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Author Topic: Hard drives to back-up both Mac & PC
Tech Angel
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Icon 1 posted April 16, 2007 17:35      Profile for Tech Angel     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'd like to get a large external hard drive (300-500 GB) to back up both my MacBook and my ThinkPad X60 tablet. Most important to me are manufacturer reliability, access speed (both read and write), and the included back-up software (both ease-of-use and ability to handle both Mac and Windows). So, two sets of questions:

- I have a feeling that backing up both a PC and Mac to the same hard drive will not be as simple as I'd like -- there are surely factors I'm not aware of or problems I'll encounter. Anyone here have advice re: the best back-up software for this, or who can clue me in on what I'll eventually learn the hard way?

- What guidance can you provide on which manufacturers (or specific drives) to consider or rule out in terms of reliability? After reading numerous reviews from both magazines and individual users, I'm more confused than ever. For example, professional reviewers regularly laud LaCie drives as among the best, but scores of Amazon and CNet user reviews pan them as unreliable. Other brands receive great user reviews but so-so professional ones. I see nothing even remotely like a consensus.

Thanks in advance for your advice and insights!

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We must be the change we want to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

Posts: 330 | From: the Great State of Confusion | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
WinterSolstice

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Icon 1 posted April 16, 2007 17:55      Profile for WinterSolstice     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I use a Seagate external and just copy across the directories as needed. The drive just needs to be formatted FAT32 or something similar to allow compatibility between the OSs.

Backup from Apple works very nicely too, if you have .Mac.

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Posts: 1192 | From: Los Angeles | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ugh, MightyClub
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Icon 1 posted April 16, 2007 20:38      Profile for Ugh, MightyClub     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
My only word of advice, after having put a Maxtor NAS on my Mac home network, is that Mac filenames allow characters that are illegal for files stored on a drive formatted for Windows/Linux. This shouldn't be a problem if you're using backup software that creates an archive file, but if you intend to keep raw copies of some files or applications on the external drive you might need to take extra steps. I've tripped on several applications that won't copy to the NAS because a file in their bundle has a name the NAS' filesystem doesn't like.

If you're looking at a directly attached drive (USB/Firewire), you could create one MacOS partition and one Windows partition. That's not as efficient in terms of space allocation, though.

Oh, another observation about my NAS -- the thing is a dog when writing large quantities (500 or so) of small files in one shot. The time seems to go up exponentially. This despite the fact that it scored relatively well in the write-speed benchmarks I looked at before buying it. I blame the Reiser (sp?) filesystem, but only because I don;t know anything about it [Smile]

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Posts: 1739 | From: Ithaca, NY | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged
The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted April 16, 2007 21:26      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by WinterSolstice:
The drive just needs to be formatted FAT32 or something similar to allow compatibility between the OSs

Beware of formatting a backup drive as FAT32.

FAT32 has a file size limit of 4 GB, no matter how big your drive is. If you're using backup software that creates One Big File, you may find you hit that 4 GB limit pretty quickly.

My backup drives are formatted as NTFS for that reason, which means the Mac can't write to it directly, so I have to backup across the network onto a shared directory on the PC.

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Posts: 10669 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
jfw
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Icon 1 posted April 18, 2007 15:14      Profile for jfw     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Hard drive manufacturers seem to regularly trade places as to who makes the worst drives. Right now I'm waiting for my last couple of Maxtor backup drives to die so I can finish replacing them with Western Digital MyBooks; and yet, a few years ago, Western Digital had their own spate of garbage drives...

The Western Digital MyBook is a nice package and (so far) works well for me. However, I threw out all of the software which came with it, so I have no idea how good the included backup software is.

My backup platform of choice is Retrospect (despite the fact that support has gotten kind of shabby recently). I have one backup machine on my home network, several client licenses for the various laptops and desktops in my family, and it all mostly works smoothly. (Aside from the occasional disk failing, filling up, or Retrospect's habit of having its daemon process mysteriously quit every now and then.) And yes, I have had the opportunity to make use of the restore feature, so I know it works. [Wink] If you don't already have Retrospect Desktop, that's an added expense, and if you only have two laptops, that's probably not a sensible backup strategy.

