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  • External Hard Drive Options

    Home Forums AskWoody support PC hardware Questions: What hardware should I get? External Hard Drive Options

    This topic contains 39 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by

     Canadian Tech 5 months, 3 weeks ago.

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    • #108910 Reply

      Kirsty
      Da Boss

      I’m about to purchase a new external hard drive, for backup purposes. I was looking for advice on the best type to buy.

      The salesperson I spoke to favoured a 2.5″ portable drive, citing advantages over a 3.5″ powered drive, on the grounds of adapter failure. Is this a valid concern?

      The main brands available for purchase are Western Digital and Seagate – are there any concerns with these brands?
      Thanks.

      4 users thanked author for this post.
    • #108917 Reply

      Noel Carboni
      AskWoody_MVP

      I’ve always preferred Western Digital MyBook external drives. The very first one I bought quite a few years ago, a 512 MB model, still works fine. All of them since (1TB, 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB) also work fine. The most recent one I bought was model WDBFJK0040HBK-NESN and it’s been flawless.

      If I were to get another one right now it would be a Western Digital MyBook 4 TB or possibly 6 TB drive. I think they’ve updated their 4 TB model to WDBBGB0040HBK-NESN.

      I reformatted all mine before use using the Western Digital utility software provided, but they claim you shouldn’t have to.

      I do nightly backups to 3 of these drives, which are permanently connected to my hardware systems.

      -Noel

      5 users thanked author for this post.
    • #108921 Reply

      anonymous

      Some thoughts…

      The adapter powered 3.5″ drive could be a concern if the adapter plug is an engineered weird proprietary form, it may become more difficult to find a quality manufactured replacement part.

      Manufactures may try to save cost by using the same adapter with different external drive models, so you could have some hope for getting a replacement adapter.

      I’m not sure if those adapters are sold separately for the purposes of replacing them or to keep as a spare unit.

      As of this reply, I see that Western Digital has available USB powered drives up to four terabytes. Seagate makes drive models that are four or five terabytes all powered by the USB port.

      How much storage was available with the adapter powered 3.5 drive?

      • #108923 Reply

        Kirsty
        Da Boss

        We considered the 3tb drive, as the additional cost for an extra tb seemed unreasonable at 40% dearer.

        So far, I’ve not had to replace an adapter yet (touch wood) 🙂

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #108964 Reply

          anonymous

          I once read a piece of advice about silicon RAM which is buy the most you can afford, it seems to be applicable to drives. Forty percent above the price of the does seem unreasonable, because each model probably might have the same number of platters & heads. A buyer might just be paying most of that cost for the newest higher density recording technology.

          May your adapters stay fit for purpose a long time. 🙂

          2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #109066 Reply

      MrJimPhelps
      AskWoody_MVP

      Here is the best way to use an external drive for doing backups, if you have a desktop computer:
      * Purchase a long (3 feet) SATA data extension cable and a long SATA power extension cable. Connect them inside the computer, and extend them out of the case, so that there is at least one foot of cable outside of the case.
      * Purchase a standard SATA internal hard drive.
      * When you want to do a backup, power down, connect the hard drive you purchased to the external SATA cables, and power up. (Make sure to de-static your hands before handling the drive, and don’t touch any contacts.)
      * Do a backup.
      * Power down, disconnect the hard drive, and power up.
      * Put the drive in a static bag, and store it until the next backup.
      * Keep a piece of paper with the drive; everytime you do a backup, put the date and what you backed up, along with any other comments, on the piece of paper.

      If you have a laptop, or if you otherwise don’t want to go through all of that, you could get a USB external hard drive, and plug it in as needed (whenever you are going to do a backup), then unplug it afterward. But there are possible issues with external USB hard drives:
      * Sometimes they fail. (I have had two which have failed over the years; and a friend had one which failed.)
      * I had a friend who bought a Seagate (?) USB external hard drive a few years ago. There was encryption software built into the SATA-to-USB circuitry that is in the external drive case. The problem was, that circuitry went bad, and so he could no longer access the data on the drive.

