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Too many bad reviews on all external HD's

by rayray512 / December 11, 2007 3:04 PM PST

I'm just a computer newby that purchased an iMac (320GB)... I want to purchase an external HD to store media files and use the "Time Machine" program.
But I'm stuck in a predicament. I've been reading reviews after reviews in every website imaginable. Even products that the editors give high scores on, I'll read horrific stories on user reviews.
After several days of this, I'm thinking there is no "best pick" for an external HD.
Experts, have mercy on me and please provide advice.
Merry Christmas.

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I have one explanation. It's called FAT32.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 11, 2007 10:06 PM PST

Almost all the drives arrive READY TO USE (a good thing) but to accomplish this the vendors have to supply the drive in FAT32 format. Now that's not such a bad thing but FAT32 is not tolerant of file system damage that can occur when people unplug the cable, lose power, etc.

The fix is simple. After you get the drive, use your OS's native filesystem (NTFS for newer Windows, others for others.)

There are some dud units out there but I don't find the issue to be that widespread except for one thing. These units are just "hard disks" and prone to all the problems we have inside the computers we have now plus additional issues of drops and the FAT32 issue. So they will be less reliable than an internal.

Since we all maintain backups this shouldn't be a problem. (oops, that's not true!)


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All of the externals I have (and I have several)
by VAPCMD / December 13, 2007 1:20 AM PST

are built from separate enclosures and hard drives. Most of the enclosures are Adaptecs but they've stopped marketing their external enclosures. The nice thing about them is they're well built, run cool, very compatible and they support HDDs up to 1TB

The nice thing about mixing and matching is you get the components you want and most of today's HDDs come with 3 or 5 year warranty vice one year for most of the retail external HDDs I've seen.

I'd take a hard look at the Antec MX-1 ... it's designed for SATA HDDs and supports external eSATA ... comes with the stuff to support it and it's USB 2.0 also. In addition it has active cooling so there's less danger of any HDD overheating. Note...the HDDs in the Adaptec enclosures didn't get hot but the enclosures don't have active cooling.

That said...I recommend adding HDDs internally wherever and whenever eliminates a number of failure points introduced by USB, Firewire and external drives.

Hope this helps.


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You may be right
by Dango517 / December 14, 2007 9:52 AM PST

Way to many problems being reported here on Cnet about these. More then likely the USB connection instead of a standard IDE or SATA is causing the problem. Add an internal drive instead or replace your internal drive with a larger one.

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Just avoid LaCie
by ElmoKajaky / December 14, 2007 10:50 AM PST

Whatever external drive you get, avoid LaCie. I've had some horrifically bad support from them.

Other companies' drives can be pretty reliable (I like Seagate and Hitachi, for instance), but whatever you do, backup your vital data, and then back it up again!

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It's more than sense is too many folks are
by VAPCMD / December 14, 2007 11:54 AM PST
In reply to: Just avoid LaCie

buying externals when they really need and should buy internals. I call it the 'Easy Button' for increasing/adding HDD space. It's certainly more trouble to install a hard drive internally but when you weigh that against the problems I see from posters here and elsewhere, the odds seem to be overwhelmingly favor of you having problems with an external over an internal. So the initial convenience and ease of use are soon offset by earlier problems merely accessing your precious data..especially for those whose only copy of their data is on an external hard disk.

For those with laptops and those that really really need 'externals' for transportability ... externals are great.


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HD Enclosures
by The Digital Guy / December 14, 2007 11:39 AM PST

As VAPCMD said:
Take a look at the Antec MX1 enclosure.I have one for my Windows Home Server and it is fantastic. One on the big +++ is the quiet fan and the way it circulates the air keeping your hard drive 10-15C cooler than if in your PC. I also use nothing but Seagate drives(I have 5 TB worth). I only use 500GB and 1TB drives. I think the best value for your money would be a 500GB drive with the Antec MX1 enclosure.

Here's the BEST deal right now on the Antec MX-1:

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External harddrives
by forkboy1965 / December 14, 2007 1:25 PM PST

I agree with you that it seems like there are a lot of complaints about external hard drives by folks. While I can't claim to understand why this is the case, it is possible (although not probable) that some folks simply make mistakes in how they use them. They may be using backup software with which they aren't familiar and don't learn to properly use.

