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External Hard drives...help

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September 8, 2010 6:31:28 PM

First of all, THANK YOU. Everyone on this site has been extremely helpful and you actually helped me buy/build my very own PC for the first time! The computer is up and running great... I found a lot of information through these forums and now Ive come to the next step in the road..

I want to get an external hard drive. I have never searched for them or done much research but I would really like one very soon..
External Hard Drive:
For what? The main purpose for this purchase will be to download movies/games/music
Basically I want to have a place to store downloaded movies/TV shows, series externally so I wont clutter up my main computer
Ive been looking into torrents and I'm very intrigued

Thanks...any help is good help.

More about : external hard drives

September 8, 2010 6:32:35 PM

Oh, forgot... I was browsing craigslist just for shits and gigs and some guy was selling a 500gb hdd in order to "upgrade" to an SSD? I think that was it


Whats the difference?Thanks
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a c 342 G Storage
September 8, 2010 9:02:59 PM

SSD is "Solid State Drive". It is a special form of RAM together with its own controller in a package the same size as a conventional hard drive, with the same connectors. It is made to perform in many ways exactly like a hard drive. BUT since it has NO moving parts, it is VERY much faster than "normal" mechanical HDD units. AND very much more expensive per GB capacity. Generally you cannot find (or afford) SSD's as large as the largest HDD units. The optimum use for SSD's these days is as an internal drive that holds the OS and key applications software that MUST have fast performance. DATA and lesser app software is placed on a second internal HDD of the conventional mechanical type.

Hard drives come in two main physical sizes (plus a few others). The most common are those in desktops machines, called 3½" drives (their width). The others are smaller 2½" drives, commonly used in laptops. Because the latter are smaller and sell fewer, they tend to be more expensive per GB, and have smaller maximum capacities. For your use I suspect the 3½" size is what you want. Either can be inside an external drive unit.

External drives that do NOT need their own power supply module draw all their power from one or two USB ports. However, USB2 ports have a limit on how much power they can provide, so almost all of these units are based on smaller 2½" HDD's inside. Most units with 3½" HDD's have their own power supply, either as a "wall wart", as a box in the middle of a cable, or built into the case with only a plain power cord to the wall. I prefer not to have the power supply inside the case - it eliminates one internal source of heat.

You can buy complete external drive units in various configurations. The straightforward ones are just one HDD unit in an enclosure with a power supply system and one or more ways to connect to the computer. More complex ones may include (or have an expansion slot for) a second HDD unit inside, and some way to use two HDD's as a RAID array or a JBOD array.

The external interface - how your external drive connects to the computer - may be USB2, eSATA, or Firewire 400 (aka IEEE 1394a). USB3 is just coming on the scene. Firewire 800 (aka IEEE 1394b) is not common in PC's, but seen on many Macs. Of these, USB2 is the slowest, eSATA is often twice as fast (may be just as fast as an internal SATA drive), Firewire 400 is in between those. USB3 and Firewire 800 both MAY be faster than eSATA, but maybe not - depends on limits imposed by the HDD itself, not by the interface. It is VERY common these days to find externals with two interfaces (e.g., USB2 plus eSATA), or even three, but you only get to use ONE of these at a time. Choose your unit by the ports you have on your computer. I have an eSATA port on the mobo, so I bought a unit with both USB2 (almost universally available on other people's computers) and eSATA, and use the latter.

USB2 and USB3 both have power available to the attached device in the computer port, but limited - USB3 has a higher power limit. eSATA generally does NOT have power in the port, but some new extensions of that system do add power on two pins. Personally, I prefer to have an external drive with its own power supply anyway to avoid loading the main computer.

Many ready-to-use external drives come with free software packages for things like backups, etc. Depending on what you plan to do, and on reviews of that free software, these may be a good feature or not.

