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Techie question - external hard drives

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I am thinking seriously about getting an external ( portable) hard drive ... I am not good about backing up data, etc, and it would be a reeeeaaaalllly good idea.

But I am all thumbs with the technology. So, does anyone have any suggestions for a really good, easy to use ext. hard drive?

(I have read for instance, that the software package on Western Digital sucks, but the drive is good... ok? What does that mean?)

Thanks!

ETA: I am going to ask for this for the holidays from my boyfriend.
post #2 of 27
I like the western digital external drives. you don't have to use their software either. it'll show up as another drive. I don't use the software at all. I use acronis to do my backups. but you can do it manually too
post #3 of 27
I use mine just as another drive and take it with me because I never have the file I want when I am at the shelter, work or home so now I have my files for all 3 backing up on to it. Personally I am not a fan of the software for most of them.

At the moment I am using a Memorex Ultra Travel Drive, it is small and fits easily in my purse but is 160GB
post #4 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by AddieBee View Post
I am thinking seriously about getting an external ( portable) hard drive ... I am not good about backing up data, etc, and it would be a reeeeaaaalllly good idea.

But I am all thumbs with the technology. So, does anyone have any suggestions for a really good, easy to use ext. hard drive?

(I have read for instance, that the software package on Western Digital sucks, but the drive is good... ok? What does that mean?)

Thanks!

ETA: I am going to ask for this for the holidays from my boyfriend.
I`m not sure what that means but I`m a computer dummy and I just bought a WD Elements external hard drive with 1 Terabyte because it was on offer ( £78 I think )

Anyhoo, it didn`t actually come with any software but after a quick search on google, I found all you have to do in copy and paste the files you want to move. If you want to move all your pictures say, you just select all, copy and paste! Easy peasy
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by fastnoc View Post
I like the western digital external drives. you don't have to use their software either. it'll show up as another drive. I don't use the software at all. I use acronis to do my backups. but you can do it manually too
So what you're saying is ignore the WD software... but get the ext. drive cuz its good. I asked my brother, who is a tech geek/gadget dude and he suggested Maxtor. Any take on that?
post #6 of 27
Maxtor and Seagate merged. I have some Seagate IDE drives. Quite and never have had any problems with them. I probably have a Maxtor drive somewhere, too.

One thing that's a very good thing to consider. Do you want the drive to be always on unless you physically unplug it? If not, make sure it has a power button - some don't. The more you run an external drive the less reliable it is as a backup drive as you're putting more use on it. So if you don't need it on, turn it off.

Look up consumer reviews online before buying anything.
post #7 of 27
Seagate bought maxtor for 1.9b in 2005. And now, 3 years later, there is still separation of maxtor and Seagate. They do not do business as all one company. they still have completely separate manufacturing plants and distribution centers. They are still physically two separate companies. legally they are ALL seagate. but that's all.

Anyway, Addiebee, I wouldn't be too concerned about drive brands. it'd be tough to actually find a bad one. Any of them would be fine.

As for power? I guess that could be a concern, but a hard drive 'wearing out' is by far the least of your concerns. they could likely run 10 years or more without being turned off and not fail at all. They are incredibly efficient and well made. In fact, I wouldn't buy an external that had to be plugged in. that defeats the entire purpose since you couldn't work on a laptop unless you're right next to an outlet. Both of mine are USB only.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AddieBee View Post
So what you're saying is ignore the WD software... but get the ext. drive cuz its good. I asked my brother, who is a tech geek/gadget dude and he suggested Maxtor. Any take on that?
Like i said above. you'd have a hard time finding anything you'd consider a bad hard drive. they are ALL good. Check the cache, the size and rpm. you want them to be fast. If you REALLY want to go all out, they also have solid state drives that don't spin at all. they are lightning fast, much quieter than any spin drive. But they're expensive and the sizes are still small. i'm guessing twice the price.

As for software? You could sure use the stuff that comes with the drive. But i guess my point is, I prefer to use backup software that's retail stuff. Acronis is a company that makes backup software. it's incredibly flexible. you could pick up the home version for around 50 bucks.

You might find you like the wd software though. I recommend trying out whatever software comes with the drive, then if you don't like it, start looking around.

The thing is, you really probably want something that's going to actually back up using routines. you don't want to have to copy and paste files. unless that's all you're looking for. The backup software will copy files to the extenal drive at different intervals. eg: Acronis does incremental backups of my system drive every 2 hours. i do this because I'm CONSTANTLY on my pC, and doing it very frequently massively reduces the time each one takes. I don't even notice it since it's done so often.
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
I actually have had hard drives fail... last two computers.. or at least that's what I THINK happened. Just stopped functioning. Maybe it was the other componentry inside the CPU. I believe you when you say they are that well made.

So I am more concerned about protecting files that I consider important - photos, portfolio samples, etc., than anything else. I guess I should back up software too.