But I don't think you should let folks negative reviews stop you from purchasing an external backup hard drive. While I'm not making any particular claims, my Iomega has served me well since purchasing it almost one year ago.

I suppose the safest thing to do is purchase from a well-known and reputable manufacturer (like Iomega, Western Digital, Maxtor, etc.)

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Redundancy is the key!
by drpills / December 14, 2007 1:45 PM PST
In reply to: External harddrives

I have had two external drives (a Maxtor OneTouch, a WD MyBook, and two Seagate FreeAgents) - note that the Maxtor and WD both croaked after less than a year, and so my current setup is two FreeAgent 750GBs on FireWire that I run my backup software into (each external drive is used to store the backups to my 1TB system drives).

I really like the FreeAgents - they run silently and fairly cool without any fan noise.

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Re: External Hard Drives
by VAPCMD / December 15, 2007 1:43 AM PST
In reply to: External harddrives

re: "While I can't claim to understand why this is the case, it is possible (although not probable) that some folks simply make mistakes in how they use them. They may be using backup software with which they aren't familiar and don't learn to properly use."

For the most part it's nothing more than additional points of failure.
USB ports, USB Cables, external enclosure with electronics, AC adapters, AC power cords, etc.,. All of these things plus the portability add to the increased vulnerability of external USB drives ...especially those that are turned on and off, plugged and unplugged, connected and removed's just the nature of external drives.

That said I personally own several external devices all built from separate HDDs of choice and good quality enclosures. I have multiple external hard drives (3.5" and 2.5") and an external CD-DVD. I disconnect and unplug them when not in use and make it a point to never put my only copy of anything on them. Good components, proper use and careful handling reduce at least some of the potential problems using external drives.


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Build your own
by Lofty17 / December 14, 2007 6:10 PM PST

I've had horrible luck with WD Mybook external drives. My failures have both been due to the enclosures. My first drive wouldn't power up. My second drive lost Firewire connectivity.

I finally gave up and extracted the disk drive and installed it into an Antec enclosure, which I highly recommend.

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Please note that RayRay512 said he has an iMac
by EscapePod / December 14, 2007 10:56 PM PST

If its the model I'm thinking of, its not so easy to install/replace the internal drive. I've built many external drives for friends and family using the box similar to Antec or another ruggedized one from CompUSA, and they have been very reliable, and fast. As stated earlier, you get a better warranty with the internal drives that you use to build your own external drive box. Of course, that doesn't help much when you lose all your data when a drive fails.

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Believe most here undestood ' iMAC' and similarly
by VAPCMD / December 15, 2007 2:44 AM PST

'laptops' and the unique problem they present for backup and expanded disk space. There are certainly fewer alternatives for such devices.
When I first started building my own external HDDs ..I used the Adaptec enclosures mainly because Adaptec makes good stuff and the enclosures handled drives up to 1TB when others only handled drives
in the 200GB-300GB range. The last Adaptec I put together was the model that supports USB 2.0 and eSata .... the eSATA is noticeably faster than USB. Unfortunately Adaptec stopped making USB enclosures
so as time time goes on, I've had to look for new enclosure alternatives. I've given Antec MX-1s and hard drives my sons-in-law
and have recommended same combo to friends. Nice enclosures with active far so good.


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More likely a usage problem
by Zouch / December 15, 2007 6:53 AM PST

I have three external USB hard drives, two 2.5" and one 3.5" - all home built by putting a regular disk in an enclosure from the local computer store. All drives were PATA. The 2.5 drives (40 GB and 80 GB) were from notebooks I upgraded and the 3.5" was a new Seagate 300 GB. I've had no problem with any of them, these on a PC - I see no reason why a Mac should be any different.

However, friends have run into problems, almost invariably with 3.5" drives. In a couple of cases, the problems arose when the units were moved while powered on. Unlike 2.5" drives that are assumed to be used in a portable device, though moving them while spinning is not recommended, 3.5" drives are designed for desktops and other such (relatively) fixed machines. I suspect that they are much more senitive to being moved while powered on and this may be the cause of some of the problems.