A good alternative for some people is to assemble your own external drive by buying separately an enclosure and a HDD. When you do that, make sure you buy one that matches the HDD in two ways:
(a) the drive size - 3½", 2½", or something else; and,
(b) the HDD's own interface - IDE or SATA. (The latter is likely to be SATA II (more properly, SATA 3.0 Gb/s), and there is no speed advantage in SATA 6.0 Gb/s (unless you're buying a SSD) so I would not pay extra for that. The internal connection for the HDD unit itself is completely separate from the external interface to the computer. However, it happens that one of the fastest combinations is an eSATA connection to the enclosure, and a SATA 3.0 Gb/s HDD inside. This system basically requires no "translation" of data inside the enclusure, so it can be fast and efficient.
Extra features to consider:
(a) Power supply system - outlined above;
(b) Fan or not in the case? A fan will cost more but keep your HDD inside cooler. I worry about when it will wear out. I prefer a fanless case of metal with good cooling slots for airflow, and a low-power HDD unit inside.
(c) On / Off switch on the case?
(d) Indicator light on the case?
When you buy your own enclosure and drive, you don't usually get free software, but you can dig that up yourself if you want.
For the HDD, you get to choose exactly which unit you put inside - your preferred manufacturer and model / size. Some people, for example, would choose a WD Green line drive in the 1 to 2 TB size. They are reliable, low power consumers (low heat generation), and slower than the WD Black line. But for backups and media storage / retrieval, the slightly slower average data transfer speed does not matter. It is reported that Green drives on an eSATA interface are fully capable of supplying data for 3D HD movie playback. This may NOT be ideal for gamers who demand the ultimate performance. Often the price per GB is best around 1.5 TB, maybe 2.0.
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September 8, 2010 9:16:32 PM

I really just want a simple straight forward external hard drive. I want a plug and play just straight to my computer through USB, i dont need anything that plugs into the wall preferablly just plugs right into the computer.

Basically I want to be able to hook up an external hard drive into my computer (usb) and have it read you know as "F drive" or whatever.. be able to use that as a save destination for movies downloaded or a few choice programs such as anti virus.. unplug the external hard drive and have them stored on there.

I dont need anything fancy you know? Basically movie storage and some programs I like.. Im wanting to download torrents onto them.
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a c 104 G Storage
September 8, 2010 10:00:37 PM

Hi there,

Very thorough and thoughtful summary of external hard drives by PapeDoc. Much appreciated

Take a look at the Vantec and Antec line of external drive enclosures. They are simple, have their own power brick, off on switch, and either USB or eSata connector (some have both) to your desktop computer. You choose the size and speed of regular HDD to put inside (SATA type).

You just connect it to your desktop, and turn in on. Your OS recognizes as a drive and you assign it a letter, like K for bacK up. It acts like any other internal drive, just external. You can unplug it, store it away, reconnect it anytime, or connect it to another desktop or laptop if you want. Don't need any special backup software. It just works.

The one factor to consider right now is possibly buying a USB 3 enclosure since its transfer rate is a lot faster, but for everyday simple use, a USB 2 enclosure at 480 Mb/s works great.
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September 8, 2010 10:07:53 PM

My mobo is USB 3.0 compatable, so I would like to consider using a USB 3.0 if resonable. So Ill just be able to plug it in, it recognizes, and I can save my movies to it? Unplug it and they will still be there..do you think 500GB is too big? I mean I wont be downloading 10 movies a day or anything so.. maybe 350? Idk

Also where can I find these antec external drives? Do they install the HDD to put inside of the case or does it come seperate.
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a c 104 G Storage
September 9, 2010 1:47:55 AM

cctaylor88 said:
My mobo is USB 3.0 compatable, so I would like to consider using a USB 3.0 if resonable. So Ill just be able to plug it in, it recognizes, and I can save my movies to it? Unplug it and they will still be there..do you think 500GB is too big? I mean I wont be downloading 10 movies a day or anything so.. maybe 350? Idk

Also where can I find these antec external drives? Do they install the HDD to put inside of the case or does it come seperate.


Hi again,

Best way is to google Vantec and Antec's web sites for external HDD enclosures. Both are nice. The Antec MX-1 is a nice external enclosure, has a USB 2 connector and eSATA connecter to choose from and will take up to 1 TB SATA HDD's. It is not a USB 3.

Here is the web site to check it out. : http://www.excaliberpc.com/575347/antec-mx-1-3.5-sata-t...

