Aleratec Hard Drive Duplicator at CES

Aleratec LogoLet’s been honest, it’s not often that the average geek needs to duplicate a single hard drive to five others in a range of physical sizes and capacities. But if you did need to do it, Aleratec have the machine for the job with the snappily named 1-to-5 HDD Copy Dock Advanced. Jamie and Todd find out what it offers from Perry Solomon, President and CEO of Aleratec.

The Aleratec 1-to-5 duplicates one SATA drive to five others, taking both spinning disks and SSDs while catering for both 3.5″ and 2.5″ form factors without any additional adaptors. In itself, that’s not particularly amazing as Aleratec do other units that will duplicate 24 HDDs at once, but this working prototype has a couple of features that set it apart. First, it has a secure erase function which will wipe disks to Dept. of Defense standards, but more impressively, the 1-to-5 has the capability to duplicate from a larger drive capacity to a smaller drive capacity. This situation often occurs when moving from an HDD to an SSD where the HDD has a volume capacity in a terabytes but the SSD has only gigabytes. Obviously the files on the source drive have to be pruned to fit the space on the receiving drive but it’s a great feature on a duplicator.

The price of the 1-to-5 HDD Copy Dock Advanced is $899 and will be available shortly.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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WD My Passport Edge drive — the good and bad

If you are looking for a small, portable hard drive for your laptop then there are several choices on the market and hard drive prices continue to reach new lows. The one I settled on, mainly because of a price deal, was the WD My Passport Edge. The stipulation was that I was buying a drive that specifically said “for Mac”. There is a version that is not labeled this way, and is generally the same price, but at the moment of my purchase the Mac one was cheaper. No problem since, after all, a hard drive is a hard drive, right?

wd my passport edge

The Good

With 500 GB of storage, the little USB drive packs plenty of extra space into its enclosure. When I say “little” I mean that quite literally, as the dimensions are 4.4 x 3.4 x 0.4 inches and 4.6 ounces. In addition to the sleek design, the drive also is USB 3.0 (backward compatible of course) and comes with pre-installed software to work with Apple Time Machine.

The Bad

I am sure the Apple software is great, but I purchased with for Windows, and there is a process that needs to be carried out to make that work. That pre-installed software blocks Windows access.

As I plugged in the drive, I heard the familiar USB connection chime, but a trip to Explorer showed no extra drive. Normal trouble-shooting resulted in the same thing — I unplugged and re-plugged, switched ports and the like, all to no avail. A trip to device manager showed the drive, no problem. A PC reboot also produced all of these same results.

It turns out you will need to open Explorer and right-click on Computer (“This PC” if you are running Windows 8.1) and choose “Manage”.

Now, locate the WD My Passport drive — the simplest way is to unplug the drive while watching the console. Pay attention to which one disappears. Then plug it back in and again and pay attention to see which drive appears (it should be the same). Likely you will find it listed as “Disk 1″.

Move to the lower pane and right-click on the WD. Choose “New Simple Volume” — wording may vary based on Windows version. During this setup process you will be prompted to enter a volume name — I simply named it “WD My Passport”. If you choose none then the drive will be named “new volume”. You also must choose a drive letter, but the default should be fine (F in my case). You can always go back and right-click the drive later and rename it or change the drive letter.

Conclusion

The above steps fix the problem, and now you have a small and elegant looking hard drive that will easily fit in a pocket and holds 500 GB of data. For the price, this drive can not be beat, but setup is a bit of a trick.

Today only – Amazon offering 4 TB Seagate drive for $139

Depending on your location, you perhaps have more of the day left than I do here in the, still rather chilly, mid-Atlantic region. That’s a good thing if you are looking for your next external hard drive, because today Amazon has a one day deal for you.

The online retailer is offering the Seagate 4 TB USB 3.0 external HDD for only $139.99 — a price it touts as $100 off of the regular retail rate. Before you wonder what is wrong with the drive, I should point out that The Wirecutter’s Seamus Bellamy rated it as their favorite external drive. It also carries a four-star rating on Amazon as well.

seagate 4tb drive

The retailer lists the feature set as:

  • Keep copies of your precious digital files, in case disaster strikes
  • Impressive 4 TB storage capacity
  • Save feature enables user-generated content to be backed up from your favorite social network
  • Share feature allows multiple files to be uploaded to social networks at once from your computer
  • Install the pre-loaded NTFS driver for Mac and use the drive interchangeably between PC and Mac computers without reformatting
  • Features USB 3.0 for quick data transfer rates; upgrade to Thunderbolt technology or FireWire 800 with the available additional adapter

The deal ends tonight, so if you are in the market then act now. Heck, with a deal like this, it may not hurt to grab one even if you aren’t in the market.

