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Author Topic: Recommendations for good external hard drive solutions?  (Read 20955 times)
superboyac
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« on: June 06, 2006, 03:45:55 PM »

I don't mean the simple Maxtor OneTouch stuff here...

There's this company, Addonics, that provides some really cool stuff as far as hard drive bays and external hard drives.  I was wondering if there were any similar alternatives that anyone has heard of.  Here's Addonics' website:

http://www.addonics.com/

What's cool about addonics is that you can get 5.25" bay that goes into your desktop pc, and then you swap hard drives in and out of it using enclosures.  But there's more!  When you slide one of the enclosures out, you can use it as a separate external hard drive using usb or firewire.  How cool is that?!  Of course they offer all the varities of connections inclduing IDE, SATA, USB, Firewire.

Anyway, if anyone knows of other similar products, please let me know!
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vegas
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2006, 06:29:26 PM »

Pretty slick. 

May I add, don't ever buy an external drive from the hard drive manufacturers.  Warranties on those are C-R-A-P (1-year).  Buy an internal drive and put it in your own enclosure and get the full 5-year warranty (Seagate).
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superboyac
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2006, 07:05:21 PM »

Pretty slick. 

May I add, don't ever buy an external drive from the hard drive manufacturers.  Warranties on those are C-R-A-P (1-year).  Buy an internal drive and put it in your own enclosure and get the full 5-year warranty (Seagate).

i agree.  I like Seagate's warranty, but someone told me just because it's 5 years doesn't actually mean anything.  It's just for show or something...I don't really know what that means.  I had a Maxtor in the late 90's and it died on me, and I've never bought Maxtor again.  Last year, my IBM drive died which almost made me cry, so now I will never buy an IBM/Hitachi drive. 
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I have a WD drive that hasn't had any problems.  But because of my IBM experience last year, I am paranoid and will only get Seagate because of the 5 year warranty, and a couple of people have told me that Seagate has the fewest "dying" problems of all the drives.

But back on topic, I am in the process of creating a fantastic backup system, with swappable drives and external enclosures galore.  If no one else mentions anything, I'll probably go with addonics.
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db90h
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« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2006, 07:12:42 PM »

A warrany over a year is hardly worth anything since in a year your current drive can probably be replaced for alomst nothing. It'd be more trouble to deal with the warranty submission than the cost of a new hard drive would be worth.

For an external device you want a small hard drive that can be powered over USB2. There are little 20-60gb pocket drives, and maybe larger, that do not require a power adaptor. Usually one comes with them in case you connect them to USB1. But I can't tell you how convienient it is to just connect it to the USB cable it it be powered up. This is the number 1 requirement. There are even larger 3.5" drives that can be powered over USB2 I think.

You can get those generic encloserers that will connect any IDE device via USB. They are cool cuz u can put whatever internal hard drive you want in them. But they typically aren't powered by USB2 alone and require an additional power adaptor.
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mouser
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2006, 07:26:09 PM »

i have used swapable drive racks in an external usb hard drive enclosure for a few years - and i'm very happy with it.

let's me have multiple backup hard drives and easily move them offsite for backup security even in the event of fire or theft.

the other nice thing is i use drive racks in my pc as well so its easy to swap drives between the main pc and the enclosure.

i generally buy such stuff at http://www.directron.com/hard-drives.html
(normally i would buy from newegg.com but directron has better variety for this stuff)
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superboyac
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2006, 07:30:05 PM »

Hey!  If it meets mouser's approval, then I'm all in!  I just got a qoute from addonics on how much all this would be, not bad:

Quote
Ok so here are the parts you need to get.
 
For the inside you can use the following;
1. AESDCSISA at $89.50 each, this is for SATA hard drives and it will connect via a SATA cable to the mother board.
Now to use the enclosure externally you can use;
2. AAPAC12V-US at $19.00 power adapter.
3. AAUSBC-309 USB cable at $25.95 each.
4. AAFWC406 Firewire cable at $45.00 each.
 
