Consider buying portable external drive – asking for advice/experiences

Forum Forums General Hardware Consider buying portable external drive – asking for advice/experiences

  • This topic has 18 replies, 10 voices, and was last updated Nov 21-12:59 pm by fatmac.
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  • #123479
    Member
    sybok

      Dear antiX forum member,

      I consider buying a portable external drive (after a recent read-failure of a data drive at my work-station at work).
      I welcome your advice and experiences.

      Preliminary parameters:
      – usage: mostly static backup data storage; I consider to use it for listening to music (incl. loss-less quality which might correspond to bitrate ~1000 kbps for which USB >= 2.0 “full-speed”, resp. USB >= 1.1, should suffice)
      – size (within range): 0.5-2 TB
      – connector: preferably USB-A or buy a reduction to USB-A
      – without external power source

      My current understanding:
      – SSD might provide better durability as far as shocks/quakes are concerned.
      – Not sure if rugged design makes over-heating (decreasing lifetime) more likely.

      As @Xunzi_23 recently pointed out, portable SSD Sandisk may not be a suitable choice.
      I have read a review that a HDD WD digital portable 1TB (or 2TB?) was not a good choice as well even though WD used to be a high quality brand.

      Some links:
      https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-external-hard-drive-ssd,5987.html
      https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-external-hard-drives
      https://www.expertreviews.co.uk/storage/1405456/best-external-hard-drive-the-best-portable-and-desktop-drives
      https://www.techradar.com/news/best-external-desktop-and-portable-hard-disk-drives#section-frequently-asked-questions
      https://www.pcworld.com/article/406861/best-external-drives.html
      https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-portable-ssd/

      #123480
      Member
      PPC

        My single experience with external drives was buying, some 10 years ago, a 1 Tb USB LG drive- it requires no external power, it’s so old it’s still a spinning disk one, but has been in service, basically just for back-ups for many years, so at least, back when it was made, it was built to last.
        The single problem is that the cable is a bit frail and sometimes, if it’s not really stretched, the disk is prone to losing power, while it’s being used with low powered USB ports (like the one from my TV). When connected to USB ports on the back of desktops, I think the drive never ever showed any problem of loss of power.

        P.

        #123503
        Member
        Karo

          I don’t want to make an explicit purchase recommendation, because the market is very complex and you can go down the drain with devices from established manufacturers just as easily as with cheap devices. Just a few comments.

          As you have already written yourself, SSDs from WD and Sandisc should be avoided, at least at the moment. But I wouldn’t want to recommend the very cheap drives (e.g. goodram, Transcend, Verbatim etc. etc.) either.
          Personally, I only buy SSDs from Samsung or Intel. I might also accept Kingston and Crucial. But then it gets very thin.

          Your intended use suggests that the drive will rarely or never leave the house. If this is the case, I would consider a conventional HDD. I would probably even buy the HDD and housing separately.
          But even with conventional HDDs, there have recently been an increasing number of failures after a relatively short period of use. This mainly affected very large HDDs with 8TB and more and with SMR storage methods. Drives that record using the CMR method are the better choice here. However, they are now harder to find and some manufacturers only specify the method in the data sheets. More information on SMR/CMR can be found here.

          ##############################

          original german text

          Ich möchte keine explizite Kaufempfehlung abgeben, denn der Markt ist sehr komplex und man kann mit Geräten arrivierter Herstellern genauso ins Klo greifen wie mit Billiggeräten. Nur ein paar Anmerkungen.

          Wie du schon selbst geschrieben hast, gilt es zumindest momentan SSD von WD und Sandisc zu meiden. Aber auch die sehr günstigen Laufwerke (e.g. goodram, Transcend, Verbatim etc. etc.) würde ich nicht empfehlen wollen.
          Persönlich kaufe ich grundsätzlich nur SSD von Samsung oder Intel. Kingston und Crucial würde ich eventuell auch noch akzeptieren. Aber dann wird es doch schon sehr dünn.

