Main point in having an external drive (Yeah, I'm a Noob)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Afro1989, May 6, 2006.

  1. Afro1989 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 16, 2005
    Hey people. I was wondering what the main point is in having an external hard drive. Do you guys keep it as a backup in case you lose your original memory or what?

    I have a 100GB HD in my Mac Mini with about 75 GB left and was wondering if I should get an external HD. I might want to upgrade my 5 megapixel camera to about a 8-9 megapixel, and an external HD would be a great way to store all my digital pics, right?

    Is there such a thing as an exteral hard drive less than 100 GB? Thanks.

    Also, it hooks up via USB port and all you do is drap and drop?

    I know, I'm only 17 years old and I also just got my Mac 3-4 months ago. I'm learning. :)
  2. homerjward macrumors 68030


    May 11, 2004
    fig tree
    i keep all my main data on my external drive (300gb) and all my os stuff on my internal 200gb, so that in a storm i can keep working (unplug the external) without fear of data loss, in a house fire i can just run out w/ the drive, i can bring all my data to a friend's house, etc.
    i also have a lacie skwarim (all my teachers love the design, and a lot of students do too) that i take to school to store all my school work on.
    if you just want a desktop drive to sit by your mini, you should probably get a 3.5" form factor drive--lots of storage, cheap, and fast. it's not really worth getting less than 100gb, as you can get a a lot more for about the same amount of $$--80gb is ~60 but 200gb is around 85 and 300gb is around 100.
    basically pick out a drive and enclosure, then stick the drive into the enclosure, then plug it into your computer. try to get a fw enclosure if you're using it principally on your mac. all you have to do is format it then it works just like your internal one.
  3. techound1 macrumors 68000


    Mar 3, 2006
    Unfortunately, at some point your on-board hard drive *will* fail. An external drive (and daily backups) will save your bacon.

    Yes, the drive is a good way to store your pics, but if there are ones you don't want to loose, put them on a seconday media (like a cd) as well.

    I would recommend firewire over usb - data transfer times are much faster with FW.

    Since you're a noob, buy a pre-assembled HD and save yourself a headache (until you get on your computer "feet"). :p
  4. Afro1989 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 16, 2005
  5. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    A hard drive already in an enclosure with power supply, etc.

    Otherwise you can buy the hard drive and enclosure separately and assemble it yourself.
  6. ChrisFromCanada macrumors 65816


    May 3, 2004
    Hamilton, Ontario (CANADA)
    If you want an external drive that is reliable, fast, pre-assembled, very Mac compatible and you don't mind spending a little money get one of these. It stacks nicely below your mini and looks great. I own 2 of these drives.
  7. Afro1989 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 16, 2005
    Yeah, I was looking for that ChrisFromCanada! Thanks for the link. I saw 'em in the Apple store around where I live and they look like they're made by Apple.

    One question. How come the max memory one can get out of their Mac Mini is 100GB stock and here they're selling a 250 GB for only $150? Why can't the Mac Mini have that much memory stock? :confused:
  8. Earendil macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    I'm just going to throw this out there without really knowing ;)

    I believe the Mac Mini's use a 2.5" drive, which is a "laptop" drive not a "desktop" drive. Right now 2.5" drives go up to 120/160 gigs and those are expensive. a 100gig HD is large and still reasonable for a "low end" Mac.

    Check the price of this 2.5" drive at 120GB

    vs a 3.5" drive at 160GB

    And in case it wasn't mentioned, the only difference between a 2.5 drive and a 3.5 drive is form factor. And generally 3.5 drives are actually faster drives!

  9. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    First of all, you are not talking about memory here, you are talking about disk space. You Mac Mini would have come with a 100GB hard disk and either 512MB or 1GB of RAM. RAM = memory. Disk space = storage to store your data != memory.

    As to why the Mac Mini has a maximum of 100GB of hard disk space in the stock configuration it is because the Mac Mini uses a 2.5 inch wide hard drive internally. There is only enough space for a 2.5 inch drive inside the Mac Mini. The largest 2.5 inch drive available today is 160GB, with 120GB and 100GB 2.5 inch drives being more common and far cheaper.

    Many external drives (and most other desktops that have the space) use a 3.5 inch wide hard drive. 3.5 inch drives are commonly available in 250GB and 300GB sizes with the largest 3.5 inch drive available today being a 500GB drive. In addition to having larger storage capacities, 3.5 inch drives are much cheaper than a 2.5 inch drive of the same capacity. In general, you can usually get a 3.5 inch drive that is at least twice the capacity of a similarly priced 2.5 inch drive.

    You can also get external drives that are based on a 2.5 inch drive. The benefit of this is that the external drive is smaller and thus easier to travel with. Also, a 2.5 inch hard drive can be powered by the usb or firewire port whereas a 3.5 inch hard drive needs to be plugged into a wall socket since a usb or firewire port cannot provide enough power for the drive.
  10. zorg macrumors regular

    May 3, 2006
    The main point is to back up the important files that you can't get back by downloading, like your personal files. This includes papers, reports, essays, anything you typed yourself. Also photos. So if you have any of these things, it would probably be a good idea to buy an external hard drive.
  11. blackstone macrumors regular

    Dec 12, 2005
    Washington, DC
    I'm going to echo Techhound1 and Homerjward in recommending a Firewire (IEEE1394) drive instead of a USB drive. The advantages of Firewire are:
    (1) Faster real-world performance than USB, and
    (2) The ability to easily boot from a backup stored on the Firewire drive

    If you get SuperDuper! (free for clone-only version, and I think $25 for the full version), then you can use it to create bootable backups on a Firewire drive. Very very useful. When my Powerbook's internal hard drive bit the dust earlier this year, I replaced the original internal hard drive with a new one, booted from the external SuperDuper! backup, and copied everything over onto my new internal drive. Everything was exactly how it had been at my last backup. Very convenient!
  12. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Very nice summary of hard drives. I just wanted to point out that Seagate's 750 GB 3.5 in drive based on perpendicular recording (just like the 160 GB 2.5 in drive) is now available.
  13. Afro1989 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 16, 2005
    God, you guys are so helpful! I'll be sure to use all of yours posts when deciding.

    So if I bought a 3.5" it would plug into the wall and Firewire port, correct?

    Edit: Also, isn't is also possible for an external drive to bite the dust also? (-_-)
  14. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    Yup. Bottom line is that you should back up any data that you care about. Data that is not backed up is data that has the potential for being lost.... either through user error, hard drive failure, file system corruption, machine theft, or numerous other causes.

    Most people who do actually backup their data only do so because they have learnt the hard way. ie they have lost important data when they couldn't afford to loose it.
  15. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    That is correct.

    This is also true. But the point is that with two copies of your data it is very unlikely that both of your drives will fail at the same time. As an alternative, you could backup your data to CD or DVD. But even these can fail. The point is to minimize the likelihood of loosing data as a result of failure. Ultimately you need to decide what level of risk you are prepared to accept.

    Also, 3.5 inch drives are usually less likely to fail than a 2.5 inch drive. And some people use an external drive exclusively for backups meaning that the external drive is disconnected and powered down most of the time.
  16. mrichmon macrumors 6502a

    Jun 17, 2003
    They finally released those? Damn, and I just placed an order for 10 500GB Western Digital drives to go into a RAID.

    Oh well, 750GB RAID optimized drives should be available by the end of the year when I'll need to expand the RAID.
  17. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    Yep...discussed here and here.
  18. risc macrumors 68030


    Jul 23, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia
    I have a 160 GB LaCie external drive, I only use it for backups.

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