      All of the USB external drives will work when connected to a USB 2.0 port. But if the drive is USB 3.0 compliant, the backup will go a lot faster if it is plugged into a USB 3.0 port.

      I am concerned that many USB external drives don’t have their own power source (i.e. an A.C. adapter); they draw power over the USB line. Although I’ve never seen one of these types of hard drives fail, I’ve seen other USB devices fail that depended on USB power. I personally wouldn’t purchase a USB external hard drive that didn’t have its own power supply, unless it was a solid state drive (SSD). Even with an SSD, I would prefer that it had its own power supply.

      Be sure to make a good rescue / emergency boot disk via your backup software. If your drive crashes and you have to restore to a new drive, you will be able to boot from the rescue disk and do the restore. That rescue disk will be a lifesaver in that case.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
      2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #109148 Reply

        JohnW
        AskWoody Plus

        Better yet, buy two external drives and rotate them for backups.  That way if one fails, and it probably will, you are still covered.

        5 users thanked author for this post.
        • #109325 Reply

          MrJimPhelps
          AskWoody_MVP

          If your computer gets hit with malware, one of your backup drives might get hit. Yet another good reason to have two backup drives and rotate them.

          Group "L" (Linux Mint)
          with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
          6 users thanked author for this post.
          • #109360 Reply

            Kirsty
            Da Boss

            That would also seem a very good reason to ensure you do not keep the drives always-connected to the computer…
            Thks.

            5 users thanked author for this post.
            • #109435 Reply

              JohnW
              AskWoody Plus

              I have heard that ransomware will try to encrypt all attached drives, external, network attached, etc.  That is a reason you need to maintain at least one good offline backup.

              2 users thanked author for this post.
          • #109365 Reply

            MrJimPhelps
            AskWoody_MVP

            That would also seem a very good reason to ensure you do not keep the drives always-connected to the computer…

            Exactly.

            Group "L" (Linux Mint)
            with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
            1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #109175 Reply

      AlexEiffel
      AskWoody_MVP

      I bought a cheap eSata enclosure. You just put a regular hd in there, do your backup, and remove it when done. Cheap, simple, safe. Thanks for sharing your concerns about the USB drives, I have never thought about that, but it makes sense.

    • #109332 Reply

      MrJimPhelps
      AskWoody_MVP

      Are you trying to do a perfect backup routine, or a realistic backup routine?

      I think there needs to be a balance between how much effort you need to put into getting a satisfactory backup, vs how much effort you are willing to put in.

      If our backup routine requires too much time and effort on our part, we will probably quit doing it after one or two backups. In other words, it is highly likely that we won’t do any backups if it is too much work for us.

      On the other hand, we do want to get some sort of backup done.

      For me, I do one backup of each of my computers every one or two months. In this way, the backups aren’t that old, and I won’t lose much if there is a disaster. I know that I can get myself to do this much; but I’m not sure that I can get myself to do more than that.

      There’s also the fact that you have only so much space for backups on your backup drive. Worrying about that causes me to avoid doing backups. If I don’t do backups more than once every one or two months, I won’t run out of space so quickly on my backup drive.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
      • #170524 Reply

        OscarCP
        AskWoody Plus

        I back up monthly only my own work, data and documents, by copying the folders with those things to an external hard disk used just for back ups, where I put the copies into a new folder called “backup.dd.mm.yy”.
        By now, this usually takes me about two hours.

        Should I back up anything else?

        • #170550 Reply

          SkipH
          AskWoody Lounger

          At OscarCP:

          Depends on how long you want to spend re-installing what ever version of Windows you are running (and if you have any re-installation media). And then how long you want to spend re-installing all of your programs (and if you have installation media for them, activation codes if needed, etc.). Or pay a tech to do all of that for you.

          That’s what a System Backup is for…it’s essentially a ‘snap-shot’ of your C: drive (Windows, with all current updates), and all programs you use, and probably all of your emails (if you are using a real email client, not ‘web mail’).

