Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Java Champion and Developer Advocate at Okta.

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

What's a good external firewire drive?

I have a 60 GB firewire drive that we resurrected from Julie's dead PowerBook, but I'm interested in getting a bigger one to start regular backups. CNET recommends the Maxtor OneTouch II (300GB), but there's lots of bad reviews. 200 GB should be enough for the next year or two. Any recommendations? Is there one that can be used to backup OS X, Windows and Linux?

Posted in Mac OS X at Oct 10 2005, 09:15:44 AM MDT 12 Comments

My home PC (HP Pavilion) came with 3 firewire ports and 4 USB 1.1 ports, so after the original internal drive died, I decided to shop for an external firewire drive. What I found was that the firewire drives seemed to be overpriced relative to similar USB 2.0 drives, so I bought a USB 2.0 PCI card and paid $49 (after rebates) for a WD 80 GB drive.

If all your systems support USB 2.0, consider it as well. It's plenty fast.

Like the Maxtor, this drive is geared towards backup, and comes with backup software that will launch at the touch of a button. But the design of this backup software is absolutely idiotic. I expected it to run as a service, and silently back up my data when I pressed the button, or when scheduled. Instead, it launches an obtrusive full-screen backup application. If you schedule it for periodic backups, it pops up and steals focus from whatever you're doing.

Brilliant design. Now, I just use a batch file I created that runs XCOPY.

Posted by kelzer on October 10, 2005 at 09:55 AM MDT #

The Lacie d2's are nice - good choice of capacities and available in a triple interface for Firewire 400, Firewire 800 and USB2 connectivity.

Posted by Simon Brown on October 10, 2005 at 10:01 AM MDT #

I've heard iffy things about Maxtor drives too, and have myself been considering the LaCie d2 drives. As Simon points out, they seem to fit the bill, so will probably get one of those at some point.

Posted by Ben Poole on October 10, 2005 at 10:13 AM MDT #

It's funny you mentioned backups, since I finally put together a decent backup solution for the plethora of machines that I have at home. It started with a nice hard drive solution: Addonics Technologies. I bought 2 SATA 250 Gb drives to swap on a weekly rotation.

There is also an IDE version. I put the combo cradle in my Alienware box (since it has SATA II) and is running Win XP. I bought a copy of Retrospect Backup and purchased additional client licenses. There are clients available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS's (I have all 3) and it just plain works.

I'm a big open source guy, but I figured a commercial backup solution was worth it. All in all I spend about $600-700 for the drives and the software, but I can finally sleep at night now knowing I've got a good backup solution and an extra HDD offsite.

Normally, a stripped-down version of Retrospect comes bundled with many of the USB/Firewire external drives, and it is generally OK. Purchasing the shrink-wrapped version adds all the nice features missing from the free one. The documentation that comes with it is very good. Retrospect handles backing up to tape drives, CD/DVD, etc. along with HDDs.

I don't work for any of these companies; I'm only relaying info on the choices I made based on my own research.

Posted by Ross Greinke on October 10, 2005 at 10:15 AM MDT #

I have been quite happy with Maxtor One Touch drive. I have 5 of them and they have worked without issue for me. I do not use any special Maxtor drivers, just the native OSX FW support and I do reformat drive as HFS+ Journaled prior to use.

Posted by Mark Alexander on October 10, 2005 at 10:36 AM MDT #

I too heard bad things about the Maxtor drives so I bought a Western Digital 250 GB drive about 6 months ago. It comes with a USB 2.0 interface and Firewire 400. It has worked well for me although I decided not to use the copy of Retrospect Express that was bundled with it. Instead I use MS Backup on my Windows box and .Mac backup on my OS X Machine.

Posted by Kurt Wiersma on October 10, 2005 at 11:57 AM MDT #

I'd second getting a LaCie. I have one of their triple interface ones and while it's weight doesn't make it good for portability it's fast, quiet and solid.

Posted by Ryan on October 10, 2005 at 01:25 PM MDT #

i've been using a Maxtor OneTouch 250 GB drive for maybe a year or so, and i have no complaints. i'm not using any of the included backup software, but overall i have no complaints. the drive's been fast, quiet and reliable. it's been good enough that it's now the home of my most important digital asset - my music collection.

Posted by stephen ogrady on October 10, 2005 at 02:25 PM MDT #

Again, the Lacie 250GB works for me. I attach my iBook and iMac G5 once a month and run SuperDuper. Never had a Lacie fail me, and I've had several.

Posted by Ed Gibbs on October 10, 2005 at 08:38 PM MDT #

I'm on my 3rd Maxtor One-Touch 250gb drive. The first two completely failed on me (USB 2 connection) with IO errors after only a few months use. The drive basically stopped being recognized by my WinXP SP2 installation. Thankfully, it's still under warranty, so other than costs to ship the old drive(s) back to Maxtor, they've been good about replacing them. But what a hassle....really. Are these things not meant to stay turned on 24x7? I perform nitely backups of my system, so it needs to stay turned on. I can't figure out why they keep failing. If this 3rd one fails, I guess I'm gonna have to write-off Maxtor and go with some other solutions. Dave

Posted by Dave Macpherson on October 11, 2005 at 11:51 AM MDT #

I haven't already used it myself, but find the concept of network attacched storage devices cool. This thing has Linux running on it and some useful services implemented (FTP, Web-Server, etc., even a Bittorrent-Client). Probably there are similar devices from other manufacturers available. Has anyone experience with such stuff?

Posted by on October 12, 2005 at 03:38 AM MDT #

I have had very very bad experiences with Maxtor - more with their Support than their Drives. It cost me a week once, it's cost them thousands of drives in sales since. If someone were to *gve* me one, I'd sell it on ebay immediately for something elase. $0.2c

Posted by wayne t on April 19, 2006 at 11:51 PM MDT #

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