Quietest Hard Drive for Time Machine Use?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by gfhoward, Nov 17, 2009.

  1. gfhoward macrumors member

    Oct 6, 2009
    Hey guys, since Time Machine backs up every hour, it seems the hard drive it is using should be on all the time. So I want a silent drive that I'm not going to hear. What hard drives can you recommend that are silent, or as quiet as possible, that would work well for the job? I have a new Mac Pro, so I'm guessing about 500GB capacity and Firewire would be good. Thanks
  2. Eidorian macrumors Penryn


    Mar 23, 2005
    2.5" drives are so much quieter compared to a full sized 3.5" one. Finding one with FireWire is going to be harder and a little more costly. Though FireWire is going to provide much more power over the bus.

    Check out OWC for a FireWire 2.5" drive. Otherwise any USB 2.0 WD Passport is going to be a dream compared to a 3.5".
  3. rgarjr macrumors 603


    Apr 2, 2009
    Southern California
    TM backs up every hour only if your machine is on.

    I concur, the 3.5" are pretty loud, well especially the one I have (Seagate 500GB PATA) thing growls loud when its doing the Time Machine thing.
  4. dcains macrumors regular

    Mar 27, 2007
    I've got a 1TB Time Capsule, and haven't found the "noise" to be a real issue. It sits ~6' away from where I usually use my MBP or MB, and while it's true Time Machine performs a backup every hour (when a computer is in use), the incremental backups only last a few minutes. The drive is not continuously spinning, and only turns on/off for those quick backups. I only notice the sound of the drive if it's very late at night and the house is dead silent.

    If I were going to use a hardwired drive, then sure, I'd buy a 2.5" drive and mount it in an aluminum housing, as those do seem to be quieter than their plastic counterparts. You might even try placing the enclosure on an old trimmed-down mousepad, or get some little silicone feet from a hardware store to further insulate vibration noise.
  5. RichardI macrumors 6502a


    Feb 21, 2007
    Southern Ontario, Canada
    I don't use Time Machine for that very reason. Noise. And the fact that the back-up spins every once in a while for no apparent reason. My iMac is so quiet that I could hear the back-up drive quite clearly and it drove me nuts. I have an iomega 750 Gb firewire800 drive as a back-up and I use SuperDuper! to back up manually (incremental) every week. That, and the fact that there were some files that I deleted that I wanted to stay deleted. I guess that isn't much help, but I would suggest that you go to the manufacturers of any drives you are contemplating and get the spec's. They should contain a decibel number that use for comparison purposes.
    Rich :cool:
  6. steve-p macrumors 68000


    Oct 14, 2008
    Newbury, UK
    You can use Time Machine without it backing up every hour - you can turn off automatic backups and tell it to do it whenever you want. And even in automatic mode, if the drive isn't connected it won't care, and won't do it anyway until you next plug it in. I just connect my firewire drive every few days and let it do its thing. However if you want to allow it to back up every hour onto a silent drive then maybe Time Capsule is the best solution - it can be in another room entirely, so you don't hear it at all.
  7. MTI macrumors 65816

    Feb 17, 2009
    Scottsdale, AZ
    The Western Digital Green Power drives are quieter than the OEM Seagate in the TC.
  8. Eidorian macrumors Penryn


    Mar 23, 2005
    The take apart of the newest Time Capsule does show a WD Green Drive. I'm sure that's server quality. :rolleyes:

    A Time Capsule does appear to be overkill for this situation as well.
  9. Transporteur macrumors 68030

    Nov 30, 2008
    WD Greens are no server quality drives. They are not even intended for 24/7.
    Server grade WD drives are the RE3/RE4 (Raid Edition).
  10. KeriJane macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2009
    Quiet 3.5" Hard Drives

    Hard drive noise bugs me too.

    There are two kinds of noise mostly, the spinning noise that the drive makes when it's running and the "seek" noise as the heads move about. Seek noise is usually in the form of rapid clicks.

    Motor noise has come down a LOT in the last few years. Some drives make very little motor noise, some make more. Those with fewer platters inside often make less motor noise as do those that turn more slowly.

    Seek noise is often adjustable! Many drives have a feature called "AAM" or "Automatic Acoustic Management". This is nearly always "OFF" by default.
    Most drives made by Samsung, Hitachi and Western Digital have this feature. It can be turned "ON" and adjusted to various levels in many cases by using Hitachi's Feature Tool, Samsungs Hutil (Samsung drives only) or windows-based tools like HDDScan or HDparm.
    Turning AAM ON vastly reduces the Seek noise but will slow down access time a little.

    For example, a Caviar Black 1TB makes moderately loud Seek noise with AAM OFF but almost none with AAM ON.

    Here's my favorites for low noise operation:

    WD Green Power. Very little motor noise. These are pretty quiet even with the AAM OFF. Also, they run very cool which is important in an external enclosure.

    Samsung. Little Motor noise, AAM is fully adjustable with Hutil. Usually a great silence choice.

    WD Caviar Blue Single Platter drives- (160, 320, etc) Little Motor noise, virtually silent with AAM ON. Run cool.