          So, I’d say YES, you should be backing up more ‘stuff’, such as the full Windows installation, and your (probably) valuable programs. That can only be done with a System Backup. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, a program such as Easeus can do that, as can various others. And no, I don’t work for Easeus, I just have to deal with dieing hard disks and Windows Update foul-ups for various clients I support.

        • #170558 Reply

          MrJimPhelps
          AskWoody_MVP

          Do an occasional backup of your OS, that is, a full image backup of your Windows hard drive — maybe once every several months. As others have said, doing this kind of backup on occasion will allow you to easily get up and running should you have some sort of disaster, such as a hard drive crash.

          How often you should do a full image backup of your Windows hard drive? Depends on how up-to-date you want it to be. If you haven’t installed anything in Windows, or made changes in Windows, in several months, and you did a backup soon after that time, you don’t need to do another backup until further changes are made to Windows, that is, changes which would be a hassle to have do go through again, such as installing some software package. But if you don’t mind reinstalling your software, you don’t hardly ever need to do a full backup of your Windows drive.

          If you do a clean install of Windows, once you are completely finished with the install, including installing all Windows updates and all software you are going to install, do a full image backup or two of your Windows drive, and put it away in a safe place. You likely don’t need to do any more Windows backups for a long time, because you have a good backup that you can restore, which will get you just about up to date.

          Your data, on the other hand, should be backed up regularly, as often as you feel comfortable with, because your data is always changing.

          The way you are backing up your data is good, because it is simple and straightforward, that is, not confusing. Best of all, it is easy for you to grab individual files out of the backup. But you could add one step to the process, which would be helpful: compress the data that you are backing up, so that you can fit more of it on your backup drive. You could use a program like WinZip for this purpose. And WinZip has the added advantage of allowing you to encrypt the backup with a password if you should want to. I wouldn’t suggest your doing this if you don’t have a need to, because if you forget the password, there won’t be any way to recover the data from that backup. But WinZip is a great way to back up certain folders on your computer (those containing your data) — it is really straightforward and simple.

          Group "L" (Linux Mint)
          with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
    • #109342 Reply

      Bill C.
      AskWoody Plus

      I have been using two solutions. One is a USB3 powered external 1TB 7200RPM HGST Touro S drive. The second is I use the WD Black 1TB 3.5 HDD in a 5″ bay with a removable HDD mount that is SATA3 capable. I assign a high drive letter to the drive(s). I am considering a 3TB drive, but the 1TB drives are easier to use and do not require partitioning.

      I just saw a 5″ removable bay that fits 2 2.5 HDDs or SSDs that was also SATA3 capable as long as you have enough SATA3 connectors free or available. My PC is older so I have to do with 2 – the boot drive and the removable 3.5″ backup drives. The dual 2.5 solution will be in the pending Linux build using SSDs.

      • #177510 Reply

        CyGuy
        AskWoody Plus

        3TB (and above) drives require partitioning on Win10 x64??

        • #177564 Reply

          Paul T
          AskWoody MVP

          The limit is not OS related, it’s disk format related.
          Either ExFAT or NTFS will allow you to use the full capacity.

          cheers, Paul

          1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #109445 Reply

      anonymous

      I took an 9$ pogoplug blue and followed some instructions to install Linux over it. Now it runs OpenWRT w/luci.

      Hooked a USB2 1TB 2.5″ Western Digital drive to it and scheduled a task on Windows to run a sysimage to it weekly.

      Every night on my system I disable the ethernet. My base OS/w installed software is kept under 22gig; everything else is pushed to the NAS(s) plural.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #170494 Reply

      Morty
      AskWoody Plus

      I’ve always preferred Western Digital MyBook external drives. The very first one I bought quite a few years ago, a 512 MB model, still works fine. All of them since (1TB, 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB) also work fine. The most recent one I bought was model WDBFJK0040HBK-NESN and it’s been flawless. If I were to get another one right now it would be a Western Digital MyBook 4 TB or possibly 6 TB drive. I think they’ve updated their 4 TB model to WDBBGB0040HBK-NESN. I reformatted all mine before use using the Western Digital utility software provided, but they claim you shouldn’t have to. I do nightly backups to 3 of these drives, which are permanently connected to my hardware systems. -Noel

      I just bought a WD Passport 3TB, but Windows Backup (Win 7) won’t recognize it. I had to  use WD’s software. Is there any way I can use Windows Backup on it without reformatting the drive? I don’t want to lose the backup I managed to do with WD’s program. (It’s still running after 17 1/2 hours!)

