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Thread: Hard drive and photo backup questions

  1. #1

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    Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Hello,

    I just started shooting in RAW and now I am realizing how fast my harddrive is filling up. So I need a new internal harddrive for my PC. Since I don't have internet at home, I have to take my MacBook and loiter at some hotel to get online. The harddrive on the MacBook is pretty much full as well, so I have to kind of guess what pictures etc. I will need when I'm online. So, my plan is to get an external harddrive as well.
    At the moment I backup my pictures on DVD, but I know out of first hand experience that they don't last forever. So, why not get another external harddrive for backups?

    I am wondering now, if I should really save for 2 externals or just get one and use it as a backup and MacBook harddrive at the same time. I have never owned an external harddrive and am not sure how fragile they are. I usually carry my laptop around with me in my backpack, together with books and food and all the junk that accumulates in there. The size of the harddrive doesn't really matter, but are laptop harddrives better protected then desktop harddrives?

    I usually use Western Digital or Seagate drives. Now I have read here and at some other sites that Seagate had some problems with their newer drives. Has that been fixed? Is it safe again to buy Seagate?

    And finally, does anybody have any experience with backup software? I am looking for something that would backup only certain folders and/or partitions.

    Kirk
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 14th June 2009 at 01:22 AM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Harddrive and Backup questions.

    Hi Kirk,

    The thing I noticed the most about 2.5 inch "laptop" HDDs is that they're very slow compared to 3.5 inch "PC" HDDs. If you're only accessing random files then it doesn't make any difference, but if your transferring a lot of data then it can turn a 1/2 hour exercise into a 2 hour exercise (actual figures from a laptop repair I did last week).

    In terms of reliability, I see more failures with 2.5 inch HDDs than I do with 3.5 inch HDDs, but possibly because laptops get moved around more whilst the platters are spinning, which they don't particularly like.

    In terms of 3.5 inch drive reliability, I have noticed a bit of a trend ...

    - I've heard of quite a few instances of failures from many brands of external HDDs, where the drive and case are sold as a "ready to go" unit, leaving me wondering what kind of drives they're putting inside the cases (personally I have no idea - I never use them - see below).

    - Most often I buy the cases for the 3.5 inch external drives (usually Nexstar brand) and fit my own (Seagate) drives into these. I've sold many of these and haven't had any issues, although I should point out that as these are used for backups I don't think it's a good idea to leave them running all the time; I recommend shutting them down when not needed.

    - If an external drive does have to run 24 x 7 then I usually fit a Seagate ES Series ("Enterprise Series"), designed for servers etc.

    You mentioned hearing about problems with some drives - you've possibly heard about an issue with Seagate drives where some have suddenly ended up with the BSY flag permanantly set; I can confirm that this was (eventually) fixed with upgraded firmware.

    Personally - for my commercial photography - I keep the files primarily on a pair of mirrored drives (RAID 1), and for each image (I typically only process 1 image out of a batch because I pick the best landscape shot out of a session and work with that) I burn it to 2 DVDs (along with it's RAW file and other RAWs shot at the same time). One DVD comes home with me and is archived in a DVD wallet in a dark / dry place ... the other stays in the workshop in a dark / dry place. I haven't had any issues with failure of ANY DVD (touch wood), and yes, I have had to use some occasionally. And as a final "good measure" I backup my mirrored pair of drives to an external HDD "when I think of it" (which isn't as often as it should be!).

    Hope this helps - we did discuss this a while back - you might like to have a read through that thread as well.

    Does this help?
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 14th June 2009 at 12:28 AM.

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    Re: Harddrive and Backup questions.

    Hello Colin,

    I've heard of quite a few instances of failures from many brands of external HDDs, where the drive and case are sold as a "ready to go" unit, leaving me wondering what kind of drives they're putting inside the cases
    I was looking at external drives sold by Western Digital and Seagate. I assume they put their own drives in those cases?!

    Do you have any experience with backup software? I was thinking of something that would synchronize my files to the external HDD every once in a while. Sort of like iTunes does when synchronizing with an iPod (even though I hate iTunes with a passion..).

    Kirk

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    Re: Harddrive and Backup questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk View Post
    Hello Colin,

    I was looking at external drives sold by Western Digital and Seagate. I assume they put their own drives in those cases?!
    I would assume so. All I know is I've heard of quite a few failures (of many brands).

    Do you have any experience with backup software? I was thinking of something that would synchronize my files to the external HDD every once in a while. Sort of like iTunes does when synchronizing with an iPod (even though I hate iTunes with a passion..).
    Sorry, I deliberately didn't answer that question because I'm a Windows user, and I just use the Backup utility that comes with the OS - not sure what's available for the Mac.

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Don't know about mac but the way I back up on linux is just use the tar command. Unsure about osx but if it still has cli archivers then that is probably the most simple way, eg if you have tar app then "tar -cvf [folder or hdd mountpoint to backup] [name of archive made.tar]" . I can automate it to run on regular basis with cron scheduler running it (as a script) for me.

