MacInTouch Reader Reports

Hard Drives: Experiences

Mar. 13, 2009
Mar. 20, 2009
Apr. 21, 2009
Apr. 22, 2009
Apr. 23, 2009
Jul. 2, 2009
Jul. 3, 2009
Jul. 4, 2009
Jul. 6, 2009
Jul. 16, 2009
Jul. 17, 2009
Jul. 18, 2009
Jul. 20, 2009
Aug. 5, 2009
Aug. 6, 2009
Aug. 7, 2009
Aug. 8, 2009
Oct. 2, 2009
Oct. 5, 2009
Nov. 18, 2009
Dec. 1, 2009
Dec. 7, 2009
Dec. 8, 2009

Newer entries...
Mar. 13, 2009

item.88774

Stephen Clark

I'm trying to overcome I/O error on a new SoftRAID mirror pair in a 1stGen Mac Pro right now also. Thanks for the tip about the Monitor Prefs.

Two new 750 Gb Seagate 7200.11 drives ten days ago, latest version of SoftRAID. This past Monday one drive began acting up, & SR has been rebuilding / generating a new error ever since.

Tech support is getting screen-captures of error messages now & I appreciate their help with getting over this problem.

Mar. 20, 2009

item.89222

Gregory Weston

Andy Dannelley notes:

"Thanks for all the useful responses, much appreciated. I guess I did not fully explain what I am considering with the miniStack. What I am considering is using the miniStack as a Time Machine Backup, and since it is advertised as a Firewire and USB hub, using that feature to just plug in my clone drives (or other special purpose drives like video or extra photo or extra photo storage) and my video cameras which have firewire 400. The new iMac has only FW 800, but the miniStack has both FW 400 and FW 800 in/outs as well as a USB hub, thus useful as a FW and USB hub."

I have 3 miniStacks. I bought the first a few years ago to serve as the media store for a Core Solo mini that I use for PVR and related tasks. When 10.5 came out I also let it be the Time Machine target for the mini's internal 40GB drive. It has served excellently in that capacity but I will note that I've had trouble with hot-plugging both USB and FireWire devices on the rare occasions I've tried to use the hub. (I should note here that I haven't gotten around to testing for the same behavior on the other two.) When I've plugged in my Sony thumb drive or an OWC bus-powered FireWire drive, for example, the miniStack temporarily drops off the bus, triggering a warning from the OS about possible data corruption. Not knowing about that issue, and based on the pleasant experience as a small, quiet drive, I got a second one to be the Time Machine drive for my wife's work machine. That one had a very slight assembly defect - a wire directly under the fan that caused a constant loud buzz as the drive heated up. Took a while to identify and address that. Those are both V2. When my mife upgraded to a MacBook several months ago we bought a V3 miniStack. That one's defective and we're in the middle of trying to sort it out with Newer. It frequently disappears on wake, or never shows up as a drive on boot, and has stalled a couple of times during lengthy writes. Like the initial Time Machine backup. Does it regardless of prot, cable or host machine.

Apr. 21, 2009

item.90823

Philip Benware

Rob Wyatt re: MiniStack:

I've had two; both the v2.5 and the v3 versions. The V3 is still operating. The 2.5 died about a year ago. It wasn't particularly tragic that it did so, so I never followed up with a replacement. It simply wasn't used that much. I really like the eSata capabilities of it. I was hoping Apple would have moved in that direction with their consumer desktops, but that hasn't happened yet, so the eSata Port doesn't really get it's full value.

Having said that, I do like the enclosures, overall, more for the port expansion capabilities than the storage capabilities. A generic case just for the storage is a much better deal than the MiniStack, but for the port expansion, it can't be beat. At the time that I bought them, I had an Intel Mini. The extra ports were a big plus for me, and are useful even now with my new iMac Aluminum.

I can say this about them; they can be loud. The MiniStack v3 gets pretty warm. I store all my media on it (it's a 500 GB Drive), and when it's being shared out to my ATV, it gets hot. When it gets hot, the fan comes on, and it's noticeable. The Ministack is in my office with my iMac. The ATV is in the living room, so I often go into the often to hear the fan running and wondering why, since the iMac screen is off, then think about it for a few seconds and realize why. The noise isn't bothersome (to me) but it is definitely noticeable.

item.90825

Dana Baggett

Rob Wyatt asked if anyone had experience with the NewerTech Mini Stack v3. He doesn't need the hub so much as he likes the form factor, and asks if there are other similar drives he should consider.

I tried a NewerTech Mini Stack v3 in the fall of 2007 right after I'd received delivery of a new 24" iMac mid-2007 model. It was immediately apparent that the hub wasn't working properly. OWC provided exemplary customer service and not only facilitated my return but reimbursed me for all shipping charges as well. Instead of trying another, I "made do" with the external drives I already had.

Later I found that Iomega makes a MiniMax model with the same form factor as the Mac Mini that I am tempted to try. http://go.iomega.com/en-us/products/external-hard-drive-desktop/minimax/?partner=4760


item.90832

Steve Harrison

In my opinion, the MiniStack is probably the best external case on the market for the price. I have 4, starting with the original MacPower branded unit, to the latest v3. The built-in FW/USB hubs are very useful, but it's the heat management that sets this case apart from the rest of the flock; the hard drive is screwed into an aluminum heat sink and the multi-speed fan is very quiet. There is a temperature sensor hard-wired to the fan which allows the fan to adjust speed as the heat in the case fluctuates.

I love these cases, but there are a couple of items worth noting - the fan bearings seem to wear-out over time, resulting in very loud noise when the "high-gear" kicks in. (I had to move the temperature sensor away from the hard drive to stop the noise, which isn't the best idea of course) Also, the power supplies have been known to fail (I haven't experienced this, but several of my colleagues have). Every model has the same fan and power supply as far as I can tell.

