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Old 26. Sep 2013, 03:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Your view on subject of external hard drive vs. internal HD in an enclosure?

I have been looking for a 2TB portable external hard drive with USB 3.0 or equivalent. I'm now thinking seriously about getting a WD.

I'm hearing on other threads that external drives are not built for continuous use (cooling has been mentioned as an issue) and that one needs to go the more expensive route of an internal hard drive in an enclosure.

I would prefer having a secondary hard drive running concurrently with my computer. Comments?



Present :Windows XP
Home Edition
Version 2002
32-bit
Service Pack 3

Dell DIMENSION DIM2400
Intel(R)
Pentium(R) 4 CPU 2.66GHz
2.66 Ghz. 2.00 GB of RAM
Hard Drive Size 111.72 GB
Free Space 37.3 GB

Intending to move as soon as I find one to a new laptop with state of the art home user processing, at least 1 TB hard drive, and at least 8 GB RAM.

Last edited by MidnightCowboy; 26. Sep 2013 at 04:47 PM. Reason: Removed unnecessary link
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Old 26. Sep 2013, 06:40 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I've had problems with a few external HDD's over the past couple of years, however, none of them were in continuous use.

I've come to the conclusion that the weakest link frequently turns out to be the enclosure itself, or more precisely it's controller card inside, rather than the actual HDD contained within.

So my advice would be to go for a good quality enclosure / manufacturer.
Personally I consider external HDD's to be short lifespan items that shouldn't be trusted as your only data storage.

As an alternative, have you considered a small NAS drive for your purposes?
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Old 26. Sep 2013, 09:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
So my advice would be to go for a good quality enclosure / manufacturer.
Personally I consider external HDD's to be short lifespan items that shouldn't be trusted as your only data storage.
I'm not completely understanding you. With external hard drives, 90% of your choices are Toshiba, Seagate, or WD. Can you be more specific about going for "a good quality enclosure / manufacturer"?

Do you regard internal hard drive + enclosure as preferable although significantly more expensive?

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As an alternative, have you considered a small NAS drive for your purposes?
Not so far, because I've never heard of that. Could you inform me?
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Old 26. Sep 2013, 10:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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A USB external drive is "an internal hard drive in an enclosure". It is a cheaper package because it is a cheap enclosure and cheap HDD and it doesn't provide the flexibility of easily swapping the HDD. But they are inherently only slightly less reliable than a cheap HDD in a cheap PC. Either way, if you want better reliability then you usually have to pay for it.

Yes, in general a fanless enclosure is more likely to have problems from overheating but then many PCs are fanless too without it compromising HDD reliability.

I think that "portability" is the main weakness of external hard drives because it exposes the HDDs to worse treatment than cocooned in a PC. They are not usually supplied as portable but they are treated as if they are. So connectors and cables are easily damaged, the unit is easily dropped, people move them while they are in use, they are more susceptible to power supply problems, other objects are placed around or on them increasing the risk of overheating, etc. Whereas a real portable/pocket external drive will usually be USB powered and small enough to fit in a pocket.

As Sope says, also consider a NAS (Network Attached Storage) particularly if you will have more than one computer or media device (TVs, players, games consoles) attached to your network. The network speed won't be as fast as USB 3 depending upon your configuration (Gigabit Ethernet would be best) but there are advantages in not having a portable drive that has to be placed and connected next to your computer. Also, if your laptop has a 1TB disk then network speed is less likely to be an issue if you won't be doing much work directly on files on the NAS.

Some routers provide NAS support by allowing you to plug in a USB external drive. Performance tends to be average to poor unless the router is high-spec but it is a cheap option if your router supports it.

