Which external hard drive to buy?

Posted on 2004-09-08
Last Modified: 2010-04-03
I'm a film student looking into purchasing an external hard drive for mainly digital video purposes, but also for backups and probably regular use with my computer and I will be running between my university's computers(mac for doing log and capture) and my own(PC) often.  I'm looking to spend between $100-$200 for a 120gb-200gb drive (been looking on Ebay and
I have a number of questions:
Which is better?  A name brand manufactured 3.5" external hard drive or a house band enclosure/name brand hard drive combo?
Is there a performance difference between the two?  (I heard that because name brand external hard drives perform faster and better because they are made exactly for fast and portable use whereas enclosure/hard drive combos are slower because they perform as an internal hard drive, hence is slower (is this just bull?))
If name brand:  does it matter if it doesn't have a fan?  Is there danger of overheating because of the lack of a fan?
If house brand:  Do I need to find an enclosure with a fan included or does it not matter?  (cooler hdd is, the more reliable?)
Is it even worth it to look into enclosures or drives with 1394b firewire 800 when university macs only have 1394a?
That's all I can think of right now to ask so please reply soon and thank you in advance.
Question by:Thaddeux
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Assisted Solution

Cyber-Dude earned 75 total points
ID: 12013813
Wow, the ultimate question;

For data only transfer use USB2.0 but for data management (i.e. play/record/ff/rew and forth) use the Firewire technology for it built for those purposes. As for drives; go for the ones who use an 8 mb Buffer. this will increase the efficiancy data is transferred. A specific manufacturer is less important (though I heared great views on the Maxtor family).

But, before purchasing any of these check for compatibility;
1. What OS are you using?
2. What ports do you have in your computer?
3. Are you able to connect the IEEE1394?
4. What software are you going to use in order to store data on the drives?

Meanwhile, heres a link for you to look at that might be helpful:


Author Comment

ID: 12018625
Thanks for the tips and the links.

I'll be running xp pro at my home computer and getting firewire ports, but as for the software, I don't have a clue.  I just figured whatever one comes with the drive (does one come with the drive?).

I still have questions about the external drive vs enclosure/internal drive.  Is it worth it to spend a little extra for the straight external or just find a good enclosure and a good internal drive to put in it for cheaper?

Accepted Solution

Kooroo earned 125 total points
ID: 12021063
1.) The boxed external hard drive technically shouldn't be different from an enclosure and standard IDE hard drive. You do get certain features tho such as one touch backups and the comfort in that the enclosure is exactly suited to the drive it's wrapped around and, therefore, may have better shock absorbtion properties. They do cost more tho.
2.) Performance delta between external and internal drives is a falsity. the drive is physically the same. more likely, any performance gain you receive is from the drive not sharing an IDE channel with another device, but the drive itself performs the same.
3.) IMO, the 2 most important factors to consider when using external hard drives is durability and cooling. durability is up there because external drives see more abuse and shock and are exposed to more particles and pollution than most internal drives. Cooling is up there because you're essentially taking a drive that's designed to sit in a case a few feet tall, and stuffing it in a box that's only a few inches tall. So a fan is kinda important. Cooler hard drive is less likely to fail.
4.) Firewire 800 should be backwards compatible with other firewire versions, so if you have/plan to get an 800 port...go for it.
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Expert Comment

ID: 12023007
External Drives for the Office and the Road,aid,115058,00.asp

Expert Comment

ID: 12023804
I prefer using 2,5" hdd with usb 2.0, because usually they don't need an additonal power supply for the external hdd. Plug & work and no worry about plugging-in the power supply.
Drawbacks: 2,5" hdds are more expensive and there are no big hdds (>80gb)
LVL 15

Expert Comment

ID: 12026476
Sorry to tell you but a USB Harddrive is less fast than an Internal IDE drive due to the following:
The USB drive uses CPU power to handle communications and chunk data rebuild between the device and the CPU vs. the IDE controller which takes care of data transfer and rebuilding it to complete chunks and send it to the CPU - that is the reason why it is a controller and not a hub.
The following links containe great articles about both architectures:

But than again;
If you wish treating data transfer soley as data transfer (i.e. copying) and data relocation is of non importance, you should use the IDE controller rather the external USB. You can use the USB port storage solution if you have plans to relocate data from one location to another in an eficient manner.
Now, as for the devices, which hard drive is best... I think the explenations from the abouve authors and reports may provide you with good answer.
What software?
There are two major software for home use; The Pinnacle and the Ulead studio. Deeper? use Avid software (it may take you a year to study all its features...hehehe)...

More info?


Author Comment

ID: 12027003
Thanks for all the answers, they all really helped.  I think I can make an educated decision now with this information.  Thanks to everyone that helped but I think I'm gonna have to split the points between Cyber and Kooroo.

Thanks guys,

Expert Comment

ID: 12030269
Sorry Cyber, but I'm going to have to disagree with you in this case, because, as you've pointed out, the CPU handles the filesystem operations when using a USB device, however, the amount of chunking data that has to be handled by the CPU is trivial compared the modern day processing power. If Thaddeux were connecting something along the lines of a SCSI drive array via USB, you would be 110% right, but in this scenario, it's a basic IDE hard drive which is almost always going to be the bottleneck on system performance. On top of that, the OP is considering a firewire enclosure, which has it's own data transfer characteristics and communications schema. So as far as technical merits, you definitely get the gold star, but with the extra load on the cpu isn't significant enough to really warrant a performance delta.

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