The MiniStacks come with a 3-year warranty for the case if you buy one pre-configured with a hard drive. (You can buy a bare-bones case, but the warranty is only 1-year.) The drives inside have the full manufacturers warranty (Seagate - 5 years or Maxtor - 3 years), so you can often replace just the hard drive if there's a failure. Because of the fan and power supply issues, it is definitely recommended you get a 3-year warranty model.

I have used the original MacPower-branded (v2 MiniStack) case for almost 5 years now. The fan does have the bearing problem, but my power supply has been rock-solid. The hard drive I bought to put in the case is still running fine BTW...

I wish that I could find the same model replacement fan, since it would be very easy to swap-out, but the replacement has proven elusive to this point...

item.90834

Gregory Weston

Rob Wyatt is looking for feedback on the NewerTech miniStack. I had previously commented on my experience with them, but I can summaraize again:

500GB v2 miniStack. Has been excellently reliable as the mediua drive connected to a mini acting as home entertainment machine. Discovered well after deployment that it tends to temporarily fall off the bus at the instant that peripherals are plugged into its ports.

500GB v2 miniStack, purchased with the primary intent of using it as a Time Machine target after using the first one but before discovering the peripherals issue. Has worked fine after correcting a small assembly error.

1TB v3 miniStack, purchased a couple of months ago for use as a Time Machine target. Arrived with an intermittently failing bridge board that made it unreliable over FW400, FW800 and USB. Received the drive with the board replaced under warranty a few days ago and just hooked it up last night. So far it's behaving better than its predecessor.

Given the use of the drives, I haven't been in a hurry to test whether the issue with hot-plugged peripherals is a quirk of the first one. I am using the USB hub on the 500GB but haven't had the need to hot plug anything.

Would I buy another one? Probably depends on how cranky I'm feeling when I'm ready to get a new drive/enclosure. Hasn't exactly been smooth sailing, but only one major problem and it was addressed quickly and without argument.

item.90837

Gary Sabo

For Rob Wyatt on Ministacks

I have 2 Ministack v3s (and about a dozen Ministck v1s and v2s) and have never had any problems with any Newertech product. The v3s are reliable (one loaded with a 1TB WD Black, my Time Machine drive, the other with a Seagate 750 7200.10). They have fans (which I wanted) so are not silent but they are quiet (just a small whirring sound). One major feature of the Newertech v3s is their power supply is 3A (not 2A like most others) which means they can handle the startup current of the Seagate drives (requires 2.9A) as well as Maxtor and Samsung (also require more than 2A at startup). Most other enclosures only supply 2A power supplies. The form factor is great for stacking drives.

item.90843

MacInTouch Reader

I just bought the miniStack v3 with a one terabyte Hitachi Enterprise drive. It's going to be my primary backup for my new iMac 3.06Ghz, 1 TB. I bought it primarily for the variety of extra Firewire ports. I haven't had it all that long, but I've noticed that I can hear its fan, while I seldom hear any fan noise at all on the new iMac. The noise isn't all that noticeable, but it can be heard. The enclosure has a three year warranty, while the Hitachi drive has a five year warranty.

item.90853

Andreas Szabados

Re: Rob Wyatt's question about miniStack v3.

I have used this enclosure for the last year without problems, both attached to a mini and now as an AirDisk with an Airport Extreme Base Station. A couple of comments:

- It includes a fan with a temperature sensor for the HD. The fan noise, when it comes on, is a bit grating even if not terribly loud. But definitely noticeable in a normal office environment. I unplugged the fan and have not had heat issues (but my HD does not operate all the time)

- The chipset of the enclosure does seem to spin down HDs after a certain time. This is great (reduces heat), but I found that it does create issues when watching h264 encoded movies in iTunes over the network. I think this is because data gets buffered by iTunes and by the time the buffer needs to reload, the HD has already spun down. Result: a bit of skipping every few minutes on movies that play perfectly otherwise. This could be an issue of the particular HD or network setup I am using, though.

HTH.

item.90860

Gregory Weston

Following up my response to the miniStack inquiry: The v3 miniStack that we hooked up yesterday after a warranty replacement of the bridge board is acting up just like it did before. I suspect if I run it through the same tests as I did before - trying several combinations of ports, machines and cables - it'd show the same behavior across the board.

As such, I'm going to amend my comment. I wouldn't buy or recommend a miniStack v3 at this time.

item.90864

George Hulseman

In response to Rob Wyatt's query about the NewerTech Mini Stack v3 . . .

I'm using a v3 for my digital music collection. I also own two v2.5s. The v3 is on all the time and I've never had any problems with it. (Neither have I with the 2.5s.) I like the form factor as well. It certainly isn't a whisper quiet hard drive. The fan is fairly audible, however, this is not an issue for me since I keep it in a cabinet alongside of the MacMini.

So, no problems. It's fast and reliable. I'd buy another one and probably I will when my son is ready to go digital with his CD collection.

item.90871

Mike Clay

Ref: Rob Wyatt's question

"I've read some rather conflicting opinions on the Mini Stack. Some people love them. Others say they're not very reliable. I'm curious to know if any Macintouch readers are using one (either v2.5 or v3, please specify) and what they think of the enclosure, reliability, noise factor, etc"

I have a NewerTech Mini Stack (V3) 500GB hard drive I've been using for 6-8 months as my Time Machine backup drive. The drive is powered on 24/7. I also used it to clone my MacBook's HD when I installed a new, larger hard drive in the MacBook. So far it has been utterly reliable, and I'm very pleased with it. As far as noise, it's quieter than I expected, but still noticeable when it starts up. The enclosure is fine. It sits on the base of my 24" IMac, nicely filling the space between the bottom of the IMac and the base -- makes it look as if it belongs there.

item.90875

Thor Legvold

Rob Wyatt asks about the NewerTech miniStack.

I have a v3 one with 1TB drive, that I had intended to use at my work (recording studio). The unit itself was pretty disappointing. It works as advertized, but seems flimsy and is very noisy, which is an important requirement in our environment at least. There's a lot of plastic on this one, none of it particularly solid.