You can use a SATA cable externally if you have the connection. Be careful though, you need the L shaped connection rather than the I shaped eSATA connection.
-----Original Message-----
Subject: RE: distinction between your products


Thanks for responding, let me explain in detail what I want:
 
I'd like to buy several SATA drives to swap in and out.  I want to put each of them in their own enclosures, and I'd like to be able to slide them in and out of the pc with the enclosure.  Inside the pc, hopefully I'd be able to use the actual SATA connection.  When removed from the pc, I'd like to externally connect to any computer using firewire AND USB.  Furthermore, and I don't know if this is possible, but I thought I've seen it somewhere, when one of these drives is removed and being used externally, would it be possible to still connect with SATA and not usb/firewire?  i think I've seen where a SATA is coming out of the back of the PC to connect an external drive directly to it, but I may be mistaken.  So that is basically it, I appreciate your help.
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mouser
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2006, 07:32:47 PM »

that email sounds like i would not buy from them.
they sound like they are selling you stuff you dont need at high prices.

if you are a bit more adventurous, you can build your own system by buying enclosure+racks+harddrives directly instead of in some super kit.

when you buy an enclosure it comes with a power adapter (just a standard plug in the cases i've seen), and if someone tried to charge me $26 for a usb cable or $45 for a firewire cable, i'd show them the underside of my boot  Angry

[however, i do recognize that their is some value in having a complete tested kit]
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mouser
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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2006, 07:34:39 PM »

just make sure you get an enclosure that will fit a rack.
normally that means a 5.25 enclosure with an "open face" (ie one suitable for mounting a cd drive).
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2006, 11:25:30 PM »

OK well I'll probably get chewed out for this but I'm not actually going to answer your question:  instead, I'll respond to a statement you made in the intial post of this thread about External HDDs like Maxtor's One Touch.  I have an External 160 GByte Seagate (apparently the 160GByte is no longer available).  It's been a champ:  I've had it for perhaps 2.5-3 years.  About 2 years ago it fell 3-4 feet onto a tile floor:  it's still going two years later (and it gets a lot of use).  I'm very impressed with it, although I've read customer complaints about some of the higher-capacity units, and I have a co-worker that had one fail.

I do have a bit of experience with hdd chassis.  A few years ago I bouoght a bunch of cheap ($15-20?) chassis from a local PC shop and installed all of my HDDs in them.  That didn't work out very well:  each had a fan for cooling, but it was poor quality, and I began to have thermal issues, and other problems.  I went back to the old way, and have stayed there ever since.  I now have a 4GByte Flash Drive (actually it's one of those iMation microdrive devices that looks like a lock:  great design and a great performer so far, after a month's use) so data portabilty is no longer an issue for me.  I'm sure I had problems woth the swappable chassis because I cheaped out:  I got what I paid for.
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mouser
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2006, 12:39:01 AM »

this might seem contradictory but i also think xminus1's advice is quite good.  getting one of these self-contained (one-touch style) external hds which costs a little bit more can be a very good decision if you don't have plans to do a lot of swapping, etc.  i have no hesitation recommending such a solution for those that want an external backup drive but don't feel the need to do tons of rack-based swapping.
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superboyac
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2006, 02:19:26 AM »

xminus1, no one's gonna get chewed out here!

Really, though, I agree with you.  I've had experiences with the branded self-contained hard drives, and they've been very reliable.  I just want a more sophisticated system that I can swap, that's why I'm going the other way.

Mouser, I'll look into building my own kit also, thanks.  I wouldn't spend the extra money on their cables if they are really common cables.  What I like about their drives is that the same enclosure that you put inside the desktop bay can also be used with the usb and firewire outside it.  That's the cool part.  If I can build my own thing that does that for cheaper, I'll definitely look into it.  Also, regarding their cable, I'm not positive, but it might not be the regular cable, the end that attaches to the enclosure might be their own custon connection.  I have to check that.

Still, this is one of those things that I may not mind spending the extra money on if it is really cool.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2006, 04:31:52 AM »

I had a Maxtor in the late 90's and it died on me, and I've never bought Maxtor again.

I have had a couple of Maxtor drvies go bad over the years - it happens doesn't necessarily mean Maxtor are bad (or worse thatn other manufacturers). In both cases I was warned by SMART on my system in advance of full failure and I lost no data. In both cases Maxtor replaced the drive with no quibbles at all - they even sent the replacement out before I returned the dying drive to save me having a period without a drive. Both were at the limits of their warranty period too. Good service I thought.

I have 4 x WD ATA drives now in my system - which seem pretty reliable (touch wood) and fast.

I wonder about Seagate's Barracuda drives - they are very nice drives (quick and quiet) but I can't help wondering about the temperatures they reach. It is great having quiet drives but they seem to acheive this by insulating them so that the sound can't get out - unfortunately this means the heat can't either. I tried a pair of Barracuda's a few years back for a RAID setup (unfortunely it was in the early years of the Barracudas and they didn't work well in RAID - a known firmware bug which I think is now fixed) but they got so hot you couldn't touch them. Not only is this worrying for the drives but for the rest of the system - if I wanted an electric fire in my case ....
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superboyac
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2006, 09:52:05 AM »

Interesting Carol, so from your experiences, you prefer WD drives?  I can't disagree with that since my WD drive has been going strong for a good 5 years now.