          Dein Verwendungszweck lässt darauf schliessen, dass das Laufwerk selten bis gar nicht das Haus verlassen wird. Wenn dem so ist, würde ich eine konventionelle HDD in Erwägung ziehen. Wahrscheinlich würde ich dann sogar HDD und Gehäuse getrennt kaufen.
          Aber auch bei konventionellen HDD gab es in letzter Zeit vermehrt Ausfälle nach relativ kurzer Nutzungsdauer. Das betraf vor allem sehr grosse HDD mit 8TB und mehr und mit SMR Speicherverfahren. Hier sind Laufwerke die im CMR Verfahren aufzeichnen die bessere Wahl. Allerdings sind sie mittlerweile schwerer zu finden und manche Hersteller geben das Verfahren nur in den Datenblättern an. Mehr Infos zu SMR/CMR z.B. hier.

          Since english is not my native language and my knowledge is too poor to represent complex things I use a translator.
          These are known not to be perfect. If you translate one of my posts from german to english into other languages, the result will be worse and worse. Therefore, I post in both english and german, so that non english speaking users can have the german text translated directly into their language.

          #123513
          Member
          anti-apXos

            I have a USB3.0 1TB WD Elements that is internally a 7200rpm spinning HDD. It’s been reliable for me for about 5 or 6 years, but that’s only a single data point. You didn’t say that power consumption is a concern for you, but it is for me and this drive has the lowest power draw of any I’ve tested, even compared to some thumb drives. My only complaint with it is that the connection inside the enclosure is proprietary, not SATA or m.2, so when the drive eventually fails, the whole thing will be useless.

            I also have an older Seagate FreeAgent Go (like this one). Internally, this one just has a regular SATA connection, so I was able to swap out the original 512GB HDD (which does still work) for a 512GB SSD. This one does have a higher power draw than the WD Elements, though, by about 33%, even though it’s USB2 and now an SSD.

            I also have a couple even older external enclosures with IDE interfaces internally that I keep so that I can connect those older drives when I need to.

            I much prefer an external drive with a standard connection internally and would not have bought the WD one if I had known. If you already have an extra HDD or SSD, you can even just buy an empty enclosure that’s the right size and connector.

            EDIT: I forgot to mention that the WD Elements drive also has a proprietary connection externally, which is another problem since cables don’t last forever, either. If I was buying a drive today, I’d get one with a USB-C connection at the drive so that it could be connected to either USB-A or C ports on the computer with easily available cables.

            #123861
            Member
            sybok

              Hi all, thank you very much for your (time and) comments; I observed them over the several days but I got more time to reply/react today.
              @Karo:
              I do not strive for the lowest price, fortunately not an issue at this moment.
              I do not expect the drive to travel regularly (i.e. too much) but it may occasionally change location (e.g. among the place I live, house of girlfriend’s parents, perhaps even my work).
              @anti-apXos:
              Good point about the connection/cables. Not sure if proprietary can be (easily) avoided.

              #123862
              Member
              Xunzi_23

                Hi Sybok, I use a laptop drive 500GB in a case with Sata zu USB interface, Reason for the
                Laptop drive is the shock protection. My case is from Sabrent, costs less than 15 Ero.
                The drive Toshiba.
                I can not recommend SSD as without regular power they can/do become forgetful to the point of
                data loss, that is due to gradual loss of charge in the memory cells.
                SSD failure is also instant and often results in total loss of data. rotating disks usually fail
                with warning, smart errors increasing.

                • This reply was modified 5 months ago by Xunzi_23.
                • This reply was modified 5 months ago by Xunzi_23.
                #123884
                Member
                wildstar84

                  It’s my understanding that modern HDDs self-park on powerdown so short of dropping it a few feet onto concrete or shaking it while powered on, I wouldn’t expect to damage it just b/c it’s a spinning disk and external.

                  Regards,

                  Jim

                  #123886
                  Moderator
                  Brian Masinick

                    Regarding data loss with power failure, particularly with SSD drive technology, if I may offer a few thoughts and alternative comments while also acknowledging everything said so far, consider also the following additional options to complement the SSD and provide redundancy as well:

                    1) USB drives make excellent backup devices; with antiX and the methods of using Frugal storage with it, you can combine USB with either SSD or HDD to provide multiple data sources.

