Author Topic: External Hard Drives  (Read 6996 times)

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Offline tvgordon

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  • Springfield, Ohio
External Hard Drives
« on: June 23, 2008, 05:38 PM »
I was looking to buy an external hard drive to backup my photos.

Do any of you guys have a favorite brand?

I was looking at Western Digital because it always seems someplace has them on sale and they can usually be found cheap on Ebay.  But looking at customer's reviews, it seems either they loved it or hated it.  Buffalo advertises in the photo mags and some pros list LaCie as the brand they buy, but I wanted to know if any of you guys had any favorites or ones to avoid.

Thanks for the help,

Tom.

Offline woodgeek

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2008, 08:09 PM »
backing up large amounts of media can be very time consuming...
<start personal rant>
about 2 years ago I had a Western Digital HD that had ALL my pictures and music on it.  It crashed -- WD was not very supportive other than to point me to a data recovery service which I believe was going to cost $$$$$ with no guarantees; needless to say I won't buy a WD drive again
<end personal rant>
I replaced it with a Buffalo Terabyte storage unit.  It was pricey, but it's made up of 4 - 250GB drives.  I set it up in a RAID configuration such that if one of the drives goes bad, you just replace that drive and the info is rebuild from the other drives.  So I use it for all my media storage and don't have to back it up as it does this automatically.  User friendly, good documentation and nice interface as well.
I think with backup drives you just assume that it's going to be OK until you need it -- I feel confident with the Buffalo unit, I didn't with the WD one...

Let me know if you need more info.

carl
no matter where you go, there you are...

Offline ccmviking

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2008, 09:08 AM »
      If you really wanna keep'em you need to work up a backup routine that works for you.  It can be a time consuming and tedious task, but it really isn't any fun to lose anything you cherish either.  I keep 2-3 electronic copies plus every couple of weeks I back up newer stuff onto DVD and put them in our safe.  All of our computers our networked so it's easy to use multiple storage locations.  Raid Arrays are a good solution but are not always reliable and are intimidating for some folks.  This little unit is expensive, but takes the hassle out of running an array DROBO  .   I had a drive fail about 1.5 years ago and NEEDED the data.  It was $1,500 to have Ontrack get the data for me.  At that time $1,500 was sure worth it but think about how little I could have spent and avoided all that.  I do have a little external drive that I'll back up on and take with us when we travel.  As far as brands go I don't think it matters much.  I've always used WD drives (a lot of them) and only had the one failure.  I know people that like Seagate and others.  It's kinda like Dewalt and Festool.  They make the same quality stuff, but people still have their favorite.  Ok I'm just kidding about that!  You really need to think about what your trying to protect the data from.  Is it just from a failed drive?  What about theft, or fire, or flood?  If it's something you really want you should have at least 2 copies on site and 1 copy off site.  There are quite a few places out there now that cheaply rent storage space on their servers.  You can just send stuff there via the internet and retrieve it wherever you are.  I know this didn't answer your initial question real well, but maybe it gave you something to think about.

Chris...   
« Last Edit: June 24, 2008, 09:10 AM by Chris Mercado »

Offline poto

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2008, 11:28 AM »
I have serious data storage issues due to an instrument we use to gather images in the ocean. Each vertical profile with this machine generates about 1 terabyte of data! And we have dozens of profiles. We use LaCie discs for storage - lots of them. Yes, they will fail eventually, but that's why you back everything up. Plan on your discs failing, because they will. I guarantee. But I've been very happy with the LaCie discs.

Poto

Offline Dick R

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2008, 12:57 PM »
Hello,

I've been using a 250GB WD MyBook for a couple years and it has worked fine. I recently upgraded my PC and the 250GB didn't give me enough room to do multiple image backups so this weekend I purchased a second 1TB WD MyBook from Best Buy. They were $179, marked down from $279. (Sheeesh .. 1TB drives ...I remember when I got my first PC with a hard drive ... it was a massive 10MB drive, and I thought at the time I would never use it up in my lifetime!)

