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  • External Hard Drive

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      • #192553 Reply
        AskWoody Plus

        I’m beginning to shop for a new external hard drive (Windows 10).  I’m thinking 3TB.  I already have 2 Fantom Green drives (mfr. WD) and have been completely satisfied.

        But I am daunted by the reviews I see today across all manufacturers.  One of the biggest problems appears to be failure within 6 months of purchase.  What the heck is going on?  I know there are fake reviews out there but problems with external drives seem to be pervasive.

        So I have a few questions for Woody’s Gurus:

        1. If you have recent experience with external drives, what is your experience and what brand/model would you recommend?
        2. Out of the box, can an external drive see all of 3TB on Windows 10?
        3. Are external drives generally pre-formatted to NTFS or some other file system?

        Thanks in advance.

      • #192560 Reply
        Da Boss

        I use Seagate external drives. I have both Macs and Windows and the Paragon NTFS for Mac software that comes with Seagate allows me to read NTFS formatted drives with the Macs so there is no reformatting necessary.

        I have two NAS (Network Attached Storage) drives that connect to the router and are accessible from anywhere on the network. I use them for redundant file backup from my every-day computers, to keep install files for Win and MacOS software (so I only download once to update many), retain copies of Windows updates, and for various other backups. Because they are in 24/7 service, I have them set to sleep on inactivity.

        I have three USB-3 external HDDs (2x5TB and one 8TB). I rotate them for my monthly VM backups. There are 14 VMs of various versions of Win from XP to Win10 at 20-55 GB each, so I need a lot of space. By rotating between the drives, I don’t lose everything it one of the drives dies. These drives are not plugged in except when I use them for backups.

        I also have Images of my hardware installations spread out among the drives.

        How much space you need will depend on how much data you need to store and how long you want to keep each backup. Look at how much data is under your User ID to get an idea for how big one file backup will be. Right click on the C: drive in Explorer and get an idea of the size of your main partition. A system image is usually compressed to some extent, so the size of the image will be less than the overall size of the C: drive. You will probably want to have more than one backup of each type.

        4 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192564 Reply
        AskWoody MVP


        My personal favorite is bare Western Digital drives and a USB 3.0 Dock, why pay for the electronics and interface more than once.

        Instead of a 3Gb drive I’d recommend 3-1Gb drives. Unless you have a huge amount of data and/or programs on your machine. This way you can rotate them and have double protection against a single drive failure. I currently backup 4 machines and a NAS and it ALL fits on a single 1Gb drive using Macrium Reflect.


        For data file backup I have a Scheduled Task that fires off every evening at 6:30pm (during the news) that uses a .CMD file to fire up RoboCopy to copy all my changed files to my NAS.

        RoboForm command in .cmd file:

        Echo Off
        REM  Updated: 08/14/17
        Echo.  ——– Copying BEKDocs from %COMPUTERNAME% to NAS: drive ——-
        Robocopy “G:\BEKDocs” “\\MYBOOKLIVE\CMShared\%COMPUTERNAME%\BEKDocs” /MIR /XJD /R:5 /W:15 /MT:32 /V /NP /XD “G:\BEKDocs\OneDrive” “G:\BEKDocs\diagnostics” “G:\BEKDocs\Images to Post” “G:\BEKDocs\Samsung” /IT /LOG+:G:\BEKDocs\Batch\BackupTasks\RoboCopyNAS.log
        Echo.  ——– Copy Completed              ——-

        You’ll notice that I exclude several directories which are already redundant data.

        Scheduled Task Setup:

        Program/Script: C:\WINDOWS\system32\cmd.exe

        Arguments: /c G:\BEKDocs\Batch\BackupTasks\DataBackup2NAS.cmd

        This could be done w/o the cmd file I’m sure but I had it written before I created the scheduled task and I often run it manually if I’m fiddling with the system JIC!

        Update: I veified the above is true on my test system running 1803. Just put RoboCopy.exe in the Program/Script box and the rest in the Arguments:. Works like a champ.

        As always YMMV.

        HTH 😎

        May the Forces of good computing be with you!


        PowerShell & VBA Rule!
        Computer Specs

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      • #192601 Reply
        Da Boss

        You might find some helpful information in this topic.

