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External Portable HDD vs. Internal HDD+enclosure reliability

Last response: in Storage
August 11, 2009 4:22:49 AM


I want to purchase an additional HDD that would serve as a backup to my media files.
I'm interested in the capacity around 500gb. This drive

I did some checking and found the "Western Digital My Passport Essential 500gb" portable HDD. The reviews are generally positive and it seems to be better than other external (even non-portable) drives.
On the other hand, I can get an internal 3.5" HDD from Western Digital or Seagate with 1TB capacity and purchase an additional enclosure for $30-40.

I'm not requiring something that is portable, I just need a HDD which I can keep in my drawer and plug it to my PC once a month or so to update it with more media and that's it. Of course I will also need to use it in case I'll have to restore my data, so I need to know the data would be kept safe for times to come.
I do not care too much about transfer speeds or size. I just want something that will hopefully last for years and knowing that the data on the HDD will be kept for years. Basically, I want to go with the more reliable option in terms of data storage.
Both drives would cost around the same.

Any advice?
a c 415 G Storage
August 13, 2009 1:54:14 AM

I don't think you're going to see any significant differences in terms of reliability. The only thing I'd watch out for is to make sure the enclosure has a way to dissipate heat, either through the use of vents, fans, or direct conduction to the exterior of a metal case. Using a "green" drive also cuts down quite a lot on the amount of heat generated.

Make sure you're comparing apples to apples - if the WD Passport comes with both USB and eSATA, for example, make sure you're comparing the price of a case that comes with both if that's something you require.

If it were me, I'd go for the solution with the most storage per dollar.
a c 327 G Storage
August 13, 2009 7:32:45 PM

I'm used to pricing that made it cheaper to buy drive and case separately and assemble yourself (easy), but that may no longer be true. DIY does mean that you get to choose which drive is inside. WD drives seem to be most reliable now. On the other hand, pre-made units often come with free software for managing backups that may be useful.

WD Green drives are nice but you need to understand how and why they work. In normal use they run at 7200 rpm, just like most drives, and use marginally less power (so maybe a little less waste heat?). After some period of non-use, however, they drop back to 5400 rpm and use a LOT less power than regular drives in this resting state. When they are accessed, they resume 7200 rpm operation. So a unit that is always on, but not always in use, saves energy in the non-use periods. For your situation, if you only will use it to update your file backups and then turn it off, the advantage may be small.

When buying a case, three points to consider:

1. The internal interface, between case and drive, must match the drive you buy - probably SATA II now.

2. For cooling, you can choose with or without fan. With fan costs more and usually runs the drive cooler, although I worry how long the fan will live. But a case with no fan and solid metal exterior with air slots may provide enough cooling for most drives. I would not use an un-fan case, though, for devices like DVD burners that run motors and generate more heat.

3. For the interface between case and computer, consider these things. Often having at least two options in one case is good. USB II is everywhere, so it's always useful to have to ensure portability. eSATA is very good and faster than USB II if your computer has a eSATA port on it. Some tests show eSATA external cases with SATA II drives in them are just as fast as a comparable internal SATA II drive. IEEE 1394a (aka Firewire 400) is about as fast as eSATA and hence a good choice if you have that interface. A few units have IEEE 1394b (aka Firewire 800) that is the fastest of all these, but few computers have this port.

I have a case with USB II and eSATA interfaces, a no-fan metal case that includes an on / off switch so I can turn it off easily, and a separate external power brick so it does not try to draw power from the USB port (almost all are like this anyway) and the PSU heat is NOT inside the unit case, it is on the wall at the power outlet.
September 4, 2009 1:28:33 AM

Thanks for the replies sminlal and Paperdoc for the extended explanation.

I decided to use my current Western Digital 500gb SATAII main HDD as my external drive and purchase a 1.5 TB Western Digital HDD to replace my current. I have 3 unused SATA slots and 2 GSATA slots. I presume Western Digital green drive would be a good option.

Can you recommend any good external cases for my 500gb HDD?
I do not think I will require a case with a fan, since I only plan to use it periodically to update it.