A Hard Disk Designed to Last Millions of Years

Traditional hard drives can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, with the latter being more likely.  SSD’s can last longer thanks to their lack of moving parts, but they still probably aren’t something you would want to include in a time capsule.  Now researchers in France are working on a drive that they hope will last as much as 10 million years.

The sapphire “hard disk” prototype has been created by ANDRA, the French nuclear waste management agency.  The disk, which is one of a kind, cost $25,000 to make, and stores information with platinum-based etchings.  The reason for this?  To warn future generations of nuclear waste buried in the ground.

The data stored on the sapphire disk contains 40,000 miniaturized (not digital) pages, and the only thing future archaeologists will need to read them will be a microscope.  ANDRA researchers tested the disk’s durability by immersing it in acid to simulate the ageing process.  The disk should last at least 1 million years, the researchers stated.  In fact, they hope to prove a durability of 10 million years very soon.

Source: Science Now

Image: Hard Drive by BigStock

Upgrading My NAS…Yawn

Hard DriveLast weekend, I upgraded my NAS from 2 TB to 4 TB and it was all too easy. The NAS is a Buffalo LinkStation Duo but as the drives are mirrored, I only get half the total 2 TB capacity, i.e. 1 TB. I was getting pretty close to having the full terabyte of data on the unit, so I decided it was time for a storage upgrade. However, the last time I upgraded another model of NAS, it involved much chicanery and re-installing of firmwire via USB, so I proceed with trepidation.

Not so this time. It was mostly lots of waiting interspersed with a few minutes of activity, followed by first time success. Disappointingly little geekery was required.

Step 1. Buy a pair of SATA 2 TB hard-drive. The LinkStation already had Seagate drives installed, so I played it safe and bought some Seagate Barracuda drives. Wait a couple of days for drives to arrive in post…

Step 2. Backup the data from the NAS to an external USB drive. My favourite tool for this is rsync because it simply copies files (no archives or zip files) and you can stop and start the backup as you like. You can even keep using the NAS up until the last minute before running one final rsync to copy the latest changes over. Leave the backup to run overnight…

Step 3. Shutdown the LinkStation via the web interface.

Step 4. Remove hard drives, insert new ones.

Step 5. Power up the Linkstation and log on via the web interface.

Step 6. Format drives in turn. Configure as RAID 1. Wait for best part of a day while array synchronises….

Step 7. Restore data from external USB hard drive. Leave to run overnight….

Step 8. Job done!

It was pleasantly straightforward to upgrade the NAS and a big change from the last occasion I had to swap a disk. For sure it takes a couple of days to do the swap, but the time is spent shuffling data around, not actually working on the unit. Definitely a recommended upgrade.

[Disclosure: this is my personal NAS and not a review unit.]

Rocstor AES 256-bit Enctypted Hard Drive

Rocstor has unveiled a new portable external hard drive that practically guarantees that your data won’t be stolen.  The hard drive, which comes in capacities up to 1 TB, has a slot for a smart card.  Enter the card, punch in your code (which you choose), and you unlock the drive and all of the data you have stored on it.  The drives are FIP certified and ship with multiple cards.  For users that need additional cards, they can be purchased blank and inserted into a unit to be programmed to work with it.  PIN Numbers can be changed an unlimited number of times as well.

These hard drives are probably not for average consumers, but more for business and government.  They are designed to protect highly-sensitive data and eliminate those stories that are always in the news these days about stolen laptops filled with account and credit card information.  The drives retail in the $400-600 range and are available now from Rocstor.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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The First 4 TB Hard Drive Now On Sale

hitachi logo

For a while now we have been hearing about the coming hard drive shortage due to issues in the far east (mainly the flooding in Thailand), but before those problems reach the world, Hitachi is going to go for gold.  Maximum PC is reporting that Hitachi has released the first 4 TB internal hard drive for sale in Japan.  For those keeping score, that’s a new record for the largest storage drive.

Hitachi hasn’t actually announced this, which I find a bit strange, but Maximum PC found a website reporting the drive was on sale in stores in Japan.  They report the drive is part of the Hitachi Deskstar line, has a SATA 6Gbps interface, 32 MB of cache and Hitachi’s proprietary CoolSpin technology, which is supposed to allow the hard drive to run both quieter and with less heat.

