Mac/Windows compatible external hard drive - no AC required
April 16, 2010 9:17 AM   Subscribe

What external hard drive (at least 250 gigs) can I buy today in Vancouver, and where? Yes, this is similar to this question (just asked) but with some unique details.

Those unique details:

1. it must be able to run off the computer's power (ie: no AC plug-in required)

2. it MUST easily move data (mostly WAV and mp3s) between my Macbook and various Windows boxes (XP and later)

Worth noting. I've recently had major frustration with a Western Digital drive (250 gigs) which various Macbook's have recently stopped "reading". That is, it powers up fine when plugged in but it won't show up on the Mac's Finder, or anywhere else for that matter. It still works fine with my old XP box.

Again, I'm in Vancouver and I need to purchase this hard drive today. What should I buy and where can I get it?

Thanks all.
posted by philip-random to Technology (16 answers total)
I have a W/D Passport 500GB that works just fine on mac and PCs. I bought mine at Staples.
posted by jckll at 9:24 AM on April 16, 2010

look for "bus powered" on the box. that means it doesn't need an ac adapter

Your current drive you have is most likely formatted in a way that macos can't read (depending on the version of macos, could be NTFS). You'll want to format your new drive FAT32.
posted by CharlesV42 at 9:36 AM on April 16, 2010

Response by poster: Your current drive you have is most likely formatted in a way that macos can't read

Sorry, I should have made it clear. The current Western Digital drive was working fine with Macbooks but then slowly, over a period of months, it took longer and longer for Macbooks to read it until they finally just couldn't. Two things come to mind on this:

1. upgrades in OSX are straining the power management in Macbooks (Mac certainly isn't admitting this)

2. the hard drive, for whatever reason, is sucking more power than it used to.

Either way, it's not a formatting issue.
posted by philip-random at 9:46 AM on April 16, 2010

Best answer: Walk into any NCIX and talk the the staff. (The one in Vancouver is a block away from Broadway and Burrard.) I love NCIX; very competitive prices (better than any big-box), and to buy most anything in the store you actually need to talk to someone. Tell them what you need, they'll try to hook you up.
posted by cgg at 9:56 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

"talk the the staff" => 'talk to the staff'
posted by cgg at 9:57 AM on April 16, 2010

Some bus-powered drives come with a cable that has two PC-side USB plugs, which gives the drive a double allowance of USB power. If your failing drive doesn't already have a cable like that, you may find that using one fixes it.
posted by flabdablet at 10:05 AM on April 16, 2010

Can you reformat the drive on a Mac (to a FAT drive)? Macs sometimes have trouble reading Windows-formatted systems, particularly if you're just unplugging the drive without doing the "safely remove hardware" dance. Might save you from having to buy a new one.
posted by bonehead at 10:32 AM on April 16, 2010

Are you certain that this is a power issue? Might be fragmentation instead, particularly if a FAT drive.
posted by bonehead at 10:34 AM on April 16, 2010

Costco is selling Seagate 1TB drives for ~ US $150. They're USB powered and come with a 5 year warranty. I love mine. They're formatted for windows, but I reformatted mine for HFS+ (or whatever the current OS X format is) and it works great. You can format and partition from Disk Utility (Applications -> Utilities -> Disk Utility).
posted by zippy at 10:43 AM on April 16, 2010

I should add - it's the Seagate FreeAgent Go, a slim device like you'd want with a notebook computer. It uses one USB port.
posted by zippy at 10:46 AM on April 16, 2010

Walk into any NCIX and talk the the staff.

If you're in the east end go to ATIC at Broadway and Quebec. Likewise, tell the staff what you need and they'll set you up. I see several TB drives for less than $100.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:49 AM on April 16, 2010

To share data between Windows and OS X, I think you'll want a FAT32 partition. It's not the ideal Windows partition, but in a lowest-common-denominator way it works everywhere.

NTFS would be better from the Windows side but, if I remember correctly, is only readable by OS X. Last time I checked (two years ago?) you had to install special drivers for OS X to write to NTFS.
posted by zippy at 10:50 AM on April 16, 2010

Best answer: I was going to recommend Factory Direct but I just found out that they're only in the Toronto area. I found recommendations here for the following stores in Vancouver: (not sure if they'll have drives though)
posted by papafrita at 11:32 AM on April 16, 2010

Best answer: NCIX has four locations in and around the city, they've been my go-to shop for years now.
posted by jjb at 12:08 PM on April 16, 2010

I had one USB memory stick which seemed to stop working under MacOS. No icon would appear on the desktop, and it seemed like it hadn't mounted, but it appeared in /Volumes (which is accessible through Go->Go to folder in the Finder), so was in fact still usable. This might also be the case with your old drive.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 12:27 PM on April 16, 2010

Response by poster: NCIX wins. I just got back with a Samurai Personal Dedicated Data Storage Warrior ($99 + tax) and feel somehow stronger, more capable, more prepared to take on the world.

Thanks for all the help and info.
posted by philip-random at 5:37 PM on April 16, 2010

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