      Thank you,

      Morty2018-02-26-10_36_15-Topic_-External-Hard-Drive-Options-@-AskWoody

      Attachments:
      • #170499 Reply

        SkipH
        AskWoody Lounger

        Skip the proprietary software, give the free Easeus “ToDo” backup program a try.  It’s on Woody’s recommended backup software list, and I’ve been using it since before that.  I have multiple client systems running nightly backups with it on schedules, I use a weekly differential method, and a full “System Drive” backup once a month.

        Can be found here:

        https://www.easeus.com/download/tbf-download.html

        Start with the free one. You do have to give them an email address to get it, I get one or 2 emails a week from them, just ignore them.  Do some small test backups of some folders, then after you get it sorted out, go for your important stuff, or do the full System Backup and make an Emergency Boot ‘disk’, usually on a USB thumb drive so you can restore to a brand new “bare metal” hard disk if necessary, or if your system gets stuck in a blue screen no-boot mode.

        2 users thanked author for this post.
        • #170502 Reply

          Morty
          AskWoody Plus

          Thank you!

          Do I need to reformat the WD drive to get easeus to recognize it?

          • #170511 Reply

            SkipH
            AskWoody Lounger

            I can’t answer that for your drive/situation.  If you can ‘browse’ onto it with Windows Explorer, then Easeus  should see it, as it or you have to make some sub-directories (folders) on it to put your various backup files in.

            If plain old Windows Explorer can’t see your drive’s full capacity, then you might have to re-format it using the NTFS file system. I have a Toshiba 3TB USB hard disk, and Windows 7/Windows Explorer sees it fine.

            The problem with proprietary software is…if you have to take it to a shop, or do a restore to another PC that does not have that software…it has to be gotten from the drive company.  I’ve run into some weird proprietary software in the past, made it very hard to restore files. The ‘other’ system does have to have a copy of Easeus on it to work with the backup files.

            If you download a copy of Easeus, be sure to keep a copy of the downloaded installation program on a USB thumb drive or another computer in case you need it in the future and you can’t get to it on your main computer.

            Even the free one should back up that 385 GB you were backing up (hope it got done!!) in maybe 4 hours.  The paid-for versions are supposed to be faster, but the speed limit is on the connection: USB 2.0…kind of OK.  USB: 3.0 faster.  If the backup is scheduled for the middle of the night, not a big deal, just have to check to see the backup job ran and it worked.

            2 users thanked author for this post.
            • #170565 Reply

              Morty
              AskWoody Plus

              Thanks again! Great advice to keep the installation program. I have a few old favorite programs that still work but are no longer available. And I wish I had kept the installer files.

               

          • #170561 Reply

            MrJimPhelps
            AskWoody_MVP

            Chances are, the only reason you would need to format the external hard drive is if you want to wipe it clean before using it. It should work without any intervention on your part, whether or not you format it, as soon as you plug it in to the USB port of your computer.

            Group "L" (Linux Mint)
            with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
            1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #170507 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      You should not need to format the drive as it should be a standard disk. Can you see it in File Explorer? If so any backup program should see it.

      The Windows backup software is less flexible than 3rd party free products such as EaseUS, Aomei, Macrium reflect, etc.

      cheers, Paul

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #170515 Reply

        Morty
        AskWoody Plus

        It shows up in File Explorer. But not in Windows Backup, as my old Seagate drive did. (That one is full now.)

        I’ll try Easeus after WD’s backup is finished. (It’s at 90% now, so I might as well let it finish.) It looks like I’ll have room for both backups on the drive.

