Looking for external HD advice...

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Eggtastic, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. Eggtastic macrumors 6502a


    Jun 9, 2009
    I have a WD portable HD from 2011 with 500 gb on it. It works fine, but looking to upgrade to something with more storage and am considering a desktop version vs. portable. I have a few questions though:

    1. Is there a clear benefit of desktop vs portable? I have a rMB with the one port, so I am thinking having a desktop version is best so when I connect to the external HD it will charge while transferring data (I could be wrong on that not sure if thats even possible).

    2. I was thinking of using it as just storage. Not using time machine or whatever because that to me gets confusing. Not sure if its possible to just drag and drop photos, documents, etc. If you recommend time machine then I would just do that.

    3. Was thinking of these 2:

    However I assume I would need a usb-c to usb adapter for this to work?

    4. Any other recommendations would greatly be appreciated.
  2. mpainesyd macrumors 6502a


    Nov 29, 2008
    Sydney, Australia
    1. I use an Apple HDMI adapter to connect a Toshiba external HD to a retina Macbook,as it has a USB port. THe Apple charger cable plugs into the adapter and charges both. It is very unlikely that a powered external HD will charge the Macbook.

    2. Yes - you can drag and drop files onto the HD icon but it will soon become confusing if you dont set up folders on the HD. You should definitely have one Time Machine backup of the Macbook and a 500Gb HD will probably work well. Setting up TM is easy. Connect the HD, go to System Prfs/Time Machine and click on Add disk, find your HD and presto. It will automatically backup photos, music etc. You can exclude folders that might fill up the backup disk, such as videos.

    3. See 1 above

    4. See 1 & 2 above
  3. Eggtastic thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 9, 2009
    Thanks for the reply. So you would recommend just going the time machine route then vs. manually drag and drop?
  4. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    Portable (2.5") drives are quieter. I've also come to the conclusion that they may last a little longer, since they have to be designed "for portability", with the wear, tear, bumps and bangs that go along with it.

    I don't prefer "ready-built" drives, however.
    I've always bought the "bare drive" of my choice, and the enclosure of my choice, and put the two together.
    Sometimes you don't even need a screwdriver.
    The advantage of doing it this way is... if you put it together, you can also take it apart if the need arises.
    One also gets to choose the drive and choose the enclosure.

    I'd look at Hitachi drives (HGST).
    Or... Toshiba.
    I'd avoid Seagate.
  5. mpainesyd macrumors 6502a


    Nov 29, 2008
    Sydney, Australia
    If the drive is large enough you can have a Time Machine backup and folders for dragging and dropping important files on that one drive but that is having all eggs in one basket.
    I have an Apple Time Capsule set up this way (via wifi). However I also use a Toshiba 500Gb portable drive for a second Time Machine backup. When it is connected TM automatically alternates the backups between the two drives.
  6. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    If you don't have something to do automatic backups, and you have things on your laptop that you want to make sure you don't lose, a Time Capsule is a good choice. Automatically backs up - no plugging, no drag/dropping. Other methods have their advantages, but afaik noting works as automatically as Time Capsule for Macs.

    If the MB is always connected to the drive (the MB always sits in the same place, for example) then that can work well enough, too. Sometimes Black Friday means good prices for things like drives. I picked up a 1TB WD external almost 3 years ago for $50.
  7. ZapNZs, Oct 31, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2017

    ZapNZs macrumors 68020


    Jan 23, 2017
    3.5-inch drives often have higher working speeds than 2.5-inch drives, and in some cases are over twice as fast in sustained transfer speeds - for someone just using Time Machine, the speed differences will often be meaningless after the first backup. Some 2.5-inch drives have enclosures/drives that are designed to withstand more shock from a fall, and with a 2.5-inch drive you do not have to worry about a power-loss incident causing data loss. There are more 3.5-inch drives with 5-year warranties than there are 2.5-inch drives (the only 2.5-inch drive I know of with a 5-year warranty is the WD Black 2.5 bare drives.) Completed drives (that is, ones where you purchase an external drive that comes with the hard drive already installed in the enclosure) sometimes use soldered SATA bridges with 2.5-inch models, and sometimes will use lower tier drives - most have shorter warranty periods than bare drives.

