Hard Drive Questions

Discussion in 'Asus' started by Rhino, Dec 2, 2011.

  1. Rhino

    Rhino Guest

    I'm not very knowledgeable about hardware issues so I wonder if someone here
    can help me select a new hard drive for my computer, which has an ASUS M3A
    motherboard? Or at least answer a question or two about the one I'm leaning
    toward?

    My previous post established that my board can handle two IDE drives - which
    is exactly what I already have - plus 4 SATA drives. I saw a 3 TB internal
    drive for about $150 two or three months back and thought that might be the
    best choice but prices seem to have gone up since then because I can't see
    any deals like that.

    This drive is going to be a Christmas present that someone who is
    non-technical is going to buy for me; she doesn't want to shop online and
    prefers a retail store in her immediate area. So I started looking at my
    favourite store that has a shop in her area and found this:
    http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=15_213_603&item_id=039042.
    The picture clearly shows an external drive but I can live with that.

    One problem though. I was trying to verify that this is a SATA drive. The
    only real product details come up when you click on "Take a Product Tour" so
    I clicked on that. Under the Features tab, it is described as a USB drive,
    which I know means it works with a USB cable plugged into a USB port. This
    apparently sidesteps the whole IDE/SATA issue altogether (Correct me if I'm
    wrong.) However, when I clicked on the Quick Installation Guide under the
    Docs tab, I found one of those massively generic multilingual documents that
    is supposed to cover every hard drive ever made and it pictures an internal
    drive that is connected via SATA or PATA.

    Am I safe in ignoring the Installation Guide as being irrelevant and just
    rely on the fact that it is USB as stated in the Features? That is my strong
    inclination but I just want to make sure I'm not making an elemental
    mistake.

    Also, does anyone have any experience, positive or negative, with this drive
    or ones very similar to it to help me assess whether this would be a good
    choice?

    --
    Some side questions came up while I was trying to find a drive so I'll ask
    those while I've got you here....

    I saw some drives described as "solid state" drives. I hadn't heard of those
    before but assume they mean drives where information is stored in something
    analagous to memory, as opposed to a physical disk that spins as on a
    traditional drive. Does anyone have any knowledge of the generic
    characteristics of these drives? I'm imagining a more reliable drive since
    there would, presumably, be no moving parts in such a drive to fail. But if
    this is very new technology, it seems likely that the first generations will
    be somewhat buggy and problematic. Also, would a solid state drive be as
    fast as or even faster than a traditional mechanical drive? Would you buy
    one of these for yourself if you needed another drive or are they a bad idea
    at this stage?
     
    Rhino, Dec 2, 2011
    #1
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  2. Rhino

    Rhino Guest

    These are a few followup questions.

    I just had a look at another suitable retail store and found that they
    had some brand name 3 TB drives as well, some for cheaper than the other
    store I mentioned but I'm puzzled on a few things.

    This drive
    (http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/seagate-seagate-expansion-3tb-3-
    0-external-hard-drive-stay3000102-stay3000102/10179639.aspx?
    path=fdd36cf78c38871b6f54c054d3d74ccben02)
    is also a 3 TB external drive using USB 2.0 and 3.0. It costs $45 less.
    So far, it sounds like a better deal. But I see that there are no stats
    for average seek time, maximum data transfer rate or RPM. Is that because
    this is a solid state drive? I could see that a solid state drive
    wouldn't have any disks turning so that RPM is not applicable but surely
    a solid state drive would still have a data transfer rate and a seek time
    so I'm not sure why they wouldn't supply the numbers.

    The other thing that surprises me is that a 3 TB external drive by
    Seagate is cheaper than a 3 TB internal drive by the same manufacturer.
    Isn't an external drive essentially an internal drive mounted in a case?
    Shouldn't an internal drive of a given capacity always tend to be cheaper
    than an external drive by the same manufacturer? Yet the same store wants
    $105 MORE for a 3 TB internal drive by Seagate.
    (http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/seagate-seagate-3tb-internal-
    hard-drive-st330005n1a1as-rk/10170578.aspx?path=
    05f1ea625ba55cab4de44fbfd09905b4en02).