        I’m jittery about having the backup because my hard disk is getting wobbly. And, I shouldn’t admit this, but–after about 36 hours of backing up to the Seagate–my foot touched the power adapter and disconnected the drive.

        I won’t tell you what I said. X-(

        Thanks again!

        Morty

        Attachments:
        • #170562 Reply

          MrJimPhelps
          AskWoody_MVP

          If it shows up in File Explorer, then you will be able to get a good backup using EaseUS or some other popular aftermarket backup software.

          Group "L" (Linux Mint)
          with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
          1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #170514 Reply

      anonymous

      Remember, don’t leave you backup drive plugged in, otherwise it is a second attached drive waiting for a power surge or virus, not a backup drive.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #170533 Reply

      anonymous

      Some(most) external WD drives have the USB controller integrated into the controller card of the drive. If you(or you tech) need to do an emergency recovery there will be no native SATA interface to plug into(after you take the drive out of the enclosure) if you need to recover data. You will either have to do a poor recovery via USB, send the drive away to a super-pro, or solder on your own SATA port (if you can find the pin-out).

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #170578 Reply

      Ascaris
      AskWoody_MVP

      For my Windows backup needs, I use Aomei Backupper.  It has a free version that can encrypt backup images and perform incremental backups, both of which are impossible in the free version of Macrium Reflect.

      Backupper is by far the fastest of any of the Windows imaging programs when writing encrypted images.  Nearly all of them slow to a crawl when encryption is turned on, and I’ve tried a bunch: EaseUS, Acronis, Minitools, Paragon, Comodo, and probably several others I cannot recall at the moment.  The second fastest after Aomei was Acronis, and it took about twice as long to image my PC (NTFS and EXT4 volumes).

      I’ve restored Linux and Windows partititions several times, and it works well.  I don’t trust a backup program until I’ve restored enough times to have confidence that its backups work well.  Until then, I make backups with more than one program (Acronis or Macrium being the other).

      Backupper has a few issues, but they’re not hard to work around for the technically inclined. If you don’t dual-boot Windows and Linux with at least one Linux volume on a GPT partitioned drive, it won’t affect you.  There’s a permanent workaround for that too, but there’s no need to go into that just yet.

      I’d suggest giving Aomei a try.

       

      Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16.3).

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #170583 Reply

        PKCano
        Da Boss

        ROTFLMAO  And you forgot to log in again. 🙂

    • #170582 Reply

      Ascaris
      AskWoody_MVP

      I’m posting this as a separate message (than the one where I mention Aomei), since it’s about the hardware of the backup and not the software.

      I have two external hard drives (2.5 inch, usb powered) that I use for periodic backups.  They’re never plugged in at the same time, and they get unplugged and put in a fire-resistant lockbox when the backup is complete.

      For my day to day backups (once a week at the longest), I have a PC acting as a backup server.  If you’re like me, you have a bunch of old PC hardware hanging around… I built the extra stuff into a PC, bought a big hard drive for it, and put that in along with all of my spare retired hard drives.  On Black Friday a bit over a year ago, Fry’s Electronics had a HGST 5TB rust spinner for $99; I had to get that for the backup server too.  It now has a total of 10 TB of storage online.

      The “server” is running Windows 7 home.  I could redo it in Linux now that I know how, but I didn’t at the time I was setting all this up, and it works– so why fix it if it ain’t broke?

      That pc spends most of its time asleep.  It wakes up if I attempt to access it, so I write my backup and then it sleeps once again.  Most of the time, it does not show up on the network share list, so any malware would not be able to see it that way, if I happened to have any of that running on the PCs.

      Having the backup server (named “NAS” even though it’s really just a regular Windows PC) is tremendously convenient.  I have three client PCs that I use from time to time, and all of them are part of the network… just wind ’em up and point them at “NAS” and they’re off and running.

      Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16.3).

    • #170598 Reply

      SkipH
      AskWoody Lounger

      A bit off this topic, but I think the AskWoody Forum could use a ‘hardware/software’ topic somewhere, probably in the AskWoody Support–>PC hardware forum, where we could describe our ‘home’ networks and back up setups. Also, perhaps in a small business where you are the ‘I.T.’ person, supporting that business along with your ‘real’ job.