    You could use a USB-C to USB-A adapter, or you could purchase a USB-C-->USB MicroB cable so you do not have to deal with an adapter. Alternatively, there are some external drives/bare enclosures that are USB-C. None that I know of will be able to charge the rMB - for this, you would need a powered dock with charging capability (like the CalDigit USB-C Dock) or a hub with passthrough charging (like the Satechi, which I own and absolutely hate.)

    If you are looking for a completed external (as opposed to purchasing a bare drive and empty enclosure separately), another brand you can check out is G-Technology, who mainly uses HGST drives, and uses the venerable HGST Ultrastar in their higher-end models (such as the G-Drive Pro featuring USB 3.0, FW800, and eSATA, which was recently discontinued and can often be found for under $200 in the 4TB flavor - this model uses the proven HGST Ultrastar 7k4000). I personally feel that the Ultrastar is the best HDD made when reliability, longevity, and performance are the top priorities (at the expense of a higher cost and greater noise levels.) Many of the G-Tech drives are generally priced higher than the WD and Seagate counterparts. I am not sure what grade drives WD and Seagate are using in the two models you linked to.

    For the 2.5-inch size, the 1TB WD Black 2.5 is the drive I have been using recently, because it is competitively priced, reasonably fast, and it has a 5 year warranty. The 7200 RPM HGST Travelstar is a great drive, but it only has a 3 year warranty. If you want extremely high capacity in the 2.5-inch form factor, Seagate is really the leader with capacities up to 5 TB in their Barracuda 2.5 (you will need an enclosure that accommodates the thick width, which IIRC is 15 mm - many enclosures only go up to 12.5 or less.)

    I would recommend using both Time Machine and manual file backups or clones - Time Machine is probably the easiest backup solution available. You could partition the drive so you have a Time Machine partition and a data partition. If you store any files on the hard drive that are NOT stored on the rMB, you will want to save a copy of these files to a second external hard drive, a flash drive/SD card, or to a cloud backup service. If you have extremely important files that you could not accept losing, having at least three copies in two different physical locations is strongly advised.
  8. davidg4781 macrumors 68020

    Oct 28, 2006
    Alice, TX
    Definitely make sure you are using Time Machine. It backs up everything that you may forgot. I had a friend miss something once and lost some pretty good information some time back.

    And it's up to you to use a 3rd party case and a bare drive or just one off the shelf. I have never been able to find a decent priced case that looked nice and had the ports I wanted. So I bought an inexpensive 1 TB WD My Passport for Mac. I shopped around and got it at a pretty good price. But you run the risk of if it breaks you may have problems getting the data. My last one fell and broke. I THINK I was able to wipe the drive to sell it (I let them know what was going on) but if it broke any further I would've lost everything.
  9. Trusteft macrumors 6502a


    Nov 5, 2014
    I 100% recommend "portable" aka 2.5 inch external drives. Their smaller size is a huge plus (heh) but what is even better is not requiring an external power supply. Over the years they tend to get lost or of course stop working, even more often than the drives themselves.
    I don't know how large (capacity) they are now, but relatively recently I bought a 5TB 2.5 inch drive and IMO that's pretty damn impressive for a drive the size of a deck of cards.
    I am talking about this drive.

    While 3.5 inch drives will continue to have larger capacities, for me the extra space they require and the external power supply just eliminate the advantage they have.

    A small 2.5 inch like the one I linked to, not only has a huge capacity but it is so small you can easily fit it in a pocket and you don't have to worry about taking with you the power supply or having it stop working and then having to find the exact right power supply unit to access your files.
  10. Mlrollin91 macrumors G5


    Nov 20, 2008
    Ventura County

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9 October 29, 2017