    Lastly, the same store has two other Seagate 3 TB external drives
    (http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/seagate-seagate-goflex-for-mac-
    3tb-external-hard-drive-stbc3000101-stbc3000101/10180258.aspx?
    path=f3b7645701312ed6a9eb1cc794cbea6een02
    and
    http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/seagate-seagate-goflex-3tb-
    desktop-external-usb-3-0-hard-drive-stac3000102-
    stac3000102/10179921.aspx?path=7c900e3e739f8949d502984cf4f99fe5en02)
    for somewhat more than the first drive I mentioned. I'm not quite clear
    on how these give you any more than the first drive. The only obvious
    difference is that the more expensive external drives have longer
    warranties - two and three years respectively vs. one year for the first
    drive I mentioned and five years for the internal one.

    By the way, does that tend to suggest that Seagate's massive experience
    with hard drives means that they don't expect the first drive to be
    trouble free for much more than a year while the others will be good for
    longer? Again, I'd be curious to hear anyone's guidance of whether
    spending a little more now is going to be worth it down the road in terms
    of reduced aggravation.....
     
    Rhino, Dec 2, 2011
    #2
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  3. Transferring date to and from a USB-connected drive will be slow
    compared to a drive connected directly to the motherboard's SATA port.

    There are three pages of 3.5" SATA internal drives on that company's Web
    site:

    http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?cPath=15_210_212

    Your motherboard's SATA ports are limited to 3Gbps, so there is no point
    in paying extra for 6Gbps -- unless those faster drives have a longer
    warranty.

    I have had better experiences with Seagate drives than with Western
    Digital. Other people have had different experiences. Some people like
    Samsung drives, but that store doesn't seem to sell them.

    Many of those drives are OEM versions; that means that the store that
    sells them is responsible for the warranty, whereas the manufacturer is
    responsible for the warranty of a Retail version. To the best of my
    knowledge, warranties on hard disks range from two to five years.
    I have no experience with solid-state drives. They are very fast ("scary
    fast" somebody said), but the price per Gigabyte is still too high for
    me to jump in. Although they have no moving parts, the lifetime of the
    memory (measured in write cycles, I think) is not infinite -- very long
    but not infinite.

    Perce
     
    Percival P. Cassidy, Dec 2, 2011
    #3
  4. On Fri, 02 Dec 2011 09:58:02 -0500, "Percival P. Cassidy"

    Regarding SSDs... I have one (only 120 GB as my boot drive for my
    desktop computer system). It cost as much as 3 large 1 TB drives when
    I bought it, and it's not worth as much in the time is saves as it
    cost.... but that's my mistake. And even tho it's fast, it isn't
    really "scary" fast. On my system, it boots from a cold start in half
    the time it formerly took to boot from a RAID-0 pair of 500 GB Segate
    7200 drives. So basically I save about one minute a week on startups.

    External SATA (actually connecting via ESATA which is a slightly
    different connector) as much faster than USB... but are typically
    harder to find and more expensive. The new USB 3 drives promise fast
    connections at low cost.... but are not compatible with older systems
    (ie, if you connect them to an old system you get USB 2 performance).
     
    Charlie Hoffpauir, Dec 2, 2011
    #4
  5. It is *not* a solid-state drive. My guess is that a 3TB SSD would cost
    maybe $2000 or more.

    It's probably a 5400rpm or 5900rpm drive. I'm sure that if you look on
    Seagate's own Web site you'll find the specs.
    That may have something to do with where each model is made. The ones
    made in Thailand or using components supplied by factories in Thailand
    may be in short supply because of the flooding there. (A Western Digital
    factory there is under water too.)
    "GoFlex for Mac" drives work with FireWire800 interfaces as well as USB
    2.0, so you'd be paying for a capability you don't need.

    The STAY3000102 drive is USB only. The STAC3000102 drive has an
    interchangeable base, with a USB2.0/FireWire800 base as one of the
    available options; the GoFlex for Mac probably is the same drive with
    the different base and maybe different software. Or you could buy a
    second USB 3.0 base so that you could move the drive from one computer
    to another without having to mess with both signal and power connectors;
    this is what I do with my 2TB GoFlex Desk drive.