When my IBM drive died last year, I tried to do a lot of research on drives, and I don't think I found much concrete information, but the whole 5 year warranty with Seagate sold me on them.  But that doesn't mean they're more reliable than WD.  Like I said, someone once told me that the 5-year warranty is partly marketing appeal also.  What I like about WD drives is that you can get them at Costco!
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2006, 10:17:37 AM »

Not particularly for or against any particular make/model. I went for WD Caviar drives because they had the reputation of being fast and they weren't esp. expensive.

CostCo isn't much used to me - I have to buy this sort of thing on the internet or else drive 150 mile round trip to find a shop with some choice!
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superboyac
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2006, 10:27:09 AM »

Ha, I forgot you're from England!  Yeah, Costco's great...I'm so used to it, I wouldn't move anywhere than didn't have a costco within a 1/2 hour drive of it.

But as far as hard drives, as of now, I'll get WD or Seagate, since neither of those have failed on me.  I'm more comfortable with WD because I've had more of those (and for longer) and none of the one's I've bought have failed.  My Seagate is still only a year old, so I can't be sure yet. 
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superboyac
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« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2006, 10:45:22 AM »

Ah!  eSATA!  external SATA...that's what it's called.  It's a SATA connection that you can connect to external devices like USB.  That's what I want!
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JavaJones
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« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2006, 01:46:49 AM »

I've never had any problems with WD, so that's good. But it's all a numbers game and statistically if you buy a lot of HD's you'll have at least one fail eventually. The problem with HD reliability is you only know *in retrospect* what HD's *would have been reliable*, generally speaking. Sure you can pick a manufacturer based on *past history* of reliability, but talk to long-time IBM HD customers about how well that strategy can work out. cheesy IBM went from one of the most reliable HD manufacturers around to basically the worst and Hitachi's purchase of their drive division takes that stigma with it to some degree. One batch of bad tech can ruin a whole cycle of drives and even the manufacturer may not know about it until a whole slew of drives start coming back and a class action lawsuit is slapped on them. The best you can do is keep your data backed up and keep your HD's in reasonable operating conditions - i.e. well cooled.

eSATA is nice from a speed standpoint, but very, very few systems support it. One of the advantages of a USB drive to me is being able to just take it over to a friend's and hook right up. Most systems, even older ones, have USB these days, even if it's slower USB 1.x. Comparatively few have Firewire and even less have eSATA. But if it's just for use in your own home then it'll surely be the fastest external solution.

- Oshyan
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superboyac
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« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2006, 10:05:25 AM »

True, java, very true.

Backup is the only real solution.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a good backup solution at the time, and I still don't.  I occasionally burn cd/dvd and I've always done that, but I'll get lazy and not do it for a year.  And until now, I never thought of getting full hard drive backups.  But now, I'm going to have not only a backup hard drive, but an identical hard drive for the backup to the backup.  Unless there's some freakish circumstance, I shouldn't have problems ever again.  Especially if I keep one of the drives at a different location.

I'm going to look at esata, it's just for me, so compatibility isn't an issue.
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f0dder
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« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2006, 12:35:31 PM »

If the enclosure isn't using something standard like SATA, be sure to buy as many bays as you think you'll need, because different vendors tend to be incompatible. Also be sure to research if your combination of bay, drive, OS and possibly motherboard will support hotplug, before you attempt hotplugging.

As for drives, I have almost exclusively maxtors here, and haven't had a problem... but maxtors tend to run hotter than other drives, and you *need* cooling for them. A single 80mm or 120mm fan sucking air in across the drive lowers temperatur by about 20C on my drives... increases lifetime.

I dunno if any brand is worse/better than the others, though. IDE disks suck. I won't touch IBM/hitachi for a long time though, their "deathstar" series has left quite an impression. Also, the Quantum (makers of the Fireball drives) had a revision where the name "fireball" fit quite well - one of the controller chips would get so hot it exploded.

If you're shopping an external USB/firewire/external-sata enclosure that needs extra power, BE SURE that the power connector isn't a s-vhs style connector, but one of the "8 laying down", or similar sturdy design. The s-vhs type power connectors break easily.