I use Norton Ghost and image my entire system every week. It came in handy about a year ago when my C:\ drive took a permanent 'dirt nap'. HP replaced the drive under warranty, but it was blank when the unit came back to me (not even formatted). I launched Norton Ghost, pointed it at the last image backup (which was about 3 days before the crash), pushed the button, and 1 hour later my system looked exactly like it did 3 days before the crash. The stuff does work.

Offline Matthew Schenker

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2008, 01:40 PM »
This is a good subject.  I have important stuff to back up every day (including a little forum with lots of valuable activity).  I purchased a Western Digital 320GB hard drive, installed it in its own case (made by Dynex), and have it hooked up as an external drive.

For backup software, check out the open-source back-up utility from Cobian (http://www.educ.umu.se/~cobian/cobianbackup.htm).

This utility is amazing.  It's simple: just specify the folders you want to back up, where you want to save them, and what schedule you want for your back ups.  It takes care of it from there.  Another nice thing about Cobian is that it saves your backups as plain-language files -- your backed-up files are jusr regular files and you don't have to extract them from a special format in the event you need them.

For me, when backing up, the simpler the better.

Matthew

PS: Our forum data is actually backed up in three different locations, one of which is the drive I mentioned above.
FOG Designer and Creator

Offline b_m_hart

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2008, 04:53 PM »
My company is working on some backup stuff - aimed more at small businesses with relatively small amounts of data.  Encrypted blu-ray dvd (~50 GB storage per disc) that you can take and put in your lock box, or take a copy home with you, etc.

That way, if you have someone break in and steal your computer, or there's a fire, employee maliciousness, etc etc etc, you've still got a copy of your file data.  Don't get me wrong, the OS is important and all, and while it's convenient to be able to do a bare metal restore, you really only need your application files backed up and off site.

All of this talk about backup, and I don't really have a scheme set up at home... other than cross-copying my stuff from one PC to another.

Offline tvgordon

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  • Springfield, Ohio
Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2008, 04:55 PM »

I replaced it with a Buffalo Terabyte storage unit.  It was pricey, but it's made up of 4 - 250GB drives.  I set it up in a RAID configuration such that if one of the drives goes bad, you just replace that drive and the info is rebuild from the other drives. 
carl


Carl,
So what if I have photos on all four drives and one fails, are those photos on the bad drive lost?

 but maybe it gave you something to think about.

Chris...   
Plan on your discs failing, because they will. I guarantee. But I've been very happy with the LaCie discs.

Poto


Thanks for the advice.  I don't really want to back up the data online, so how would I go about backing up my backup?  I can use the external drive as a backup until the internal hard drive on my desktop nears capacity.  Then what would be the best way to backup the external hard drive - save to CD's (I don't have a DVD burner)?

I did find it interesting that some of you don't like WD while some of you use them.  Just like the customer comments were on the online sites.  I seems most either were very happy or very dissatisfied.

Chris, I had looked at Drobo before (ranked very high on CNET), but I can't really justify spending that much to backup personal info - maybe it would be different if it was a business.

Welcome to the forum Dick.  It seems you and Matthew have had good luck with the Western Digital Drives.  I have found them discounted more than the other brands I've looked into.  I haven't completely ruled them out.

Tom.

Offline b_m_hart

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2008, 05:00 PM »
re: failing hard drives:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redundant_array_of_independent_disks

Odds are, it's set up using RAID 5.  One drive can fail, because parity data for one disk is spread across the others.  This means that when it fails, a copy of all of that data is elsewhere, and the unit knows where to find it all.  Once a fresh disk is put back in, it can "rebuild" it, and you're back to your original state, and you can withstand yet another disk failure.

Now, if a second disk fails?  You're toast.  There are other RAID schemes that offer more fault tolerance, but that's the gist of it.

