Category Archives: Hard Drive

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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Digital Curmudgeon



EEEPC-SSDThere’s a dirty little secret about computer performance that is hiding within plain sight. A solid state drive (SSD) will take almost any machine manufactured within the past five to ten years and give it a massive performance boost.

I have an Asus 1000HE EEEPC Netbook from four or five years ago. It came with a 160 gigabyte 5900 RPM conventional spinning hard drive. With the conventional hard drive, the computer was painfully slow to boot up and to use. It would take the better part of 10 minutes to completely boot up and become usable.

I installed a 120 gigabyte Crucial M500 SSD drive into it and restored the operating system (Windows XP SP3) from the original system DVD that came with the machine. After installing the software I will be using with the machine, including Adobe Audition 1.5 and MS Office XP, it completely boots up and is 100% usable within 30 seconds! Programs load immediately and windows snap to attention.

I use this machine as a handy backup machine to an older SSD-equipped white plastic Macbook. The Asus Netbook doesn’t take up much room when I’m traveling. I realize that XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft, but I want to hang on to the perfectly functional older software such as Adobe Audition 1.5 that really has no modern equivalent that I like nearly as well. I am not browsing or doing email with this machine, so it should be perfectly safe to continue to use well into the future.

The move to mobile has caused me to shift away from relying much on traditional computers. During the last year I have used my computers only to record podcasts with. Email and browsing are handled exclusively on mobile devices.

In recent years I’ve grown increasingly annoyed by the constant upgrade cycle drumbeat. It seems there is always some fix or some new supposedly “must have” version of virtually every piece of hardware and software. Why upgrade? “Better performance” and/or “better security” are almost always the answers that are either given or implied. Often I find that NOT to be the case.

Operating system updates end up destroying existing software and hardware compatabilities. Sometimes software that won’t work on a new version of an operating system is never updated or replaced, and the functionality is simply lost.

So, if you have an older machine, including both Windows and Mac, depending on what you are using it for, if you want to hold on to perfectly functional older hardware and software, installing an SSD into an older machine can give it an incredible performance boost that will blow away any brand new machine that is not equipped with an SSD drive. Also, SSD prices contine to go down. A 120 gigabyte Crucial M500 drive now sells for about $72 dollars on Amazon, making it one amazing inexpensive upgrade that offers the absolute most bang possible for the buck!


G-Technology G-RAID Mini Review



External USB 3 hard drives are pretty common these days and GNC has reviewed several models in the past. However, this is the first portable RAID unit that I’ve had on my desk. On show here is the G-Technology G-RAID mini and with a pair of 2.5″ drives, the G-RAID mini offers a choice of RAID 0 or RAID 1 in a very attractive silvery metal case.  Let’s take a look.

G-RAID mini Shadow

The G-RAID mini comes in the usual blue and white G-Technology packaging and in the box is the unit itself, a power supply, a travel case, a Firewire 400-to-800 cable, a Firewire 800 cable  and a USB3 cable. The travel case isn’t anything to write home about but it’s good to have the full range of cables. The G-RAID mini weighs in at just under a 1 kg so it’s pretty hefty but this an all metal case – there’s no cheap plastic here. It’s also surprisingly small at only 149 x 83 x 38 mm, as you’ll see from the ruler below. Overall, it’s a solid, well-built unit.

G-RAID mini Front

Looking over the unit, round the back are a USB 3 port, two Firewire 800 ports and the DC in jack. On the underside, there’s a cooling fan and on the front, there’s white LED in the G-Technology logo, which flashes with disk access. There’s a hidden “drive failure” LED which goes red if a drive dies, but you’ll see the LED flicker when the mini powers up. The G-RAID mini needs supplementary power from the PSU when connected up via USB, but it’s not need when the Firewire ports are used.

G-RAID mini Rear

RAID ConfigThe G-RAID mini can be configured either as RAID 0 with both drives contributing to one large logical volume or else as RAID 1 with the drives mirroring each other. There’s a simple configuration tool that let’s you chose which it’s going to be. Changing the RAID level completely erases the drive so it’s best to decide early what configuration you want.

The utility is available for Windows and Mac, but once the G-RAID mini is setup, it works as any device that understands USB storage, e.g. Linux boxes or Chromebooks.

So that’s the basics out the way. What’s the performance like? I ran through my usual selection of tests with hdparm, dd and bonnie++ in both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations. Remember, while these tests are indicative of performance, they are for my setup only.