You should also consider the functional features of external HDDs particularly as you have a laptop:
  • Make sure that the USB 3 external drive doesn't have to plugged in before starting your laptop. I haven't heard of it for USB 3 drives but it does happen for some USB 1 and 2 drives which would defeat the benefit of using a laptop if you had to restart it just to hook up the drive.
  • Normally external drives power down when not connected but it is useful to have a HDD that can power down when it has not been used for x minutes. That will save you a lot of power, generate less heat, and is a feature of more expensive units.
  • You can also get features like multiple disks and RAID. It's at the cost of higher power use but you may benefit from the redundancy and the ability to plug in other drives. This would allow you to reuse your old drive but I doubt you want to because, from memory, the Dell Dimension 2400 uses older IDE drives and doesn't have SATA support.
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Old 26. Sep 2013, 10:56 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Not so far, because I've never heard of that. Could you inform me?
NAS is "network attached" so it uses your Ethernet or wireless network to communicate. NAS units usually provide more advanced features because they tend to be used as network file servers. You can also convert a PC to a NAS server by installing software like FreeNAS.

FYI, USB is a networked architecture. Usually a home network uses Ethernet with the router as the primary network hub. With USB, your PC acts as a hub for connected USB devices: there can be up to 127 connected in a hierarchy with up to seven levels of hubs.
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Old 27. Sep 2013, 01:34 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Usually I go for the cheapest option unless the data is important. For me that's my eSATA/USB 2.0 enclosure and 1 TB internal HDD which I already own, just needed to buy the cable.
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Old 27. Sep 2013, 05:02 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I use a BlacX sata hdd docking station. Its somewhat hot swap capable (don't have to shut down computer to swap drives) and you can use any sata drive. I'm using it with a USB 2.0 cable, but also has a eSata port for faster connections. The newer BlacX docs use USB 3.0 instead of eSata. New docs only cost about $50 and since it's not enclosed there are no heating issues, but the drive is exposed. Still I can swap out multiple drives which really comes in handy for troubleshooting issues on a boot drive. Any hoo...
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Old 27. Sep 2013, 06:14 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Correction, mine's a dock and happens to be BlacX as well. Don't forget to buy a laptop with USB 3.0 ports (coloured blue) or maybe eSATA to take advantage of the speed.
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Old 27. Sep 2013, 10:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conceptualclarity View Post
I'm not completely understanding you. With external hard drives, 90% of your choices are Toshiba, Seagate, or WD. Can you be more specific about going for "a good quality enclosure / manufacturer"?
There are in fact a number of manufacturers of "external hard drives", not just those you mention. They will typically design their own enclosure and then fit it with a cheap HDD from one of the big makers such as WD or Seagate.
As they tend to be built to a price (budget), some of the components may not be particularly reliable. My experience is that the cheap enclosure components tend to affect reliability more than the actual HDD contained within.
Sadly in this field it seems "you pay your money and take your chance".
My strategy would be to look for a good warranty, read reviews of the particular model you are considering, and not trust one of these devices as your sole data store i.e. always have another backup of your important files stored elsewhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by conceptualclarity View Post
Do you regard internal hard drive + enclosure as preferable although significantly more expensive?
More preferable, yes, but only in as much as they are easier to get into if a problem arises and more significantly, in the event of a failure, you can remove the HDD and simply replace the enclosure or return it for a replacement.


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Originally Posted by conceptualclarity View Post
Not so far, because I've never heard of that. Could you inform me?
As others have said, NAS stands for "Network Attached Storage"

My preference would be one of these for reliability and data safety, although it will be a significantly more expensive option.
IMO the beauty of it is that you can install 2 HDD's in RAID 1 and thereby have identical copies of your data created simultaneously on 2 separate HDD's thus protecting yourself from loss of important data should a problem arise with either one of the HDD's.

NAS is not really as simple or portable an option as such, but of course they can be set up to be accessed directly via the internet.
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Old 27. Sep 2013, 01:21 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks, fellows, for lots of good advice and information.

A techie on another site said this to me :

Quote:
...I recommend that you avoid any drives of 1TB or larger with a 32-bit Operating System. 32-bit operating systems have difficulty recognizing large data drives unless you are meticulous in your computer setup. The same goes for internal hard drives in an external case.
Your comments?
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