Offline Dick R

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2008, 05:39 PM »
One thing to note, and both methods have been mentioned in this thread, do you want to do file based backup, or disk image backup? They are different beasts, but both have their place.

In an image backup (which I prefer), if my hard drive is toast the image backup will restore EVERYTHING, not just the data files. Keep in mind, if your disk is gone not only do you lose your data files, but you lose your operating system (XP,Vista,etc), application programs (Word, Excel, Outlook, Internet Explorer, etc), environment / device driver settings, .... everything. An image backup brings all of that stuff back, just the way it was last time you imaged your disk.

A files-only backup can be faster, but in a catastrophic disk failure situation you will have to re-install your OS, all your application files, and everything that you ever installed on your PC. It's doable, but nasty, and that assumes that you have installable media for everything you ever installed on your machine.

I use Ghost, but understand that not everyone is a Symantec fan. I like it because it allows me to do image backups, but in the event I only need to recover a few files or subdirectories, not the whole image, it has the functionality to display the image backup in directory/file format, and allows me to restore individual files from an image backup just as if it were a files-only backup. That's why I went with a larger external disk recently. I use the image backups as historical savesets. If I need an older version of a file that I lost or wrote over, I just go to an old image and grab that file back. There are a lot of ways to approach backup/restore .. this is just what I prefer.

Just my $.02

Offline woodshopdemos

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2008, 07:56 PM »
I have 3 400 gig  Maxtor ext HD that I use for video footage and DVD production. I have a 500 gig Hitachi in aa no-name case that I use for backing up the 130,000 pics from webpage. The latter had failed in part once and recently but it back running.
In memory of John Lucas (1937 - 2010)

Offline tvgordon

  • Posts: 501
  • Springfield, Ohio
Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2008, 05:48 PM »
b_m_hart,

I guess what I was asking was what if I was over, for instance,850 gb of stored data and one of the drives went bad.  I wouldn't have the same info on each of the 250 gb drives, so some info would be lost - right?

Dick,

I was just planning on backing up certain files, but now that you bring it up, it would be a good idea to back everything up in case the hard drive crashes on the desktop.  I'm glad you brought that up.  Is that what the Ghost software does?

John,

Do any drives you've used stand out as more reliable than others - Maxtor maybe?

Tom.

Offline b_m_hart

  • Posts: 413
Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2008, 06:35 PM »
b_m_hart,

I guess what I was asking was what if I was over, for instance,850 gb of stored data and one of the drives went bad.  I wouldn't have the same info on each of the 250 gb drives, so some info would be lost - right?


There are different ways in which data is arranged along an array of disks using a RAID scheme.  So the quick and easy answer is your data would not be lost with a single hard drive failure.  Here's how it works:

Hard drive enclosure with four hard drives:

Hard drive 1 - 1 TB:
750 GB data
250 GB data parity

Hard drive 2 - 1 TB:
750 GB data
250 GB data parity

Hard drive 3 - 1 TB:
750 GB data
250 GB data parity

Hard drive 4 - 1 TB:
750 GB data
250 GB data parity

So of the 4 TB raw disk capacity, you have 3 TB usable.  The other 1 TB is consumed by parity data.  Parity data is basically a copy of the primary data - so the parity data for disk 1 is simply a copy of that 750 GB of data.  Parity data for disk 1, for example, is spread out between disks 2, 3, and 4.  Parity for disk 2 is spread out between disks 1, 3, and 4, etc.  So, if any one disk fails, you are still in business, and have not lost any data.

And that's where it gets tricky.  The formula isn't a straight 1:1 data to parity in a RAID 5 (or 6) scheme as mentioned above.  It takes about 25% overhead.  It's some really tricky stuff, so don't let that confuse you.  It all boils down to the computer having the data it needs to re-create everything when a disk is lost.

