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Thread: Portable hard discs. Good idea?

  1. #1
    JohnKendrick
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    Portable hard discs. Good idea?

    A growing camera addiction now threatens to swamp the storage capabilities of the single hard disc in my older MacPro. At least unless I make some changes.

    My current thoughts are to add a portable 1TB hard disc (the better to connect with my laptop when traveling) as my basic photo storage location (all photos); use one of the desktop 1TB hard disc drives I now own as a backup for the first disc. And then try to figure out some sort of off site archival storage.

    Questions.

    (1) quick thoughts on the advisability of that plan;
    (2) recommendations for best brands;
    (3) my laptop is an older MacBook which has slower FireWire connection and I assume future Mac laptops will continue to use FireWire, but anyone who wishes to talk about their experience with the relative merits of FireWire and USB connections, please do.
    (4) any thoughts on off site archival storage.

    Thanks in advance for any help,

    John Kendrick

  2. #2
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    Re: Portable hard discs. Good idea?

    John,
    There are probably as many storage options and methods that folks may have as there are readers here, but most have a few things in common. First, what do you mean by "portable"? Do you mean a somewhat trim case for external use, but requiring power from the wall socket, or do you mean truly portable, drawing power from the computer through its connecting bus (FW or USB)? If you want something to take along everywhere, then the bus-powered devices, which only use 2.5" drives (like those in laptop computers) are the smallest, but they can only use slower 5400rpm drives to get the 1TB option, or the faster 7200rpm drives that only go to 500GB capacity. The cases can have USB, FW400, FW800 or eSATA connections, or combinations, or all. Very versatile and very portable, but limited as mentioned.

    Second, you mention for use with an older MacPro. All of the MacPro computers (desktop "tower" models) have FW800 ports, and some have FW400 ports, but they are totally compatible and only need a different cable to connect, plus the USB2 ports. If you are talking about a MacBook Pro (laptop), then you may have only FW800 + USB, or FW400 + USB, but again, just need different cables to use the FW with any case. If you are talking about an older MacBook laptop, not the aluminum 15" or 17" "Pro" models, then you may have USB only or USB + FW400 on some models. In any event, if you do have a FW400 port, you can still use FW800 accessories, but need a 6-pin (FW400) to 9-pin (FW800) cable to connect them. They are compatible, so no worry, but FW400 will be slower than the USB2 in many cases. So, a "portable" solution could be a case with a 500GB laptop drive inside and having "quad" connections (FW400/800, USB2 and eSATA), and you could connect that to virtually any Mac, desktop or laptop with the supplied cables. If you wanted a bigger storage device that sits on the desktop as an external drive, but needs power from the wall socket, you can get almost any type of case there also, again, with the FW400/800, and USB2 connections being the minimum you want, or getting one with all options including the eSATA.

    As for brands and stuff, take a look at OWC ( http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/firewire/ ) to check out some of their case (external and portable) for single and multiple drives, and various port configurations, as well as being able to buy them as empty case or with drives already installed. They are a great starting place and have quality stuff at reasonable prices, plus very helpful tech staff. (I have no affiliation, but have tons of their stuff and have been using it for many years.)

    As for archival storage....one of the easiest and maybe cheapest ways is to have another drive that is routinely updated just stored off-site. That means you have a main drive, a back-up, and another back-up that you store off-site. That way, if you lose the main and back-up in something like a fire or flood or they get stolen, you still have copies of everything stored someplace else, away from the main units. I am actually using bare hard drives for that purpose, since I have so many, and I just load them into a desktop device for transferring data (Voyager Q Desk Dock from OWC: http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/Newer...ard_Drive_Dock ). That lets me only incur the added costs of just the drives, and not more cases and power units, etc.

    Hope this is of some help, but I am sure there are lots of folks that will make other suggestions. Any simple drive in a case with at minimum a USB2 connection will do. There are some newer "standards" for faster USB3 and FW1600 and FW3200 being considered, but most will probably be back compatible to your FW400 and USB2 stuff, so not to worry. If you are looking for super speed and other performance things, there are even more options now and coming, but it sounds like you are just looking for more storage, some portability and archival needs only at this point.

    LJ

  3. #3
    JohnKendrick
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    Re: Portable hard discs. Good idea?

    Thanks for the very thorough response.

    On the first point, what do I mean by portable, the one item I hadn't considered was the power source. Obviously, I would like to have speedy access but would also like to use it in settings in which it would draw its power from the laptop. As I read your thoughts here, the two are incompatible. If I have to choose, then I'll go for fast. Most of the time, the hd will be connected to my desktop computer.

