Recommend a backup device for a Mac
December 10, 2006 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I need a good 500GB backup device for a Mac - any recommendations?

I already use a Maxtor OneTouch II 200GB, but sure as young people keep on becoming more disrespectful to their elders, so are my number of files increasing. I probably need something like 500GB capacity. I gather that most backup devices are pretty similar, but I'm sure there must be some that are regarded better than others.

The OneTouch used Retrospect Express, which worked very well for me, and it would be nice to get a drive with similar software. I'm unsure about whether a Firewire or USB2.0 interface would better (I have Firewire 400 on my Mac). USB seems to be cheaper, but I've read that it's slightly slower - any comments on this?

Also, I keep on reading about backup devices that can also do other stuff on networks, like stream music or whatever. Are these useful and worth having? Cheers!
posted by adrianhon to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Put a 500GB hard disk in the OneTouch. Job done.
posted by cillit bang at 12:29 PM on December 10, 2006

I'd save some money and buy a 500 GB harddrive and a firewire enclosure. Then, download one of the many wonderful (and free) backup utilities for Macs, and away you go.

Oh, and IIRC, Firewire is a bit faster than USB 2.0
posted by chrisamiller at 12:33 PM on December 10, 2006

What cillit bang said: the cheapest solution that doesn't require buying one more of software and hardware, or switching over to new software. Just swap the drive out with a PATA 500 GB drive.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on December 10, 2006

The drives inside external hard drive cases are exactly the same as the drives you put in your computer. So like cillit bang says, take the small one out, put the big one in. This might be a little trickier if you want to copy the files off the small drive onto the large drive.

I've usually had good success buying generic empty Firewire boxes in small quantities (3-4 at a time) and filling them with whichever decent-quality internal drive is on sale at the moment. It costs about as much as a prepackaged drive, but this way I know the drive mechanism isn't a bottom-of-the-barrel unit, which is more important than whether the case is. If you go this route, search under "1394" as well as 'firewire', because the really cheap drives are usually sold without licensing the Firewire trademark. Dealmac is a good place to find out who's selling the cheapest empty cases (or filled ones, if you'd rather not DIY) at the moment. Expect to spend around $20 for a bottom-of-the-barrel unit, two or three times as much for something with good electronics and a more attractive case. USB-only units are typically cheaper. 1394/USB combo units start around five dollars more than 1394-only.
posted by ardgedee at 12:43 PM on December 10, 2006

Yeah, forget the premade deals. These things all use bone stock parts and you can get the drives for cheap:

Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KS 500GB Serial ATA 7200RPM Hard Drive w/16MB Buffer ($169 w/free shipping)
Maxtor ATA100 500GB 7200RPM 16MB DiamondMax 11 ($165)

Then throw in an enclosure for about $35, there are too many to choose from. Just go to froogle and enter "3.5 usb enclosure" or something similar, you'll get plenty of hits. You can get them in any flavor you want: USB 2.0/firewire/both, PATA/SATA, with/without fan, etc. Note that if you go fanless you should get an aluminum one as opposed to plastic as it will conduct away heat better. (You might also have to make sure that the enclosure you choose supports large drives greater than 300GB, but they should say when they do.)
posted by Rhomboid at 1:04 PM on December 10, 2006

One minor point on the USB vs Firewire question: if your source is a fairy ordinary non-RAID workstation, sequential read speed on your source drive will probably be on the order of 50MB/s (400Mb/s), and actual disk bandwidth in practice will be quite a bit less. That being the case it pretty much doesn't matter whether you use USB2 or Firewire 400, because you aren't going to hit the ceiling on either of them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:26 PM on December 10, 2006

I think the biggest reason for the difference between FW400 and USB 2 is that USB is more CPU-demanding. FW controller chips supposedly do more processing themselves whereas USB tends to hand more stuff off to the CPU for dealing with. that said, on a modern CPU, you probably won't really notice the difference unless you're doing video editing or something that really taxes the drive.

IMHO, if you want a pre-built, the Western Digital MyBooks are pretty nice. (the 1TB version they have is really cool, actually - it's got removable drives and RAIDs them internally.) otherwise it's drop-dead simple to shove a disk in a box and there you are. I'd recommend a Seagate (5 year warranty!) or Samsung drive - they're both supposed to be really quiet - though I usually just get whatever compusa has on sale (which is usually Maxtor).
posted by mrg at 2:12 PM on December 10, 2006

I would personally prefer a non-Maxtor drive for an external enclosure. Maxtors make excellent drives, but they tend to run hot.
posted by flabdablet at 2:39 PM on December 10, 2006

grrr... Maxtors are excellent drives...
posted by flabdablet at 2:39 PM on December 10, 2006

Of course, if you're bent on buying a new block of plastic, these look lovely.
posted by armoured-ant at 3:00 PM on December 10, 2006

I love my Maxtor OneTouch III. Works great
posted by JayRwv at 4:28 PM on December 10, 2006

Seagate owns Maxtor now. It almost doesn't matter who you're buying drives from. A few years back, Western Digital was having their drives manufactured by Maxtor. They were just slapping the WD firmware & name on them.
posted by drstein at 7:25 PM on December 10, 2006

Some external enclosures will limit the size of the hard drive you can put in. You may want to make sure the Onetouch thingie can support a 500Gb drive. Maxtor website shows the Onetouch II is available in versions up to 300 Gb, while the Onetouch III goes higher. Not saying yours won't work with a larger hard drive, but you might save some frustration with a little research.
posted by forrest at 7:48 PM on December 10, 2006

nthing the Maxtor OneTouch III. Avoid Le Cie drives - I've had two go bad in as many months.
posted by ninthart at 3:42 AM on December 11, 2006

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