Now, a 1:1 relationship is straight data mirroring - when you have one 1 TB hard drive, and mirror the data to a second 1 TB hard drive.  When one fails, it doesn't matter, as the second hard drive takes over.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2008, 06:38 PM by b_m_hart »

Offline woodshopdemos

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2008, 07:46 PM »
b_m_hart,

I guess what I was asking was what if I was over, for instance,850 gb of stored data and one of the drives went bad.  I wouldn't have the same info on each of the 250 gb drives, so some info would be lost - right?

Dick,

I was just planning on backing up certain files, but now that you bring it up, it would be a good idea to back everything up in case the hard drive crashes on the desktop.  I'm glad you brought that up.  Is that what the Ghost software does?

John,

Do any drives you've used stand out as more reliable than others - Maxtor maybe?

Tom.


TheMaxtors havent failed me yet after 2 years of use. The 4th has lossed data, but now fixed (it doesnt give you a warm fuzzy feeling in that it has lossed data once, no matter what the reasonwas.
In memory of John Lucas (1937 - 2010)

Offline Dick R

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2008, 09:48 PM »
Yes Ghost will do image backups, incremental backups, and file-by-file backups.

There are other programs that do that stuff too, I just happen to use and like Ghost.

Offline fidelfs

  • Posts: 527
  • Houston, TX
Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2008, 01:08 AM »
I am using western digital to back up my macbook pro with time machine.  Time machine makes the back up so easy and you don't have to do anything.  The bad things is only for Mac (I love my mac  ;D).

I also like Linux and Open source, the suggestion from Mathew is good.

This is just me but I don't trust HD which have mechanical movements, they will fail eventually.  What I do is I keep my back up with WD and time machine and also DVD's.  When I take pictures I store the raw picture in the DVD, just in case the back ups fail I have the original, I think of this like my "negatives" (reference to 35 mm). I do the same with my videos, I kept the raw footage in DVD's and use WD for regular backups.

So my point is that if the back up fails and I lose my picture/video, I still have the original in a more safe medium.  I know I will have to spend time to get to the final product but this better than not having a picture at all.

I am a software engineer and travel and I can tell you horror stories from some friends, my advise, pick the brand you trust but always, always, always, always, have redundant back ups.  Don't ever trust a single point of failure.  Have different mediums, DVD and HD, flash drives and HD, etc.

There is never a situation where it can't be done with the right hand tool - even though it may be a lot more work.

Offline tvgordon

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  • Springfield, Ohio
Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2008, 06:49 PM »
Thanks for the advise everyone!

fidelfs,

Right now I don't have enough experience with drives to have a brand to trust.  I've gotten a lot of good suggestions so far.  As a side note, what kind of camera do use have?  I guessing a dslr since you're shooting raw.

Tom.

Offline woodshopdemos

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2008, 12:25 PM »
A late posting maybe BUT... for doing any video work, all the experts say that =you have to use a drive that spins at 7200 rpm. That was easy, when I was buying drives for my non-linear-editing room, all the external drives were at 7200. Today when going thru a couple of the hardware siurces, I noticed that more than 1/2 the external hard drives spin at 5400 and not 7200. The exception seems to be  be Western Digital and Maxtor.
   I just googled and found that 7200 is indeed the standard for video work.
Here is statement from Microsoft:
Rotation speed?the number of times that a hard drive spins around per minute (much like a tire on a car): 5400 revolutions per minute (RPM) is standard, and 7200 RPM is what you'll see on high-performance drives consumer drives. On servers the drives can spin as fast as 15,000 RPM, but those drives are very expensive. For video work, and indeed for a faster performing computer in general, 7200 RPM is the best choice. That's not to say that if you have a 5400 RPM hard drive you can't work with digital video, but if you're buying a new hard drive I strongly recommend a 7200 RPM drive. Once you start opening and saving gigabytes of data, you'll appreciate the extra speed boost.


