Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Backup Devices

Update June 20th 2016: Software recommendation changed.

Again I got a good question from a customer (Thanks Brian). The answer became this article.

So far I did not write about backup devices because the offers out there are in constant change; what I give as an example might not be available any more tomorrow. But here are quite a few generally applicable bit and pieces of info to that issue.

General: I favor 2.5" external hard disk drives over 3.5" drives. 3.5" drives need an external power supply; who likes more cables?

Brand: Over many years I have personally had too many failures with drives from Hitachi, Toshiba and Fujitsu. For years Seagate was a dependable drive but at the time of writing up to 20% of Seagate drives reportedly fail almost "out of the box". That leaves us currently only with Western Digital. This may change at any time. Stay away from drives with other names, you never know what brand of drive really is in there.

Capacity: 500GB to 1TB (1TB = two times 500GB) is currently the "sweet spot" where you get the most GB per $ spent.

Speed: If you can get a drive with 7200rpm that is still quiet go for it.

Interface: The vast majority of computers still have only USB version 2 interfaces. But version 3 is available and MUCH faster. If you have a choice buy the drive with USB version 3, your computer can likely be  upgraded with a USB 3 add-on card; that is not cost prohibitive at all.

Software: Most external drives come with some sort of (often manufacturer specific) back up software that sometimes even installs automatically when you connect the drive for the first time to the computer. GRRRR! Who guarantees that this backup program will be be running on your next computer when you want to restore the backed up files to that new computer? Additionally some of these programs encrypt and/or compress your files; you can restore them only with exactly this program. Windows Vista and 7 come with a decent backup program, but it's only decent.
Backup is the only instance where I recommend to pay for software!
Update June 20th 2016:

All too often a backup does not get done because, honestly, to run "that darned backup program" is an additional chore. And such chores get "forgotten" too often. BUt this something I can not change; if you want to be secured against data loss you will have to run backups - and you will have to do backups regularly!

And to be totally honest, you will have to learn about the different basic backup functions and their names. There are literally many hundreds of tutorials about that on the Internet.

I recommend the $70 (one time payment!) program Macrium Reflect. The free version is sufficient for most home users but the paid version can do it automatically.

Update May 2020:

For backups I strongly urge you to completely ignore conventional Hard Disk Drives. This is by now an outdated technology!

Prices of SSDs (Solid State Drive) have in the meantime come down into a price range where there is IMHO no reason at all any longer to shun them. The speed advantage alone can no longer be ignored.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Stay safe.


Unknown said...

I have 2 WD's. A My Book, and a My Passport. BOTH worked for about a day. Now all three of my HP Win7 PC's refuse to reconize either one.

Unknown said...

I have 2 WD's. A My Passport and a My Book. Both worked for about one day.
Now all 3 of my HP Win7 Pc's fail to recognize either one.
I have seen thousands of similar comments on Amazon reviews and other comment sites.

Eike Heinze said...

Thanks for reading my blog and sharing your experience.
Maybe you have gotten two exceptionally bad drives.
But there are so many other factors that can result in failures that we would need to go in much more detail than we can do here.