What I need is the ext hard drive version of "plug and play" ... yes, I would use a USB port. Amazon has good prices on WD hard drives right now. I don't know if I need something as large as 1TB...

I may be working on a video project or two after first of the year (yay!)... so perhaps a huge backup wouldn't be a bad idea.

Hope you're doing OK, JT.
post #9 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by strange_wings View Post
Maxtor and Seagate merged. I have some Seagate IDE drives. Quite and never have had any problems with them. I probably have a Maxtor drive somewhere, too.

One thing that's a very good thing to consider. Do you want the drive to be always on unless you physically unplug it? If not, make sure it has a power button - some don't. The more you run an external drive the less reliable it is as a backup drive as you're putting more use on it. So if you don't need it on, turn it off.

Look up consumer reviews online before buying anything.
I don't need it to run continuously. I don't have massive amts of data that need constant backing up. As I said to fastnoc, just want to back files that are important to me and possibly stuff that I would be working on (video) early next year. (Keep fingers crossed on that one. Nothing is set in stone yet.)
post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by AddieBee View Post
I actually have had hard drives fail... last two computers.. or at least that's what I THINK happened. Just stopped functioning. Maybe it was the other componentry inside the CPU. I believe you when you say they are that well made.

So I am more concerned about protecting files that I consider important - photos, portfolio samples, etc., than anything else. I guess I should back up software too.

What I need is the ext hard drive version of "plug and play" ... yes, I would use a USB port. Amazon has good prices on WD hard drives right now. I don't know if I need something as large as 1TB...

I may be working on a video project or two after first of the year (yay!)... so perhaps a huge backup wouldn't be a bad idea.

Hope you're doing OK, JT.
As cheap as hard drives are now days it'd be smart to get as much as you can afford really. 1tb might be too much. For me it is. But if it's in the budget I'd get it. Especially if you're going to do video stuff.

As for hard drives, I have had MANY hard drives fail. but it's not because they ran too long. That's extremely rare. Something else fails most times, like the pinch heads. so when you turn on the computer the drives just sort of click. It's the pinch heads trying to sync up.

But yea I back up files and software too. I do what's called an 'image'. which means if I lose a drive, I can stick another one in, image back to the new drive and I'm 100% back to where I was in 15 minutes. I do this by storing important files on my drive, but backing them up too.

Right now I have 7 drives. 2 system drives which are mirrored. Meaning they write to each other at the same time. So if one goes, you won't even see a blip. Just a wanring that one died. but since they're mirrored the same data is on the second. Then for data drives I have 5 drives in a RAID5 configuration. Which means stiped (data is written across all the drives, not one at a time) with parity (meaning it reserves parts of the drive and writes backups to each one. What this does, is if any drive fails, even if TWO failed at the same time, I could simply plug two more in and they'd rebuild themselves because of the parity information. I use to only hasve 4 in the raid, but I wanted enough so that 2 drives could fail and id still be able to recover.

All of that is hardware redundancy. but since the best is the RAID5, i store all my important data on the RAID. Then I back up to an external hard drive.

Bottom line is, I've had so many drives fail that I demand a LOT of backups. four years ago I lost 10 years worth of data because I didn't do this. over 5000 images, 8 years worth of mail, etc. I won't let that happen again
post #11 of 27
Fastnoc's setup is really overkill for the average user. For a hard-core user with lots of sensitive and irreplaceable data, OK. Messing with just a single stand-alone Windows box is over the average user's head already. Just get them a plug-n-play USB external drive. Plug the sucker into the USB port and it shows up as just another drive in Explorer. Then you can just copy files over there using Explorer, or you can get fancy and get some Backup software everywhere from simple on-demand backups to fancy unattended as-you-go background backup. Look for something that's got the Veritas backup engine; I've been using one or another backup product with their technology for years; it's the core of the Windows NT backup. But really, for the average user, just haviing an external drive and copying over the files they want backed up -- pictures, music, spreadsheets, word processing, -- stuff like that. Applications you can always reinstall from the install CD. An 80 GB external drive is more than enough for backing up most folks' data.
post #12 of 27
OH without question mine is overkill for the average user. But losing that much important data changes your outlook
post #13 of 27
Ya, I know about lost data. And not necessarily even lost. There was some stuff I was archiving by offloading to CDROM because it was something I wasn't using, didn't think I'd use again, but just wanted a backup copy "in case." And up came a research project that required the data archived on the CD's, and I was able to retrieve two years worth of data to use in the project because 1) I had the data and even more important, 2) I had the software to retrieve the data.

Backing up doesn't do much good if you need to restore something from a couple years ago you no longer have the software to read the backup sets.

And that's one reason why I think just copying files to an external drive works good enough for the average home user.