The OWC Aluminum Quad it was to replace ended up staying, and we moved the ministack to a machine room for backups. It works ok, just rattles and hums and buzzes.

Since then we've purchased several more of the OWC Aluminum Quad enclosures, as well as recommended them to associates and customers. They are solid, well built, very quiet and look great.

I wouldn't bother buying another miniStack, and wouldn't recommend other's to either. But than again, it might be perfect for what you're looking for. Maybe someone who loves theirs will chime in.

item.90876

Robert MacLeay

I have been using a MiniStack v2 since December 2006 and a MiniStack v3 since November 2007. Each is partitioned into multiple volumes, one in each for TIme Machine on each of my intel Macs. They run 24/7.

Neither has given the least bit of trouble.

I especially enjoy the convenience of the built-in USB and FIreWire hubs.

item.90880

Fred Moore

For Rob Wyatt: Try the Wiebetech ToughTech
  http://www.wiebetech.com/products/toughtech.php
Extremely reliable (much more so than any LaCie drive), shock isolated mountings, and dead quite (no fan). Nothing better for backups.

item.90881

MacInTouch Reader

Rob Wyatt wrote:

"I'm interested in purchasing a NewerTech Mini Stack v3 for my home media center as I'm looking for something compact, quiet, and low power consumption..."

We picked up one of the v3, 1 terabyte "Mini-Stacks" to sit under one of the new Mac Mini's. The size is the exact dimensions of the Mini, it is extremely quiet, and has performed flawlessly as the boot drive for the Mini. The Mini Stack v3 has been a good purchase, but aside from the dimensions and appearance it is no better or worse than other external drives we have mounted in external drive enclosures. The one drawback is the Mini Stack is a bit more expensive than putting a hard drive into your own external drive enclosure.

That being said, with greater than 1 terabyte SATA drives dropping in price almost daily, and without the need for the extended hub connections the Mini Stack offers, you might be much better off getting one of the inexpensive (around thirty dollar - toaster style) "USB to SATA Hard Drive Dock Adapters" that allows you to connect any 2.5 or 3.5 SATA drive by dropping them into the adapter's cradle as needed. With a number of inexpensive hard drives you could mix and match as you please for your backup use and offsite tranfers.

item.90885

John Fallon

I've had 3 Mini Stacks and gave another to a friend. One of the hard drives died maybe at 3-3.5 years (outside the warranty), and the rest are working fine. The advantage of them is that they have nice little USB hubs built in.

One disadvantage is that the fans are a little loud; does keep them working, but I can hear the fan 20 feet away and it's much more noticeable than the fans in my MacPro right next to it. They are temperature-sensitive, but mine always seems to be on.

item.90886

Marc Marshall

Re: MiniStack Question

I'm using a MiniStack v3 as the main data drive for my 2009 mini-based home server. It's a roll-your-own with a WD Green 750GB installed, connected via FW800 (and also serving as a USB hub).

So far I have been very happy with it; it's small, attractive, and quiet. The cooling design is nice -- the drive is bolted directly to a metal plate on the bottom with cooling fins on the underside, so it gets some convective cooling just by design, and it then has a fan that draws air and pushes it out through a slot across the rear top of the device, similar to how a Mac mini cools itself. The fan is activated by a small temperature probe you attach to the top of the hard drive (or elsewhere, I suppose, if you wanted); it's off when not needed, kicks in when it is.

The fan does not seem to run often--never when the drive is asleep, and during significant access when it's on. The fan is very quiet; I can hear it if I'm standing nearby in a quiet room, but in my setup it's inaudible from the other side of a carpeted room. Since it pulls air from the top of the case it's the second-best cooling method to airflow directly across the drive in a channel (like the XServe design); I've never noticed the box getting particularly warm with the WD Green, so I assume it's working well enough. I expect this design would be particularly useful if you did, in fact, stack it with a mini (the top is indented to lock in with one), since it would pull any excess heat transferred down from the mini above out before it got to the drive.

I've had no hiccups whatsoever since installing it; it has run flawlessly thus far. My only complaint is that the power light is very bright--it lights up a blue bar on the front and also shines downward to a patch right below the case. Well, that and that the top plastic is a little thin, but I can't think of any real disadvantage to that unless you were planning on stacking something very heavy (much heavier than a mini) on it, which would probably be dumb anyway.

I was actually, literally tonight, planning on sticking it on a power meter to see how much it's using. Obviously this'll have more to do with the drive inside than the case itself, but when the drive is asleep it should say something about the efficiency of the power brick it uses.

item.90890

Jose Manuel Araque

The miniStack v3 (http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Newer%20Technology/MS3S7W20TB32/) uses the OXUF924DSb which peaks at 1.5GBps (SATA) according to http://pdf1.alldatasheet.com/datasheet-pdf/view/161715/OXFORD/OXUF924DSB.html. It was announced in 2007. The Caviar Green can run at 3.0Gbps (http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.asp?DriveID=576). Oxford's OXUF934DSb runs at 3.0Gbps.

I am not sure as to what difference this makes, specially in an external enclosure that is most likely going to be used to store photos, music and movies, the kind of things you write once and read only a few times in your lifetime. My brother and I have a miniStack wired through Firewire 800 to a brand new Mac Mini and we like it a lot. My brother does a fairly substantial amount of updates to the iTunes library regularly and he has not reported any problems, but we are using a 7200RPM Barracuda drive (1TB).

I would also like to hear "real world" opinions on the 2TB device (5400RPM).

item.90892

John Merrill

Rob Wyatt asks for opinions from MiniStack users. I have been using a v3 with my PB-Pro for quite a while and find it no noisier, probably quieter, than other external drive enclosures. Works great with time machine. Works so well that I bought a second one about 6 months ago to use with a new desktop. Even more recently I needed something at home for my MB Air, and would have purchased a third miniStack, but opted instead for the Apple Time Capsule since the wireless function was more convenient for the Air.