    I often do an entire drive backup before major system changes and stick on dvd-r or another hdd so I can recover quickly/easily. Bear in mind if you are archiving to dvd-r then you are best using the metallic pigment ink disks as they don't cost much more but do last much longer. I tend to use cheap cd/dvd for short term file transfers as they are not thought to be safe for archival purposes due to light sensitive pigment instabilities over time in the cheaper inks (home cd/dvd burn with optical dark spots rather than mechanically pressed ones like in commercial writers).

    Edit: I have seen a few open source GUIs and other tools for making backups but never bothered since the way I use is fast and simple enough. If you don't have a cli archiving application i can hunt around and see if I can find them as no doubt there is a mac version.

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Hello,

    I think I wasn't really clear.
    All my files, that need to be backed up, are on a Windows PC (WinXP). My MacBook is basically my portable typewriter so I can get online etc. But I do all my viewing and editing on the PC.

    What I am trying to accomplish is to mirror a few selected folders and partitions to an external drive. The closest comparison I can think of would be something like a RAID 1 system. But I only want it mirrored whenever I tell it to, not continuously.
    I have never worked with any backup tools that come with windows, but I will look into that and see if that would work for me.
    Sorry for being unclear on that. English isn't my first language and it's sometimes hard for me to get my point across, so bear with me

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk View Post
    Hello,

    I think I wasn't really clear.
    All my files, that need to be backed up, are on a Windows PC (WinXP).
    Hi Kirk,

    Have a look in Start - Program - Accessories - System Tools - Backup. It's definately there for the XP Pro version, not sure about XP Home (if that's what your using).

    You can tell it to backup everything or only files that have changed since the last full backup (a differential backup) or only files that have changed since the last differential backup (incremental backup). Just be aware that the last two - although fast - have a bit of a "gotcha" in that if you do a differential backup and need to do a full restore then you need to restore the last full backup first. If you do an incremental backup you have to restore the last full backup and then all of the incremental backups - so the last two save time, but increase the risk somewhat.

    Personally, I just backup everything (for myself and for my clients) - sure it takes a long time, but it's not like I'm sitting their watching it (it's about as boring as watching paint dry).

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Kirk, I can't give the technical advice on the level you've already received but I'll tell you what I do in the unlikely event I can say something helpful.

    My desktop and laptop are both PC's and I store my images on both so the desktop is my primary storage with the laptop as a backup. On top of this I have a 750G Seagate external hard drive on which I manually backup my documents and images.

    To conserve space on my PC's I move my older RAW image files onto DVD's for off-line storage. I shoot my originals in RAW and convert them into JPEG masters. I create a folder for each month and inside that folder I have original and master folders. All original (RAW) image files over a year old stay on the Seagate external drive and are backed up on DVD's but they are deleted from the hard drives of my PC's.

    Without internet connection, you wouldn't be able to do this but I subscribe to a service called Carbonite and it backs up all documents and image files on my desktop computer so if my house burns down taking all my computers and backups with it, I still have my critical image files on a remote server.

    All the images on my website can be considered backup copies also as I can download them to my computer from the website. I didn't acquire a website to backup my files, it's just a benefit.

    I am a bit of an overkill when it comes to backup but "no worries." As they say, just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you." I've hear several people tell their tale of woe cause by hard drive crashes, virus attacks or natural disasters. I attended a calss once where the insturctor said he backs up in at least three places.

    I am also learning to delete more of my shots...especially ones that I know won't go anywhere. I delete before I process, when I'm processing images and again a year later before I archive to DVD. (I'm not so attached after a year.)

    Chuck

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Well, I'm from a pre digital age so I trust nothing and nobody that I'm not familar with concerning storage of my photos.

    My photo editing computer isn't connected to the internet (so the paranoids can't get me) and I back up my photos on a DVD/CD. I have used a Maxtor external hard drive but that appears to have died recently. I only used it when I wanted to store or retrive something and the last time I tried I got a malfunction equipment warning. But everything is also on DVDs.

    I never write across the back of the recording area of a DVD/CD but either write close to the edge, above the non recorded area, or on the clear centre area. My discs are stored in seperate hard plastic cases which are kept away from heat/damp etc.

    A friend, who records data for many UK companies and local government organisations for a living, reckons this is the best method. He also recommends never ever using a sticky label on the back of the discs as he has had failures when clients requested this.

    As Chuck said, if you are really worried about loss of your precious photos you should make 2 copies and store them in different locations.

    I do put some images on pbase but that isn't for storage as the size/quality is insufficient.

    The main problem, I find with DVD storage, is that it isn't convient to keep looking through my increasing collection of DVDs when I want to refer back to a photo, for instance to check the identification of a bug which I have newly photographed. So I do agree that external drives are handy. But I would never trust one as the sole source of my recorded data.

