Mac’s hard drive near capacity? Time to add more storage
Mac’s hard drive near capacity? Time to add more storage The hard drive in your Mac is often referred to as an internal hard drive. An external hard drive is packaged in a case and connects to your Mac usually via USB or FireWire. External hard drives can be portable, generally using smaller 2.5-inch drives and can run off of USB or FireWire bus power, or they can be designed to find a home on your desk, using 3.5-inch drive mechanisms and requiring a power supply plugged into a wall outlet.
External desktop hard drives are great because they have a more affordable price per gigabyte than portable drives, allowing you to backup your important data without worrying about capacity and cost. You can buy 1TB USB 2.0 external hard drives for under £60. Hard drives have faster data-transfer speeds than DVDs or CDs, and they’re easy to use. They can be disconnected from one computer and attached to another, and they come in a variety of sizes and forms. If you’re looking for a quick and painless way to add massive amounts of storage for your music, photos, videos, or system backups, an external hard drive is hard to beat.
External hard drives buying advice
Capacity Capacities range from 160GB to 4TB. If you have lots of media or graphics files, more is better. If you’re using Time Machine to back up your Mac, the larger the capacity of your backup drive, the more versions of your documents will be stored. Often, the largest available capacities can come with a price premium, so expect to pay more per gigabyte for a 4TB drive than for a 1TB, 2TB or 3TB drive, which are more common. Many 1TB external hard drives starting from around £60. Amazon for instance currently has a 1TB Toshiba external hard drive listed for £60.
Connectivity You’ll use USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800, eSATA, or Thunderbolt to connect to you Mac. Many drives feature multiple ports, but some offer only one (usually USB or FireWire 800).
USB 2.0 isn’t the fastest connection on the Mac, but it’s the most common, although the latest Macs do have USB 3.0 ports. USB 3.0 drives are compatible with USB 2.0, but they will operate at USB 2.0 speeds. USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapters and PCI cards are available, but they often only support a single manufacturer’s drives.
If you have older Macs equipped with FireWire 400, then it’s nice to have a drive with FireWire 400. FireWire 800 is faster and is backwards compatible with FireWire 400 with the proper cable.
While still only a small number of drives feature Thunderbolt connectivity, all current Macs (except for the current Mac Pro) support this super-speedy interface. Simple point but if you don’t have Thunderbolt on your Mac, you can’t use a Thunderbolt drive.
Many high-capacity drives offer eSATA (external Serial ATA), which, at 1.5 or 3 gigabits per second (Gbps)—depending on which version of Serial ATA is implemented—can be faster than FireWire 800. Owners of the discontinued 17-inch MacBook Pro can add eSATA by using an ExpressCard/34 card. Mac Pro users can tap into the two unused SATA ports on the motherboard, using Newer Technology’s eSATA Extender Cable.
Speed The faster the platters in a hard drive spin, the better the performance. 7200 rpm (rotations per minute) is standard for desktop hard drives and plenty fast for most users. (Most Mac notebooks feature 5400-rpm drives.) If your tasks include recording audio, working with video, or gaming—tasks that require constant drive access—and you currently have a slower drive, a 7200-rpm external drive will provide better performance.
Mac Pro users who do professional-level audio or video production might consider a 10,000- to 15,000-rpm drive, for optimal performance. These high-performance drives usually offer less storage capacity and require a SCSI connection, so you’ll need to either install a SCSI card like Atto’s ExpressPCI UL4S to support the connection, or consider a RAID instead.
RAID Some desktop external hard drives have more than one hard drive inside. With two drives, the unit can be configured as a striped array (called RAID 0), which makes one partition of the two drives and writes and reads simultaneously for faster performance. If one of the drives dies, you lose all of your data. The two drives can also be configured as a mirrored array (called RAID 1). Mirroring the drives safeguards your data by keeping two identical copies of your drive. The downside is that you can only use half of the unit’s storage capacity
Some two-drive external devices can also be configured to use the drives individually in a JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) setup. This way both drives mount separately as if they were two one-disk external drives. If one drive dies, the other can continue to operate.
Added features Almost all USB or FireWire external hard drives are compatible with Time Machine, as long as the drive is HFS+ formatted (and, of course, you must be running OS X 10.5 or above, which include Time Machine).
Some drives include extras such as bundled software, one-touch backups, and software encryption. And keep in mind that external hard drives are common targets of theft: if your drive is publicly exposed (say, at work) find a drive with an antitheft port that you can use to tether the drive to your desk, and consider using encryption.