Apr. 22, 2009

item.90914

MacInTouch Reader

In regards to the question about the MiniStack hard drives, I used two of the v2 (PATA) hard drive enclosures for a Mini-based media center computer. The units worked fine for me... nice and quiet. The built-in USB hubs worked great for the various devices connected to them (wireless keyboard, ElGato USB TV tuner, Griffin iMic, etc.) The Mini system has been replaced with something more powerful, but I wouldn't hesitate to use MiniStacks.

item.90915

Joe Russo

I just completed a hack by which my Mac Mini is now tethered to a MiniStack v3 via eSATA. I had a 1TB WD drive which had been used in an iMac and I wanted NOT to have to port/clone/mirror etc., when I decommissioned the iMac. So, I took out the Mac Mini's HDD and, as I say, tethered it over to the MiniStack now with the 1TB drive installed. The MiniStack v3 is a nice unit, with the form factor being perhaps its nicest feature, followed by the power match between Mini and Mini Stack enabling both to power up and down together. However, the Stack is *very* noisy! Beware. The fan simply *never* shuts off. And the combination of units is quite hot.

item.90924

MacInTouch Reader

NewerTech ministack:

I have a v2 and my boyfriend has a v1; I've had mine for 2 years and he's had his for 3. We've had no trouble with either of them - I got the build-your-own version and we installed our own HDs. Mine has a Seagate 320 GB and his has a WD Caviar 160 GB.

If I recall correctly, I had to remove/reinstall the fan - the wire was routed such that it interfered with the fan blade and made a *lot* of noise. Once I rerouted the cable, it's been virtually silent, even though the Seagate gets quite a bit warmer than the WD. I've simply put soda bottle caps under the ministack and between it and the mini - this has kept both much, much cooler. I'll go for a more elegant solution at some point, but white bottle caps work just fine without standing out (plus they're free).

Also, the Seagate drive was ever-so-slightly thicker than the WD, enough that putting it into the case required more thought and careful placing.

item.90927

David Charlap

I have no personal experience with the MiniStack, but if people are looking for alternative enclosures, I have been very happy using Vantec's NexStar 3. (http://www.vantecusa.com/front/product/view_detail/275).

The model linked to is a 3-way case (USB, FireWire 400, eSATA). They also make a variant with FW800 instead of FW400 (including a 6-to-9 cable for FW400 compatibility) and other combinations of ports.

I've been using mine for almost a year with a Seagate 1TB drive installed. I have had no problems the entire time (other than the cord from the power brick being a little shorter than I'd have preferred.)

item.90942

Gregory Weston

Interesting to see that a lot of people are happy with the miniStack v3. I have found multiple reports online of the same problems we're seeing and I guess its those kinds of reports that prompted the request for comments.

To elaborate on what I'm seeing: The drive is intended for use only as a Time Machine target for my wife's work MBP. It's connected via FW800. What we've observed is that with fair regularity it will fall off the bus if the host machine is put to sleep and then woken up. At that point System Profiler shows it as an unrecognized device and Disk Utility, as might be expected, doesn't see it at all. Once that happens, it's gone for a random amount of time. Power cycling, switching cables, switching interfaces and even moving it to a different machine won't necessarily bring it back. Eventually, with no obvious trigger, it'll successfully mount after one of those changes. And then it will remain mountable - on any machine, over any interface - for a while. Eventually it'll disappear again.

During any particularly large transfer, it may hang. We've seen the time machine background process completely blocked waiting for a response.

Also, when the host machine is asleep there is a fair chance that the drive's fan will go full speed, unlike my two v2 miniStacks which spin down the fan and then the drive shortly after the host is slept or powered down. The drive sits behind the MBP on a hard desk with nothing on top of it or blocking any vents, so there's little reason for the fan to be on between Time Machine cycles.

When we returned the drive it came back (very quickly) with a note that the bridge board had been confirmed as failed and replaced. I had hoped that was the end of it. It was after the repaired drive starting showing the same symptoms yesterday that I looked around and found it's not just us. I'm now trying to get a full refund, including the shipping costs I was required to pay (in contrast to Dana Baggett's experience) to return it for the ineffectual repair.

item.90954

Brendan Schilling

I have several MiniStacks of differing ages and models. All have been very reliable, but somewhat noisy. I had a fan fail about a year ago, pulled it out, and Googled the model # on it. I do not recall where I found them, but I was able to locate the same fan on the Internet. I ordered four of them - good thing, as I just replaced two more that were getting noisy. If I can locate the source again I will post a link here. I believe the fan style is quite easy to find even if the exact model isn't.

Replacement is drop-dead easy. Two screws hold the fan - you have to peek off the screw head covers glued on the outside of the case to get to them, unscrew, and unplug the fan. Transfer the bracket, and carefully remove the plug and transfer to the wires on the new fan. Ten minutes, easy easy.

item.90958

Dusan Kostic

I have used a Ministack (2.5) for a while as a primary drive for a Mini. I also had problems with the bridge, particularly with the Firewire ports. I sent it for repair under warranty - I did not notice the problem until after 30 days, so they would not exchange it (after a crash due to FW failure, it would start through USB, so I did not notice). After repair, it worked fine until the 1-year mark, when it failed again, this time out of warranty. Considering this and the (moderate) noise, I would not recommend them.

item.90978

David Redfearn

Like Gregory Weston, I have a 1TB Mini Stack V3. The Firewire connection did not work when delivered. It went back to OWC (it took 3 weeks to get it back because this was over the holidays), the bridge board was replaced and sent back to me. The "repaired" drive still will not mount. After extensive conversations with OWC technical support, I gave up. It is currently connected via USB2 and works as my Time Machine backup - so far without any problems. I also own two 500GB Ministack V3 drives which have worked reliably for about a year. Both are connected via Firewire 800. One drive has failed to mount a couple of times, but turning it off and back on has fixed the problems. I have seen several comments about good OWC technical support - but that was not my experience.

