External storage and where to buy it

I have a laptop with a maximum capacity of 80GB, which isn’t enough for my needs, but I don’t really know what specifications I should be looking for or where to spend my money. Googling brings up lots of sites and products but little information, and I’ll be spending enough money that I want to get it right. So, here are my needs:

: 300-500GB storage. More is acceptable, if it’s cheap enough. :smiley:
: Fast access. I work with a lot of video footage.
: Reasonably quiet. The fan on my laptop (Toshiba Sat Pro A10) doesn’t bother me, but I don’t know how loud that particular model runs in dB.
: USB 2.0

Anything else I need to consider? I’m near-clueless when it comes to hardware.

You have a couple options.

  1. purchase an external drive thats already put together for you. These might run a little higher in price, but they are about as plug and pray as you get. They usually are meant for the ‘one touch’ backup where you press the button, and it starts to back up your data.
  2. Purchase a separate hard drive and enclosure and put it together yourself. Quite a bit cheaper, you can get just the right size, and probably have more ability to expand in the future. However its not quite as automated in terms of getting data to it as the one touch models.

From what it sounds like, your not interested in an external drive for backup, but for long term or working storage.

Either could be found at newegg.com. I’ve used them a number of times in the past and they’ve always been excellent - especially about returns (if you find what you ordered doesn’t quite fit the bill). In fact, I just got a HD and enclosure today from them to copy stuff off my main drive because it is getting full. Search for ‘external hard drive’ to see the one touch style, and ‘external enclosure’ for just the enclosures (that you would have to separately purchase a drive for). Also read the reviews from other users - you’ll get a good idea of what to expect for anything you are looking at.

If you are looking for the drive to primarily be connected to your laptop, I’d look at the 2.5" enclosures and hard drives, as I believe that is the size typical of laptop hard drives and size/weight is key. It might be worth considering getting an enclosure that is powered via USB, rather then a separate power adapter - depending on where you would be using it.

Hope that helps.

Just a few comments/observations:
-USB 2.0 does not necessarily mean the device will be fast; it just means it will work with USB 2.0 and you won’t get a warning message saying you’ve connected a slow device to a fast port. Hi-Speed USB 2.0 is what you must look for.
-Even so, I think you might still find that an external USB drive does not provide good performance for things like video rendering/output, which involves a large number of reads and writes - it might be OK for serving up your video source files though, and will be fine for archiving projects you’re not working on right now.
-As you want more than 150GB, you’re looking for a device containing a 3.5 inch drive, and it will have its own power supply; the other family of devices - that are bus-powered and contain 2.5 inch laptop drives - does not go up to the capacity you want.
-Don’t plug in any other USB peripherals when you’re using the drive; there are circumstances in which the whole bus can be compelled to run at the speed of the slowest attached peripheral.

I’d personally probably go for something like this, because it’s not just a USB external drive, it’s a proper ethernet NAS drive as well; so you have more options as to how you can use it in future.

I’m seconding Newegg on this. Usually when I shop for a part there, I’ve had really good results just ordering the highest rated part in my price range which meets my specifications.

(bolding mine)

I’m hoping for something a little kinder to my non-techy head than that. :wink: I’ll check out newegg for suggestions, as the LaCie Mangetout linked to hasn’t gotten very good reviews, but since they don’t deliver anywhere but the USA and Puerto Rico I’m out of luck.

Thanks for the info, Mangetout. I didn’t even know there were different types of USB 2.0. Also, now that I think of it, I think I have Ethernet. Is it that 10/100 thing?

A little more information: I’ll be using either simple Avisynth scripts or mjpegs until the final render, and the final output will be written onto the laptop’s hard drive. The video from the files on the external disc has to play back at full speed in my video editor’s preview window-- what kind of processing power does that require?

The size and power supply of the drive aren’t issues here, as it’s only going to be used in the house.

The ‘no other USB devices’ rule is a bit of a worry though, as my modem is USB and having to use one device or the other is unacceptably inconvenient due to my computer usage habits. Under what circumstances would the bus slow down?

This largely a non-issue for recent USB 2.0 drives and USB 2.0 chip-sets. SEE 9 & 10 on the USB FAQ. Drives and USB peripherals can normally share the full USB 2.0 bus without choking issues. I have 4 USB drives and 7 USB peripherals attached to my system and all operate at full speed.

Now there may be some total bandwidth issues if multiple USB 2.0 drives are sharing a single USB port (off a hub) and transferring data simultaneously, but this is easily solved by giving the drive it’s own dedicated USB port. Most modern notebooks come with 2-4 USB ports minimum.

Here is my current favorite external drive series.

Western Digital My Book Essential 500GB - USB 2.0 External Hard Drive - WDG1U5000N -

Yes, although in theory, hi-speed USB2.0 should be quicker (480Mbps instead of the 100Mbps you get with ethernet)

I should reiterate my earlier point though; I have an external hi-speed USB 2.0 drive and for jobs that require intensive and repetitive read-write cycles, the performance does not nearly match that of an internal drive.
Specifically, I have tried rendering video footage and authoring DVDs to/from the drive and it is slower than the internal hard drive by about a factor of ten; maybe more.
For jobs like backing up data and just moving it about en bloc, it’s fantastic and really speedy - so as I said, I’d use the external drive as a means to store projects you are not currently working on - thus ensuring you always maintain enough free space on the internal drive to work on the current project entirely from there.

Looks as though it’ll be the MyBook then, if I can find it for less than 180 pounds (that’s $330-- why do things have to be so expensive over here?). Guess I’ll be keeping an eye on eBay.

Thanks, everyone.

A fine choice.
I have the 320mb version of MyBook Premium.

The Premium version comes with FireWire as well as the USB 2.0, and in theory, FireWire is faster even though USB 2.0 sports higher numbers on paper. I just use whichever one I can find the cable for.

What I like about it: It looks great and it is extremely quiet.
What I don’t like: The backup software that came with Premium isn’t sufficient for me since I’m copying from my Linux server over Samba, and the software doesn’t support network shares.

Microsoft’s SyncToy filled the gap for me. I use that tool to synchronize my photos and mp3’s between the Linux shares and MyBook. When I am done with my backup, I unplug it and put it on a bookshelf, nestled between some real books.

It is so quiet and unobtrusive.