Posts: 20 | From: Boxboro Massachusetts | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
GrumpySteen

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Icon 1 posted April 18, 2007 15:33      Profile for GrumpySteen     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
What I did was to purchase an inexpensive external drive enclosure and two drives rather than a pre-built external. It costs a bit more, but I can swap the drives in the enclosure and back up to alternating drives.

Even if one of the backup drives fails, I have a secondary backup to work with. As a result, drive quality is a lot less significant to me. At most I'll lose two weeks instead of one (unless, say, my apartment explodes. I'm not quite worried enough to start storing backups off-site... yet.)

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted April 18, 2007 16:51      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Tech Angel __________________________________ Back when USB was the rage and Firewire was still ieee 1337 or what ever, I bought an external USB drive inclosure bought the biggest drive I could get my hands on IDEATA 66 and put it in the USB inclosure. Then I took it back out and put in my SuperMac by Umax then useing Apples tools I devided it into three equal size partions One Mac, One Rizer, and one Winblows. Took said drive out of the SuperMac and put it back into the USB box.

When plugged into the Mac it shows the Mac, and Winblows partions. When plugged into the Ubuntu box all files show. And Winblows always wants to reformat to get more space, there is unallocated space on this drive do you want to reformat?

I put photos into the windows area because all three boxes can see them. Now I feel that any thing I want to keep can go onto a CD and all three boxes can read it.

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Posts: 5836 | From: Just South of the Huron National Forest, in the water shed of the Rifle River | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Serenak

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Icon 1 posted April 19, 2007 01:12      Profile for Serenak     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I recently pruchased a Buffalo Linkstation Pro 400Gb NAS for £200 this comes ready to support Macs and PCs out of the box (I bought it because it has "proper" AFP support so long Mac filenames are not a problem like they can be on one that relies on SMB)

It comes with Mac and PC software (more for PC than Mac I admit) including IIRC a backup tool for Windows. I use SuperDuper and LaCie Silverkeeper for back up purposes. It was a doddle to set up and I think I made a good choice.

Another reason I bought it was that when I sent Buffalo a query about the best model for me (stating my needs clearly and asking them to clarify which models have full AFP support) I got a very nice "real" reply explaining clearly precisely which models support AFP and telling me they would look into making the web descriptions clearer on that point. (To summarise - the Linkstation Pro Series support AFP, the Linkstation Series do not.)

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Posts: 1936 | From: Suffolk England | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged
Richard Wolf VI
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Icon 10 posted April 19, 2007 06:08      Profile for Richard Wolf VI   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've always read on PCMag that the Maxtor OneTouch series are quite great for backing up drives, and they include back up software to start configuring your back up with ease.

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Posts: 1356 | From: BogotŠ, Colombia | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged
Tech Angel
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Icon 1 posted April 20, 2007 21:56      Profile for Tech Angel     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Thanks, everyone, for the tips and insights! I haven't decided yet what specifically to buy, but your inputs will certainly help me make a better informed decision.

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We must be the change we want to see in the world. -Mahatma Ghandi

Posts: 330 | From: the Great State of Confusion | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
stevenback7
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Icon 1 posted April 21, 2007 06:31      Profile for stevenback7   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
when i bought my external hard drive it was more of a spontanous thing - I saw in the futureshop flyer an 250 gig external hard drive which was a hundred dollars cheaper then regular price. So i did some quick searching on the internet and found out that there were no major problems people had with the hard drive and went out the following day and bought it.

I think any external hard drive is fine you just have to make sure that you get extended warrenty (since you are getting a pretty large and expensive hard drive) and that there aren't any really bad reviews on the product - you will always get the person who is disapointed but if the general trend is positive then go out and buy it.

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Posts: 1199 | From: Canada eh? | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged


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