                    2) If you find a trustworthy “Cloud-based” storage solution OR if you use a removable, high capacity HDD solution, you have another redundant data source. Combined with a frequent backup strategy, this can overcome any failure IF you back up frequently enough. At most of my jobs during my career the companies I worked for did DAILY incremental (external) backups and weekly AND MONTHLY major and/or FULL backups. The most susceptible intervals of data loss were within a business day, it was rare, if ever, that data loss was experienced, but if any, the limit was one day. We can do better than this if we copy anything important IMMEDIATELY to an external, inexpensive USB device, thereby saving anything important, limited only by the availability of backup, frequency, and our willingness to do it.

                    So even with somewhat unknown intervals in which an SSD device loses data, IF we make CERTAIN to SAVE anything really important, take it off line and remove it, the data is retained.

                    For me personally, I have not experienced a single data failure since retirement (now over five years) and I have moved to predominantly SSD drives online and a hodge-podge of backups – some info (non sensitive) public, sometimes even here, some either non sensitive or only slightly sensitive on Cloud-based solutions, and my most sensitive stuff managed by financial advisors, financial institutions, etc. Their security isn’t 100% perfect either, but they are well insured, have multiple levels of security, and for the record, I’ve never had a loss through any of these places; some stuff has been supposedly “compromised”, but it turns out those resources weren’t being actively used, so if I found an intrusion to one of those resources, I simply remove it (plus NOTHING sensitive was recorded in any of them anyway; removed, problem solved). Not perfect, nothing with network access is 100% perfect and business institutions, while generally reliable are not 100% immune to fraud or theft; what they do have is highly insured, highly redundant, carefully followed and managed network and physical storage and access management; I’ve worked at a few of these places; problems ALWAYS have a resolution AND a retrospective to learn from problems and correct them; again, not 100% perfect, but generally solid and safe, so that is what I recommend; whatever storage solution you use, back it up, use two or three resources if possible and ideally two or three technologies, and if you are really wanting to protect, also use two or three locations; that will give you a pretty darn good solution even if there are failures and even for individuals it doesn’t have to be expensive provided you plan it out well.

                    --
                    Brian Masinick

                    #123929
                    Member
                    fatmac

                      My backup disks ->
                      Powered external cased 3.5″ 500GB HDD = long term storage
                      2x 2.5″ external cased 500GB HDD = medium to long term storage
                      Plus, SSDs & M2 SSDs in external cases = Daily use//short term backup

                      If only using one disk for backup storage, I suggest a powered 3.5″ HDD in an external case

                      Linux (& BSD) since 1999
                      Ultra Small Form Factor & thin client computers

                      #123935
                      Moderator
                      Brian Masinick

                        Back when I worked, some of the work systems – heavily used servers – would occasionally, but not frequently, have disk issues. Most of them were weather related, but a few of them may have come from extensive use; all were HDD units; most were either SATA or pre-SATA era; (don’t remember the interface for pre-SATA interfaces; more than likely at that time they were proprietary for each specific brand.

                        On my own home units, I’ve never once experienced a disk failure with either HDD or SDD technologies. If I expect bad weather, I’ve learned to not only power down, but if extreme conditions are known or anticipated, I’ll even pull the power cable, due to component loss from one electrical storm experience in my New Hampshire days.

                        I’ve stated my positive experience with SDD, primarily positive because of their order of magnitude improvement in speed, balanced by the decrease in the lack of volatility in cases of failure. I have balanced all of that through many copies of data, software and hardware redundancy, so even if I do experience a failure, my percentage of data loss will be zero or very near zero, a risk I’m willing to undertake, given the sufficient backup capacity and redundancy available in my use cases. For those who do not have this, and the additional age of some of the hardware, which limits the generation of SSD available, I understand why others choose other solutions; in fact that’s why we have a diverse collection of hardware and software, which is a good thing.

                        Good discussion; additional thoughts and preferences very welcome!

