Are Segate Barricudas a good choice for external drives?
March 5, 2011 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for 2T hard drives for external enclosures for my iMac. I'm interested in the Seagate Barracudas

We use them at work but there are some pretty bad reviews on newegg which concern me.

Has anyone used these that could comment? And if you have better suggestions please let me know. Thanks.
posted by captainscared to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Anecdotal evidence about hard drives seems to be just that...anecdotal, and manufacturers can get a rep simply for having one bad batch.

That said, over the past two years, Seagate have had a number of high-profile issues with their products, and I've personally had nightmares with their RMA process after having 3 seagate products fail on me in the course of a year. I'm going to be avoiding them for a while.

On the flipside, I've had much better luck with Western Digital. Fewer failures, and a much more pleasant RMA experience for the one I had that did start failing.

Basically: Make backups, and buy drives with a good warranty. Unless the 2TB drive is for a backup of your system drive, you should buy two or subscribe to an online backup service (provided you have a fast enough internet connection to backup 2TB of data without taking a decade to do so).
posted by schmod at 4:58 PM on March 5, 2011

All I can do is confirm everything schmod said. I had a 2TB Seagate as my TimeMachine backup, and it died a horrible death at the worst possible time, just 9 months after purchase. The RMA process was a nightmare. In the last 5 years, I've had 4 HD failures - all Seagates. I've bought about 35 HD in that time. My best experience has been with Western Digital. I've also had a handful of Hitachis and so far no problem. The Western Digitals are 2TB, I've had 6 of them, and under heavy use - as media servers. I'm on a Mac.
posted by VikingSword at 5:06 PM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: VikingSword - do you know what model I'd use for an external enclosure that uses Firewire 800?

Thanks so much for the feedback.
posted by captainscared at 5:12 PM on March 5, 2011

Caviar Green if speed isn't too much of an issue for you. They're still respectably fast. I have one of these in an external enclosure. No problems and silent.

Caviar Black if speed is really important, and heat, noise, and power consumption aren't.

RE4 if they're going to be in any sort of RAID configuration. The others allegedly have problems in RAID setups.

Really, you can put anything into an enclosure, and it'll work.
posted by schmod at 5:16 PM on March 5, 2011

I can't speak highly enough for Barracudas; nor recommend strongly enough against Western Digital. I don't think I've ever had a WD last more than a year, but its been so long since I've bought them - maybe they've turned things around.

That said, it wont really matter what drives you have as long as you back up, and have a backup of your backup. Meaning: drive A has your data. Drive B has your backup of drive A. Drive C has another backup of drive A and is kept in a different location than drive B. When any of A, B, C dies, replace it immediately.
posted by ish__ at 5:17 PM on March 5, 2011

captainscared - I echo what schmod said. You can put any drive in, and they all will work with FW800; which one you put in will depend on your needs. If you are doing something like video editing, you many want to put in a faster drive (7200RPM), if it's for a media server purposes, one of the slower drives will be just fine (5400RPM). If the drive is something you will access from time to time, or one that's primarily used for backup, then it makes sense to go for the green one, as you'll save on energy and it'll be quieter and doesn't require the fan to kick in the enclosure (or can be put in a fanless enclosure). One point wrt. RAID configurations - usually, it's recommended that you use the same kind of drive across the entire array, rather than mixing and matching different sizes, speeds, etc.
posted by VikingSword at 6:45 PM on March 5, 2011

I wish I caught this AskMe earlier, because I swear against Seagate and don't care too much for Western Digital right now. I've been lucky so far in that the last 10 Samsung drives I've purchased through newegg have yet to fail. That includes 2 2.5" Laptop Drives, 2 of the F2EG eco drives, 5 F3 1TB's and one F4 2TB.

Seagate is still getting a terrible rep from the 7200.11 firmware bug, as it was very widespread and Seagate wasn't forthcoming in acknowledging the issue, which set most of the enthusiasts in rage mode against Seagate.

Western Digitals are fine for single drive systems, but don't get me started on RAID. A co-worker suggests Hitachi, as they are the brand he currently swears by.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:38 PM on March 5, 2011

Definitely the 7200.11 firmware bug (on the 1Tb drives) dropped Seagate's stock mega in the enthusiast crowd.

Haven't heard any bad things about 7200.12 or any of the current 2Tb drives. 2Tb Seagates around here are $10 cheaper than Western Digitals; that said, the 5400 rpm 2Tbs are a lot cheaper than a couple of 7200 1Tbs from either company and *loads* cheaper than a 2Tb 7200 rpm drive. My next backup/media drive will be a 5400 "green" just because of cost.