    But an internal drive will be faster than any of these.
    External drives may get bumped while they are spinning, which is not
    good for them. I don't know that any manufacturer offers long warranties
    on external drives.

    Perce
     
    Percival P. Cassidy, Dec 2, 2011
    #5
  6. Rhino

    Paul Guest

    http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/22-136-876-Z05?$S640W$

    http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/22-136-876-Z04?$S640W$

    That's a USB drive. There is a USB connector and a power connector on the back.

    You can boot from USB, but with the size of that drive, I don't
    know under what conditions. Maybe it takes a GPT partition, but I'm
    not sure about that.
    It will be SATA inside. If you were to take the enclosure apart, there
    would be SATA in it. But, the exterior of the unit, does not extend
    the SATA interface. So when viewed from the outside, transfer rate is
    limited to around 30MB/sec or a little more.

    USB1.1 = 1 megabytes/sec
    USB2.0 = 30 megabytes/sec
    USB3.0 = 336 megabytes/sec (best case, today it's around 200MB/sec)

    SATA I = 125 megabytes/sec (a new drive might be 135MB/sec at platter)
    SATA II = close to twice as much (SATA II is good for any hard drive)
    SATA III = even more (SATA III only helps with high end SSDs.
    The extra speed doesn't benefit a hard drive.
    "HDD with SATA III" is advertising fluff.)

    If you want a combo USB/ESATA drive, look for a third-party enclosure
    box.
    Don't ignore the Guide! It's how you detect "SMART" drives. You
    do not want a SMART drive. They're crap, due to the enclosure and
    provided software. You want a PLAIN storage drive. You'll be able
    to understand and use it better.

    Checking the comments on Newegg, that model is an "Elements", which
    is the one that lacks virtual CD and autorun software. It's just a drive.
    So the Elements one looks safe.

    The first review on Newegg, mentions this for it.

    http://download.wdc.com/misc/WD_Quick_Formatter_Win_1_2_0_10.zip

    http://wdc.custhelp.com/app/answers...mat-external-drives-(windows-7,-vista,-xp)-or

    And the people here, note the drive can be set for 512 byte sectors
    or 4K sectors. I can't keep up with these variations any more :-(
    In introduction of 4K sectors, just plain sucks, but is now
    unavoidable.

    http://forums.boxee.tv/showthread.php?p=228797
    Solid State Drives use Flash memory. Cost per gigabyte is higher.
    Seek speed is close to zero (no head assembly flying around), so
    random access to data files is much faster. For backup purposes,
    a regular hard drive makes better sense. Where SSD drives are typically
    used now, is as boot drives (C: partition). And even then, might be
    too expensive for a decent sized C:.
    http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/22-148-750-Z05?$S640W$

    http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/22-148-750-Z04?$S640W$

    It has 4K sectors. It's USB2 by the looks of it (30MB/sec). It's a rotating
    hard drive and has a ST33000651AS inside. (Since an RPM spec isn't
    mentioned, even on the Seagate site, they could substitute anything
    in there if they wanted. They don't have to keep shipping a 651AS
    inside.)

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=22-148-750
    Due to the Thailand flooding, and general market upset, raw drives
    are being hoarded. In the previous Newegg reviews, people are buying
    the enclosed drives and pulling the raw drive out of the enclosure,
    for that very reason. The big companies don't want to hoard enclosed
    drives, they want to hoard internal drives. So they're putting pressure
    on the stock of raw drives. Enclosed drives will be cheaper (until
    the stock runs out).
    st330005n1 = 7200 RPM, 138MB/s, 64MB cache

    http://www.seagate.com/ww/v/index.j...-US&reqPage=Support#tTabContentSpecifications
    That one has both USB and Firewire connectors. Firewire 800 or USB 2.0 Port.
    The hard drive runs at 7200 RPM. Macintosh users like Firewire. USB3
    or ESATA would be faster -- if the Mac had those connectors.
    That one is USB3, and runs at 5900 RPM. For backup purposes, it should
    still have a relatively high transfer rate. If stripping the drive
    out for placement inside the PC, I might look for a 7200 RPM one.
    Warranties are a simple "cost adder". They can afford to shave a few dollars
    off a drive with 1 year warranty, versus drive with longer warranty. It
    doesn't say anything about the drive. The drives, to the best of my
    knowledge, are all made the same way.