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    As I'm a bit lazy, I hate to write to DVD's. With the cost for external HD dropping below €100 for 1 TB ( more then 200 DVD's). I changed to 2 times 1TB HD (Western Digital MY BOOKS). On my local machine I keep my pictures for the recent month. Other images ( RAW and JPEG) stored on drive 1 and then deleted from local machine. On regular base I Sync Disk 1 with Disk 2( on other location in the house). An easy program, freeware, is Allway Sync . It will do the Sync for you. I calculated that before I gathered 1TB with Images, Hard Drives again will be much cheaper so I will go to ??TB ( or what's after TB)in that time

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jandiep View Post
    As I'm a bit lazy, I hate to write to DVD's.
    Hi Jan,

    I think that your way of doing it is proving quite popular with many people, for the reasons you state. However - call me old, call me a fool, but there's just something about writing to DVDs that helps me sleep better at night; the thought of having both drives hooked up to the PC at the same time adds to the nervousness in that anything that could happen to one could also happen to the other at the same time (virus, lightning strike up the road, earthquake knocks both off the table at same time, theft, firmware issue with drives - taking both offline at the same time (eg recent Seagate bug) etc) - unlikely I know, but these things DO happen to some folks, and if your the unlucky one that it does happen to then "game over - you lose".

    I'll give you a real life example - I've got a fairly high-end processing PC, with the data stored on a pair of mirrored (RAID 1) 400GB disks - this is backed up to an external HDD - so the data is in 3 places, and reasonably safe (or so I'd thought). I had occasion to do a motherboard change - and to cut a long story short, changing the Mobo broke the RAID array rendering the data inaccessable - and when I tried to restore from the backup to the external HDD I discovered that all the large files were corrupt. Did I say that the data was in 3 places? I lied - it's actually in 5 ... I also write copies of my commercial work to 2 DVDs (and store them in difference locations) - that's what saved my "bacon" - they were flawless.

    Just some food for thought
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 14th July 2009 at 02:15 AM.

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Hi Colin,

    For sure your method is more safe. For me, I would loose the overview what to find on which disk. Do you maintain a database? In the old days I used to have maps with the film strips and a contact sheet. Even then with much less images, it was a struggle to find some shot back. So I'm curious how you solved it.

    Regards,
    Jan

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jandiep View Post
    Hi Colin,

    For sure your method is more safe. For me, I would loose the overview what to find on which disk. Do you maintain a database? In the old days I used to have maps with the film strips and a contact sheet. Even then with much less images, it was a struggle to find some shot back. So I'm curious how you solved it.

    Regards,
    Jan
    Hi Jan,

    Most of my shooting is oriented around getting one single keeper per series of shots - so on the disk I just put the original + the processed "keeper" plus other associated "Bulk DNG" shots. The disk goes into a wallet with a low-quality print of the image which is in turn stored is a cool / dry / dark place (sock drawer!) (with the other copy kept in a DVD hang file at work).

  14. #14

    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    So do you guys have any brand of external hard drives that you like/use or would recommend. I am thinking about getting one to use along with the DVD backups for added protection.

    Warren

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Hi Warren,

    I use Western Digital "My Book" Essential Edition, They are also available in a Apple version (Mac ready).
    review:http://www.digitaltrends.com/product...on-1tb-review/

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Normally I hate to bash products, but I am compelled to say that I would stay away from Western Digital. Every single person I know who has owned a WD drive has had it break. If you go the external HD route make sure you do a lot of review searching for the model you pick, from multiple sites. Not all drives are created equal. Backups are worthless if your backup media fails.

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Quote Originally Posted by KentDub View Post
    Normally I hate to bash products, but I am compelled to say that I would stay away from Western Digital. Every single person I know who has owned a WD drive has had it break. If you go the external HD route make sure you do a lot of review searching for the model you pick, from multiple sites. Not all drives are created equal. Backups are worthless if your backup media fails.
    Oh I have to agree with you about Western Digital, they're awful. I am not a computer wise by any stretch of the imagination. I asked did my own research but asked several of my graphic design and full time photographer friends what they recommend. The largest consensus is G Technology external HD.

    You can get them here at:http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...rnal_Hard.html

    It's really nice that you can easily remove, replace, and store the individual HD whenever you need to.

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    Re: Hard drive and photo backup questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Warren View Post
    So do you guys have any brand of external hard drives that you like/use or would recommend. I am thinking about getting one to use along with the DVD backups for added protection.

    Warren
    Hi Warren,

    Sorry that I missed your post before.

    I simply buy External HDD cases, and put regular PC hard drives in them (usually Seagate). I avoid 2.5 inch (laptop) drives because they're too slow.

    The thing I like to keep in mind is that since it's a backup drive, I unplug it when it's not being used - some people keep them plugged in and spinning all the time, but I've never seen the logic in that.

    For what it's worth, I know of a lot of pre-assembled external drive failures - I'm not sure what the manufacturrs are putting in them, but I've had no real issues with "self-assembled" ones for myself or my clients ) only 1 failure off memory).

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