simply viewing photos, the normal speed of either SD or hard disk will be more than adequate. That only changes when you run into reliability issues.

    Every kind of storage medium has its benefits and weaknesses. Most people trust solid-state storage (SD cards, FLASH storage, SSD) over magnetic storage (hard disks). However, both forms of storage will fail over time - just for different reasons. Sometime down the road, both will need to be copied to new storage devices.

    And you're worried about folders??? A folder is a list, nothing more. A folder is simply a file that holds a table of contents that cross-references the actual location of the files. See my previous comments about reliability.

    You're putting way too much thought into this (and I'm putting way too much time into the explanation). Storage in these quantities is cheap. The best thing you can do is make multiple copies (backups) and keep at least one copy off-premises in case of fire or flood.

    Let cost and size be your guide. If you need no more than 10 GB, then SDs will be cheaper than hard drives (under $10 for an SD, closer to $50 for an external hard drive). The external hard drive will be far cheaper on a per-byte basis, but if you don't need all those bytes, what does that matter?
  9. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    TM can update to a flash drive or SD card just fine. SD card is tiny but pokes out a bit on the side. I think there are flash drives that will fit in a Macbook without sticking out.

    I found 128GB for £30 at Amazon, which is about what the cheapest external hard drive costs.
  10. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    Lots of opinions here so might as well throw mine in. Before I do I'll just say I deal with on a regular basis photo restoration and archiving (both photo and digital restoration files).

    In terms of archival longevity from best to worst

    1) Archival CD and DVD - 10 to 30 years when properly stored, possibly longer. These are not typical CDs or DVDs
    2) SSD and traditional drives
    3) Thumbdrive and cards

    Items 2 and 3 are subject to materials used and some technology. The CD and DVD option is static material and not subject to the same challenges. Standard CDs and DVDs are not to be trusted at any level. The only drawbacks are needing a player/reader for the discs and of course care of the discs so as not to mar/scratch them.

    There are always exceptions to the rule. I have used SCSI hard drives that lasted way more than a decade with moderate use. I have had SSD drive that failed within a year, thumb drives and cards that failed due to materials used (from falling apart to constant plugging in causing circuit completion challenges.

    My suggestion - go for whatever you want that is portable and also investigate archival CD and DVD medium for duplicates of the "keepers." There are excellent SSD drives out there and external enclosures. By using an SSD put into an external enclosure, if the enclosure has issues, the SSD remains (usually) unharmed and can be move to another. An external SSD on the other hand could be costly to get the data out if the drive (access to the drive within) fails.

    Here is an old site that might help explain about archival static media (CDs and DVDs etc.) --->

    Hope you find what works best for you and remember, keep more than one copy of precious photo files.

    Edit - while cloud services are not a bad choice (usually accessible from any computer), you may end up with gigs upon gigs and pay a monthly cost. When you decide to stop paying you would need to download all those gigs and that can take a great deal of time and potential for both human error and network/hardware errors.
  11. Ray2 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2014
    For your Dad's application, SD cards work fine. Just make sure he does not lose them. A simple upload to DropBox or iCloud works fine as well.

    I have the feeling he's not backing up anything. If that's the case, I rescind my statement and suggest focusing on that first. If he is backing up regularly, then why an SD card?
  12. orph macrumors 65816


    Dec 12, 2005
    Id back up his data on to a HD & dvd/cd now maybe twice a year.
    he might lose,brake or have his camera stolen then all the photos are gone forever.

    so worth backing up always in more than one location.
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    It does not matter what you keep the data on. But you need more than one backup copy. A good rule of thumb is to always have the data written on three different physical media. AND to keep the data in at least two different geographical locations. That means three copies and two locations.

    Also you can't expect any media to last forever, you need to keep re-wrinting and testing each of the copies.

    One thing to do is use an on-line service for backup. If you only have a tiny amount of data these services can be free.

Share This Page