Tell me what internal hard drive to buy for my MacPro.
October 17, 2009 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Tell me what internal hard drive to buy for my Mac Pro.

I'd like to add a 1TB internal hard drive to my fairly new Mac Pro. I plan to use this drive for Time Machine backups. There are about a gazillion choices for internal 3.5" SATA drives. I just want to know which brand and/or model to buy. I'm interested in reliability first, price second. Personal experiences, please.
posted by Joleta to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure this is a good method for selecting a brand/model since you're only collecting anecdotal evidence, but: I've had great luck with Western Digital and Hitachi. Maxtor and Seagate, not so much. Samsung is okay.
posted by hjo3 at 8:33 PM on October 17, 2009

A harddrive is basically a commodity item at this point. If you buy from a known brand, and not some random Chinese maker, you're fine. Some are a little faster, some are a little slower. All have roughly the same mean time between failures.

Seagate, Toshiba, Maxtor and Western Digital are my suggested brands. I'm personally a Western Digital man... I like their Caviar series for the large cache size. But, for backups, that hardly matters.

Find the cheapest one from those brands I mention, and you'll be just fine.
posted by Netzapper at 8:35 PM on October 17, 2009

If you really mean "reliability first", look into an "enterprise" version of a SATA drive. They have much higher mean-time-between-failures (MTBF).

Something like a Seagate Barracuda ES.2 (1tb,, $159)

Harddrives are not really "commodities" -- sure -- the cheapest are -- but enterprise/nearline, and SAS drives are much better for a myriad of reasons.

Stick with something like the ES.2.
posted by SirStan at 8:57 PM on October 17, 2009

Western Digital RE3 Sata 1TB Enterprise ($186) would be another good choice.
posted by SirStan at 8:58 PM on October 17, 2009

An internal hard drive is not really the best choice for a backup, as it can be fried in the event that the computer's power supply fails in a spectacular manner. Power supplies do fail. I'd suggest buying your choice of 3.5" SATA300 HDDs and a good quality (Rosewill) USB2.0+IEEE1394 external enclosure from newegg.

Also remember RAID-1 is not a backup.
posted by thewalrus at 8:59 PM on October 17, 2009

Rosewill is Newegg's inhouse relabeled China sourced items. It is no more of a quality item than a Walmart "Vizio" TV is a quality TV, or a Rocketfish item from BestBuy (also cheap inhouse brand).
posted by SirStan at 9:03 PM on October 17, 2009

Since reliability is your priority, buy Seagate branded or Hitachi drives. Avoid Western "Return To Sender" Digital, the Maxtor line, Toshiba, Fujitsu. I've had really easy and pleasant experiences using the Western Digital RMA / warranty replacement process, which is very much hassle-free if you're willing to put a credit card up, but the reason I use the process so much is because they fail all the goddamn time.
posted by majick at 9:13 PM on October 17, 2009

Response by poster: Oy! Now I've got more variables to worry about! I was originally looking for an external Firewire HDD (so I can use one of those Firewire ports for something and not take up another USB port. But they were much more expensive. Then I figured I could use one of those three spare bays and not take up any ports at all, but I hadn't thought about a power supply failure frying an internal drive. Is putting an internal HDD into an enclosure pretty much the same as buying an external HDD, functionally, and would it be cheaper? Are there Firewire enclosures? About RAID-1: doesn't this apply to multiple drives in an enclosure? I'm only buying a single drive.
posted by Joleta at 9:31 PM on October 17, 2009

(And I've never had a Western Digital drive fail. I have a pair running right now that have been going for the past seven years, with occasional power cycles. I've bought half a dozen in the meantime, as well, and never had a problem with them.

This is what happens when you ask for anecdotes.)
posted by Netzapper at 9:32 PM on October 17, 2009

Is putting an internal HDD into an enclosure pretty much the same as buying an external HDD, functionally

Yes. 100% identical. A harddrive in an enclosure is all they're selling you as an "external harddrive". Take the case off of an external drive, and inside will be a totally standard drive.

and would it be cheaper?

Yes, often. Especially at large sizes.

Are there Firewire enclosures?


About RAID-1: doesn't this apply to multiple drives in an enclosure? I'm only buying a single drive.

RAID logically ties together multiple drives to appear as one volume. Ignore any talk of RAID. You're not doing it, so don't worry about it.
posted by Netzapper at 9:35 PM on October 17, 2009

If you want the best performance you should search for an external hard drive that supports the IEEE1394b (Firewire 800) standard. If you buy a cheap USB2.0 only hard drive it will transfer data at a real world maximum of about 25 to 27MB per second even for sequential writes of large single files. Firewire 400 is better but not optimal. If you say you have a Intel based Mac Pro it has a Firewire 800 port on it, so why not take advantage of it.