RAID 0 USB 3 USB 2 FW 400
hdparm (read)  155 MB/s  33 MB/s 39 MB/s
dd (write)  178 MB/s  37 MB/s 22 MB/s
bonnie++ (write)  173 MB/s  37 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (read)  171 MB/s  49 MB/s 55 MB/s

 

RAID 1 USB 3 USB 2 FW 400
hdparm (read) 126 MB/s 32 MB/s 39 MB/s
dd (write) 117 MB/s 38 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (write) 114 MB/s 37 MB/s 21 MB/s
bonnie++ (read) 154 MB/s 51 MB/s 53 MB/s

In either configuration, the G-RAID mini is fast, especially when connected up via USB 3 in RAID 0. Looking at the data, it’s clear that at USB2 and Firewire 400 speeds, there’s no performance difference between RAID 0 and RAID 1. Simplistically the data connection rate is the limiting factor.

However, with USB3 bonnie shows that write speeds fall by a third in the RAID 1 configuration, with reading affected by only a 10% fall. This is not unexpected as extra work is required to write the data in a mirror setup. Regardless, it’s still 3 times faster than USB2.

In summary, the G-RAID mini is an ideal companion for power users with the latest ultrabooks or MacBook Pros where performance is matched to good looks. It’s not cheap with an on-line price of around £275 for the 2 TB version but the protection against single drive failure will be important to those with high profile or travelling roles where having the data available is crucial. The G-RAID mini is an attractive and well-built unit with great performance and it will appeal to both those who need either high-performance or protection against drive failure.


Mac Mini Upgrade



I have two Mac Mini’s — one of them I use as a computer, and the other I use as an over-the-air HD-DVR connected to my home theater.

I decided to upgrade the machine as I use as a computer to an SSD hard drive, replacing the stock 5400 RPM drive. I replaced it with a Crucial M500 240GB SATA 2.5-Inch 7mm (with 9.5mm adapter) Internal Solid State Drive CT240M500SSD1 purchased via Amazon for $159.99.

Dismantling a Mac Mini is quite a bit above my comfort level, so I took everything to a local Mac dealer I’ve had very positive dealings with in the past and paid them to make the swap.

The results are nothing short of phenomenal. Restarting the machine to fully back up takes about 29 seconds. Curiously, starting the computer from pressing the power button to fully up takes 24 seconds. This is much, much faster than boot-up sequence with the original 5400 RPM hard drive installed,

The machine has 8 gigabytes of RAM installed. Even with that much RAM, the overall feel of the computer once booted up is quite snappy comparing it directly to the otherwise identical HD-DVR machine that is still running it’s original 5400 RPM stock drive.

Hands down the best bang-for-the buck upgrade for any computer is an SSD drive. The speed boost is stark and will make a huge difference even on a machine with only 2 gigabytes of installed RAM.

If you have an older machine, particularly a laptop that has a decent processor but is in need of a serious speed bump, consider an SSD drive.

SSD prices are still high compared to conventional spinning drives, however I’ve found that simply adjusting my thinking a bit makes SSD drives much more affordable. A 120 gigabyte SSD drive sells for around $100 on Amazon. In an era of giant, inexpensive conventional external hard drives and ubiquitous home networks, it makes much more sense to use those external drives as shared storage to store photos, videos and other media, and get away from the idea of storing stuff on the computer itself. By using a 120 or 240 gigabyte SSD as the boot drive, it becomes possible to enjoy a massive computer speed boost and move media off to networked or external storage.


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.


Buffalo Claim Fastest USB 3 Drive



Buffalo LogoThe folks over at Buffalo Technology have announced a screamingly fast external drive, the DriveStation DDR. By adding a 1 GB DDR3 cache to a standard SATA drive, they’ve created a USB3 hard drive with SSD transfer rates. Write speeds are doubled from around 170 MB/s to over 400 MB/s, which is pretty nippy in anyone’s book, and read speeds are similarly improved.

DriveStationDDR

 

Obviously, the benefits of the cache aren’t so clear with large data transfers but the greatest use of external hard drives is storing photos or music files and these are typically MBs rather than GBs in size. Consequently, these kinds of files are ideal for the fast data transfer rate of the DriveStation DDR. Think about transferring your latest photos from your camera to the DriveStation DDR – it’s ideal.

Prices are on a par with standard external hard drives with MSRPs of £129 for the 2 TB version and £169 for 3 TB, which isn’t bad. Compatible with all OSes that support USB 3 and there’s no need for any special drivers. The full specs are here.

Geek News Central expects to get a review unit soon, so I’ll be putting the DriveStation DDR through its paces shortly.


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.