Rather than buying a pre-packaged external drive setup, I might recommend buying an internal drive and an external enclosure separately. A lot of externals you'll find in a big box store use slower, cheaper drives inside their enclosures. If you buy separately, you can research a fast, quality drive and slap it in your own enclosure.
My current external setup is a Western Digital Caviar Black 640gb (about $70-75) and a simple Rosewill USB 2.0/Sata compatible enclosure (about $20). The Caviar Black is a really reliable consumer line, has a long warranty, and gets a ton of good reviews. There are some more expensive drives out there that might be more reliable for critical applications, but I don't think you can beat the quality for the price. Check out Newegg.com for these kinds of items.
There are a number of companies that sell USB or Firewire to SATA docks. I have the Thermaltake BlacX, but there are many others. You slot the bare internal hard drive into them like a cartridge, which is much more convenient than screwing them into and out of an enclosure. Most of them will accept either 3.5" or 2.5" drives. The only caveat is that they do not get as good cooling as an enclosure so for heavy extended backup sessions they may not be optimal. I use mine at work as a Time Machine drive for my laptop (total backup set: about 60GB) with no problems.
I recently had to do some research on this topic, so I might be able to offer some suggestions. I'll post some of my notes, if things get too technical just skip those parts.
I. Possible criteria are:
- Size (750GB or 1TB currently offer fair price/performance ratios)
- Connectivity (USB, eSATA, IDE, Firewire);
- Reliability (if the HDD is to be used 24/7, only a few models are recommendable)
- Technical Specifications (i.e. Access times (ms); data transfer rates (MB/s); rotation speed (rpm))
- Hardware Design (2-, 3- or 5-platter)
II. Decent external HDDsolutions would be...
- Samsung "S2 Portable"
- Seagate "Free Agent"
- Western Digital "My Passport"
All are comparable in quality and specs, and each of them should do their job just fine. They are available in various sizes, I won't list them down since that's a matter of preference..and budget of course.
Things to consider...
Most external devices either offer a USB or eSATA connection (or ideally both).
eSATA is a better choice in most cases, because USB 2.0 cables are limited to ~33 MB/sec data transfer. eSATA achieves transfer rates between 80-120 MB/s (though the theoretical limit is 300 MB/s).
The only situation where I would choose USB over eSATA, is when maximum flexibility is required, for example if you wanted to use your harddisk both at home and at your office, as well as bring it to a friend's house from time to time. Since USB is quite common meanwhile, no matter where you go, you'd be able to use your USB-based external Harddisk, while eSATA is less common and may require use of adapters.
USB 3.0 will actually allow up to 600 MB/sec, but there are no USB 3.0 based HDD's available yet, at least not to my knowledge. That probably won't change anytime soon, so it's not worth waiting.
III. Possible internal SATA solutions* would be...
- IBM Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B
- Seagate 'Barracuda 7200.11 or .12
- Samsung Spinpoint F1, F2 or EcoGreen
- Western Digital's Velociraptor
[size=xx-small]* Any internal HDD can be used externally, I'll explain how further below.[/size]
Each of these Hard Disks again comes in different sizes & versions, ranging from around 250 GB - 2 TByte. Currently, 750 GB and 1 TByte models are the most popular choices, since they offer a decent price/performance ratio.
- The Hitachi Deskstar is the oldest of the four and more energy-hungry than its competitors, but it is also the most reliable model;
- Samsung's latest models focus on ergonomy & energy efficiency;
- Western Digital's Velociraptor is aimed at speed and perhaps the fastest SATA-based Hard Disk available, but choices are limited to either 150 or 300 GByte and it is rather expensive.
- Seagate's HDD's are average across the board;
IV. How to use convert any internal HD into external
I use a Hitachi Desktar as external device myself, instead of a native external solution, like the Seagate Free Agent. It's quite simple to do and the advantages are higher flexibility (like switching harddisks when needed, and even using old IDE harddisks again). They cost a bit less money, too and do not require power from the PC itself.