But whatever method is used....backups are a MUST!! Not fun to do but necessary to avoid pain sometime in the future. Sort of like brushing your teeth, I guess.
post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by AddieBee View Post
I actually have had hard drives fail... last two computers.. or at least that's what I THINK happened. Just stopped functioning. Maybe it was the other componentry inside the CPU. I believe you when you say they are that well made.
If the hard drive fails, your computer will still boot up - just not into any OS that was on the hard drive. Remember, computers haven't always had hard drives.
I have one pc still packed away that's hard drive-less. The motherboard's IDE channels are messed up - it's fine to run a rom drive from, but will really mess up a hard drive.



I've heard people complain that Seagate has went down in quality the last few years, but I've also heard that about most HD manufacturers. There's always bad batches, too. The only problems I've had with Western Digital is that I've gotten several loud drives from them - there's nothing wrong with the HD, just that they're louder than Seagate and Maxtor.

I've ran a HD into the ground with about 6 months of heavy use, after having the thing for a couple years which I didn't use it so much. I was writing a lot to it, though - 4-7gigs a day almost. It slowly had more and more bad sectors. Oh well, tossed it out and popped in another I had laying around.

My point about the a drive having a power button may be more valid if one is a desktop user that leaves their pc on 24/7. Again, reading consumer reviews is one's best bet before buying anything. Especially reviews for particular shops if buying online as some have horrible customer service.
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by coaster View Post
Ya, I know about lost data. And not necessarily even lost. There was some stuff I was archiving by offloading to CDROM because it was something I wasn't using, didn't think I'd use again, but just wanted a backup copy "in case." And up came a research project that required the data archived on the CD's, and I was able to retrieve two years worth of data to use in the project because 1) I had the data and even more important, 2) I had the software to retrieve the data.

Backing up doesn't do much good if you need to restore something from a couple years ago you no longer have the software to read the backup sets.

And that's one reason why I think just copying files to an external drive works good enough for the average home user.

But whatever method is used....backups are a MUST!! Not fun to do but necessary to avoid pain sometime in the future. Sort of like brushing your teeth, I guess.
I bet it was a great feeling knowing you had saved that stuff from 2 years past. I know it would've been to me.

I'm fanatical about backups. For one losing that data killed me, and two I use to run a business hosting servers, co-locating, etc. Customers ALWAYS lose data. deleting things on their site, accidentally overwriting stuff etc. So i got in the habit of backing up everything. as a host you can't really tell people you back up their data because people will start to demand it, and backups can easily triple your drive space requirement. but I did it on the downlow to help people that accidentally lost stuff.

Copying files is probably all that's needed, you're right. But if those vid files are important, and the other stuff, it might be good to invest the 50 bucks and buy acronis. Use the free trial first. it's very good software and very easy to configure.
post #16 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks, guys. I am also planning to start scanning in records to reduce my paper load. My brother said he would get me a GOOD scanner as a holiday gift. Who am I to refuse that?

Mostly - I want to protect portfolio samples and any active projects that I am working on. Things are very slow right now, so it's a good time to focus on maintenance.
post #17 of 27
That's a great idea! And it's good you've got someone who knows a bit about that stuff. Get some OCR software and you can scan things in to editable documents!
post #18 of 27
I second that suggestion. If you just scan them with a scanner and save them with an image file, then that's what they are - a picture. They're no longer a document.
post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Tim and JT. I will do that re: OCR software.
post #20 of 27
Just reading this thread now as I'm planning to get an external drive tomorrow - I know I'm crazy, but I'm going out on Boxing Day!
post #21 of 27
Thread Starter 
Hey, guys. I ended up getting a WD 500gb ext hard drive - the desktop type that runs while the computer is running. I gave it a lot of thought and decided a semi-permanent one would be better. And sometime in the near future, should I need a portable drive - to take large presentations to clients, etc., then I will invest in one of those as well.
post #22 of 27
How large are your presentations? You may be able to just use a USB drive for those. Very portable and solid state.
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by strange_wings View Post
How large are your presentations? You may be able to just use a USB drive for those. Very portable and solid state.
They come in all sizes. I use a 2 GB one for school, hubby's got an 8 GB one for his music, and I know you can get ones with 16 or 32 GB.
post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by AddieBee View Post
Hey, guys. I ended up getting a WD 500gb ext hard drive - the desktop type that runs while the computer is running. I gave it a lot of thought and decided a semi-permanent one would be better. And sometime in the near future, should I need a portable drive - to take large presentations to clients, etc., then I will invest in one of those as well.
I think you made the right decision. How do you like it?
post #25 of 27
Thread Starter 
Had it shipped from Circuit City. Hasn't arrived yet.

Right now, presentations are not that large, but if I do a large PPt or there is the prospect of video... I'm not sure that would fit on a flash drive. How big to they get? I've seen them as large as 16 GB...
post #26 of 27
I'm seeing info for ones up to 64gigs - priced at a couple thousand dollars though!
post #27 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by strange_wings View Post
I'm seeing info for ones up to 64gigs - priced at a couple thousand dollars though!
Yikes!!!! I"m better off getting a portable ... 320-500 gb for 100-129... with USB plug n play..
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