    WD Caviar Black with AAM ON. Little Motor noise, slight Seek noise. (Lots of Seek noise with AAM OFF)

    Hitachi - Some Motor noise, especially when spinning up. Virtually no Seek noise with AAM ON. Hitachi Feature Tool allows AAM to be fully adjusted.

    Drives that make a TON of noise:

    Seagate 7200.10, 7200.11. Noticeable Motor noise, plenty of Seek noise, AAM not supported. Also, they run hot.
    I'm sure the 10,000rpm Raptors do too!;)

    WD models not supporting AAM or having AAM OFF tend to make plenty of Seek noise. WD doesn't appear to have a AAM tool. HDDScan works OK, sometimes Hitachi Feature Tool will work on WDs too.
    WD usually only offers AAM "ON" or "OFF" with no fine-tuning like Hitachi and Samsung.

    I haven't seen any recent Maxtors so no comment.

    I vote for Green Power for an external enclosure. With AAM "ON".

    Have Fun,
  11. gfhoward thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 6, 2009
    Thanks guys! I don't do wireless, so a Time Capsule wouldn't be appropriate I don't think. Just out of curiosity, how come no one has mentioned OWC Mercury drives, or G-Drive products? My understanding is that both are in fan-less enclosures and run pretty silent. If I get a fan-less drive like those, would that solve the noise problem or not? Please educate me as to how those compare to the ones you guys have recommended. I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to hard drives. Thanks
  12. KJdanReuben macrumors regular

    May 22, 2007
    I will mention the G-Drive. I have a 3.5" G-Drive. I don't use it for Time Machine, but I do use it for Final Cut so it is constantly seeking. If the room is completely quiet, then it is noticeable. But if there is normal noise going on, then it isn't too noticeable. I agree with the post that said they use SuperDuper! because I do the same thing. Although it costs $30 or something like that, I feel it is worth it.
  13. KeriJane macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2009
    OWC and G-Tech are good brands. LaCie is very good also but they have been known to use noisy and hot-running Seagate drives poorly suited for an external enclosure.

    The Western Digital MyBook drives have cheap plastic enclosures and a decent but somewhat noisy drive inside. If you get one, make sure it has FireWire. eSATA is useless for nearly any Mac and USB is just too slow.

    The OWC, G-Tech and LaCie enclosures are very good. The big determining factors for noise are:

    1- Brand and Model of Hard Drive inside the enclosure

    2- Whether AAM is "ON" or "OFF"

    3- If the Enclosure has a Cooling Fan, and is it thermostatically controlled or variable speed

    4- What material the enclosure is made of and any sound-dampening features

    Most regular-sized external hard drives use a standard 3.5" SATA hard drive inside. WD Green Power drives are very well suited to this purpose due to their low heat output.

    For modern Macs, FireWire800 (or 400) is the interface of choice.
    Both sound "slow" on paper compared to USB2.0 or eSATA (compared to FW400 and FW800 respectively) but these are the workhorses of the video industry for a reason: They work well and fast with very little fuss or trouble. This is why nearly every Mac has at least one FireWire port.

    USB2.0 is a joke for transferring large files. USB2 is supposedly "faster" than FW400 but in the real world and in particular for moving large files around it is far slower.

    eSATA is kind of an orphan at the moment. The big problem is that many computers have to be shut off and re-started in order to connect an eSATA drive. Also, there may be drivers needed for the SATA controller used.

    FireWire800 is faster than nearly any single Hard Drive so there is no advantage to the potentially faster eSATA interface. Also, FireWire is hot-pluggable, Daisy Chain-able, needs no drivers and isn't limited to disk drives as eSATA is (for now).

    Personally, I use LaCie 2BigTriple and Quadra drives that I took the noisy, hot Seagates out of and put in Green Powers.

    Have Fun,
  14. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    The only server grade WD Green Power, is the RE4-GP (2TB is the only model currently in the line; can be had for just over $300USD). So price/GB is on par with the 1TB RE3. :)
  15. Big-TDI-Guy macrumors 68030


    Jan 11, 2007
    I've got a Lacie ED mini (network HD) in my basement - and I almost miss the noise at this point.

    Running it via gigabit network - plenty fast (considering it's NAS) - and, the silence....

    They're on the cheap, and mine has been solid just about 2 years now.
  16. gfhoward thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 6, 2009
    OK, thanks. Can you point me to some specific OWC or other products that have the 4 factors you mentioned? I know the OWC website, and G-Tech and Lacie, but I don't know how to find external hard drive models they make that have those 4 features. Thanks
  17. ebunton macrumors regular

    Apr 25, 2004
    HDDScan through Parallels?

    I have recently purchased an external enclosure and fitted it with a WD Green Power 1TB EADS for use as music server storage.

    Trawling through a bunch of sites, I haven't found any obvious and simple way of changing its AAM setting through OS X so I'm wondering if it's possible to use HDDScan through Parallels?

    A bit sad that no one's come up with an OS X AAM editor... :(

    It'd be really useful for 'audiophiles' using a Mac as their music server.

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