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Portable hard drive questions

1067 Views 5 Replies Latest reply: Jun 27, 2009 2:03 PM by PT RSS
Warheart1188 Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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Jun 25, 2009 11:21 AM
Okay, so I know nothing about portable/external hard drives. I'm looking into getting a portable hard drive so I can backup my Mac when I move to college and I have a few questions. What kind of portable hard drive is best (I heard that drives above 500 GB require a power outlet so I'll stick to 500 so I can just plug it in, is that right?)? Also, is it possible to set aside a portion of the hard drive just for Time Machine and use the rest for storing needs? Or does the whole hard drive become a backup? I'm also curious as to use FireWire or USB; I have a FireWire 400 and 800 ports on my Mac. Any help would be appreciated so much. Thanks in advance!
20-inch iMac (2.4 GHz), 250 GB HDD, 2GB DDR RAM, Mac OS X (10.5.6)
  • varjak paw Level 10 Level 10 (167,150 points)
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    Jun 25, 2009 11:52 AM (in response to Warheart1188)
    What kind of portable hard drive is best (I heard that drives above 500 GB require a power outlet so I'll stick to 500 so I can just plug it in, is that right?

    500GB is the largest I've seen that can be powered from the connection bus, yes. Larger drives still need more power than a USB or Firewire bus can provide.

    is it possible to set aside a portion of the hard drive just for Time Machine and use the rest for storing needs?

    Yes. Partition the drive into two or more volumes and you can use one partition for TM and the other(s) for other data storage needs. Even with a 500GB drive, though, if you partition and don't give TM the full amount, it won't be able to keep much in the way of historical backups if you start filling up your primary hard drive (it's generally recommended that your TM volume be at least twice the capacity of your drive). So at some point you may need to consider a larger drive, even though it might require connection to a separate power supply.

    I'm also curious as to use FireWire or USB; I have a FireWire 400 and 800 ports on my Mac.

    Firewire will generally give you better performance, so if you have the choice, opt either for a drive with a Firewire port. If you can get one with both Firewire and USB, that would be better since it will give you more flexibility for use with other systems.

    Regards.

    Message was edited by: Dave Sawyer
    iMac 2.8 Core 2 Duo 24" 4GB ATI 2600, Mac OS X (10.5.7), PowerMac G5 2.0GHz DP, Dell w/ Windows Vista Unlimited SP2, several others VM
  • PT Level 7 Level 7 (20,870 points)
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    Jun 25, 2009 11:57 AM (in response to Warheart1188)
    In general "portable" external drives use 2.5" Laptop sized drives and tend to cost about twice as much as do "full" sized externals that use 3.5" drives. Or put another way, for the same money you can usually get twice the storage as you get with a portable (e.g. $100 for a 1TB desktop external or for a 500GB portable). Also many of the portable drives tend to be Bus powered, meaning they run off the USB or Firewire port for power and data. The desktop ones usually have a dedicated external supply. Unless you plan on actually carrying the drive around with you a lot, you will get a better deal on a desktop sized external drive. Many of them are actually rather compact to begin with, no so much that I would want to carry it around in my backpack all the time, but certain portable enough to go from college to home and back again a few times a year.

    In general, Firewire drives tend to be a bit faster for sustained large file transfers than USB2. They are also much better for doing video downloads directly from a camcorder to the external drive via Firewire (talking about MiniDV camcorder and other tape based systems). They, Firewire enabled drives, also tend to cost a bit more for the same capacity than USB2 drives. My advice is if you tend to do a lot of video editing off a tape based camcorder, then you NEED a drive that can connect with Firewire. If you mainly will be doing basic Time Machine stuff and other simple file storage work, etc. then Firewire is nice if you can find one for a good price, but USB2 will do the job just fine.

    When you get the drive, you plug it in and power it on and the drive will simply show up on your desk top much like your internal drive. At this point, there is a good chance the drive is formatted in Windows format. If you plan to use it only with your Mac, it is a better idea to reformat it in Mac format. For Time Machine it HAS to be in Mac format.

    So second thing to do is... Applications folder -> Utilities folder -> Disk Utility.

    Select the new drive and then go to the erase tab and pick the option to format it as Mac Extended (Journaled) and let it format. Should take all of about 10-20 seconds.

    I believe you can use the same drive for Time Machine as well as other storage. You may want to partition the drive into two sections and dedicate one to Time Machine and use the other for whatever you want. But I believe you can keep it all on one partition if you like.

    Regards,
    Patrick
    iMac 24" 2.66GHz  eMac 1.25GHz (OS 10.4.11) , Mac OS X (10.5.7),  Canon iP4200 printer  Many Ext Drives  30GB and 80GB 5th Gen iPods
  • Pondini Level 8 Level 8 (38,710 points)
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    Jun 25, 2009 6:38 PM (in response to Warheart1188)
    Warheart1188 wrote:
    Okay, so I know nothing about portable/external hard drives. I'm looking into getting a portable hard drive so I can backup my Mac when I move to college and I have a few questions. What kind of portable hard drive is best (I heard that drives above 500 GB require a power outlet so I'll stick to 500 so I can just plug it in, is that right?)?


    Taking power, especially USB power, from your Mac is "iffy." This is especially true if you're using other USB peripherals at the same time. A drive with it's own power supply may be more reliable.

    Also, is it possible to set aside a portion of the hard drive just for Time Machine and use the rest for storing needs?


    Yes. TM works best with it's own, exclusive partition. See items 3 and 5 of the Frequently Asked Questions post at the top of this forum.
    iMac G5 1.8 GHz PowerPC, Mac OS X (10.5.7)
  • PT Level 7 Level 7 (20,870 points)
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    Jun 27, 2009 2:03 PM (in response to Warheart1188)
    Did you get it to work?

    Patrick
    iMac 24" 2.66GHz  eMac 1.25GHz (OS 10.4.11) , Mac OS X (10.5.7),  Canon iP4200 printer  Many Ext Drives  30GB and 80GB 5th Gen iPods

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