There is no point to having a "backup" destination hard drive that lives inside your PC. Part of the whole point of backup is to give you peace of mind if something catastrophic happens to the PC (theft, exploding power supply, computer falls off a desk, lightning, etc). Ideally if you intend to use a hard drive only as backup, as a replacement for what tapes used to be used for, you would let time machine synchronize and then unplug it and put it in a safe or take it off-site.
posted by thewalrus at 11:13 PM on October 17, 2009

All the above solutions stink. None of them solve for the burglary/fire case. I've had friends & customers loose data because of theft. Shiny Mac Pro + Shiny External Drive = A Few Hits of Your Choice Drug.

You are /best/ off adding a 1.5TB drive internally on a sled. Set this drive up as your time machine backup. Then, get an external 1.5TB drive and use SuperDuper to clone your Time Machine drive.

NOW TAKE THIS EXTERNAL DRIVE OFF SITE. You don't need fancy enterprise drives. You need multiple drives. You need offsite drives.

Don't forget to TAKE THE DRIVE OFFSITE. Thanks.
posted by mmdei at 12:04 AM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

=) Apparently I didn't read the post before mine. Sorry.
posted by mmdei at 12:25 AM on October 18, 2009

Best answer: "There is no point to having a "backup" destination hard drive that lives inside your PC. ...., you would let time machine synchronize and then unplug it and put it in a safe or take it off-site."

Do you know what Apple's Time Machine is? No? Then don't show off your ignorance here, because there absolutely is a point to doing what Joleta plans to do. Seriously, the dumbest thing in the world you can do with a Time Machine store is to remove it from the machine, because then it's not doing the one thing that makes Time Machine worth running in preference to some other backup solution: continuous backup.

Time Machine isn't really "backup" in the sense you're talking about. It's the repository for a versioned file history. Does a versioned filesystem stored on an internal device protect you from theft or a certain category of hardware failures? No, of course it doesn't. But it does let you go back and retrieve the version of a given file from this morning, because you overwrote it or threw it away. It does let you pull out that batch of photos you deleted in April because you thought you'd already printed them for grandma.

Time Machine isn't backup for system administrators, who want disaster recovery and protection from every conceivable category of failure. Time Machine is backup for end users, who want mitigation of their own frequent screwups. It's not unreasonable to use internal storage to run your versioning filesystem. It'd be even smarter, of course, to take periodic system snapshots on an external device in addition to Time Machine versioning, and store those at the office or in the in-laws' garage.

That's pretty much what I suggest: Buy an inexpensive, large hard drive for Time Machine. Then buy another one that's roughly the size of your normal everyday non-Time Machine hard drive to put into an enclosure, and once a month run Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! to create a bootable clone of your hard drive on it. Stash that somewhere, preferably off-site.

"Is putting an internal HDD into an enclosure pretty much the same as buying an external HDD, functionally, and would it be cheaper?"

Yes, by variable amounts. There are some extremely cheap enclosures and some relatively expensive enclosures.

"Are there Firewire enclosures?"

Yes. Firewire enclosures tend towards the more expensive end of things, but have the advantage of not being unbearably dog slow like USB2 devices are. Unless you desperately need to shave the extra $30 off your project, go with Firewire.

"About RAID-1"

Ignore talk about RAID-1. It's not relevant to your interests, and appears to have been mentioned by someone who didn't understand what you're trying to do here. Don't place too much weight on that guy's opinions, he's lead you astray twice already.
posted by majick at 5:44 AM on October 18, 2009

Response by poster: I should mention that for offsite backup I'm running Mozy Home Unlimited, backing up my address book, mail, application preferences, iCal, documents, photos, etc.
posted by Joleta at 7:26 AM on October 18, 2009

This is what you want - Western Digital external hard drive with firewire 800
posted by limited slip at 9:15 AM on October 18, 2009

Response by poster: limited slip: That's a 500GB HD. Thanks for the pointer, though. I found the 1TB version lower on that page. This is probably what I'll get. Essentially, I'm right back where I started, with an external Firewire drive. Guess my first instincts were the best.
posted by Joleta at 9:37 AM on October 18, 2009

Response by poster: Just read bunches of reviews about problems with the 1TB Western Digital My Book Studio Edition. Now I'm not so sure . . .
posted by Joleta at 10:11 AM on October 18, 2009

WD externals have a pretty high failure rate anecdotally speaking, even if the drive mechanism itself somehow manages to overcome WD's iffy-at-best track record. I could give you the names of five people I know who've had the WD 500 and WD 1T enclosures themselves just go tits-up. Wholly separate from my disrecommending WD mechanisms, I disrecommend WD enclosures even more.