Apr. 23, 2009

item.91033

Rob Wyatt

Thanks to everyone for responding to my miniStack query. Wow! I knew I could count on some fellow MacInTouch readers to share their experiences, but I had no idea how many responses my question would generate. Again, thank you all for taking the time to respond.

After reading through the last two days worth of responses, I've decided against a miniStack. While some people (the majority, it seems) have had very positive experiences with the product, others have had rather dismal ones. Same goes for customer support. In my mind, this inconsistency is a deal-breaker. Maybe I'll get lucky and get a reliable miniStack, or maybe I'll end up like those customers who have gone through multiple bridge board replacements. Maybe the fan will be quiet or maybe it will be noisy as heck. Maybe the OWC customer service person will be helpful or maybe I'll find myself paying for shipping for repeated repairs. Etc.

After reading the feedback on Amazon, I decided to ask my question here. All of these great responses have only solidified my hunch that the miniStack, while very cool in theory, just isn't a very reliable product. And it sounds like customer service isn't particularly consistent either, and that's a real turn-off.

[Note that the experiences related here are just anecdotes and may not reflect overall failure and support statistics. I've personally had good luck with at least two miniStack v3's, though I prefer OWC's quad-port, aluminum Mercury Elite AL Pro. (OWC also seems to be committed to good support and I haven't seen many complaints about it.) -Ric Ford]

item.91047

Michael Crutcher

I have one of the minstack V3's that works fine. Fan is quiet, and it has worked well. Simply, no issues.

I also have put into service a NewerTechnology Guardian Maximus (GM) RAID 1 unit -- purchased from Other World Computing; I ordered the bare case (now quad interface) and installed two Western Digital 1.0 TB RE3 Enterprise drives. Installing the drives was quick and painless, and the unit is now hooked up to an Airport Extreme as a shared drive. The GM unit is quiet, perhaps in part due to the thermal sensor controlling the fan. This has turned out to be a much better option than another (NAS) unit I tried and had to return. Admittedly, our needs -- primarily making numerous documents available to other family members -- are modest, but the Guardian Maximus fits the need quite satisfactorily.

Jul. 2, 2009

item.95262

Joe Ledgett

I've got two Seagate FreeAgent Go 320 GB drives. Both have seen low to moderate use, and both are working well. I chose these drives because they don't require a second USB port for extra power. These drives are small, good looking, and quiet. I'm planning to by the 500 GB version soon to use for Time Machine.

For those looking for a portable drive, be very careful about the power requirements. Some drives require two USB ports (and they don't always advertize that on the box!).

Jul. 3, 2009

item.95283

Gary Devoe

I've been using a couple of inexpensive Verbatim Firelite firewire drives (bought from Amazon through the MacInTouch link of course!) for my SuperDuper backups for the last year. They've run flawlessly & don't overheat, I'm very happy with them.

I can also vouch for the OWC portable enclosures, am currently using a 500GB Seagate Momentus I purchased on sale in an OWC SATA enclosure. I've picked up one for each of my kids' computers for backup, they're more inclined to use the "cool"-looking drive.

item.95286

Paul Huang

I wouldn't use any plastic-enclosure drive for Time Machine"including Apple's Time Capsule.

Heat is definitely a problem, just look at the hard drive failure rate on the MacBooks (plastic version).

item.95313

John Link

I've been living overseas for a year and before I left I moved my whole set-up to my aging PowerBook G4 with two external 2.5 inch combo drives from Oyen Digital (oyendigital.com). They are small, quiet, attractive, and sturdy (all-aluminum cases). I have one on Firewire 800, the other on Firewire 400 with an 800-to-400 adapter and they both run (simultaneously) without external power (USB might be a different story). They also have eSATA connectors and DC in ports but I'm not using either. Oxford 924 chipset and FWIW they come with lots of cables included. Most importantly, they have been 100% reliable (knock wood) with daily use over the past year. No affiliation, just a satisfied customer.

Jul. 4, 2009

item.95353

Antonio Tejada

Paul Huang wrote:

"I wouldn't use any plastic-enclosure drive for Time Machine"including Apple's Time Capsule.
Heat is definitely a problem, just look at the hard drive failure rate on the MacBooks (plastic version)."

Except that you're implying two premises which are both incorrect. Consider:

1) There's no proven blanket correlation between drive temperature and failure rate (except when you're talking about extreme heat higher than that found in a computer). If anything, Google's drive reliability study found that heat, in the temperature ranges found in a computer, does not have a negative effect on drives under 3 years old. On the contrary: as temperature rises, drive failure rates drop until 45?C, when they then begin to slowly rise. Drives generally show massively higher failure rates in their 3rd year, and only there does temperature begin to have a clear deleterious effect.
2) There is no blanket drive failure in plastic MacBooks. Yes, the 60GB Seagate (an extremely popular configuration) had a very high failure rate, but remaining drive models show no unusual failure rate in a MacBook. I've also pulled drives (including the famous 60GB Seagate) from plastic MacBooks right after extended use (e.g. to clone the entire drive to a new drive), and they're... lukewarm. Those machines don't run hot.

(Does anyone else here remember first-generation 7200RPM SCSI hard drives? Those ran so hot -- in normal operation! -- that you couldn't touch them.)

Jul. 6, 2009

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Kevin Purcell

Paul Huang says

"I wouldn't use any plastic-enclosure drive for Time Machine"including Apple's Time Capsule. Heat is definitely a problem, just look at the hard drive failure rate on the MacBooks (plastic version)."

You are assuming they failed due to heat which doesn't seem to be the case. There was a particular drive revision that failed.

Amongst my many external drives (none of which have a fan) I run a 120GB drive in a unvented OWC "tin-plate" surrounded by plastic case on an always on machine. I tested this out before I tried it on a long run and measure the temp of the drive in service. Hot but I could keep my finger on it so that's just over 50C.

Which is good: that's the operating temp for these drives though a human would find it hot.

One of the drive failure studies that looked at failures versus temp found the cooler drives failed more often. Perhaps lower temp == thicker lube == failed bearings.