The reported price for a Hitachi Deskstar 4 GB hard drive is 26,800 yen, or about $345.  That’s a steep price given the current price range for hard drives in the U.S.  In all likelihood other manufacturers will have their own 4 TB offerings on the market soon so, unless you’re really desperate for the storage or have money to blow, I would recommend waiting.

Thailand Flooding and the Price of Hard Drives

If you are thinking about getting a hard drive you may want to wait. Thailand has been hit by terrible flooding during the yearly monsoon season. Up to 500 have died and whole areas have been devastated including areas where the majority of the world’s hard drives are manufactured. Companies including Western Digital and Toshiba have been hit hard. As reported by the NY Times Bang Pa-In, Thailand which produces one-quarter of the worlds sliders a vital hard drive component is almost completely under water. Piper Jaffray believe that the supply of hard drives may run dry by the end of November. Prices may rise anywhere from 10 to 60 percent. There maybe a shortage of up to 60-80 million hard drives in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the shortage may only get worse. Full recovery of the market isn’t expected until late 2012.

Just in time for the next monsoon season. Climate change may only increase the flooding next year unless Thailand figures a way to control it. Unfortunately the very rice fields that helped to control the flooding in the past have been replaced by the factories that manufacture the hard drives. Companies may think of moving some of the processes outside of Thailand but that will take years and a lot of money. Companies may decide that the cost of moving is greater than the cost of dealing with flooding and choose to stay.

The hard drive shortage is already being felt by small businesses who sells or purchases hard drives. They are having trouble getting the hard drives they need and their prices are going up. The longer the problem continues the more the problem will spread to anything with a hard drive in it. Which includes desktops, laptops, gaming systems, and more. Not all hard drive companies were hit equally Seagate whose plants are in the highlands of Thailand was not effected by the monsoon directly, however it says it will have difficulty getting some parts. SSD drives are not effected either. Gus Richard an analyst at Piper Jaffray believes that there was an over reaction to the economic impact of the Japanese disaster and an under reaction to the Thailand disaster. This is at the time when large data centers are being built, data centers which require more and more hard drives. So the shortage and higher prices will most likely continue until late 2012.

Seagate Momentous XT Hybrid Solid State Hard Drive

Want to give your tired old computer a speed boost? Listen up — this is a good one!

A few days ago my 17” MacBook Pro shut down a couple of times due to overheating issues, so I ended up taking it to the local Mac dealer to get it cleaned out – a truck is a surprisingly dirty operating environment. The machine was full of dust, which was preventing the internal fans from functioning properly.

When I dropped the Macbook off, almost as an afterthought I decided I would have them install a larger hard drive and clone the data over while they had the machine opened up. I ended up buying a 500 gigabyte Seagate Momentous XT Hybrid hard drive as the replacement drive. It was somewhat more expensive than a non-hybrid solid state drive, but the sales pitch on the outside of the retail package touting greatly-enhanced overall performance of this hybrid drive convinced me to give it a try.

The Seagate Momentous XT 500 gigabyte solid state hard drive comes with a 4 gigabyte solid state drive, with the rest of the storage being a conventional 7200 RPM 2.5” SATA laptop hard drive. The drive contains some built-in intelligence that automatically copies the most frequently-accessed computer files that will give the most boost to overall performance, including significantly faster boot-up times.

Does it work? All I can say is “Wow!” I am amazed at the performance boost. The machine boots quicker, and overall it has a much more snappy feel. The Seagate Momentous XT 500 gigabyte hard drive is worth every penny as an upgrade.

The old adage about speeding up a computer by maxing out RAM is still true. However, now there’s a new performance-boosting item that can be added to the list: add the appropriate hybrid hard drive for an even greater performance boost. With the addition of this drive, this 17” Macbook Pro is exhibiting better performance than ever.

Needless to say, I’m impressed. If you’ve maxed out your computer’s RAM, get one of these drives: I promise you that you won’t be disappointed with the performance boost.

OWC — Other World Computing — High Performance Aftermarket SSD Drives

Grant Dahlke from Other World Computing aka MacSales.com introduces Sandforce processor-based high capacity, high-performance SSD (solid state drive) hard drives for computers such as Apple’s Macbook Air that are up to three times larger and up to 22% faster than the drive than Apple’s OEM drive. They also have a line of drives for older IDE and ATA machines, which enables much better performance from older computing hardware due to the much faster read/write times of solid state drives as opposed to the performance of conventional spinning hard drives.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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