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  • OT: USB hard drives: storage or real-time use?

    The annual "running out of hard drive space" ritual is upon me.

    I'm running XP on a Dell 8400, nice machine, lots of expansion capability.

    The external UBS hard drives: are they just for storage and backup, or do people use them realtime?

    Are there speed issues with, say, playing mp3s off of one? What about something tougher like running DAW software off one?

    Of course there would have to be OS issues if you move the drive between different machines.

    My needs are:
    1. move most of my listening music over to the external drive to free up space on my internal HDs. Not just to archive, but to listen to off the external HD.
    2. backups. We've got six PCs in our family of four and no one backs up except me. I'd like to walk the external drive to each machine and back the family's stuff up on a regular basis.

    any help from you gurus appreciated....

    nat whilk ii

  • #2
    Originally posted by nat whilk II
    1. move most of my listening music over to the external drive to free up space on my internal HDs. Not just to archive, but to listen to off the external HD.

    2. backups. We've got six PCs in our family of four and no one backs up except me. I'd like to walk the external drive to each machine and back the family's stuff up on a regular basis.


    That's exactly what i use Maxtor USB/Firewire HD's for.

    The transfer speed works with 24-bit audio playback, also any kind of standard resolution video plays back without stotter from USB drives. I won't play back smooth high definition video, HDV or HDTV, for that you would need faster HD's.

    .

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    • #3
      You can probably listen to music OK, yeah.

      "Running DAW software"...I assume you mean keeping tracks on it, as opposed to installing the software onto the drive (which would be somewhat difficust & probably impractical)? That is more intensive, but it's possible - make sure to use USB 2.0, the older 1.1 is a lot slower. All other things being equal I'd go FireWire for DAW - the older FW400 is as good (maybe slightly better) than USB 2.0, but FW800 is 2x as fast (according to spec, YMMV, but it's still a lot faster).

      Backing up - use a different drive. It's a great solution for that. One thing you might do: get a USB drive enclosure & buy raw hard drives. Then you can use different drives for each computer, or make a couple of copies of your backup drive, then seal them back in their anti-static bags & put them away until you need them again.
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      • #4

        Also note that there enclosures that have both Firewire and USB 2 interfaces, so you're covered no matter what.
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        • #5
          hmmm.....thanks for the imput

          I do have a bunch of older IDE drives that I maybe could stick in an enclosure and use for something besides paperweights.

          To use an old IDE drive in an enclosure...do you have to reformat the drive? install some sort of software to it to make it readable/useable by the host machine?

          thanks again for the extra brains.

          nat whilk ii

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          • #6
            I didn't think I'd be able to and it certainly wasn't my plan, but I've been able to track onto the same USB2 drive that I pull my BFD samples off of. (Of course, it's not recommended to have your BFD source on the same drive you're tracking to... but, what the heck, I've always been a rule breaker.)

            You know, there are undoubtedly faster, more robust solutions (and I don't tend to run big projects) but I was pleasantly surprised.


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            • #7
              <<To use an old IDE drive in an enclosure...do you have to reformat the drive? install some sort of software to it to make it readable/useable by the host machine?>>

              Maybe I've just been lucky, but it seems that if it spins, it works. The only thing you have to be really careful about is the master/slave pin assignment.

              I'm actually about to put an enclosure together now and put a drive in it so I can back up the data in my office computer. I need to do this in the next couple of days and will report back.
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              • #8
                Be aware that older drives might also be slower. You want 7200rpm drives with at least a 2mb cache for audio, and a bigger cache is better.

                As far as audio playback from something like iTunes or other playback apps, even a USB1.1 drive is fine. I have a 1.1 drive for my iTunes and it works fine.

                For DAW however, FW is the way to go. FW has a faster throughput than USB2.0, essential for playback of multiple tracks with edited regions, tons of plugins, etc.

                There's no need to reformat a drive to put into a FW or USB enclosure, but it does need to be jumpered to master, and depending on how it was formatted, may need to be formatted differently for DAW use depending on the DAW.

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                • #9
                  I've just boarded the Computer-based DAW train this week (I've been mixing down with Cubase for a couple years, but I just bought a Firebox and am now recording into it, as well).

