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what to look for in an external harddrive


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#1 Jonny77

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 03:05 PM

I want to purchase my first external harddrive to store pictures.

 

What am I looking for in one?  Can I use the external harddrive to view pics on a Mac if they were saved from a Windows PC? 

 

What should I stay away from when looking for one?



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#2 smax013

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 12:46 AM

I want to purchase my first external harddrive to store pictures.
 
What am I looking for in one?  Can I use the external harddrive to view pics on a Mac if they were saved from a Windows PC? 
 
What should I stay away from when looking for one?


Well, unless your computer has USB 3.0 ports, you will likely want to stick with USB 2.0.

The next thing to decide is do you want a "desktop" external drive or a "portable" external drive. The former makes use of a 3.5" (aka desktop) drive inside the enclosure and will have an external power cable/adapter that you will plug into the wall. The latter makes use of a 2.5" (aka laptop) drive inside the enclosure. Portable drives will be smaller physically and can be used using bus power...i.e. does not need to be plugged into the way for power. Generally, you can typically get more "bang for your buck" with a desktop drive (i.e. larger capacity for the same amount of money), but then if you are traveling somewhere it is bigger/bulkier and you cannot use it unless you have a wall power plug.

Once you decide between portable vs. desktop, the next thing to decide is capacity that you need/want.

After all that, you are then to the point of deciding which brand. This will somewhat be decided by how much you want to spend. Beyond that, you might just look through reviews and customer reviews. Others might suggest a specific brand.

Personally, these days I tend to "build" my external drives (i.e. buy an internal drive of the size & capacity that I want and then buy an enclosure that has the connections that I want). I mainly do this because I tend to want to use Firewire or eSATA...and finding external drives with those connections can be a challenge. In addition, if the enclosure goes bad, I buy a new one...or if the internal drive goes bad, I buy a new one. And lastly, I don't have to deal with any "value added" software that they might include on a "retail" external drive.

You can view pics on an external drive on a Mac that were saved from a Windows PC. Most "retail" external drives (i.e. that you would buy from the likes of Staples or Best Buy, etc) will tend to be formatted in FAT32. A Mac can read and write to a FAT32 formatted drive. Even if you reformatted the drive as an NTFS drive, the Mac can still read from it, but cannot write to it unless you install some additional software on the Mac.

#3 Jonny77

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 07:19 AM

wow just looking its hard to find one with a 2.0 usb - seems they have all gone with 3.0  :scratchhead:



#4 smax013

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 07:40 AM

wow just looking its hard to find one with a 2.0 usb - seems they have all gone with 3.0  :scratchhead:


USB 3.0 is backward compatible with USB 2.0, so any USB 3.0 drive will work. The only reason that a USB 2.0 drive might be desirable is because they might be slightly less expensive than the comparable USB 3.0 drive. Of course, drive manufacturer's may have decided that there is no value (for them) to keep making both (kind of like it is virtually impossible to find a car these days with "manual" [i.e. crank] windows), so you may not find too many actual USB 2.0 drives. This seems to be rather likely for the "big" manufacturer's. For example, I could find no "pure" USB 2.0 only Western Digital drives on NewEgg, except for some refurbished models. There are a number of smaller name drive manufacturer models available, however:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=Property&Subcategory=414&Description=&Type=&N=100007601&IsNodeId=1&IsPowerSearch=1&srchInDesc=&MinPrice=&MaxPrice=&PropertyCodeValue=359%3A7839

The point is that a USB 3.0 drive will be fine...and in some regards, it might be the better choice. Even though you might not be able to take full advantage of of the speed improvement right now if you do not currently have any USB 3.0 ports on your computer, more than likely your next computer will have USB 3.0 ports. So, unless you are the type of person who using a computer for like 10 years or so, odds are the drive will still work fine for use with your next computer. And if you really want to get the full speed benefit, more than likely you can add USB 3.0 ports to your current computer. That is something that is typically very ease to do for a desktop tower computer (i.e. one with PCIe slots) and as well as if you have a laptop with an ExpressCard slot.

Edited by smax013, 15 August 2013 - 07:42 AM.


#5 Jonny77

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 07:43 AM

Is this one any good and suit what I need it to do:

 

http://www.staples.ca/en/Seagate-1TB-Expansion-USB-30-Portable-Hard-Drive/product_373064_2-CA_1_20001?externalize=certona



#6 smax013

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 07:52 AM

Jonny77, on 15 Aug 2013 - 08:43 AM, said:
Is this one any good and suit what I need it to do:

http://www.staples.ca/en/Seagate-1TB-Expansion-USB-30-Portable-Hard-Drive/product_373064_2-CA_1_20001?externalize=certona

It should definitely do what you need to do and it should be fine. Since I have never used that particular model myself, I cannot comment on whether it is "any good" from direct experience, but I would certainly have no problem buying one for myself.

If it helps, on the Amazon US site, there have been more than 1000 customer reviews for that drive and on average they have given it 4.3 out of 5 stars. That tends to suggest that most people were happy their purchase.

http://www.amazon.com/Seagate-Expansion-Portable-External-STBX1000101/dp/B008R7FC74/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1376570997&sr=8-6&keywords=seagate+1tb+usb+3.0

#7 hamluis

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 01:38 PM

FWIW:  There are only 2 things that I would consider (other than price).

 

a.  An on/off switch is mandatory..and some cooling mechanism built into the drive.

 

Lots of users experieence problems booting when they employ USB devices with an "always on" status that can hinder proper recognition of system hardware during boot.

 

b.  Cooling I can trust.  Heat kills hard drives quicker than any other system component.

 

Louis






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