Look at Vantec and other makers also.

All of the HDD enclosures are enclosurers. You purchase a HDD separately and plug it inside the enclosure.
Since you are saving movies and images, I would very much recommend the largest HDD you can afford and that an enclosure will handle from its specs.. The WD 1TB Cariar Black drives are priced ~ $79. With images, videos, music, there is never enough disc storage space.
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September 9, 2010 4:11:09 AM

Well if its truely worth the money to buy a hard drive and a seperate encloseure with active cooling then ill do it, but is it extremely simple to hook up to one another? I was thinking more like a single unit already fabricated.. i really just want plug and play capability w/usb 3.0 if possible

thanks so far
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September 9, 2010 4:13:06 AM

VanKirk I looked at the link you sent me, although nice that looks way too nice for what I want i just want one cable hook up to place movies on
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September 9, 2010 9:55:30 AM

cctaylor88 said:
First of all, THANK YOU. Everyone on this site has been extremely helpful and you actually helped me buy/build my very own PC for the first time! The computer is up and running great... I found a lot of information through these forums and now Ive come to the next step in the road..

I want to get an external hard drive. I have never searched for them or done much research but I would really like one very soon..
External Hard Drive:
For what? The main purpose for this purchase will be to download movies/games/music
Basically I want to have a place to store downloaded movies/TV shows, series externally so I wont clutter up my main computer
Ive been looking into torrents and I'm very intrigued

Thanks...any help is good help.



I suggest you buy Seagate, which has more than 25 years in hard drive.
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September 9, 2010 2:34:04 PM

So would i want a 2.5 or a 3.5 whats the difference?
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a c 104 G Storage
September 9, 2010 2:55:36 PM

You can buy a complete retail package that has the enclosure and hard drive together, like Segates Free Agent or Western Digital's My Book. Good choices. Check to make sure they have the USB or SATA cable connection you want.
I would choose one with a standard 3 1/2" HDD inside rather than a notebook 2 1/2" type hard drive.

Most come with software to run semiautomatic or automatic backups at specified times, to back up your computer's files.

Most also come with an external power (brick) cord for power, rather than rely on the USB cable to supply power for the disk and electronics. As a general rule a HDD motor requires 12V @ .5-1.0 Amp and electronics require 5V @ .5 Amp, so it's better to supply that energy externally rather than tax the USB source. The E-SATA drives also either have a power cord, or connect to a standard molex connector on your computer for power. So better external units have both a power cord and a data cord, not just one.
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a c 342 G Storage
September 9, 2010 8:34:42 PM

You want really simple: plug it in and it works right away. AND you want it NOT to need any extra power supply - just take all its power via the USB connection. AND you want faster USB3 since you have that port available.

I searched newegg for External drives with USB3 connection and 2.5" form factor, got these 7 items:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

I note that SOME (did not check all) claim they arrive pre-formatted so you have NO preparation to do - just plug in and it works. (Most empty HDD's require Partition and Format preparation before you can use.) I searched 2.5" form factor to avoid extra power supply units (per my previous post) and many make that claim - ONLY a USB connection required. Note pricing: about $75 to $80 for 320 GB, $80 to $120 for 500 GB, $140 for 640 GB. None larger. You MIGHT fit 200 movies obtained by Torrent download in that space with NO HD or 3D.

By comparison here for USB3 in 3.5" form factor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

pricing is $110 for $140 to 500 GB to 1 TB, $170 to $240 for 2 TB. Some say they are pre-formatted as above. Probably all of these come with their own extra power supply module. So for the $140, at the top end in 2.5" drives with NO extra power supply you can get 640 GB, but for the same money in 3.5" you could get 50% more space. For an extra $100 or less you could get 2 TB - three times the space of the 640 GB.

To "roll your own" you could buy a 3.5" form factor SATA 3.0 Gb/s HDD at 1 TB for about $80, or 2 TB for about $130, then install it in an enclosure costing about $38 to $50 here
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

Saves you about $50, but does use an included separate power supply, does NOT come with any free backup utilities, and you would have to Partition / Format the unit before use.
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