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Switcher Hangout The place for switchers to discuss their new machines, and how to work with OS X. General support can be had here for newbie stuff, like "How do I restart my new iMac?" :)

External Drive


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Lucy Goose

 
Member Since: Jan 02, 2011
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Hello All,

I am looking to purchase another external hard drive for my new Apple iMac i5. I have one already hooked up which is a WD 2TB elements. Which I have on my PC. The reason I bought another is because I like the way this one is just a drag and drop type of hard drive vs some that have all this automatic back up software on them. It has been working absolutely fine on my PC and my new one is working great on my Mac. I reimaged it to the Mac vs the PC.

I am just wondering if folks recommend something different for an external drive for a Mac, and if so why?

Thanks in advance.

Lucy Goose
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baggss

 
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WDs are some of the best drives out there, no need to change. I'm looking at picking up 2 WD 2Tb externals tomorrow as I get ready to migrate to my new machine over the next few weeks.


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ThePope43

 
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WD is a great brand, indeed. If it is super-sensitive data I might recommend Iomega as an option because they're highly reliable.


For any other reason short of that, WD or almost any other name brand will do just fine.

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Randy B. Singer

 
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Member Since: Feb 01, 2011
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I am the head of a huge Macintosh user group (over 8,700 users) and I get asked about the "best brand of external hard drive" constantly. So I've been very careful to follow users' experiences, reviews, etc. so that I am on top of this area.

Choosing an external hard drive currently is really difficult, because several old faithful brands have been churning out extremely problematic drives. Notably Western Digital and Seagate. Iomega (there is currently another thread about Iomega drives right here on this discussion forum) and LaCie are two other companies that lots of folks have had trouble with recently. (Iomega and LaCie don't make the internal mechanisms in their drives, but it appears that the problems with their external hard drives are not related to the brand of internal mechanism.)

I wanted to make sure that what I thought that I was seeing was correct, so I asked an expert about his view.

I got this e-mail back from:
Drew Janssen, MacDFI
Pres/CEO Drive Rescue, Inc.
Data Recovery & Forensics
Drive Rescue - Professional Data Recovery
443-310-7920

Randy B. Singer wrote:
>> I was wondering if I could draw on your recent experience.

Absolutely.

>> I've been hearing from a surprising number of folks lately who have been having problems with both Seagate and Western Digital hard drives. The latter, especially, seem to >> be a problem for Mac users because of energy-saving features that Mac users can't disable. But it seems as if both companies are churning out drives at a low cost at the
>> expense of quality control.

I think that's a fair assessment. There's a major difference between
WD and Seagate in the area of quality control. WD has, for years,
employed the services of multiple vendors to make their drives. This
has been proved out in the rebuilding process. Technicians would
frequently open drives to replace parts, have a ready clone available
to cannibalize for parts, only to discover the internal pieces didn't
match.
Over time, technicians like myself came to see that WD labels with
batch lots and manufacturer's dates were actually nothing more than a
reflection of when the drives passed through WD's testing facility
combined with when the labels were printed. Drives would arrive from
the various subcontractors, built with external cases specified by WD,
but internal parts chosen by the subcontractors. So long as the
drives passed WD's tests, they were labeled and sent on to the
public. This inconsistency of internal parts created a nightmare for
recovery companies engaged in rebuilding drives.
At least with Seagate, the batch numbers, lots numbers, serials and
dates meant something. Even if they used subcontractors, the batches
and lots were all labeled together. Internal parts were consistent
across a line, such as the Momentus line of laptop drives for example.
They all came from the same factory, using the same internal parts, so
rebuilding was a matter of matching drives to batch and lot numbers,
within a certain date range. It also seemed the quality control was
much better overall. Sadly, I think there have been issues of late
when it comes to Seagate's quality controls. They still are much
easier to rebuild, but I will admit I've seen failure rates which are
higher than in the past. Still nowhere close to the abysmal
performance rates of WD drives, but slipping from the high standards
of dependability of before.

>> Meanwhile, everyone seems to be very happy with Hitachi drives lately. (No more "deathstars".) With the exception of folks who purchased Mac mini's a couple of years ago >> with OEM Hitachi's in them.

Hitachi is a middle of the road drive manufacturer who seems to have
maintained decent quality control standards. They aren't the best in
the business, but they seem better due to slippage in the Seagate
line.

___________________________________________

Randy B. Singer
Co-author of The Macintosh Bible (4th, 5th, and 6th editions)

Macintosh OS X Routine Maintenance
OS X Maintenance And Troubleshooting
___________________________________________
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So far my 5 yr old Lacie D2 still going.
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Randy B. Singer

 
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So, that still leaves the question of which external hard drive to purchase.

For a time I was recommending that folks purchase an internal Hitachi mechanism and then purchase an external hard drive case kit to put it in. This provided the benefit of lower cost, combined with your choice of quality components. The downside was that no software (such as backup software) was included, and the warranty on an external case kit can be short.

But then two things happened. The first was that Apple moved from Firewire 400 to Firewire 800. Users wanted drives with Firewire 800 interfaces, but external case kits with FW800 tended to be expensive compared to the older FW400 case kits. Suddenly the cost of putting together your own external hard drive didn't present a cost savings over purchasing a pre-assembled hard drive.

The second thing that happened was that folks started to report that when using a 1TB or larger hard drive in an external hard drive case kit they were experiencing overheating issues and other reliability issues having to do with the cases having too small a power supply. If you look at the recent customer feedback for some of the popular case kits on Amazon, you will see this. For instance:
Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Macally G-S350SUA Hi-Speed eSATA/FireWire/USB2.0 Storage Enclosure for 3.5-Inch SATA HDD

So, what am I currently recommending? I recommend a pre-assembled drive with a Hitachi mechanism, and a premium Oxford bridge chip, from a company that has lately developed quite a good reputation for customer service (which is ironic, because a decade or so ago they were just the opposite), Other World Computing (OWC). See:

OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro FireWire 800/400, eSATA + USB2 external Solutions up to 2.0TB - Plug & Play Quad Interface

Their prices are very competitive, even with drives that you assemble yourself. Their drives come with a nice selection of useful software, they offer a three year warranty, and they have been doing very well in performance comparison tests in computer magazines.

___________________________________________

Randy B. Singer
Co-author of The Macintosh Bible (4th, 5th, and 6th editions)

Macintosh OS X Routine Maintenance
OS X Maintenance And Troubleshooting
___________________________________________
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Quote:
Originally Posted by osxx View Post
So far my 5 yr old Lacie D2 still going.
Five or more years ago purchasing a LaCie hard drive was just about as close as you could get to a sure thing. Your drive will probably go on working for another five or more years with no problem.

But at some point LaCie's quality control went south. Have a look at all the complaints here:
Hard Drives: LaCie

___________________________________________

Randy B. Singer
Co-author of The Macintosh Bible (4th, 5th, and 6th editions)

Macintosh OS X Routine Maintenance
OS X Maintenance And Troubleshooting
___________________________________________
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chas_m

 
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I can only tell you that the Hitachi 320 I put in my Blackbook has been the quietest and most reliable drive I've used in years. I work my machine HARD and it never complains unless I overfill it.
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codda

 
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Hmmm....after careful consideration...I just ordered an OWC 500gb Hitachi drive a few days ago...hopefully these reviews will bear it out...
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