    By the way, I saw this comment in a Newegg review...

    "Cons: Warranties are calculated based upon manufacture date instead of
    purchase date. I've found this trend to now be true of all manufacturers,
    not just Seagate, so not a real Con, just an observation."

    so the warranty may not be, what it seems.

    Pre-packaged external drives, have the disadvantage of poor thermal
    design. Some people report drive temps as high as 60C, because
    of the lack of cooling. To their credit, larger vent areas
    are now used on the enclosure, to encourage cooling. But a proper
    enclosure with well designed fan (not a 40mm) is an alternative.
    The pre-packaged drives use aggressive spin-down settings, in an attempt
    to reduce heating effects.

    Since the drive mechanisms are specified to run at up to 60C,
    that would be the upper end of the operating range. High temperatures
    are not good for the FDB spindle motors, because the high temp
    tends to force out the droplets of fluid lubrication that
    make the motors frictionless. (The motors are sealed, but
    high temps push fluid out the seal.) If you run it hot for
    several years, chances are the spindle will seize, because
    the fluid is gone. FDB motors are wonderous, in that they're
    frictionless -- until the lubricant is gone, and then they're dead.
    The older ball bearing motors, just kept getting noisier and noisier
    as they got older, but they wouldn't necessarily just seize on the spot.
    I have a 9GB drive with ball bearing motor and the drive
    still works, but I can't stand to sit next to it :-(

    FDB motors are what make high capacity drives possible.
    They have lower runout than ball bearing motors. The
    platter vibration and wobbling with a ball bearing motor,
    would make it hard for a 3TB drive to "track". Ball bearings
    are fine on my 9GB drive.

    Paul
     
    Paul, Dec 2, 2011
    #6
  7. Rhino

    Rhino Guest

    Thanks everyone for the wealth of information and especially for correcting
    my impression that the one drive was solid state when it obviously (in
    hindsight) wasn't. I didn't realize solid state drives were so much more
    expensive.

    Collectively, you've talked me out of an external drive and back to an
    internal, which is what I'd wanted when I started looking. Neither Canada
    Computers nor Future Shop had the best of deals on large internal drives
    compared to Best Buy so I changed my selection to this:
    http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-CA/product/seagate-seagate-barracuda-3tb-desktop-
    internal-hard-drive-stbd3000100-stbd3000100/10182911.aspx?path=
    8455be89e91195e23326643414ca16aben02

    It's actually a bit cheaper than the external USB drive I first selected. I
    know I won't be getting SATA 3 performance on a SATA 2 mobo but that's
    okay. The store is even considerably closer to where the purchaser lives.

    Thanks again from this hardware-challenged computer user. I never regret
    asking questions here because people are so knowledgeable and helpful :)
     
    Rhino, Dec 3, 2011
    #7
  8. Rhino

    BobT Guest

    The large hard drive market these days seems like a can of worms.
    Apparently this 3TB WD elements drive requires WD's advanced format
    (4K sectors)--at least according to a few reviews on Newegg. I don't
    know whether WD's advanced format utility also establishes the drive
    under GPT or not--their descriptions are mostly marketing hype.

    Regardless, one wants to think carefully about it before making the
    2TB to 3TB leap. I'm using a 3TB internal drive, GPT in Win7, which
    works just fine except that it can't be a boot drive with my present
    MB/BIOS, but I would be a bit nervous about an external via USB--at
    least till I knew a good deal more.
     
    BobT, Dec 3, 2011
    #8
  9. Rhino

    Paul Guest

    At this point, better hurry up and buy something, as the
    price isn't going to get lower than that, for months.

    Paul
     
    Paul, Dec 5, 2011
    #9
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