Western Digital or Seagate
December 9, 2007 1:08 PM   Subscribe

I have an external hard drive on my Christmas list. I'd like to make the shopping easy on them by giving specific choices. I've done some searching (here and via Gooooogle) but I need that extra oomph from the genius that is the hive mind.

My research has shown the best choices are Western Digital and Seagate, and I'm interested in My Book and Free Agent, respectively. So, what experience and/or advice can you send my way?
-I'm on a iBook G4
-I read on a previous thread that the usb/firewire is really the way to go, which the my book premium has...is it really worth it?
-I will be using it a lot. One of my main desires for one is extra space for movies/TV shows.
-I may need to use it now and then on my boyfriend's PC (running Linux). I read about the formatting in FAT, I found that Seagate allows for this, but didn't see anything on WD. And will it work with Linux? And is it easy to do?
Sorry for the noobish questions, but I am computer illiterate and want to make this as easy for the family as possible.
I am actually leaning more toward SG as they have a 5-year warranty, but if WD is better in ways that make that point moot, let me know. Or if there is another brand that is superior to either of these, let yourself be known. Thanks in advance.
posted by Epsilon-minus semi moron to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm always worried that if I brag about mine, it will break, but I've had it for nearly a year now with no problems. It's the LaCie 160 GB Rugged Hard Drive USB 2.0/FireWire400/FireWire800 8MB. It's tiny, pretty, and easily portable. It was automatically formatted FAT, but I switched to NTFS because I don't ever use Macs. I use it for all my music, movies, photos, and school work. I even run most of my apps off there in portable form (Portable Apps Firefox, etc.) because I have multiple computers.
posted by melissam at 1:23 PM on December 9, 2007

Sorry to be vague and possibly unhelpful, but I would google a bit regarding the MyBook and failure. I've heard a lot more of signal to noise with them failing recently at an alarming rate.
posted by willmize at 1:24 PM on December 9, 2007

- Firewire is better. USB is more prevalent. The premium for both is not that high, so do get both.
- If you'll be using this mostly with a Mac, you probably want to format it as HFS+, the Mac's native disk format. FAT will work, but I believe some features will be unavailable on your Mac. Time Machine definitely will not work with anything other than an HFS+ drive. If use with Linux will be only occasional, probably better to install HFS+ support on the Linux box (if it isn't already present).
- I'm sure that every manufacturer's drives can be formatted however you want. Don't be concerned with that.
- Lacie has some pretty spiffy enclosures, but I'm not sure whose mechanisms they use.
posted by adamrice at 1:44 PM on December 9, 2007

You might want to read this about the Seagate drive.
posted by punilux at 2:07 PM on December 9, 2007

Avoid Seagate/Maxtor. My first one died after a month, and the company was an absolute nightmare to deal with on warranty replacement. They charge for the shipping, and they sent me a downgrade (USB Only) drive as a replacement, forcing me to call them and make them send YET ANOTHER hard drive.

They stink.

However, before that, I had a Western Digital (gave it up simply because it was too small) and it worked like a champ. Still does for my wife.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 2:22 PM on December 9, 2007

Agree with Doctor Suarez. I bought a Seagate drive to replace an old Acer, and entered a living nightmare. The first drive started locking up within three weeks. They sent me a refurbished one, and I was barely able to get all my data off before it stopped working entirely. I had the refurbished one for about a week when it started having fan issues. They sent me another refurbished drive. This one also started locking up within six weeks. They again, sent me another refurbished drive. This one, within a month, stopped working entirely.

I sat on the phone with tech support (overseas, sounded Indian) who read directly from a manual and was absolutely no help. Finally I was able to get to a second level tech support person, who was somewhere in the U.S., who said that he thought it was the USB hookup inside the enclosure. So I then went and bought a new enclosure (at my own cost), and a new, Iomega hard drive. After opening the enclosure and attempting to install the Seagate drive into it, I found that the refurbished drive was a SATA hookup, even though their specifications on the website say it's ATA. (Or, maybe the other way around -- can't remember.) Thus, I had to go buy a NEW enclosure, again at my own cost. I installed the old Seagate drive into the new enclosure and transferred everything to the Iomega, and haven't had a problem since.

After finagling with Seagate's highest-level customer-care center, I was able to get them to send me a completely new drive, but I sold it on eBay -- I'll never trust my data to their junk again. I recommend you avoid Seagate/Maxtor at all costs.
posted by PandemicSoul at 2:41 PM on December 9, 2007

I've had a Western Digital My Book 250 GB with Firewire that I use on my Macs (an eMac, an iBook G4 and a MacBook) for just over a year now with no real problems, other than the occasional refusal to mount (just plugging the cable back in again, or pulling out the power cord for a moment, always does the trick). I'd definitely go with WD again, and I intend to do so in the New Year -- especially considering I can get a drive with 500 GB for the same money I spent a year ago.
posted by macdara at 2:49 PM on December 9, 2007

While I've never bought a WD or Seagate external drive, I have bought many WD drives over the years--some of which went into my own external enclosures. I've never had problems with any of them.
posted by sevenless at 3:50 PM on December 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone so far. This is why I came here. I read reviews on both hard drives on a few sites and both had a majority of positive reviews. So, other than the warranty, it was pretty much a dead heat, but it looks like WD is pulling ahead. Can I get some love for SG?...and please do not respond with "while the movie had it's highlights, I find the series superior on many levels"
posted by Epsilon-minus semi moron at 3:54 PM on December 9, 2007

I am astonished by the Seagate experiences above. Seagate drives are all that I will buy, and have bought for the last 6-7 years. I got burned, like a lot of people did, by high performance, high failure-rate Maxtors, and moved to Seagates. I had noted that most of the mass prodcution machines I worked with had either Maxtor, or WD drives, and felt that was a good indication that they are best avoided. I figured if they were cheap enough for Dell and HP to use, I prolly didn't want them.

Now, many could argue that logic, and maybe I'm just being superstitious. Seagate had a great reputation as a SCSI drive manufacturer back then, and were usually a little more expensive. Sorta looked like one of those "you get what you pay for" situations.

In the past 6-7 years, I've purchased 3 or 4 drives for myself, and probably another 5-6 for others and have had ZERO problems. The next drives I buy will also be Seagates.

Now, maybe I've been lucky. Also, I've had NO experience with external drives. But, I thought I'd throw my positive experiences in, to muddy the water at least. I love my Seagate drives, and one other thing...I think they were the first HDD manufacturer to offer a 5 year warranty. To me, that suggests that they do not expect very many failures.
posted by Richat at 5:28 PM on December 9, 2007

I have the WD MyBook 500G model, and yes, it's FAT formatted. I use it on Linux all the time. Won't any decent device these days have both FireWire and USB2? Anyway, try to get both.

That said, I kind of hate my MyBook. So far I haven't actually lost any data, but I'm questioning whether there are bad sectors because the performance SUCKS. Last night it took about 25 minutes to copy less than a gig from the drive to my laptop - on USB 2.0. Other devices have used that same port to copy a gig in... less than 2 minutes, anyway. The speed seems to come and go; certain parts of the file are really fast but other parts crawl at 20K/sec (!).

I know this is just another anecdote, and it's hard to gather good data on stuff like this, but there you go.
posted by rkent at 6:47 PM on December 9, 2007

I use a Lacie constantly (it holds my iTunes library, among other frequently-accessed things) and have had absolutely no trouble with it for almost two years now.
posted by robcorr at 10:58 PM on December 9, 2007

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