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The Robot Needs Storage.

I’m currently in the market for a new external hard drive, and thought I’d poll the hive mind Internet for suggestions. I currently have a 250GB LaCie disk, which (scarily) is starting to fill up. I’d normally rush out and just nab another FireWire drive, but I think I’d like something networkable this time ’round—however, I don’t have much experience with such things, and could use a few recommendations.

As for specifics, there really aren’t any beyond the above. I’m shopping for something in the neighborhood of a terabyte, though I don’t have byte envy: a quality product’s more important. I’d typically consider Apple’s admittedly sexy-looking Time Capsule dealie, but it doesn’t seem to be enjoying the best reviews at the moment.

So, the question: What hard drive would you buy, and why?

Responders will be spared from The Robot’s unceasing, human-smashing wrath. For now.

This is a blog entry posted on day 11247 in the Journal.

26 comments posted.


  1. Mike Stickel says:

    I’d suggest Drobo or the Netgear ReadyNAS. Both seem pretty good and should meet your needs if you don’t want the Time Capsule.

    I’ve got a lot of faith in the Time Capsule despite the reviews. Looking forward to getting one myself.

  2. Ryan Irelan says:

    Just buy a stack of CDs and burn your files to them at the end of every day.

  3. Keith LaFerriere says:

    As much as the Time Capsule is seeing some bashing, we have 2 500Gb models (one in each office) and they’re absolutely dreamy. No problems and we’ve had them running nightly backups for about 2 weeks.

    Actually, they haven’t been getting as hot as reported, either, so I’m either lucky or whatever.

  4. Jason says:

    I’m with Mike. If I had my druthers, I’d have a ReadyNAS sitting next to me right now. Well, my druthers and a grand to throw around.

  5. Wilson Miner says:

    Real men use NAS. We’re a ReadyNAS household, and I haven’t had a single complaint, but now that Drobo has a NAS attachment, I’d consider that as an option too. You can always start with one drive and expand later if the price tag is scary.

  6. Stuart Langridge says:

    I have a Linksys NSLU2, which is a little device which plugs into your network and then you plug one or two USB drives into it. Has the nice advantage that getting more storage is just a case of buying whatever USB hard drives you like; plug them in and pow, they’re on the network. A second advantage if and only if you’re feeling exceptionally techie that day is that you can put different firmware on it, which means it can be more than just a NAS; you can make it be a BitTorrent server or any one of nine million other things, which I’ll get around to doing one of these days.

  7. Renaud says:

    I have four Western Digital hard drives. I have a 500 Gb Firewire drive that plugs into both my MacBook Pro and PowerMac G5 and is primarily music only, a 500 Gb SATA/Firewire/USB that’s plugged into my MacBook Pro that’s split for backup and work, a 750 Gb USB that is hooked up to an Airport Express that I use as a network drive and I have a 250 Gb WD Passport which I use when on the road.

    I like my set up.

  8. Scott Nelle says:

    Lacie has a 500 GB drive with a gigabit ethernet port (it’s called the Ethernet Disk Mini) that’s supposed to be pretty nice. If your Lacie has been good to you, why not get another?

  9. Brian Christiansen says:

    The UIE office runs on LaCie drives. Here’s one option for you: get a LaCie drive with sufficient storage and the “triple interface” (USB2/FW/FW800) and a new AirPort Extreme. When you want to be networked, plug the LaCie to the AirPort via USB. When you want something wicked quick, plug that baby into your Mac with FW800.

  10. Rainsford says:

    We had an Lacie Ethernet Mini in our office but we had awful problems when we moved to leopard, files went missing and laCie’s support for them is pretty lame. I suspect it had to do with the Fat32 format of the disk but I can’t see why. I still have to reformat it and use it in a controlled situation (ie my home office) to see where the problem occurs. Anyway, thats my two cents, if I didn’t already have a base-station, I’d probably buy a time capsule.

  11. Scott says:

    Personally, for the last few years I’ve had nothing but problems with LaCie drives. Failure after failure.

    I recently picked up a Seagate FreeAgent Pro drive and it’s been great so far. Inexpensive, quiet, fast and actually reliable. I’ve also got a TimeCapsule at home for backing up the wife’s and my MacBooks and another on order as a secondary backup device for the office. Regular work archives go to DVD or CD, but daily backups go to disk just because it’s fast and easy to automate.

  12. Greg says:

    I don’t know why no one here has suggested a .Mac account. Not only is it completely wireless but you get even more free iCards than you know what to do with. Imagine, having Hallmarks entire inventory at your disposal! OMG that possibilities are simply, truly amazing.