So measure the drive temp in sustained use (digital cooking thermometers are inexpensive and surprisingly accurate and precise) and check its operating range (it's in the data sheet). If it's in range don't worry about it (and use RAID mirroring :-)

Orientation of the case can be an issue for drive temp. I've measured the difference better using the case "flat" on a table and "spine" down on the table (the latter has larger vertical flat surfaces which seem to help cooling). It makes a difference inside the case by a few degrees. And it saves space.

Some other plastic cases do have vent holes perhaps on one side. It helps if these are uppermost to vent the case.

Jul. 16, 2009

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MacInTouch Reader

I'd definitely stay away from the Western Digital drives. I've had a host of problems with these drives dying prematurely - internal and Mybook.

With the pressure to produce ever cheaper computer components quality is sure to slip.

The good news is that you can purchase drives inexpesively and create several redundant backups of critical data.

So far I've had no problems with an Hitachi 500 GB internal drive but it is just a month old. (mfg. by Hitachi in China)

Caveat emptor!

Jul. 17, 2009

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MacInTouch Reader

MacInTouch Reader has had nothing but problems with WD drives and warns readers to stay away.

I've had the complete opposite experience. I've never had a WD drive fail, under any circumstances. I've had Maxtors, Quantums (remember them?), Fujitsu, Seagate, Samsung....you name it, they've failed. But never any WD drives.

YMMV.

Jul. 18, 2009

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Robert Mohns

A couple more drive anecdotes ... and remember, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data" :-)

* I haven't had a 3.5" desktop drive fail in at least a decade. I've used mainly Seagate, Maxtor, IBM, and Western Digital drives. (I even had a couple of IBM's "Deathstar" 60 GB units that never failed.)

* I've had a couple 2.5" laptop drives fail in Macbooks in the past few years; one was the original Apple-installed drive, the next was one of the problematic Western Digital Scorpio drives that was reported here in MacInTouch. (This was replaced rapidly by WD; I had no complaints. They made it really easy to get the replacement via quick and easy online self-service.)

Based on these admittedly limited experiences, I tend to assume that desktop hard drives are mostly quite reliable, but laptops are vulnerable to all that movement causing gradual degradation or rapid failure... so make sure you have a good backup system in place! (I love Time Machine for its ease of setup and hourly backups. But when it has trouble, it can be troublesome to fix and can be easier to erase and start afresh.)

I used to have strong loyalties to certain makers, but over time, I have concluded that *all* makers have occasional problem batches than give them a bad reputation -- and that bad rep lasts for *years* beyond its due! So my brand loyalty to certain drives is gone. Now I buy based on length of warranty period and performance. I won't buy any drive with a 1-year warranty; if the maker doesn't want to promise it'll last more than a year, I don't want to rely on it!

My personal Mac Pro boots from a two-drive stripe of Maxtor MaxLine Pro 500 GB enterprise drives with 5-year warranties. I believe if Maxtor thinks they'll last a while, the odds are in my favor. I back up using Time Machine to a Seagate FreeAgent Pro FireWire 800 drive. If the RAID fails, I'll be out a few hours required to install OSX on a new drive and restore from backup. (I would be less blase about the downtime if I didn't have another Mac at hand for fallback.)

My next backup drive will likely be a Western Digital Green drive for its low power needs. Decent warranty + desirable features = win my business.

Jul. 20, 2009

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MacInTouch Reader

Some formatting problems may be because the drive is NTFS formatted as was the case with my new Maxtor USB drive.

I asked my wife to pick up a USB hard drive while she was at Costco since they will take things back if they do not work. She came back with a Maxtor Mac OneTouch 4 drive. I plugged it in and there was a Mac OneTouch 4 Formatting Tool in a folder that was visible. However, the drive was NTFS format which is not what you want for a Mac.

I first drag copied the visible folder to my MacBook hard disk. I tried to reformat with the 10.5.5 Disk Utility with no luck. I then open the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Formatting Tool software that I had copied and did a quick basic reformat to HFS+ which seemed OK.

Then I used Apple's Disk Utility to redo the plain HFS+ into a GUID 3 partition HFS+ journaled drive. It seems to work fine. I've checked the drive with Apple's Disk Utility and the latest versions of DiskWarrior and Drive Genius and no problems showed up.

If your problem drive is NTFS, you can download the Mac OneTouch 4 Formatting Tool from Maxtor's site and try it if nothing else works. Other drive manufactures probably have similar software that will allow Mac users to reformat "Windows only" drives.


Aug. 5, 2009

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Paul Huang

Fifteen years ago, an office air conditioning malfunctioned on a hot summer night and took five out of ten SCSI drives down with it, I knew that temperature definitely had to do with hard drive failures. It's not any different today.

I continue to favor drives with metal enclosure than plastic ones. Iomega has been making 2.5" external FW/USB 2.0 drives for years. Until the latest FW800 version arrived, they were all enclosed in aluminum enclosures. It may feel hot, but that is exactly what the metal is doing: dissipating heat.

Iomega calls their enclosure 'solid aluminum', but in reality, the entire thing is plastic and sealed. It prevents heat from escaping. The only metal parts are the thin aluminum veneer (cover) on the top and bottom. Since plastic does not conduct heat, the 'solid aluminum' is decoration only and does not do a thing.

The frame around the outside may seem like aluminum, but it is silver paint over plastic. I have taken one apart to verify this. I generally fully disassemble a product and give it a thorough look before I endorse it. In this case, FW800 may be nice, but this drive is definitely not designed for prolonged use.

Buyer beware. I don't know how Iomega could call it 'solid aluminum' when the aluminum part is no more than 20% of the total volume or mass.

I am glad that because of this new design, the old ones were put on sale. I picked up a few dozens of the 'liquor flask' design drive from Amazon.com at prices **LOWER** than if you were to buy bare drives of the same capacity.

