Best external hard drive for a Mac?
October 19, 2010 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Which 1 to 2 TB external hard drive should I buy for an iMac?

I have an iMac that has a 320 GB hard drive. I need a large (1 - 2 TB) external hard drive to back up my photographs and other files. I purchased a Western Digital a few months back that came with its own proprietary backup software, which I could neither disable or unmount from the desktop, so I returned it. I am looking for a hard drive that just acts like a hard drive, nothing else. I can use Time Machine to do my backups. I don't need the hard drive to come with its own software. Reliability and size is more important than cost, but cost is a factor to some degree. Any suggestions? Thanks!
posted by lbo to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've bought several from this place, Other World Computing, and have had no trouble using them with my iMacs.
posted by theredpen at 10:24 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can plug in a Western Digital drive, then open Disk Utility, select the drive and hit Erase, then reformat it as a journaled Mac disk. Then it will behave as a normal old hard drive. I learned this in a very roundabout way, but it's a simple and fairly quick process.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:32 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if it's best, but I got two of these recently and am quite happy with them. I had to reformat them first to mac format (I actually had an AskMe here about it.) But now that they're formatted, they're working great. I don't have time machine (still on 10.4), but these guys didn't come with backup software or anything. Just loads of space. (Although they are really 1.84 TB, not 2.0TB.)

Anyway, if you don't like that, look at New Egg for other ones, I find their prices are pretty good.
posted by Hactar at 10:34 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just FYI, it's possible to disable the WD SmartWare. I've done this several times.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2010

Like Hactar, I have two WD Elements. They work great and are quiet. One is set up for time machine and mac formatted, the other is formatted FAT32. I've never had a problem with either.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2010

I got this Western Digital 2TB drive a year ago. I think it did come with some backup software that I did not install (I use Time Machine). There's also some little WD utility app that I did install, though, but it shows only up on the menu bar by the clock, not on the desktop. Haven't had any problems with it. It has 2 physical drives that you can configure to operate as either a single 2TB drive or a mirrored 1TB drive.
posted by dnash at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2010

I have one of these Hitachi drives and it worked out of the box with Time Machine.
posted by carter at 11:20 AM on October 19, 2010

Doesn't everyone have to partition/format a drive when they first get it? Otherwise you'd have to specifcally look for a FAT32/NTFS/HFS+/EXT3/EXT4/ZFS formatted drive at the store and that sounds completely stupid. That would nuke whatever software there was.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:26 AM on October 19, 2010

I've always had very good luck with Lacie drives; I'm currently using a quadra in the office and a rugged to do off-site backups. I have (and have had) many of their drives over the years; I've only stopped using the older ones as they got too small.
posted by joeycoleman at 12:03 PM on October 19, 2010

I love the 1 TB G-drive minis. They run power through the firewire port so they don't need those clunky power adapters. Theyre on the more expensive side, but theyre reliable, well built, and run great.

But if you're looking for something that's basically bomb-proof, I hear Glyph drives are extremely reliable and theyre built like tanks.
posted by ManyNinjas at 12:11 PM on October 19, 2010

My method has always been to go to newegg, find an internal hard drive that's well reviewed, and buy an external enclosure that meets my I/O and aesthetic needs. Putting the two together has never been difficult and you save quite a bit of money.
posted by Cogito at 12:36 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just worked through exactly this question earlier today. I looked into various Western Digital drives (mostly because they're one of the few brands that still does Firewire), but the WD SmartWare issue put me off (as reductiondesign says, it is possible to disable it on some drives, but the Internets are full of tales of woe from people attempting to do so) and the one I have (pre-SmartWare) isn't the most reliable drive in the world.

Then I checked out an external Seagate drive, but the model I was looking at seems to have a bad habit of croaking, so I eventually ruled that out.

I suspect that, for any given make or model, there are going to be people posting stories online about how their drive died and how the manufacturer is to be avoided at all costs. If you read all of these, you'll probably end up building your own drive from scratch.

I eventually ended up going with this Hitachi XL, which seems to review well other than not being blazingly fast. As I'm going to be attaching it to an Airport Extreme and accessing it over a WiFi network, that shouldn't be too big a problem. It also has a plus in that it doesn't come with any bundled unremoveable shovelware, so it should just work with Time Machine. I've only just ordered it today, however, so I can't actually say how successful it is yet.
posted by damonism at 10:37 PM on October 19, 2010

Go with OWC. My sweetie and I are both Mac tech support professionals and refer all our clients to OWC when it is time to buy an external drive.
posted by kuppajava at 8:48 AM on October 20, 2010

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