Attack of the Hard Drives

I just connected another hard drive to my iMac which meant I ended up with the mess shown below. That’s 4 drives, with 1.8TB of space (that’s in addition to the 500GB in the iMac itself). Seems like overkill to me. In my defense I submit that I’m paranoid about backups and as far as I’m concerned a file doesn’t exist unless it’s in two places. To make matters worse I don’t consider RAID or my WHS file duplication to be two places since it’s still one device. Still, things are out of hand. So what do we have here?


Starting on the left is a SimpleTech 500GB USB drive. This drive is the one that’s given me the most problems. The cable it came with didn’t fit well so connectivity would come and go. It doesn’t play well with SuperDuper, as SuperDuper usually locks up when it’s cloning to the drive. Right now it’s used a temp backup location and I haven’t had any problems doing normal file copies. It also has a blue LED oval on the top that flashes in rotation as the drive is in use. Very annoying.

Next to the SimpleTech we have my Western Digital 500GB MyBook drive with a FireWire 800 connection. By far my favorite and most reliable external drive. Most of it’s life has been spent as a backup clone of my iMac that was updated daily. But now it’s got two partitions. One for my virtual machines (for Parallels and VMware) and the other as a (currently unused) data drive.

Then I have a Maxtor 320GB FireWire drive that’s used for my Time Machine backup. I only back up selected files so the fact that’s it’s smaller than my iMac disk hasn’t been a problem and after several months only 170GB out of the 320GB is used. The drive itself has been reliable but rather slow to spin up. Works fine with Time Machine.

Then at the very right I have one of the 500GB eSATA drives that was removed from my WHS that’s in a Galaxy enclosure that’s connected to the iMac via USB. This is used to keep a backup clone of my iMac. The blue LED around the base isn’t to my taste but it doesn’t flash so it’s easy to ignore.

In all these cases I don’t use any software or drivers that were bundled with the drives.

Time Machine and the disk clone are a duplication of effort but I like that Time Machine backs up my files throughout the day and keeps a history. I like that I can boot from the clone and get right to work so each serves a purpose. Having the clone came in handy once after a OS X patch went bad. Even though there’s room on my iMac drive for them, I like having the VMs on a separate drive because it helps overall performance and I want FireWire 800 for the speed.

In addition to what’s shown here I also have 1.6TB worth of files on my Windows Home Server. Due to the disk duplication feature (to avoid losing files in the event of a drive failure) most of the WHS disk space is already used.

But my disk needs are only going to grow since I’m going for digital media rather than CDs and DVDs. Excluding backups, I need about 2TB for my data and to run my iMac, and that’s growing.  I need a plan.

I’ve decided to turn off disk duplication for my Video files on the Windows Home Server. This will free up over a terabyte. As backups for these files I’ll copy them to some extra hard drives I have (the ones removed when I upgraded the WHS). Since these files don’t change as each drive is filled up I’ll move it offsite for storage. It’s just the bare drive so it doesn’t take up much space. It will give me a second copy with the added benefit of being offsite. Since hard drives need to spin I will have to spin them up once or twice a year which will be a pain.

Then I’m getting a Drobo to replace the mess on my desk (currently backordered). This will provide an extra level of data protection with its RAID like abilities while replacing these 4 drives. The new Drobos include FireWire 800 ports so I’m expecting to be able to run my VMs off them the same way I run them off my MyBook now. I’ll probably also move most of my data to it (from my internal iMac hard drive) for the extra protection. Since OS X just see the Drobo as an external drive I should be able to use if for a bootable clone, although I may drop that from my backup scheme. The Drobo can handle four drives and subtracts an amount equal to it’s largest hard drive from the available space for data protection. So four 1TB drives would provide 3TB of useable space, which can grow over time as larger capacity drives become available.

2 thoughts on “Attack of the Hard Drives”

  1. Did you ever get your Drobo?

    I have one, and saved me tons of time.

    I also used crashplan. It's an awesome utility that allows off-site backups.

    I actually use crashplan to back up my wifes windows box to the drobo on my wifes computer. She's backed up, and the backup is redundant.

  2. @Robert

    I did get the Drobo. I'm still figuring out the best way for me to use it. Right now I'm using it as my primary data drive (although not as a boot drive). I've had a few minor problems but overall it's working out well.

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