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External Hard Drive for Mac - Build or Buy

Moving out of my old PC and into my new iMac.  I've got a couple of existing hard drives I "think" will be compatible that I can store all the data I want to keep.  That would leave me with a few pretty nice hard drives.  Two are WD Raptors.  Not that large, but at 10,000 rpm faster than any external I've found.  Now to my question,....For video editing purposes, could I use the two WD Raptors (one is 40Gb the other 150Gb? don't know if size difference matters), in a dual enclosure, set them in a Raid 2 similar to this http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822205005  I know I would need some serious fans and it doesn't give me much capacity.  Really thinking of it more like my workspace.  Would store renedered videos on a larger hd.  

1.  Is this even worth trying?

2.  What is the most limiting factor affecting the speed in the setup?  Would 1394a or 1394b make any difference or will it still come down to the speed of the HDD.?  (just an fyi I'm running 4GB RAM, 2.66GHz cpu and editing app is running on internal HDD


Then part two for my other other HDDs - can I just wipe them and reformat to FAT32  (instead of current NTFS).  

3.  Am I correct that I'd need to use FAT32 when writing from OSX.  Or do I need a totally different format?

4.  If I got a new external, what specfications do I need to look for it to be Mac compatible?


Sorry for the spray of questions but hopefully you see where I'm headed with this.  I went back and numbered them so it would be a little easier to respond

Thanks
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abpowell
Asked:
abpowell
3 Solutions
 
briandunkleCommented:
The drive you link to is RAID 0 - that is, both the disks are combined, space wise, to make one big disk. Data is "striped" across them - think of it as ABABABABAB for the data, the drives being A and B. The advantage is speed - you can theoretically read from both at once...the disadvantage is that if one drive dies, you lose everything on BOTH drives. I hate RAID 0. If you really need extra speed, get three drives and do RAID 5 (one drive worth of space is used for redundancy, so you can lose one drive and your data is okay). Then you're into a whole other area, though. :)

For RAID 0, They do pretty much need to be identical.
In this case, RAID 0 wouldn't get you much (as the transfer rate is going to be the limiting factor), and would just cost more money.
You don't need 10K rpm for video editing. I have users editing on both firewire and USB 2.0 drives, and again the transfer rate is the limiting factor, not the RPMs.

My recommendation, though, is to edit everything internally, and then store it on the external. If that means you need to get a bigger internal drive, do it. The money you spend on the internal, you can make up by just getting a regular external.

Or, better yet - buy a drive (or just the enclosure, if you want to use yours) with firewire, hook it up, and see how it does. There's really no other definitive answer.
If it's not quite up to snuff, you have something to export to or backup on.

As for the formatting...I assume you'd just plug it into your mac and format it. :)

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briandunkleCommented:
Oh, and most enclosures with firewire should support both mac and PC fine, but if you look on newegg it's usually spelled out in the listing (look under external drives/enclosures, NOT through "mac" anything).
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briandunkleCommented:
(sorry, should be spelled out in the listing everywhere - not endorsing newegg, it's just the place he linked to)
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kode99Commented:
If you want to work between Mac and Windows systems you would want to use FAT32.

Can't really see if being worth it for anything but a minimal drive enclosure.  You will not find any difference worth talking about between a 5400 rpm, 7200 rpm and 10000 rpm drive through a USB or firewire interface - the interfaces are a lot slower than the drives.  Not even talking about RAID 0,  which would only serves a purpose of allowing for a larger single partition at the cost of reliability.  

You can get a USB/firewire and eSATA external drive WITH a 320 GB drive for around $100, for example

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136181

So spending much to get these old and somewhat small drives (by today's standards) could cost similar and get you a lot less capacity.  I think I've seen 1 TB externals down around $150 mark,  newegg has them for $199.

If you did want to take advantage of the faster drive in an external you will
need to look for a eSATA enclosure and likely a card for the mac to support it.  eSATA will give you equivalent performance to an internally installed drive.  USB/eSATA is a lot more common but there are a number of options that support USB/firewire/eSATA.  Here's a few,

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Order=BESTMATCH&Description=eSATA+firewire&x=13&y=28

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Eoin OSullivanConsultantCommented:
1.  Is this even worth trying?
NO, not unless the 2 drives were identical.

2.  What is the most limiting factor affecting the speed in the setup?  Would 1394a or 1394b make any difference or will it still come down to the speed of the HDD.?  (just an fyi I'm running 4GB RAM, 2.66GHz cpu and editing app is running on internal HDD
See Q1.

3.  Am I correct that I'd need to use FAT32 when writing from OSX.  Or do I need a totally different format?
NO, OSX can read/write to FAT32 but the native file format for OSX is called HFS+.
Windows PCs can't read HFS by default but FAT32 has a 4Gb limit on single files so if you were expecting large data files .. stick to HFS.
The Disk Utility on OSX can format externals as FAT32, HFS (and now with a MacFuse plug-in can read/write and format NTFS!!)

4.  If I got a new external, what specfications do I need to look for it to be Mac compatible?
USB2 .. that's it.  Just about every make and model of external USB2 drive will work seamlessly on OSX.  
Often they will have rubbish backup software such as WD or Maxtor ... for Windows-only .. but that doesn't matter.
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abpowellAuthor Commented:
"a card for the mac to support it"  Sorry one last follow up to this.....I've only got the 20" iMac.  There is no card I can use for that is there?  

I don't see any ports, but again, this is my first Mac and I am embarrassed to say I couldn't find the on button when I first hooked it up.  My 7 year had to show me.  Of course he has access to one at school but still, it's taking a while for this PC to convert to a Mac.  
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briandunkleCommented:
Yeah, I had trouble finding the power button on one of the ones at my sons' school. Only been working on computers professionally for 20+ years. :)
Is this your imac?
http://store.apple.com/Catalog/regional/amr/imac/img/gallery-big-03.jpg
If so, no, you can't put a card in there - the ports listed in the picture are what you get.
The interface with the drive is still a question of whether you need to edit the files directly from the external drive, or can edit them on the internal drive and just use the external for storage or backup once the editing is done.
If you're just going to be copying the files back and forth from the external drive, USB 2.0 is fine; if you want your files to live on there and be edited from there, both should work but firewire is recommended.
Hope that makes sense. :)
You should ALWAYS have backup of anything you care about, so if you do get an external that turns out not to work well enough to edit on, it will still be valuable to you. Trust me on the backup thing. Drives just die. Any drive.
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