      EG, mine is sort of like Ascaris’: older equipment (salvaged from customer discards/trade-ins) with ‘salvaged’ hard disks (also from customer discards/trade-ins, etc) operating as a server, then a USB 3.0 external HD hung on it for some backups. Also got a good deal around Christmas time on a 2-drive bay diskless “NAS” box with a Gigabit Ethernet port, put 2 more ‘salvaged’ drives in that, in ‘regular’ (non-RAID) mode. Use that for ‘archive’ backups to free up space on the main server for the ‘good’ data.

      Also a few other things, but I can save that for the hopefully, new discussion area.

      I’ll see about starting a topic where I mentioned, unless some other posters here have a better place.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #177588 Reply

        MrJimPhelps
        AskWoody_MVP

        Excellent idea. That information has probably already been posted at AskWoody, but it is currently scattered around and therefore hard to find.

        Group "L" (Linux Mint)
        with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #170606 Reply

      MrJimPhelps
      AskWoody_MVP

      Kirsty:

      For some reason I didn’t see your original questions, and my answers didn’t address your questions.

      You asked: “The salesperson I spoke to favoured a 2.5″ portable drive, citing advantages over a 3.5″ powered drive, on the grounds of adapter failure. Is this a valid concern?”

      I would say that, in my opinion, it is always better to have a drive with its own power supply, rather than depending on the USB line for sufficient power. However, those drives are getting increasingly hard to find.

      So if I couldn’t find a drive with its own power supply, my second choice would be to get a USB hub which has its own power, and connect the external hard drive to the hub. In this way, the hard drive, and all other devices plugged into the USB hub, will get plenty of power. If all of your USB devices draw their power from the USB line, and you have several power-hungry devices all plugged in at the same time, the drive and the other devices might not get sufficient power. However, if you have a powered USB hub, the USB hub will provide plenty of power for everything that is directly plugged into it.

      In a pinch, you could plug your external drive into one of the onboard USB ports; but if I had to do that, I would unplug all other USB devices except for the mouse and keyboard, to free up as much USB power as possible for the hard drive.

      Jim

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #170629 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      I use a USB powered 2.5 disk and it’s easy and simple to connect and use. An extra power supply is just something else to go wrong when you need to restore your files.

      cheers, Paul

    • #177594 Reply

      MrJimPhelps
      AskWoody_MVP

      Something like this should provide plenty of power for an external hard drive:

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/UGREEN-Western-Clickfree-Elements-Portable/dp/B00P0C4M5M/ref=pd_sim_147_4?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=1VPVAQ6WJGA1P5KCM2G5

      It is a USB 3 cable (for data and power), with an extra USB 2 plug attached (for power). The USB 2 plug would simply deliver more power to the device, making sure it has enough power. It could be connected to the computer, or to a USB power adapter.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
    • #318931 Reply

      Canadian Tech
      AskWoody_MVP

      First, about 2.5″ Vs. 3.5″ Just hold a 2.5 in one hand and a 3.5 in the other. It’s pretty obvious the 3.5 is easily 20 times the mass. My experience is that 3.5’s outlast 2.5’s by at least twice. Yes the 2.5 is dramatically more portable, but should you really be carting that around anyway. If you are connecting to a network, you do not need portability

      Second, I would never buy an assembled external drive. I buy a drive housing and a separate OEM hard drive and assemble them. Very easy to do. You then have the advantage of choosing the best of hardware for both components.

      Choose a drive enclosure that is roomy and made of metal. Hard drives generate heat — a lot of it. You want an enclosure that will provide a fairly cool environment. Heat is the one of the things that will kill a drive.

      Choose a housing that has the connectors you prefer, exSATA, USB 3 for example. You can find really good housing for like $25.

      A 3TB 3.5″ drive of excellent quality can be found for under $100US.

      When you buy an external drive, you do not know what is inside.

      CT

      3 users thanked author for this post.

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