   I know that when I use my internal HD which is a 5400 rpm unit, I get quite a few drop-outs and you really dont want those. They can affect the picture of course and worse, will cause some editing programs to not allow the whole bit...that can be very annoying.
In memory of John Lucas (1937 - 2010)

Offline b_m_hart

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2008, 12:52 PM »
A late posting maybe BUT... for doing any video work, all the experts say that =you have to use a drive that spins at 7200 rpm. That was easy, when I was buying drives for my non-linear-editing room, all the external drives were at 7200. Today when going thru a couple of the hardware siurces, I noticed that more than 1/2 the external hard drives spin at 5400 and not 7200. The exception seems to be  be Western Digital and Maxtor.
   I just googled and found that 7200 is indeed the standard for video work.
Here is statement from Microsoft:
Rotation speed?the number of times that a hard drive spins around per minute (much like a tire on a car): 5400 revolutions per minute (RPM) is standard, and 7200 RPM is what you'll see on high-performance drives consumer drives. On servers the drives can spin as fast as 15,000 RPM, but those drives are very expensive. For video work, and indeed for a faster performing computer in general, 7200 RPM is the best choice. That's not to say that if you have a 5400 RPM hard drive you can't work with digital video, but if you're buying a new hard drive I strongly recommend a 7200 RPM drive. Once you start opening and saving gigabytes of data, you'll appreciate the extra speed boost.


   I know that when I use my internal HD which is a 5400 rpm unit, I get quite a few drop-outs and you really dont want those. They can affect the picture of course and worse, will cause some editing programs to not allow the whole bit...that can be very annoying.


John,

On my home PC I have a couple of Raptor (10K RPM SATA) hard drives, with the boot partition striped across two of them.  So, two hard drives to write to / read from.  It's pretty zippy:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2010150014+1035507821&name=10000+RPM

Now, if you want the new hawtness:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=2010150014+1035507779&name=15000+RPM

Basically, if you have room for four hard drives in your computer (and most folks these days do), you get four hard drives.  Yup, get two of the smallest fast hard drives - the 36 GB work just fine, even with Vista.  You set up the RAID 0 partition on the two, and install ONLY the operating system on the 72 GB partition created with those two disks.  Next, you get two bigger disks, and repeat the process.  Everything else (all applications, saved files, everything) goes on these two disks. 

If you have room for more than four hard drives (and enough ports to plug them into on your motherboard) then you can do more.  The reason for doing something like this?  Well, it segregates the traffic, so to speak.  All operating system requirements are handled by physically separate hard drives from everything else.  This means that there's substantially less disk contention, and less waiting (latency).  For people that do a LOT of video editing, this is really the way to go.  Here's a link to help you understand why:

http://www.storagereview.com/guide2000/ref/hdd/perf/perf/spec/posLatency.html

You can make all sorts of analogies, but the RAID set up boils down to cutting out all of the operating system overhead, and doubling (or more) the hard drive's ability to read / write data.  Video takes up a TON of resources as you're well aware of, and because it can't all happen in your system RAM, the hard drive set up will make things substantially faster.

Offline Steve Baumgartner

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2008, 01:19 PM »
Lots of good stuff here about brands, size, backup strategy.  Here's a related question that maybe some of you can help me with: what is the best interface for an external hard drive?  Can any of them match the performance of an internal drive at an affordable price?  All the vendors seem to be pushing USB 2.0, but that strikes me as more based on naive-user convenience (plug and go) than performance or reliability.  What about eSATA?  Is that realistic if my motherboard only has PATA?

Offline b_m_hart

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2008, 01:38 PM »
Lots of good stuff here about brands, size, backup strategy.  Here's a related question that maybe some of you can help me with: what is the best interface for an external hard drive?  Can any of them match the performance of an internal drive at an affordable price?  All the vendors seem to be pushing USB 2.0, but that strikes me as more based on naive-user convenience (plug and go) than performance or reliability.  What about eSATA?  Is that realistic if my motherboard only has PATA?