Good practice would suggest that you should place the drive on a firm surface where it is to be used, plug in the USB cable and then switch the power on (note, most 2.5" drives are self powered from the USB port, so plugging the cable in will power them up). Whichever type you are using, when finished, use the system tray icon to stop the drive (or the Mac equivalent - I assume it has one) and wait for confirmation that it is safe to remove the hardware, then turn off the power before you move it. If you don't get the confrmation or the system says it can't be stopped at this time, leave it until you next power off the machine (which you do overnight to save the planet, don't you?!).

This routine has worked for me - your mileage may vary.

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Depends on what you're doing with the external hard drive
by jmdaines / December 15, 2007 5:16 PM PST

My experience with external hard drives has not been too good. I had 3 Maxtor OneTouch 320 Gb, of which 2 have failed, both within weeks of each other. Maxtor (or Seagate as they are now) where not interested in solving the problem, which was a failed interface card, not the drive itself. So I don't buy any Maxtor or Seagate products any more. For those of you with these particular drives, if your PC fails to recognise the drive then the chance is the interface card has failed. I stripped out the drive and placed it in a third party caddy and carried on.
Aside from Maxtor's failure to address their faulty components it also transpired that the Firewire implementation on the OneTouch 320 Gb drives was not "the full implementation". Consequently it was not possible to daisy chain multiple drives via Firewire, which is somewhat cheeky...or dare I say it cheap.
In summary, don't believe the marketing from the manufacturers and check these kind of forums for a general opinion. I've switched to Lacie external drives, but don't have too much usage to be able to comment. I note someone else has had a customer services problem; however when I researched external drives after the Maxtor fiasco, Lacies had the popular vote. Good Luck!

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Some of the problems with external hard drives
by Dango517 / December 15, 2007 6:48 PM PST

These are excerpts from a forum concerning external hard drive problems. 33000+ problems were listed. Please note that the problems listed are in many cases severe and would be difficult of the average user to over come. This is in no way a complete list of possible problems. DEG 1216075:47

drive is not formatted

computer won't even read the thing

I have tried to install the external hard drive on both of the older computers, but they do not recognize it.

problem with an unrecognized USB device
it becomes unaccessible. To be specific I get a blue screen saying: "Disk Write Error: Unable to write to disk in Drive D. Data or files may be lost."

Every couple of hours while playing music it freezes,
it doesn't want to load up.

message saying windows has encountered a problem and needs to close

label the hard drive with a different letter each time it was plugged in

external 120gb HD have become inaccessible

started making clicking sounds

computer just wouldnt boot

slow transfer speed of my USB hard drive

My computer will not recognize the drive


run extremely hot

Error: hard drive not installed

Note: Also note that many of the responses here at Cnet are for conventional internal hard drives placed in external cases and used in this fashion not purchased stand alone external hard drives available at many computer retailers today. There is a difference. DEG 1216075:47

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no problems with external disc drives
by lt x / December 16, 2007 2:53 AM PST

I own 3 Windows computers and 5 external disc drives. 3 are portable and I travel with at least one of them when I'm on the road. I store all kinds of documents on these disc drives including photos, videos, and word processor documents. I never formatted the drives. And I never had a problem with external drives. As long as you don't unhook the drive (USB cable) while the computer is retrieving or storing data to it, there should be no problem.

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RE: "As long as you don't unhook the drive (USB cable)
by VAPCMD / December 16, 2007 4:09 AM PST

while the computer is retrieving or storing data to it, there should be no problem." ... do you really think that's the only cause for external drive problems ?

Suggest you take a moment to read the multitude of posts here on CNET about problems with 'external hard drives'. I really doubt all these posters are kidding...especially those with the only copy of their data on an external HDD they can no longer access or connect to.


PS .... I've got multiple several external HDDs too and use them carefully and sparingly without problems. But suffice it to say the vulnerability of external HDDs is inherently greater than internal HDDs...even if you disconnect or unhook properly.

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Antec MX-1
by ekn111 / December 16, 2007 12:17 PM PST

Well after reading what you said, I ran across the enclosure selling for only $40 so I just went ahead and bought one. I've been looking for one for awhile now and hopefully this will be a good one.