All that's needed is an empty Hard Disk case (ex. A.C.Ryan, Raidsonic's Icy Box or others) and then simply connecting the Hard Disk through the HDD case's USB or eSATA port, depending on which format the case features.
Important is the correct size, cases are sold either in 2.5" or 3.5" format. The Hard Disk's specs will let you determine which of them you need. 3.5" is the standard for almost all Desktop HDD's, while 2.5" is common for laptops and portable drives.
Ideally, the case should feature an eSATA port for PC users, or a firewire port for MAC users. If the PC case does not have any eSATA ports available (eSATA is not to be confused with SATA!), an eSATA-to-SATA adapter can be used, they cost between $5 - $10 USD (i.e. Example Adapter).
V. All HDD's in detail
IBM Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.B
+ Very reliable, can be operated 24/7
+ Excellent price/performance ratio
+ Solid benchmark results (4548 pts. in PC Mark Vantage)
- Requires more energy than latest HDD's (26W in use, 5W standby)
- "Oldest" model
The 1 Terrabyte version of the Hitachi Deskstar series was the first 1 TB Harddisk in the world, which means this hard disk could be considered as the "least modern". But since Hard disk technology did not advance much in the past few years, imho that's not a decisive factor.
The main differences to latest HDD products are 1) cache 2) platter design, 3) energy consumption and 4) rpm (=rounds per minute):
The trend today goes toward energy saving and smaller devices, therefore new HDD's offer less rpm (~5400 rpm, as opposed to Hitachi's 7,200 rpm) and require less energy (5-10 Watt, Hitachi=26 Watts). Some new models are also reduced in height (2.5", as opposed to the standard 3.5" format) and usually offer more cache (32 MB are common meanwhile, the Deskstar features 16 MB Cache), though cache is not a decisive factor for most drive operations.
Last but not least, the Hitachi Deskstar initially was made up of 5 platters, while comparable HDD's today consist of 2 or 3 Platters. Five Platters means the whole 1 Terrabyte are distributed evenly among 5 round-shaped metal platters. Less platters are commonly preferred and said to be less susceptible to hardware failures.
Hitachi however updated its design over time, I was pleasently surprised to find my own model consisting of 3 platters. Otherwise the drive had the same specs. Hardware vendors should have the updated design for sale meanwhile, I bought this drive in January 2009.
I opted for a Hitachi Deskstar myself, because it was important for me to have a hard disk which can operate 24 hours a day without a break. The Hitachi 7K1000.B is the only TB-Harddisk below 150 USD (approx. 100 EUR), which officially supports intensive use for 24/7.
Both Samsung and Seagate offer separate 24/7 models, but those cost considerably more. Regular, "desktop" drives are not designed to be operated continuously, unless explicitly stated. If 24/7 support is no issue, then either Hard Disk will do just fine.
Seagate Barracuda Series
+ Decent speed & Benchmark results for the Barracuda .12 (5603 pts. @ PC Mark Vantage)
- Low random access & transfer rates under certain conditions
- Average Benchmark results for the older .11 model (4030 pts.)
- Barracuda .12 gets hot under heavy load (47 degrees celsius)
The Barracuda series offers average prices & specs all across the board. The "Barracuda .12" model is the most recent release, "Barracuda .11" its predecessor.
The .11 series is quite affordable at the moment, but certain models suffered high failure rates, I would therefore recommend against buying it.
All Barracudas feature solid transfer & access rates, but just as long as those access operations aren't random, and the drive isn't fragmented. In case of random read/write access, the rates dropped during my tests considerably, from 105 MB/sec to approx 72 MB/sec. Benchmark tests via PC Vintage produced 4030 points for the "Barracuda .11 1TByte" and 5603 points for the "Barracuda .12 1TByte".
Western Digital Velociraptor
+ Very fast
+ 10,000 rpm
- Only two models available (150 GB / 300 GB)
- Only 16 MB Cache (as opposed to 32 MB for most other HDD's)
The Velociraptor currently remains the fastest SATA-drive, featuring 10,000 rpm and excellent access times (7 ms read/3 ms write) and transfer rates (avg. 106 MB/sec). The limited size is a bit of a mood killer, but if used in a raid configuration, that could be compensated.