                  I have a external hard drive around that I'm going to use for audio (the 7 gigs free on my laptop will fill up fast). The HD is USB OR Firewire and I'm sure firewire is the way to go.

                  However, I only have 1 firewire port on my laptop. Does it matter where I put the FireBox or Hard Drive when I daisy chain them?

                  Laptop --- Firebox --- Hard drive

                  or

                  Laptop --- hard drive --- firebox

                  thanks for your input,

                  Bill
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                  • #10
                    Thx for all the tips.

                    I ran out to Fry's to just see if they carried the enclosures only to be amazed at the selection - there must have been 15 brands to choose from. So these things must be popular. I can see why, esp. for people who travel with laptops.

                    The meaningful choices between makes and models boiled down to whether or not they accomodated USB and/or Firewire, SATA and/or IDE, etc. The non-meaningful choices were between various colors and blinking light configurations and other attempts at the coolness factor. Leave the coolness factor to Apple, guys....

                    A little overpriced for what it does ($49.99) but it worked right off the bat, could hardly be simpler. This will save me a bunch as I've got a drawerful of older IDE drives that I can now make use of and solve my storage/HD space issues without springing for a new large drive and without making an orphan of any older, smaller drive.

                    Dang, USB is pretty slick after all.

                    nat whilk ii

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Bruther_Bill72
                      Does it matter where I put the FireBox or Hard Drive when I daisy chain them?

                      Laptop --- Firebox --- Hard drive

                      or

                      Laptop --- hard drive --- firebox

                      thanks for your input,

                      Bill

                      I'd put the FireBox at the end of the chain, then the HDD into the computer. It's going to see more action than the FireBox, so better for it to not have to go through the FireBox all the time.
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                      • #12
                        I usually record to internals, but I back up my data to Firewire drives and DVD's. Some of my external drive enclosures I picked up for next to nothing ($30, +/- each) at a local shop and just put IDE drives into them myself. They've all worked great, and I've got a few different brands / designs. A couple of off-brand generic ones I own have both USB 2.0 and Firewire, and I was kinda shocked when as a test, I tried playing back a large PT session off of one - it worked great. But normally, you're best off getting an external firewire drive / enclosure with an Oxford chipset if you plan on using it directly with your DAW software. Firewire is definitely the "pro studio external drive interface of choice" right now, but that may change as SATA externals become more common and the interfaces start showing up on more machines.

                        For backups, I agree with Craig - having both USB 2.0 and firewire interfacing, as well as the ability to pull it out of the case and use it straight IDE, increases compatability - and for backups, I think that's always a great idea. But for recording and playing back multitrack audio, I recommend firewire and an Oxford 911 or 912 chipset, and would caution aganst USB 2.0.
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                        • #13
                          Great advice Phil, thanks!

                          Along similar lines, I'm a big fan of removeable drive bays. I have two removeable drives in my main music computer; one holds samples, the other swaps between a "video projects" drive and an "audio projects" drive. When it's time to backup data, I just pull out the samples drive, put in a blank drive, and copy over from the audio or video drive.
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                          • #14
                            I've considered getting some removeable drive tray setups, but I was always a bit concerned about increased nose and / or heat issues with them. Any problems with either of those issues Craig?
                            **********

                            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

                            - George Carlin

                            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

                            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

                            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nat whilk II
                              The external UBS hard drives: are they just for storage and backup, or do people use them realtime?

                              Are there speed issues with, say, playing mp3s off of one? What about something tougher like running DAW software off one?
                              As far as Windows XP is concerned, it's just another disk drive. I have an older Dell laptop with a USB1.1 port and I've used an external drive on there for DAW recording, but the throughput with 1.1 is only fast enough to reliably record six tracks at 44.1 kHz. With a USB 2.0 port, 24 tracks should be no problem (all other things being sufficiently equal).

                              Playing MP3 files should be a piece of cake.

                              There are combination Firewire/USB drive cases. That's what I use, and occasionally swap drives in and out to keep projects separete. USB is almost always compatible with whatever computer you have, Firewire can be a little more fussy, but these days most all of them work with any computer.
                              --
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