I wish I could take advantage of the eSATA but I have a MBP... =P

Thanks anyhow!

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Great....use it for USB2.0 now and later when the
by VAPCMD / December 16, 2007 12:34 PM PST
In reply to: Antec MX-1

opportunity presents itself..use the eSATA.

The MX-1 comes with all the stuff to make eSATA work if you have SATA ports on the MB ... or add an SATA controller.


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by ekn111 / December 16, 2007 1:05 PM PST

I'll just use the USB for now. I did find out, however, that I can get an eSATA expresscard for my MBP but maybe I'll look into that later. It seems like a whole new ballgame I'm completely unfamiliar with.

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Shoot us a note when you get and install the HDD..
by VAPCMD / December 16, 2007 10:13 PM PST
In reply to: Exactly!

be interested to hear your thoughts on the product. You got a good $$.

At least you got the pick of the fastest SATA HDDs.


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Quick question...
by ekn111 / December 17, 2007 9:21 AM PST

So now I'm on the hunt for a deal on a HDD (probably a 500er)...any good sites to look at other than newegg? Also any particular brands that work well (or just stick with the major brands?)

It's the holiday season so I'm kinda expecting decent deals going around; I'm just not sure where to look. Thanks in advance!

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You might check here
by Dango517 / December 17, 2007 10:59 AM PST
In reply to: Quick question...

CompUSA is going belly up/closing down/going out of business. I stopped by there tonight everything was 10% off and they had a lot of them. I'm in the mid west prices and details might vary. I liked that store they always close down the places I like, I'm not kidding. This has happened to many times to me to be ignored. ( <<< Think I could have put a few more to's in there) If it weren't for bad shopping luck I'd have no shopping luck at all.........I'll skip the gloom and despair part. God, wasn't that the theme sound from Heehaw? I've been in the mid west TOO long.

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For me...Newegg's the place....they make it easy to
by VAPCMD / December 17, 2007 11:13 AM PST
In reply to: Quick question...

find what you want based on mfg, capacity, RPM, interface, user rating and further to read buyer reviews. Combine that with good product PICs, mfg web links, competitive pricing, fast order processing, reasonable shipping and good customer service...what else is there ?

ZipZoomFly is OK too but their WEB just stinks ...too hard to find what should be easy to find.

Once you decide which drive you want, check the deals at or

Good Luck

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That's Newegg is cheaper :)
by ekn111 / December 18, 2007 4:02 AM PST
In reply to: Quick question...
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When it comes to warranty ... I check the retailer's info
by VAPCMD / December 18, 2007 1:04 PM PST
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Thank you for the link...I did happen to check it already
by ekn111 / December 18, 2007 2:56 PM PST

and I know it comes standard with a limited 5-year warranty (if you buy it retail). My worry is that since Newegg is selling it as an OEM drive, does that mean the warranty is void?

To be honest, I'm not quite clear on OEM products and how that changes things. I read the user comments and someone was asking the same question but didn't seem to get an answer. Other users list the warranty as a "pro" but I wasn't sure if they knew the item is OEM and not retail-packaged.

Anyhow, I plan on giving Newegg a call tomorrow but I'm not sure they would know it themselves. =/

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Beware FAT32 formats.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 17, 2007 12:38 AM PST
In reply to: Antec MX-1

Another member left theirs in FAT32 so they learned about this and is in recovery mode.


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Makes sense...
by ekn111 / December 17, 2007 9:18 AM PST
In reply to: Beware FAT32 formats.

but sadly in my case I want the external drive to be accessed by both my mac and pc side.

FAT32 seems to be the only way to go in that case. :/

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Dual use External Drive
by germannator / December 23, 2007 10:17 PM PST
In reply to: Makes sense...

I saw your post in a search and it seems your trying to do the same thing I was... Use an external hard drive to back-up both my mac and my 5 pc's.

I bought a 500GB LaCie d2 Quadra. it has the four interfaces, USB, Fire Wire 400, Fire Wire 800 and eSATA!

I sent the thing up and the silverkeeper software on the mac side works great bu the trial mac drive for the PC side is un-useable

What do I do now?

I should have bought two cheaper drives, one for the mac and the other for the pcs!

Anyone help you with a work around yet?

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