Samsung EcoGreen & Spinpoint F1/F2
+ Low power consumption (6 - 10 Watts)
+ Shock resistant (widthstands up to 70g)
+ Good price/performance ratio
- Average Speed (i.e. Eco F1 = 4138 pts. in PC Mark Vantage)
With 5,400 rpm and less than 10 Watts under load, the EcoGreen series are clearly aimed at ergonomic efficiency. With 38 degrees celsius they further stay pretty cool. Disadvantages are rather slow write operations (avg. 67 MB/sec) and average access times (>16 ms).
Otherwise each of them are definetely good hard drives and recommendable choices for desktop users.
VI. Possible alternatives would be...
Any SCSI or SSD-Drive. SSD stands for "Solid State Disk" and these hard disks beat any IDE or SATA in terms of access & transfer rates. They are however limited in space (up to approx. 256 GByte) and extremely expensive.
SCSI drives are fast and reliable, but rather uncommon these days and more expensive than IDE & SATA drives. They are primarily used in server environments & raid configurations.
Hope this helps.
If need be, I can send you my excel sheet containing the entire research. It's just raw data though (specs, benchmarks, prices,..), no texts or recommendations.
Docks are very handy. For long-term storage I've been a fan of the Rosewill quad interface enclosures. They're made well and use a good chipset. They're passively cooled and quiet. The only negative is the ubiquitous blinding blue activity LED on the front. That crap is played out and useless.
Actually if you plan to use this drive as a portable drive, Id suggest you get a prepackaged one as they are easier to carry around. But if you plan to use this as an external drive connected to your desktop, then get an enclosure + hard disk.
If you are looking for an economical solution, try this-
Every time a friend or someone at work says their computer died and they are getting a new one, I ask for the dead one. They usually say "sure". Four out of five have perfectly good hard drives in them. It's usually the power supply or something else that caused the death. Put the drive in a cheap usb case like carton132 suggested.
I've got several terabytes of free backup lying around now. In fact, I've got two drives each hanging off a usb port on my desktop computer. When I want to backup, I turn the drive(s) on and drag and drop to the backup drive (poor man's RAID). Nice and easy. Otherwise, I leave the drives off but plugged in. That way your system doesn't slow down reading the drives when you're not using them. I have a P: drive for photos, an M: drive for music, etc...
Originally Posted by driftingbunnies /img/forum/go_quote.gif get a mini stack and a harddrive. the ministack gives you a usb hub and can be opened up so you can always install a newer drive in there in case yours dies.
what is the advantage over a pieced together build?
I first recommend you decide if you want a 2.5" or 3.5" one. The 2.5" have the benefit that it get power through USB or FireWire, while the 3.5" need an external power supply. The 3.5" ones have larger storage capacity though, so all depends on what you need.
When that is decided I highly suggest you pick up a separate cabinet and disk drive. That give you a lot more flexibility than a pre-packed one.
Regardless of the method you choose, I recommend Seagate drives for their five-year warranty.
Originally Posted by Justin Uthadude /img/forum/go_quote.gif I've got several terabytes of free backup lying around now. In fact, I've got two drives each hanging off a usb port on my desktop computer. When I want to backup, I turn the drive(s) on and drag and drop to the backup drive (poor man's RAID).
RAID is often mistaken as a backup solution, but it is not. It may offer some fault tolerance, such as against a single disk failure, but not against other evils. RAID can increase speeds, reliability, access, etc. but it is by no means a backup solution.
Originally Posted by taiyoyuden /img/forum/go_quote.gif RAID is often mistaken as a backup solution, but it is not. It may offer some fault tolerance, such as against a single disk failure, but not against other evils. RAID can increase speeds, reliability, access, etc. but it is by no means a backup solution.
Sorry, I should have clarified. Poor man's RAID is Replicated Access to Itunes Data. =^)