I'm personally not too fond of USB2 external drives, sometimes (different boxes, different enclosures) there seem to be "hiccups" if running for a longer period of time and/or transferring a lot of data, where the drive disappears for a second and reconnects. I've not lost data because of this, but it's not too encouraging. Sure beats the firewire/filesystem-corruption issue, though. If you need mobility (as in being able to connect to other people's computers), USB2 is the way to go. If you just need something external for your own box, I'd look into external sata or even a gigabit-lan connected SAN solution.

Never do RAID/Stripe, unless you don't care about the data on that drive. It's okay for temp video editing where you need a lot of speed, but never for data storage. I'd even go as far as to advice always using RAID/Mirror for anything important, in addition to regular backups.

RAID/Parity is tempting, but once two drives die simultaneously in a terabyte-sized array with an expensive controller and decent disks, you kinda don't trust that anymore either (fortunately happened to a friend and not me).

XMinus1: I'm pretty sure those iMation drives aren't flash memory but rather micro-harddrives...
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- carpe noctem
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« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2006, 12:44:24 PM »

ive never had trouble with my usb2 drives dissapearing or hiccuping (i have ide externals in lian-li racks).
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f0dder
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« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2006, 01:23:08 PM »

ive never had trouble with my usb2 drives dissapearing or hiccuping (i have ide externals in lian-li racks).
Might just be the "icy box" enclosure, then... or perhaps some really weird conditions. I haven't been able to isolate the things that makes it reproducable, but it happens every now and then Sad
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superboyac
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« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2006, 01:53:50 PM »

fodder, I hear you about that s-video connection.  That's what the Addonics products use.  they don't use that figure-8 thing.  Do you know of a ahrd drive bay/enclosure company that uses the figure-8 connector?  If you do, please let me know.

That's good that you've had good experiences with Maxtor, I've heard that they've been very reliable in recent years.  I'll admit, my problem with maxtor was way back in 1999, but I've held a grudge since.

Addonics seems to be the only company that makes enclosures that can be used both internally and externally.  It's a great idea, I just wish I had more options to compare features.
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f0dder
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« Reply #22 on: June 08, 2006, 02:32:31 PM »

I think some of the recent maxtor enclosings use the figure-8 connector - I can try asking my friend what drive he recently bought; I know for sure he got the 8-con, but can't remember if it was maxtor.

Quote
That's good that you've had good experiences with Maxtor, I've heard that they've been very reliable in recent years.  I'll admit, my problem with maxtor was way back in 1999, but I've held a grudge since.
That's quite understandable, losing a drive is never fun. Especially not since you tend to lose irreplacable data the first time it happens. The only drives I've, personally, had really bad experiences with are the IBMs. I thought I had a maxtor dying on me, but that was an ATI driver problem that caused symptoms that were exactly equal to a dying drive - clicking noises and everything :-| (and no, no reallocated sectors after I re-formatted it with Maxtor's tool).

Quote
Addonics seems to be the only company that makes enclosures that can be used both internally and externally.  It's a great idea, I just wish I had more options to compare features.
You must ask yourself what you really want and need. These days I'd probably go for external sata - it's as fast as if you connected it internally, it has hotplug, and it's movable. Plus you don't get the vendor lock-in that drive trays give.
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« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2006, 05:37:43 PM »

I used to use removable drive bays in my computers, but since the advent of USB2, I use an inexpensive external drive case and occasionally hook it up to my computer to mirror the internal hard drive.

This has the advantage of portability (can hook up to any computer), and allows for a much smaller case size for the desktop computer (don't need extra 5 1/4" bays). I prefer the smaller computer cases now, such as the Antec Aria or Aspire X-QPack, which are compact enough to carry on longer trips, and look nice on the desktop.

What has not been mentioned in this thread is the software needed to do the backup/image.  After trying various products, both commercial and free, I settled on one called CasperXP.  It runs from the Windows desktop, so no need for boot disks.  The latest version has a SmartClone feature, so after the drive has been imaged once, the next image only covers those sectors which have changed.  This can reduce imaging time down to 10 minutes, which makes it convenient to do the backup more often.

With this combination (USB external and CasperXP software) I have been quite happy for the last few years.
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« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2006, 07:32:23 PM »

XMinus1: I'm pretty sure those iMation drives aren't flash memory but rather micro-harddrives...

Yep, you're right, it's not flash, I misspoke:  it's some sort of tiny disc drive.

Amazing that one can be made so small...
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