    Think of it this way, can you use Time Machine or Drobo to send Charlton Heston a Remember Well Soon card with a little baby elephant on the cover? Yeah, I rest my case.

    Also, ReadyNAS looks like a wall mounted air conditioner.

  13. Wilson Miner says:

    The ReadyNAS is actually really small, like the size of two hardback biographies. I have it on a shelf behind the TV and it’s quiet enough I never notice it’s there. I used external hard drives for years, and none of them ever lasted more than two years, and most failed within a year. If I weren’t so lazy I’d make you a war-era poster that says: “Drives fail, use RAID.”

  14. Greg says:

    like the size of two hardback biographies.

    I’m having difficulty visualizing the size you describe. Since I’ve never subscribed to a Time Life Series in my life, I don’t know the physical scale of two biographies, let alone a single biography.

    How large would this thing be if it were made out of sugar packets? Not the brown Raw Sugar size, more like, say the size of Splenda packets.

  15. Justin Henry says:

    I heart my Drobo. It’s the last enclosure I’ll ever buy. Start with a couple of hard drives, and just plug another one (of any size – it just works) in when those fill up. You can plug it into an Airport Extreme (or,even an airport express I’d assume) and run Time Machine backups over the network.

  16. Wilson Miner says:

    I’m having difficulty visualizing the size you describe.

    I forgot you can’t read. Sorry.

  17. Ryan Irelan says:

    If CDs are not for you, Beep, you might want to try some of these.

  18. Greg says:

    I forgot you can’t read. Sorry.

    It’s a hereditary condition jerkward. OMG thanks for caring.

  19. Hamza says:

    I have to echo the Drobo recommendations. It’s a little pricey, but worth it for the absolute peace-of-mind it provides.

  20. Chris says:

    Get a QNAP TS-109. It’s the swiss army knife of NAS drives. Web/MySQL/FTP servers built in, along with media streaming, bit torrent client, and a host of other stuff I can’t even remember.

    I’ve had mine for several months now and I think it’s the dog wotsits.

  21. The Robot says:

    I have no frickin’ idea why EE’s Textile plugin refuses to turn “bq.” into proper blockquotes. Now I have something to debug tonight. Yay.

    Ryan , I’m sold. Though maybe I’ll just borrow your bleeding-edge backup solution once you’re done with it.

    Thanks for the suggestions, guys. I guess I just need to check out the Drobo, ReadyNAS, and the Time Machine in more detail. The one thing I’m concerned about is that my current drive, a LaCIE 250GB disk, is loud: on a bad day, sounds like an outboard motor gargling gravel. From the demo movie, the Drobo seems pretty damned quiet, and Wilson seems to like his Netgear.

    Decisions, decisions. Any other drives I should be considering?

  22. Spike says:

    Go with the 1TB Time Capsule. If you don’t get on with it, you have 14-days to return it.

  23. Brian Biddle says:

    I purchased the 1 TB Time Capsule. So far so good. The wireless range on all floors of my home is fantastic. The initial back up is a real bear… especially if you have a full HD. However, all additional backups have run smoothly and with good speed. (I’m backing up one iMac, macbook, and macMini). Accessing your Time Machine backups is not as snappy as if it were on an external firewire HD

  24. Charles Plath says:

    I had the same LaCie drive you have and mine crashed in under a year. I just got a Maxtor 320GB drive to use for Time Machine and also got a 400GB black MyBook. Love the MyBook and so far no complains on the Maxtor.

  25. Patrick Haney says:

    I guess I’ll chime in here since no one mentioned the solution I’m using.

    I’ve got myself a Newer Technologies miniStack which does the trick nicely. It gives my MacBook Pro a USB/Firewire hub and a place to backup all my files over the wire (which I usually do using SuperDuper at 4AM while I’m sleeping). Throw in a 3.5” drive of your choice (the newer version can use eSATA drives) and you’re good to go. The nice thing about it is that it stays off until I plug the USB cable into my MBP, and then it automatically turns itself on and spins up the drive.

    There’s also a miniStack NAS option if you’re so inclined.

  26. Adam Spooner says:

    I have an older LaCie drive (160 GB) and two newer ones (500 GB). All three are the drives designed by F.A. Porsche. The older drive is loud –obnoxiously loud– like you mentioned. The two newer drives are nearly silent. They all run extremely hot, though.

    My next storage purchase will be either a Drobo or Netgear’s ReadyNAS NV+. I haven’t researched either enough to claim one is better, but I’d recommend looking into those. They seem to be the best products for personal, affodable storage on the market … until my RAID-1 brain comes in.

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