You can still do OK building your own external, or you can throw a cheap 1T drive inside the machine and accomplish most of what you're looking for.
posted by majick at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2009

Response by poster: I've got a 750GB WD My Book that's been running fine for a couple of years. I've got a lot of movies and music on it, nothing irreplaceable. I've got Time Machine running on a 250GB Seagate, which was wonky when connected to my old Dell but seems to be fine on the MacPro; just too small for Time Machine.

So, back to my original question: Which 1TB internal drive should I get?
posted by Joleta at 2:40 PM on October 18, 2009

Joleta: "Just read bunches of reviews about problems with the 1TB Western Digital My Book Studio Edition. Now I'm not so sure . . ."

This is proof why the question of "what hard drive should I buy?" is an unanswerable question.

In case the point hasn't been made clear enough by now: It doesn't really matter what drive you buy. Buy *any* 1 TB drive from a reputable, well known manufacturer, stick it into your Mac Pro, and be done with it. If you're really concerned about your data, buy another drive, and periodically clone it using SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner.

The reason why it doesn't matter what brand of drive you buy is because ALL OF THEM WILL FAIL. And the scary part is that it doesn't matter how new the drive is, how expensive it is, or how often you use it. They *will* fail. I've had WD Mybooks, "Enterprise" rated SATA internal drives, Seagate Barracudas, Lacie/WD/Maxtor/Seagate externals, et. al. all fail on me for no apparant reason.

I used to be one of those "Western Digital Bad, Seagate Good" kinda guys, but after having 4 relatively brand-new, "Enterprise rated" Seagate Barracuda ES.2 drives fail in my 10-drive eSATA RAID-0 unit last year, my new mantra is: "The best hard-drive you can buy is the hard-drive that you can buy two or more of". In other words, if you back your data up to at least two physical drives, it doesn't matter what brand you buy, because the physical redundancy you get from doing this will be inherently more reliable than any single brand of drive you could buy.

But hey, since you wanted a specific answer, I can say (as someone who generates and backs up about 1-2 TB of data *per week*) that I'm now partial to the Western Digital Caviar Green drives for backup. They're cheap, quiet, run insanely cool and have been more "reliable" than my old "reliable" standby, the Seagate Barracuda. I just buy the bare OEM drives in bulk from NewEgg, then pop them into one of these Drive Docks to create cloned backups that I take home with me to get the backup offsite (in my case, I'm cloning the contents of my LTO4 backup tapes, but it could just as well be a Time Machine or SuperDuper! clone).

But seriously, you shouldn't be wringing your hands about what drive to buy. The only reason I can recommend the WD Green drives is because I am neurotic about backups, and have my data backed up to a RAID5, LTO4 tapes, online/cloud (using CrashPlan, which is far and away superior to the horrifically crappy Mozy) and to the aforementioned standalone bare drives. I work under the correct and demonstrably proven assumption that any drive I use can/will fail at any moments notice. And if I'm storing data on it that I really care about, I won't trust this drive alone to keep the data secure.

Bottom line: Ignore any advice to buy specific brands of hard-drives, and instead focus on physical redundancy. And if you object to this mindset because it's too expensive to buy redundant backup hard-drives, then I would retort by saying that you didn't really care about the data you're backing up to begin with.
posted by melorama at 5:26 PM on October 18, 2009

Joleta: "Just read bunches of reviews about problems with the 1TB Western Digital My Book Studio Edition. Now I'm not so sure . . ."

Fact: It is impossible to find an electronic or computer product that doesn't have a "bunch of reviews" about it that are negative.

Generally, the only people who make the effort to login to a website to opine about a product are the ones who have a perceived problem with it, and need to whine about it to someone. People who are happy with a product generally go on about their regular lives, and don't waste any of said life posting to Amazon, NewEgg, etc. to say how great and reliable the product is.

In the case of hard drives, if you were to go by what "reviewers" on the internet have to say about them, you would probably be better off selling your computer on Craigslist, and go back to using an abacus, because acccording to Reviewers-On-The-Internet, EVERY hard-drive "sucks", and is "unreliable" and "fails all the time".

Oh, the irony.
posted by melorama at 6:02 PM on October 18, 2009

Response by poster: Just popping back in to mark this resolved and thank everyone for their suggestions. I bought a 1 TB Western Digital Caviar Black internal drive on sale at Best Buy. I moved all my media files from my existing WD MyBook 750GB onto the 1TB internal drive and repurposed the 750GB drive for Time Machine. So far everything is working fine.
posted by Joleta at 1:45 PM on November 27, 2009

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