        4 users thanked author for this post.
      • #192698 Reply


        You’d see the same thing if you looked at user reviews for internal hard drives.  I think it’s a function of a few interrelated factors:

        1. There is a certain rate of what is called “infant mortality,” meaning that undiscovered errors in manufacturing lead to the relatively quick demise of a certain percentage of new drives (and if they survive the first few months, the failure rate drops way down).  It’s a real thing, but tends to be exaggerated in user reviews because:

        2. People are more motivated to post a review when something goes wrong than when things go as expected.  This is a factor across the board in all user reviews, and if you’re seeing “doom and gloom” reports about equally across all competing products, it’s probably a good sign that they’re all about the same in reliability, and those “I’M NEVER BUYING FROM (company) EVER AGAIN!” messages are more or less a function of this.  But it also could be:

        3. Hard drives in particular can be sensitive to mishandling, so if any one retailer has consistently higher complaints than others, it could be that someone along the line is treating their stock poorly.  This can be hard to judge as there is no way to know that the retailer isn’t trimming its worst reviews to hide this.   Also:

        4. The more technical knowledge it takes to correctly use an item, the greater the odds that people who lack that knowledge (and who lack the knowledge that they lack the knowledge) will see the normal behavior of the product and mistake it for malfunction.  This is exceedingly common.  I constantly see products given one-star reviews for behaving exactly as designed, with the reviewer unaware of the correct function of the unit.

        When I buy external hard drives, I do it on a price for feature basis.  There simply isn’t enough evidence regarding reliability from reviews or reports in places like this to really be able to establish a trend of reliability or unreliability.  The difference in reliability between models from a single manufacturer can be striking, so even looking at the overall reliability of a manufacturer’s drives in a Backblaze report (for example) and trying to extrapolate that to external HDDs can be misleading, unless you happen to know that the actual drive inside the external enclosure is the same model as the one Backblaze (or whomever) tested.  If there is a known issue with a specific model of HDD, I’d try my best to avoid an external drive that has that particular drive inside the enclosure, but otherwise, it’s kind of a gamble with any of them, IMO.  One that’s well worth it, but a gamble nonetheless.

        As you can tell, I don’t really trust any hard drive all that much, which is why I am so insistent upon backups in the first place.  I have independent backups in multiple places, so even if my primary backup does not work, I have another one available.  It may be a bit older, but it is better than losing it all.

        I have the redundancy of having multiple drives in my backup server (so if one of those drives fails in the usual way, I still have backups of the same PC on another drive in the server), and I also have the redundancy of the external drives in case something happens (like a catastrophic PSU failure) and the backup server kills all its drives at once.  The more places you have your data, the better the odds of keeping it when things go wrong.

        How far you want to go is a question of your own risk tolerance and how much time you’re willing to put in… you’re already well ahead of 99% of the computing public if you even have one layer of backups.


        Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.18.5).

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        • #192811 Reply
          AskWoody Plus

          Thanks especially for the detail and clarity.  I have been a fan of Western Digital for a long time but the current reviews put me off all brands I was viewing.  Your discussion is encouraging.

      • #194388 Reply

        For what it’s worth, I always suggest to people who aren’t experts that they go no higher than 2TB. A 2TB (or smaller) drive will work with EVERY modern computer, and you don’t have to configure anything to get it to work.

        When you go above 2TB, you may have to do some configuration; and it’s possible that you won’t be able to use it as your boot drive.

        Having said all of that, chances are you can run a 3TB or larger drive without having to do any configuration of any kind. But to guarantee that no config will be necessary, I advise people to go with 2TB.

        If it is possible that you will be moving this drive to another computer in the future, you may want to go with 2TB, to make sure it will work on all computers.

        Group "L" (Linux Mint)
        with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
        3 users thanked author for this post.
        • #215393 Reply
          AskWoody Lounger

          @MrJimPhelps what do you mean:

          When you go above 2TB, you may have to do some configuration

          And why would drive capacity directly affect device compatibility?

          go with 2TB, to make sure it will work on all computers

          I am looking at a Seagate Expansion 8TB Desktop External Hard Drive USB 3.0 because I need A LOT of storage/backup for hi-res photos and videos, and the value (dollars per terabyte) is much better than it would be for smaller drives

          However, I would prefer the data stored to be accessible from any device. Are you saying that with drives larger than 2TB it won’t be?

          • #215858 Reply
            Da Boss

            why would drive capacity directly affect device compatibility?

            This may be related to an issue in old OS (Win7 & earlier) with external storage compatibility:
            Windows support for hard disks that are larger than 2 TB

            What OS are you running? 32- or 64-bit?

            • #216031 Reply
              AskWoody Lounger

              I am running 64-bit. Are you saying that among Windows 10 devices, there should be no compatibility issues with larger drives?

              • #216033 Reply
                Da Boss

                While I’m very reluctant to state what someone else might have been thinking, I suggest MrJimPhelps was indicating that if you stay to a maximum 2TB drive size, it would be compatible with multiple OS versions, rather than just limited to later versions. This could possibly become an issue in a worst case scenario situation?

                If it is possible that you will be moving this drive to another computer in the future, you may want to go with 2TB, to make sure it will work on all computers.

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