LaCie Porsche P'9223 Slim
We said: Like the other models in LaCie’s Porsche range, the P’9223 Slim has an attractive slimline design, and is constructed out of sturdy aluminium. It measures just 15mm thick, and weighs about 180g, so it’s easy to slip into a case along with a MacBook when you’re on the road. Around £129 (120GB SDD drive)
LaCie Rugged USB 3
We said: LaCie’s Rugged drives are popular with many Mac users, and this latest model adds a solid-state drive and Thunderbolt interface to the range. The drive’s full name is actually ‘Rugged USB 3 Thunderbolt Series’ as it is equipped with both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt interfaces. That’s a sensible move, as it allows you to use the drive with older Macs and PCs that don’t have Thunderbolt. Around £169 (from 120GB)
Elgato Thunderbolt SSD
We said:The Thunderbolt SSD gets full marks for build quality, with a sold metal casing that should certainly be able to survive a few knocks when you’re carrying it around with you. Elgato also offers a full three-year warranty on the Thunderbolt SSD, which should provide some extra peace of mind for people who are likely to submit the drive to more extreme outdoors conditions. Around £240 (for 120GB storage).
Buffalo MiniStation Thunderbolt
We said: The MiniStation Thunderbolt is equipped with both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interfaces. That’s handy, as it means that you can use it with older Macs and PCs that don’t have Thunderbolt. It comes pre-formatted in the Mac’s HFS+ format, and can be used for Time Machine backups straight away, but the manual provided with the drive also includes instructions for reformatting for use with PCs if required. Around 500GB - £190.00; 1TB - £210.00.
Western Digital VelociRaptor Duo
We said: The VelociRaptor Duo is a dual-drive RAID storage system designed for use with the high-speed Thunderbolt interface found on the latest Mac models. It’s only available in a single configuration, with a pair of one-terabyte drives, although you can open it up and install your own drives if you prefer. Around £779 (2TB).
Verbatim Store ‘n Go Executive
We said: The Executive software provided with the drive runs on both Macs and PCs, and allows you to program that button to perform one of several possible actions. It can eject the drive for you, start a Time Machine backup, launch a particular file or web site, or even lock your Mac so that no one can sneak a peek at your files when your back is turned. For additional security there’s also a separate Protection program that allows you to set a password and encrypt your files too. Around 500GB - £86.99; 750GB - £101.99; 1TB - £127.99.
Read Macworld's full review of the Verbatim Store ‘n Go Executive here.
Iomega StorCenter ix2
We said: This compact dual-bay drive can be bought with a pair of 1TB, 2TB or 3TB drives, providing a total of 2TB, 4TB or 6TB storage. This new model can also be bought as an empty chassis for £119, which gives you the option of providing your own drives. From - diskless - £119.00; 2TB - £329.00; 4TB - £409.00; 6TB - £569.99.
Western Digital MyNet N900 Central
We said: Western Digital’s new MyNet N900 Central goes one better than Apple's Time Capsule, as it includes both a hard disk and a full dual-band wireless router. Prices start at £299.99 for a model with a 1TB hard disk, with the 2TB model costing £349.99. That’s quite a bit more expensive than a Time Capsule, but of course the N900 Central also includes the router as well.
Freecom Hard Drive Sq
We said: Its first Sq drive was a portable model that was so slim it looked more like an SSD drive than a conventional hard disk. The Hard Drive Sq isn’t quite that small, as it uses a larger 3.5-inch disk drive and is very much intended as a desktop drive. Even so, it’s a lot smaller and more attractive than most desktop drives, measuring just 16cm wide and deep, and a mere 3cm high.
Western Digital My Passport Studio
We said: The My Passport Studio performs well with both Firewire 800 and USB 2.0 interfaces. Its Firewire interface produced a data transfer speed of 512 megabits per second in our tests, giving it a clear edge over the 439Mbps of the GoFlex. Performance with the USB 2.0 interface was slower, as you’d expect, but its speed of 254Mbs still puts it at the higher end of the range for USB2 performance. Around £279.
Seagate GoFlex Cinema
We said: As the Seagate is part of the GoFlex range, you’ll be able to update it at a later stage. Simply unplug the video end of the device and plug it into a new GoFlex compatible disk. This means that in a few years when 50TB disks are available, you’ll be able to easily upgrade the storage capacity of this drive; the caveat being that this requires a Seagate drive and the GoFlex range to continue for years to come.
We said: The DiskStation 2411+ is aimed at the small to medium business, and consists of 12 drive bays constrained by the now familiar stocky metal cuboid (310 x 300 x 340mm) form factor. The drive bays are locked in place using a key-operated mechanism, with two keys provided. Each drive bay will hold one 3.5in or 2.5in SATAII hard disk up to 3TB in capacity, giving a total capacity of 36TB before RAID formatting.