    Since the point of doing this is to be able to use Lightroom with these photos when I travel, I want reasonably fast access. And will just have to live with finding wall outlets or some such.

    On the firewire/usb question, you're right that my MacPro has an 800 FW connection and the older laptop has a 400. And I was aware I could get a cable to connect an hd with an 800 to the laptop. I was not, however, aware that usb2 speeds were close to 400 FW speeds. That certainly sends me, at least as long as I keep the MacBook as my laptop, toward usb.

    As for the OWC recommendation, that's the second time it's been recommended to me. I've been using Western Digital for sometime with mixed results. The latest set are doing well but I lost an external a couple of years back. And am not happy about that.

    On the offsite idea, that's my plan. Probably keep it in a bank safety deposit box and change them on some routine basis. Have you, on the other hand, explored any internet based services for offsite storage? Are they too expensive? Not secure enough?

    Thanks again,

    John

  4. #4
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    Re: Portable hard discs. Good idea?

    John,
    You can get lots of speed by putting an SSD drive into one of the portable (bus-powered) cases, but you are going to be throttled by the bus (FW or USB), so a faster drive there only matters if you are using eSATA. You can, on the other hand, put a 7200rpm 500GB drive into the same case and get the same performance as a 1TB drive in an external case on your desktop, but without needing the external power. You will just have half as much storage (500GB v 1TB), but it will be as fast and more portable. (I have several of these portable units, maybe 5-6 or more, and I take a couple with me when using my MacBook Pro for instant back-ups of image files, plus one is a boot drive that has all the system OS and software on it just in case something goes south.)

    As I mentioned, the access is going to be more controlled by the bus than the speed of any of the drives you place inside the cases. The other difference between USB and FW is that the 6-pin and 9-pin (FW400 and FW800) are all bus-powered, but some USB devices require a second USB port for power. Also, FW operates off of its own controller, and does not need to access the main CPU very much, if at all, while the USB bus does go through the CPU circuits on some things, so it can be slowed down a bit when heavy processing is underway. And all of the eSATA stuff needs external power. It is not bus-powered, and it cannot be daisy-chained like FW. USB cannot be daisy-chained either. Those may play into your final thoughts. If you use a FW card reader, for example, you could chain it behind the drive, and not need another port. If it is a USB device, you are going to need a separate port for every device.

    As for online storage....have not looked into it lately, so I do not know how much has changed. I keep thinking it is attractive, but I have so many TB of stuff, that I would have to find a site where I could bring drives to them to upload, rather than trying that from DSL or cable. Then there is the issue of getting your data back. Worth checking, as some places will let you upload for free, charge you a certain amount based on volume, but then hit you with larger charges to off-load the stuff. Further, there were some incidents not too long ago where a storage company was bought by somebody else, and the folks had a hard time getting there data back, plus the possibility that the new owners could access and use that data. Not a good prospect. Not saying all are bad, but do your homework, and read all of the fine print. If you are looking at TB size storage on your desktop or portable, you may discover online storage will just not be enough and cost too much.

    Again, no affiliation with OWC, but they have a pretty good variety of options and product lines, including WD, Hitachi, Samsung and others on the drives, and you have the option of building a unit from case and drive yourself. Price is about the same, but you may get the choice of drive you want installed, and it only takes about 5-10 minutes to put things together. I recently had a couple of case go down, and I was not sure why. I called their tech folks and had the problem fixed quickly. (The power brick finally gave out after being "on" for 4-5 years. Simple $20 replacement cost, and I never had to ship anything back for repair. While I was waiting on the power brick, I pulled the drive I needed to access, and placed it in that Voyager Q desktop dock, got the data, and kept on working. WD has some good stuff, but I have heard several stories from folks having their external drives crash or fail and lose everything, or have to ship them back for repair at pretty hefty charges when out of warranty. All of this stuff is going to fail at some point, so best to prepare in a way that does not tie you to something that may be harder to fix.)

    Anyway, good luck with your decisions, and if you do check out the online storage more and it seems reasonable, share that with us, if you would ;-)

    LJ
    Last edited by LJL; 6th August 2010 at 11:53.

  5. #5
    JohnKendrick
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    Re: Portable hard discs. Good idea?

    Thanks again for the terrific advice. I'm storing all this for later reference.

    John

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