Sunday, August 14, 2011

External Hardrives

I am once again in the market for an external hard drive. I am a bit of a content whore, and I'm addicted to iTunes. Most of our TV viewing is done through either Netflix streaming or iTunes, and my music collection is slowly being migrated to purchased music on iTunes if it wasn't bought there in the first place

My primary drive is 1TB and I have an external content drive that clocks in around 2TB. Neither is 100% full, and I've been okay with a 3TB backup drive operating through Time Machine.

I purchased a Seagate unit about six months back, and it seemed to be working Okay until I had a system failure, whereupon it quit on me. I was able to get data off it, though only by using some pretty low level access. I decided to replace it with a pair of Western
Digital drives, and put them in a RAID mirror. Well, it was a nice idea, and whilst OS X does have a software Raid feature, it can't be used with external drives, which does makes sense, though for me in this case, annoying nonetheless.

I put the one as a time machine backup, and used the other to reorganize my content. The time machine drive started being a bit flaky, and has now died altogether.

As per usual, I go shopping for another one on Amazon, and I always look at reviews. Sometimes the negative reviews can be very helpful in discerning products that do have serious legitimate issues. For external hard drives though, they are mostly garbage.

Guess what folks, it's an external hard drive. Hard disks at the best of times have a pretty high DOA rate. The only reason the one in your computer has a tendency to last longer is that manufacturers typically put a computer through a "burn-in" cycle. They stress the system for continuous long periods to weed out components that are likely to fail.

Your small cheap external drive has not been put through this kind of testing. Not only that, it's external, in a small case, with little protection over a flaky interface like USB instead of a nice stable internal SATA interface.

if you put ten years of work on an external drive with no additional backup, there is a pretty good chance you'll lose the lot, and then whining that it was the fault of the hard drive product is pretty naïve.

It does seem like there are some devices that do have a burn in period, but typically they are considerably more expensive. It looks like Apples's time capsule and I speculate the G-Drive products fall into that category. The problem is rather obvious, they are considerably more expensive than their counterparts.

At this point, I think I'm going to try and use two drives, but in rotation. Use one for a month, then switch over, then after another month, switch to the other. At least, the oldest data version will never be more than 30 days adrift, better than just losing the damn lot.

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