What's the interface for your external; firewire, eSATA, USB2, USB3? If you're using a USB2 enclosure, all effective bottlenecks will be USB2 and not the performance of your drive. With eSATA, you may notice a difference between the "green" 5400 rpm drives and the 7200 rpm drives, depending on how you're using the drives.
posted by porpoise at 8:06 PM on March 5, 2011

In the past, I would have sworn by Seagate. Recently, I am less impressed. They are still pretty much what I buy for myself, but not as bulletproof as they used to be.

I fix computers for a living. I've put in a LOT of 40 and 80gb seagates, usually to replace Maxtor, WD and Samsung drives. None of them failed. To my knowledge. The first two drives of a batch of 160's died instantly, and then a week later.

Also had some of the "bad" 7200.11 drives work just fine.

And I've been killing laptop drives pretty regularly. (That could be me, though.)

I gave up on WD a few years ago when I found that they were awfully noisy and clunky.

As always: digital data doesn't really exist until you have at least two copies of it. Never trust a hard drive.
posted by gjc at 8:13 PM on March 5, 2011

Western Digitals are fine for single drive systems, but don't get me started on RAID.

I've got a 1tb Caviar Green in a linux software raid going against some 7200.11 and 7200.12 drives. So far, so good. I am impressed- the drive doesn't even get warm, and I haven't noticed any speed issues.
posted by gjc at 8:15 PM on March 5, 2011

I've put in a LOT of 40 and 80gb seagates, usually to replace Maxtor, WD and Samsung drives. None of them failed. To my knowledge.

Clarification: the Seagates were installed to replace failed Maxtor, WD and Samsung drives, and none of those Seagates failed.
posted by gjc at 8:16 PM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: I have gtech externals. They come in enclosures and are more expensive. They've knock on word been reliable. Anyone know what the internals are? Foes gtech actually make the drives too?
posted by captainscared at 8:30 PM on March 5, 2011

This is a timely question for me as my year-old Western Digital 1TB external HD just stopped working, taking my entire music collection and my Time Machine backups with it.

I've been considering getting a LaCie 1TB as a replacement. I hope captainscared won't mind me piggybacking off his question to ask if any of the commenters in this thread have thoughts on that brand? Would a Seagate be a better choice?
posted by Georgina at 8:58 PM on March 5, 2011

I had two separate 1 TB Western Digital drives go kaput within a month of each other, just over a year after purchase (totally different install locations). So that's left me a little cold.

I'm back with Seagate for now.
posted by mazola at 9:04 PM on March 5, 2011

"Western Digitals are fine for single drive systems, but don't get me started on RAID"

Were you using Enterprise RE4 drives? If not, then the problem lies not with the drive, but your choice of drives. Normal drives have error correction built in, and when performing data recovery, most RAID controllers will throw the drive because it's non-responsive. RE4 (and other similar RAID-friendly drives) do not have the error correction built in, and are more suited to happily existing in a RAID.

I'm replacing 8 2TB WD Green drives with 8 1TB RE4 Enterprise drives. The 1TB drives are about twice what the 2TB Green drives cost, but they can live in my two RAID5 arrays without being thrown.

I've never really had a problem with any one brand, but I've had good luck with Western Digital, so I stick with them. Other major brands are fine, I'm sure. Have a good backup solution and you'll be fine.
posted by santaliqueur at 10:18 PM on March 5, 2011

I have gtech externals.

I know that Hitachi own G-Tech. Thus I would hazard a guess that they probably use Hitachi-brand hard drives.

FWIW, I know several people who have had nothing but excellent experiences with G-Tech products, so it might be worth continuing on the same brand route with the internal hard drives.
posted by Magnakai at 3:02 AM on March 6, 2011

Cynically, the nice thing about using Caviar Greens for RAID applications is that you can usually kill them well before their warranty expires. As long as your fleet of drives is large enough, and you weren't stupid enough to use RAID 5*, you can just keep RMAing your Greens until they are too small or too slow to be useful.

Even more cynically, one would be well served to expect this behavior from any hard drive. That's the point of RAID/redundancy anyway. Expect drives to fail. Plus, sometimes the drives you get back from RMA are bigger/faster than the ones you sent in. It's a good idea to run the manufacturer's integrity tester proactively, before the drives start acting weird. You can fail them before they fail themselves and cause trouble.