                        --
                        Brian Masinick

                        #123938
                        Member
                        anti-apXos

                          Good point about the connection/cables. Not sure if proprietary can be (easily) avoided.

                          I haven’t looked around too much recently, but I think standard interfaces like SATA and USB-C are the norm for external drives an proprietary is less common.

                          As for reliability of HDDs vs SSDs, I’ve never had an issue with an SSD, including one drive (an Intel 320) that was used as the primary drive transerred between my primary systems for over a decade. The idea of a total failure sounfs scary, but for me since the only drive failure I’ve had was from a dropped HDD, I guess I feel better with solid state at this point. Honestly, I don’t think about the difference much anymore, though.

                          Multiple backups of any type (SSD, HDD, cloud) that are stored in separate locations is really the way to go if you need to avoid losing things.

                          #123943
                          Moderator
                          Brian Masinick

                            Good point about the connection/cables. Not sure if proprietary can be (easily) avoided.

                            I haven’t looked around too much recently, but I think standard interfaces like SATA and USB-C are the norm for external drives an proprietary is less common.

                            As for reliability of HDDs vs SSDs, I’ve never had an issue with an SSD, including one drive (an Intel 320) that was used as the primary drive transerred between my primary systems for over a decade. The idea of a total failure sounfs scary, but for me since the only drive failure I’ve had was from a dropped HDD, I guess I feel better with solid state at this point. Honestly, I don’t think about the difference much anymore, though.

                            Multiple backups of any type (SSD, HDD, cloud) that are stored in separate locations is really the way to go if you need to avoid losing things.

                            @anti-apXos I agree, and I personally have found that the significant increase in the speed of SSD vs. HDD justifies the trade-off in the instant volatility of the information until it is fully synched to the device. Also, when I really want to make sure that data gets to the disk, I run multiple sync operations and wait for a while to ensure the disk writes have an opportunity to be scheduled and actually applied to the disk, as opposed to remaining in a cached state before being written. Moreover, I have alias commands for common things I run, such as sync, Touchpad enable/disable, package updates, etc., so for me typing in a single letter – s for sync, t for toggle Touchpad, u for my complete sudo string to apt update, dist-upgrade and update-grub are all one letter away; makes many of my routine maintenance commands a one letter command followed by Enter, not difficult at all.

                            --
                            Brian Masinick

                            #123981
                            Moderator
                            BobC

                              I’m using 3.5″ SATA-3 SSD’s which I then mounted in cases that came with USB 3.0 connectors. Since I’ve been doing that a while, they range from 32 mb to 500 mb. Maybe today it would make sense to buy setups 50% larger than your current need, and get 2 to have multiple copies (father/grandfather) in case one ever goes bad. All the ones I’ve bought have been quite fast (good brands, too), and none have had any troubles. I’ve replaced my laptop drives with SSD’s, too, and so I use the old HDD’s for backups as well.

                              #123996
                              Member
                              PPC

                                @sybok – there are lots and lots of simple USB “flash drives” ranging from 128Mb to 1 Gb that you can buy. If the least amount of space that you require is 0.5GB, you can buy a USB 0.5Gb flash drive (usually expensive) or 4 or 5 128GB ones, having a more practical backup system (use stickers on them, marking them ex: “Docs” “Music” “Videos”, etc- if one fails, at least, you have the others, right?)

                                P.

                                #124017
                                Moderator
                                Brian Masinick

                                  @sybok – there are lots and lots of simple USB “flash drives” ranging from 128Mb to 1 GB that you can buy. If the least amount of space that you require is 0.5GB, you can buy a USB 0.5Gb flash drive (usually expensive) or 4 or 5 128GB ones, having a more practical backup system (use stickers on them, marking them ex: “Docs” “Music” “Videos”, etc- if one fails, at least, you have the others, right?)

                                  P.

                                  Yeah, I do that often; I get cheap USB Flash Drives in varying capacities and I backup data on the smaller ones and put bootable Live Linux distributions on the other ones.

                                  --
                                  Brian Masinick

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