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Robert Mohns

Paul Huang describes discontinued real aluminum drive enclosures by Iomega on Amazon. Is this it?
Iomega Prestige Portable

Aug. 6, 2009

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Henry Norr

The link to Amazon below Kenneth Bowman's recommendation of G-Technology external drives points to triple-interface, 5,400-rpm 500-GB drive Amazon is offering for $234. On that page, under "What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item?," there's a link to an Amazon page for a quad-interface (eSATA added), 7,200-rpm 500-GB drive, apparently in the same G-Tech enclosure, offered on the Apple Store for $170. Anyone know why a seemingly better product costs so much less?

[The more expensive 5400-RPM model is a 2.5" drive while the 7200-RPM model is a 3.5" drive; that's why the price differs: the smaller drives cost more. -MacInTouch]

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Paul Huang

Words may have gotten to the legal department, but I still see 'a solid aluminum construction' continues to be displayed on the eGo (new design) page.

Prestige is a USB-only drive and its case is 50% thicker than the rectangular case I was referring to. The Prestige has curved/arched sides, but the one I am talking about has straight lines. If you search 'eGo FW800' in Amazon.com, you will see the pictures I took. It shows all three generations, except the Prestige.

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Kenneth Bowman

G-Technology (http://www.g-technology.com/) makes real metal cases with exposed heat sinks on the bottom. They are more expensive than most external drives, but seem to be high quality. I think the company belongs to Hitachi now, and they use Hitachi drives, which I have had good luck with. Apple sells them through the Apple store.

[Amazon has a number of G-drives, including the 500GB Mini Triple -MacInTouch]

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Julian Welch

Re: Paul Huang

If an air-conditioner failure took out 5 SCSI drives it's unlikely that the increase in ambient temperature was to blame. Far more likely that the failure caused a transient in the electrical supply which in turn killed the drives.

The recent massive Google hard drive study showed that heat is much less of an issue with failing hard drives than most people imagine.

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Paul Huang

Please do not cite Google's internal study. Their samples are drawn from controlled environment.

Can anyone explain the 4x higher failure rate of hard drives in MacBooks? What's the only variable different from the rest of the notebooks? Same drives, similar usage, but the same drives in MacBooks are prone to 4x higher failure rate?

Now, my question is, why did those drives (50% of them) die in random order if the power supply failed?

Aug. 7, 2009

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Neil Maller

Kenneth Bowman writes:

"G-Technology (http://www.g-technology.com/) makes real metal cases with exposed heat sinks on the bottom."

Another vote in favour of these. We bought a 3.5" 1TB G-Tech for external Time Machine storage in an environment where silent operation was wanted. There's no fan, since the whole case is one big aluminum heat sink. Well worth the money for the bulletproof construction and multi-standard interface.

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Sterett Prevost

As long as this thread is talking about heat dissipation, I thought I'd mention OWC's MiniStack cases in which the 3.5" drive is nestled in a large, finned heat sink that projects through a cut-out in the bottom of the case. There is also a temperature sensor attached to the drive body that tells the internal fan when to turn on. Another useful feature of these cases is that they come in a variety of interfaces and can be used as powered hubs, if desired. No affiliation with OWC, just very satisfied with the MiniStacks I've put into service with me and my clients.

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Julian Welch

To Paul Huang:

Paul, surely a controlled environment is just what you want for any meaningful study. They studied a hundred thousand regular SATA and PATA desktop drives, they weren't server grade models. They came to the conclusion that over-cooling drives led to more failures than those running a little hot. It's as simple as that.

Cheers!

Aug. 8, 2009

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Chris Man

On the hard drive temperature aspect, what helps hard drive life is if their environment is at a similar temperature to their working temperature, since this minimises thermal shock.

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Colleen Thompson

Harvey Lexton wrote

"I have now had 2 Maxtor Basics Family HDD's external 1.5TB model number STM315005EHD301. Both have failed, and I have lost the data on them. The problem is that the PC won't recognise them because even without the USB connected they make a really weird pulsing noise."

That noise might be either the drive inside has failed, or the enclosure's power supply has failed. From what I can see from pictures it does not appear to be a RAID.

If your data is important you could try taking the drive out of the case and accessing it another way, using an inexpensive USB drive adapter, or mounting it in another enclosure.

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Jason Zamojcin

LaCie use to be great way back in the ole' day. But I wouldn't use their stuff if it were given to me. I love the Western Digital MyBooks and for those of you who have some extra $ and want more protection, then the Drobos are amazingly sweet! The fact is, the Hard Drive is old school and we need to move away from mechnically moving parts. What ever the future hold, I only assume we'll always want multiple copies/backups!

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Louis Hecht

I have used LaCie drives for 10 years. I have found them very reliable and customer service has readily replaced one drive that failed w/i warranty.

Today we all need external hard drives for different situations - the conventional storage or back up device for a single computer, network attached storage/backup, RAID, and all these different contexts are not only on our desktops, or computer closets, but our living rooms.

Toshiba has just announced availability of a 256 and 512 MB SSD, that will fit in laptops, and there are now vendors a plenty with 1, 1.5, and 2 TB offerings with any type of connection one may desire (except USB 3.0) that are reasonably priced.

I just purchased an OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro (1TB) to connect to the TC 2TB. Both work exceptionally well, a quite and speedy. OWC has excellent ratings and this drive has been out long enough that user experience is on the net for all to use in their purchase decisions.

In summary I do not think anybody can go wrong with LaCie or OWC.

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Randall Voth

Many MacAlly enclosures are solid aluminum without fans. I've had good use from one of these (model G-S350SUA, for 3.5" hard drives) but haven't used it in highly stressful situations. My particular model came with FW400, USB and eSATA.

Oct. 2, 2009

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MacInTouch Reader

For the past few weeks I've been noticing some anomalies with my boot hard disk. It seems that every Thursday or Friday I lose upwards of 20GBs of space.

I'm running a 250GB HD pretty full with a mere 20-25GB free, but it hasn't been much of a problem for the past year. I just keep off-loading to other drives.