Lots of variables to consider there.  USB 2.0 supports transfers up to 60 MB/s (480 Mb/s), while eSATA can support transfers up to 120 MB/s (~1 Gb/s).  Now, bear in mind that this requires that you have a gigabit ethernet port on your computer.  If you have 100 Mb ethernet, you'll see a max of 12 MB/s transfer - so 1/5 that of the USB 2.0.

Regarding the PATA question, there's info regarding that in the eSATA link...

So, if you have USB 2.0, and Gigabit ethernet, go with the eSATA.  If you have USB 2.0 and fast ethernet (100 Mb), then go with the USB 2.0.  If you have neither?  Buy a gigabit ethernet adapter card and the eSATA in my opinion.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2008, 01:39 PM by b_m_hart »

Offline woodshopdemos

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #21 on: July 11, 2008, 04:43 PM »
That is way too much info for my "gozeinto" brain. I have the HP xw8400 work station with 8 meg of RAM and there is alot of room inside but I think I will stay with the USB setup that I am using. I capture from one source at a time and that seems to  be the only real need for the transfer speed. Edit viewing doesnt go in and out and rendering of the final goes at a slow transer rate...at least with the softwar I am using Pinnacle Studio 11.
   I do thank you for the heads up. I wish you were next door when I first set this thing up.
In memory of John Lucas (1937 - 2010)

Offline Steve Baumgartner

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #22 on: July 12, 2008, 10:07 AM »
Lots of variables to consider there.  USB 2.0 supports transfers up to 60 MB/s (480 Mb/s), while eSATA can support transfers up to 120 MB/s (~1 Gb/s).  Now, bear in mind that this requires that you have a gigabit ethernet port on your computer.  If you have 100 Mb ethernet, you'll see a max of 12 MB/s transfer - so 1/5 that of the USB 2.0.

Regarding the PATA question, there's info regarding that in the eSATA link...

So, if you have USB 2.0, and Gigabit ethernet, go with the eSATA.  If you have USB 2.0 and fast ethernet (100 Mb), then go with the USB 2.0.  If you have neither?  Buy a gigabit ethernet adapter card and the eSATA in my opinion.
Thanks for the info, but you lost me...how does the ethernet adapter speed affect the hard drive speed?  Can't I connect directly to a USB port or a SATA adapter?

Offline b_m_hart

  • Posts: 413
Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #23 on: July 12, 2008, 03:00 PM »
Lots of variables to consider there.  USB 2.0 supports transfers up to 60 MB/s (480 Mb/s), while eSATA can support transfers up to 120 MB/s (~1 Gb/s).  Now, bear in mind that this requires that you have a gigabit ethernet port on your computer.  If you have 100 Mb ethernet, you'll see a max of 12 MB/s transfer - so 1/5 that of the USB 2.0.

Regarding the PATA question, there's info regarding that in the eSATA link...

So, if you have USB 2.0, and Gigabit ethernet, go with the eSATA.  If you have USB 2.0 and fast ethernet (100 Mb), then go with the USB 2.0.  If you have neither?  Buy a gigabit ethernet adapter card and the eSATA in my opinion.
Thanks for the info, but you lost me...how does the ethernet adapter speed affect the hard drive speed?  Can't I connect directly to a USB port or a SATA adapter?

So the hard drive is not the limiting factor - it's the method of connection.  It's kinda like having an engine in your car that can go 150 MPH, but gearing in your transmission that redlines your engine at 55 MPH.  So, the speed of the connection is basically better gearing for your transmission.

Offline woodgeek

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Re: External Hard Drives
« Reply #24 on: July 13, 2008, 02:41 PM »
what b_m_hart mentions bears repeating -- I wired my house with Cat6 cable, have gigabyte ethernet ports on all my computers, but the WD drive I used to have, had only a 100Mb ethernet port.  This  s l o w e d  down my backups as well as any large file transfers tremendously.  The Buffalo terabyte server has a gigabyte port and transfers are fast.  I can stream video and audio from it with no problem.  The type of ethernet port a device has now is one of the first things I look at with any type of network device...

carl
no matter where you go, there you are...