Aside- my array consisted of three seagates and one WD. The smart data for the Seagates all showed a good amount of correctable read errors. The data for the WD showed none. I don't know if that is WD hiding the data, or WD being better drives.

Didn't that Google hard drive report basically say that there is no difference between manufacturers? They are all suceptible to having a bad batch here and there, and it averages out to being more or less equal?

*Don't use RAID 5 if you ever expect to need to rebuild your array. RAID 5 is almost as bad as no RAID at all.

Can you clarify your meaning? It's pretty much industry standard. Or at least it was when I was bangin'.

If you are talking about using consumer grade "fakeraid" controllers, yes, I agree. The data is pretty much gone if the controller dies. But linux software raid is pretty bulletproof, as are the enterprise-grade controller cards.

If you mean that with giant drives these days, having another parity drive would be a good idea (n-2 instead of n-1), I would also agree. On volumes where the usage pattern is low, meaning there is a big percentage of the data that goes untouched for long periods of time, doing a rebuild can expose failures in other drives and fail out. Having two parity drives reduces the chances of this happening.

Even though it seems to cost more, it still ends up being cheaper (per gb) compared to the previous generation of drives. Just for example, lets say you need 2tb of space. With 500gb drives, you need 5 for raid 5. At that size, you can probably be safe with just one parity drive. A year ago, those drives were probably in the $60 range. So you are paying $300 for 2tb, or $150 per tb. Now you can get 1tb drives for the same price, and double your parity, and only pay $120 per tb.
posted by gjc at 8:09 AM on March 6, 2011

gtech and laCie do not make their own internals. The last LaCie drive I had (about 6 years ago) had a Hitachi drive inside.
posted by schmod at 12:46 PM on March 7, 2011

And to clarify about the Seagate RMA process being a nightmare:

I had an external drive fail under warranty. I RMA'd the drive, and waited....months (Their "advance replacement" option costs extra, unlike other manufacturers, who only place a hold until they get the faulty drive back). During that time, I moved to a new house. After the move, I contacted Seagate to let them know that I had moved, and hadn't gotten my drive back. They responded after a week to let me know that they had "lost" the drive, and were looking into it.

Two more months goes by, and I get a call from my friend who was now living in my old house. A package from Seagate had come, along with a $20 COD (which he paid). I drove to the house, forked over twenty bucks to my friend, opened the box, and found my old drive in it, with a big orange sticker on it that said 'NOT REPAIRED'. By that point, the warranty had expired, and Seagate refused to talk to me to further resolve the issue or explain why they had sent me a $20 COD along with the exact same thing that I mailed them ~6 months prior.

By contrast, when I had a WD drive start throwing bad sectors, I went to WD's website, and a new drive was in the mail on its way to me the next day. I got the new drive in a few days, rescued my data with dd_rescue, and mailed the bad one back about a week later. The only inconvenience I encountered was 5 bucks for return shipping, and a trip to the post office.

posted by schmod at 12:58 PM on March 7, 2011

Speak of coincidences! Last night I had another Seagate HDD fail. It simply disappeared from my desktop, and when I rebooted, the drive could not be read by OSX. I swapped out the enclosure in case it was a problem, but no, it's the drive. It was an older drive, a 300GB one, and I hooked it up to my iMac 4 months ago or so, because I had some old files on it I needed access to. So it lasted some 4 months this time around - I only used it occasionally, to transfer files back and forth 2-3 times a day, the rest of the time it just sat there plugged in. Anecdotes and all - this is part of a bunch of Seagate drives I bought over the past few years, and in the last year I've avoided buying any Seagate drives.
posted by VikingSword at 1:56 PM on March 7, 2011

Response by poster: So is there any consensus? I'm more confused than ever.
posted by captainscared at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2011

So is there any consensus? I'm more confused than ever.

No. Just anecdotes. Remember that you generally don't hear from happy hard drive owners, mainly because you don't really think/care about your hard disk until it fails.

Check the newegg/amazon reviews before buying. Unless the reviews indicate a widespread and systemic issue with the particular drive you're looking to buy, you'll probably be fine.

Despite my misgivings about Seagate, I don't particularly believe that they're any less reliable (on average) than WD, Hitachi, or Samsung. However, after my horrific RMA experience, it's going to be a while before I willingly go back to them...
posted by schmod at 8:43 AM on March 9, 2011

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