But in the past month or so (btw- I'm running 10.5.8 on a 3GB RAM iMac 2.16 Core 2 Duo) I've been running into this problem and fairly quickly started to suspect Spotlight since Activity Viewer was showing MDS and MDSWORKER chugging along quite voraciously.

I'm also running a torrent client and had read about excluding that folder since it drove Spotlight nuts with constant indexing, so I excluded that folder in the preference pane a few weeks ago and thought I'd solved the problem.

However, the cat came back (ha, I just realized the "leopard" humour in that). And here I am on a Thursday night getting notice that my HD is almost full again. By this time I'm fed up and I go into the Spotlight PrefPane and blatantly add my entire boot drive to the "Privacy" section, to not index.

Well lord behold, as soon as I do that 25GB miraculously becomes available to me! It happened right away.

I'm all into being able to find what I'm looking for via Spotlight when I need to (which isn't often), but taking up more then 10% of the drive space to do it?!

I don't think so.

Oct. 5, 2009

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Mick Donalds

Just a word on GTech drives...

Bought one a few months ago, even though it was more expensive, because it did look and feel solid, had the quad interface (USB 2.0, FW400, FW800 and eSATA), and was being sold through the Apple Store.

It was tough though, because I've used IBM/Hitachi and WD drives exclusively for the past decade and never had any failures. Not one. No, really. Yeah, every so often some weird thing would happen, but a quick pass by Disk Utility would fix it. And now?

This ... GTech drive is failing to mount every so often; when it does, it will stop working within a short period of time, Disk Utility said it was fixed, Disk Warrior said it was fixed... but it just_won't_work right.

So... lesson? Don't bother with the more expensive drives.

They're not like computers with OS's that are easier to use, etc., etc. I remember a study or two years ago that led to some frank discussions with a group of techs. The wisdom in those conversations was this: hard drives fail, and honestly, kinda randomly.

Figure out which interface you'll most likely want to use over the next few years (because by that time you'll probably have the option of a *lot* more storage for less money & space or new faster connection technology etc) and get a reputable inexpensive drive with a good long warranty and your preferred interface (there'll more than likely already be another one on it that's very common as well)... EXCEPT... get two. Or even three.

I paid way too much for this freakin' thing and now realize I could have had *two* backup drives for the same money and *that* is what will really save your neck in a disaster scenario.... multiple backups.

I'm not waiting for the epic fail on this byotch and will probably get new drives today and back up what I can (in tiny increments, of course, since this damn thing won't stay operational for more than a few minutes it seems). I'm looking at Elephant Storage or a Drobo unit that I can fill with whatever drives I decide to pick up. This has always been my M.O. before... get case, get OEM drive, build... and it's worked great. I think this little experiment has taught me to forget about pre-packaged HD's for the most part.

Any advice/experience on the Drobo? It's not a huge cost issue but as I wasn't even close to expecting to spend another chunk of change on external storage, I'd like to hear a bit before plunking it down.

Oh, yes... noticed recently that nearly all the GTech drives have been removed from the Apple Store. Be careful about these.

[Have you contacted G-Tech about the problem? -MacInTouch]

Nov. 18, 2009

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Ron LaPedis

The power supply on my Guardian Maximus failed and OWC sent me a new onefor free even though it was out of warranty because they owned up to a run of bad power supplies. Kudos!

Dec. 1, 2009

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MacInTouch Reader

In contrast with all the complaints about bad customer service following power supply failures, I want to commend Granite Digital for their insanely great customer service!

When I recently had a recurrent power supply problem with an out of warranty several year old inexpensive Granite Digital aluminum hard drive case they not only replaced the power supplies for free, but since the modern 2TB drives draw more current than the 250GB drives that were the largest available when I originally bought the Granite Digital case, they gave me a free upgrade to more powerful power supplies from one of their newer and more expensive cases!

So kudos to Granite Digital for fabulous customer service. [No connection, just a delighted customer.]

Dec. 7, 2009

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Gary Kellogg

I had an interesting experience in which I started to get system freezes on my MBP 5,2 that I could not correlate with any particular activity except for disk activity. I have had hard disks fail before and these freezes were symptomatic of such a failure. However, I wasn't hearing any clicking, there was no corrupt data and an hours long surface scan revealed nothing. Nevertheless, I was literally getting ready to open the case and reinstall the old drive and order another new one (The purportedly failing drive was just 3 days beyond Amazon's return window, natch).

In a sort of last gasp shot in the dark, it occurred to me to freshly install all of the utilities and preferences that had continuously running background services. I began by doing a simple file search using HoudahSpot for all the Entourage stuff. I immediately had a brief freeze prior to the file list being rendered which made me wonder (one of those "aha" moments) if the freezing might simply be due to Spotlight index corruption. Somewhere in the fuzzy past I had heard of freezes related to Spotlight gremlins. So I erased the Spotlight index which causes it to immediately generate a fresh one -- and very quickly I might add under Snow Leopard. For the past 48 hours I have been back to solid performance.

Maybe the moral of the story is that, unless you hear that special clicking sound (the one that you never forget after hearing it once), try a little tinkering and thinking different before you nuke and pave. You might get lucky.

Dec. 8, 2009

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DV Henkel-Wallace

Oddly enough I had almost the identical experience as Gary Kellogg this week end! My machine was clunky; in my case Spotlight was hung perpetually rebuilding its index and Time Machine was unable to make a backup as it was waiting for Spotlight to finish. mdimport was consuming 92% of the CPU. A glance in the console showed that mdimport was continuously crashing.

Deleting the index with mdutil -E / didn't help. I disabled indexing and manually deleted the whole index directory, and let Time Machine complete a backup (why was it waiting for Spotlight if it could do a backup without it? To avoid thrashing the disk?) and then rebooted the machine and re-enabled Spotlight. It swiftly re-indexed the disk, and all was well!

All I can guess is that as my system became heavily loaded some sort of contention or corruption whacked mdimport, and that corrupted the index. It's a shame that I ended up with a PC-like experience but at least I got my machine back!

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