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best external hard drive for a macbook air?

34188 Views 12 Replies Latest reply: Sep 13, 2012 9:34 PM by Tesssla RSS Branched to a new discussion.
EDS513 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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May 6, 2012 3:55 PM

I have a 2008 IMAC and a 2008 Macbook pro (that recently messed up, but my computer guy kinda fixed),

so Now I am using a 2012 Macbook Pro.  I love it of course.  I use a Lacie rugged external hard drive for time maching.  I am still learning about Mac even though I have had Mac for so many years. I talked my mom into getting a Macbook Air since she was having so many problems with her pc.

She wants an external hard drive for mother's day since I told her how important I feel that they are since i just went through all these problems on my 2008 Macbook Pro (and My Imac is slowing way down even after adding more memory).  So what do you recommend for Macbook Air around $100. for a person that has never used Mac, that will be reliable and that she can save info from her PC and put it onto her new Macbook Air?  (She probably does not have much more than 1 GB maybe 2 GB).  Thanks

  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,220 points)
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    May 6, 2012 4:05 PM (in response to EDS513)

    For routine Time Machine backups speed is not important, so any external hard disk will do. USB 2.0 is adequate.


    If you really want to save some money find a Windows PC that was discarded due to viruses, remove its internal hard disk, buy a cheap enclosure ($30 or so) and reformat it. I have lots of these. Vantec enclosures are cheap enough.


    When your Mom connects the external drive her Air will probably ask right away if she wants to use it as a Time Machine disk. It does everything else more or less unobtrusively.


    Use Migration Assistant to transfer information from the PC:

  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,220 points)
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    May 6, 2012 5:15 PM (in response to EDS513)

    Sure, that's the newest one. Answer still applies


    If you want an external hard disk there is a large selection of them from OWC / Macsales:



    Not the cheapest way to go but the vendor is highly recommended.

  • John Galt Level 7 Level 7 (33,220 points)
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    May 6, 2012 5:35 PM (in response to EDS513)

    Price is a function of size. For Time Machine you should have a backup disk two to three times the size of the source content.


    The 2011 MacBook Air came in 128 and 258 GB models so these would be excellent choices for those two models, respectively:


  • ezollars Level 2 Level 2 (255 points)
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    May 6, 2012 5:40 PM (in response to EDS513)

    I've had no real problems with different externals, though there are reports of issues with recent Toshiba externals.  But if you bypass those you should be fine.  I've used Seagate and Western Digital externals, as well as some from OWC.


    However you will need to worry about the format of the drive.  If it's not marketed specifically for Macs, it will come formatted either FAT32 or NTFS.  The Mac can read and write FAT32, though it's not optimal and the format doesn't accept files > 4 GB.  It's prime benefit is that both Mac and Windows machine can read and write to the drive.


    NTFS is more problematical, as the Mac will read it but won't (without add on software) write to the drive.


    Time Machine should offer, if the drive is formatted in one of those two formats, offer to reformat it for use with Time Machine.  The big issue is that you need to let your Mom know that is to be expected, since it may offer up the reminder that this will erase the drive (and that seems scary). 


    You could eliminate that issue if you were to go ahead and format the drive as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) on your system before sending it on to Mom.  I know you prefer to just have it mailed to her, but testing it on your Mac might allow you to smooth the path for your Mom.

  • RRFS Level 5 Level 5 (4,425 points)
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    May 7, 2012 4:53 PM (in response to EDS513)

    Not the cheapest but really nice in that it is USB powered and just a little bigger than an iPhone.


  • modano_man Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Jun 27, 2012 7:33 PM (in response to RRFS)



    Are the 3.0 USB Iomegas designed to work with Macbooks or will it have issues like ezollers said?

  • RRFS Level 5 Level 5 (4,425 points)
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    Jun 27, 2012 10:06 PM (in response to modano_man)

    Mine has not given me any trouble at all but since I posted that reply I have seen unkind words about some of Iomegas lineup.

    iMac, Mac OS X (10.6.8), 2.66GHZ 128 GBSSD 6GB RAM 2TB EXTHD
  • Maladewa Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Sep 2, 2012 5:33 AM (in response to RRFS)

    I really like Western Digital My Passport Studio 1 TB. It comes with 2 cables, a usb, and a firewire 800 cable. the software included is okay but won't do much more than what "disk utility" can do on your mac. you can erase it using disk utility and add a password option (this works with osx 10.7 and above). i've been using with time machine on a macbook air and macbook pro and it works great.


    It feels like it is very high quality and very dense and sturdy. if you want to travel light this may be a little on the heavy side. overall, i would recommend it, especially if you are looking for something that looks good next to your mac. there are other drives out there that can do the same thing for less, but for me, i like something that looks good next to my macbook pro.


  • Tesssla Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Sep 13, 2012 9:34 PM (in response to EDS513)



    I would recommend going with the Western Digital Passport drives that use the USB 3.0 interface.  You will be future proofing the purchase and the newest Macbook Air computers come with the 3.0 interface standard.  The firewire drives are also good, but USB 3.0 is just more compatible with more devices.  The reviews have been extremely positive for the drive.



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