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Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?

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Bobby Miller
Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:03:43 am

Hi all!
My external hard drive situation is getting messy. I have anywhere from 4-6 of them going, connected to my macbook pro (unibody without the SATA), depending on my job. A lot of that has to do with me simply being a packrat and needing to delete crap. But, it’s made me think…

Perhaps once I streamline, I should try a new setup. Essentially sell off my drives and get one big one. Say a 2TB or 3TB. (I am curious though how stable/reliable these big ones are?) And perhaps get a RAID drive…that essentially backs up everything onto another drive.

Thing is, I don’t really understand the terminology of raids and if they’re even worth doing. If they are slow etc. Clicking on the raid section of OWC leaves me dumbfounded. As there are several options of RAID.

I was thinking that perhaps I have this one giant drive that is essentially my archive of everything and then one solid state drive that is my “project of the moment” drive. My macbook pro has an SSD drive and it’s super fast. But, sometimes when I’m editing on these external firewires, I’ll get a hiccup as I wait for the disc to spin. I am wondering that if I keep all of my current files on an external SSD drive (via firewire) if I would solve that problem. However, does external firewire or USB ultimately slow down SSD to regular disk speeds anyways?

So the workflow would be this:
Once I’m through with a project on the SSD drive, it would then be archived on the big drive. And any really crucial data would be backed up to the ol’ online cloud via dropbox.

I guess I’m trying to figure out the most reliable, safest, and fastest way to deal with so much data for editing, etc. What do you folks in Tumblr land thing? I’ve had lots of luck with OWC drives (macsales.com). So, if anyone can reference examples with those dudes, that’d be awesome. Thanks in advance!


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Michael Locke
Re: Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?
on Jun 6, 2011 at 3:03:28 am

Hi Bobby,

I thought I'd save the real pros the trouble, and go over some basics. I'm just an industry infant, but I know what I don't know; and you don't yet. Here's some help: 1) What do you do with your Macbook Pro and assorted hard drives? "...editing,etc." doesn't say much, and what/how you edit matters most. 2) Hardware/software specifics are critical to answering questions (say, 2010 13" Macbook pro w/ OSX 10.6.7, Final Cut Pro 7, DSLR footage,etc). Most on this forum are longtime professionals, and without all the info you can give them, responses will range from none, to annoyed. BUT, some answers are universal so: 1) drives ALWAYS fail (just when), size (Gb) isn't the biggest factor on that. Beware of all eggs in one basket. 2)RAID systems RULE: they bundle multiple drives to share the work (speed) AND redundantly copy the data (safety), so when one of the drives fails you can still get at your files. The different RAIDs are an easy Google, but we get back to what are YOU working with; thus your needs. 3) Your internal SSD in your Macbook Pro is "fast" because it's connected by eSata: with only FW800(<80MB/s) on the laptop an external SSD would probably not "hiccup" (no disc to spin up), but would be a waste compared to a 7200RPM drive (think, 1000HP engine in car w/skinny tires). I know because FW800 is all I have, like you; so I chose a dual (3.5" 7200RPM) drive with a quad-interface (USB2.0,FW400,FW800x2,eSata). Mine has RAID 0 (both drives get 1/2 the data=NO safety,but speed) and RAID 1(both drives get ALL the data=safest possible with 2 drives). It's my home/important drive so it's in Raid 1 attached via FW800, while my portable drives use the USB connections. However, I'm hoping to expand my storage and "daisy chain" my drives (connect drives directly to one another through the extra/unused eSATA/FW800 ports), so they can at least "talk" at eSATA speed as I only have the one FW800 port on my 13"MBP. Don't know if I trust the "cloud" yet (online service dependent, yes?); my partner has our files too at a second location (think fire). So: what you need now, AND what you can spend; hopefully expandable for your future. Sorry this got long. Study, listen, learn, and give back. Now back to work...ML


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Bobby Miller
Re: Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?
on Jun 6, 2011 at 3:29:55 am

Appreciate the reply. This place is always intimidating to post in, because despite editing for over a decade, I am definitely not a professional working editor.

Regardless, here's my setup:

Macbook Pro 15 inch, 2.66GHZ, 8GB ram, Spring 2010 model (I believe)
OS 10.6.7
Final Cut 7

I edit HD footage, typically from an HVX camera...sometimes from a DSLR. Typically 720p, sometimes 1080p. Don't do a whole lot of compositing work. (Ie. I don't mess with After Effects often.)

Someone mentioned a drobo...I gotta be honest, I still don't understand raid and what "redundant" actually means in that sense...I'm thinking the best bet would to get a drobo or drobo like rack, stick a few drives on it and hook em all up to my laptop via SATA or once it happens: thunderbolt. Unfortunately, my laptop is equipped with neither.

My new idea is to tough it out another year until I get a new computer that has either of these. By then hopefully HD companies will come out with thunderbolt compatible stuff.


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Michael Locke
Re: Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?
on Jun 6, 2011 at 5:17:47 am

So Bobby,

No worries, just hoping you didn't have a feature shot on a Red coming up. Firewire is fine for that data rate; but I hear you, can't see why tbolt won't take off. That said, dual drives are a good thing; I didn't consider buying anything that wouldn't give me back-up on download. The two drives have a controller card (RAID) that splits the incoming data so it: writes the same exact files to both drives(RAID1), writes half the files to each drive(RAID 0). I only have 1TB storage total(w/TWOx1TB 3.5" drives), because each drive is an exact copy of the other. MY plan is to daisy chain another dual drive thru the eSATA, and run that in RAID 0 for editing (more speed demanding, use 7200RPM). Since my DSLR files are all SDHC/CF cards, downloading the originals in RAID 1 is no penalty from the drives (I don't have 90MB/s cards), and instantly safer. Until you need +4TB, don't even worry about the rest of the RAID #'s (though it's good to know); just think RAID 1=safe mirrored data to both drives, RAID 0= twice the storage space (and better sustained speed) BUT no safety when one dies (it will- only when it's important). Hope this helps...ML


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Walter Soyka
Re: Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?
on Jun 6, 2011 at 5:15:06 pm

[Bobby Miller] "Someone mentioned a drobo...I gotta be honest, I still don't understand raid and what "redundant" actually means in that sense."

Wikipedia has a pretty good article on RAID [link].

Basically, RAIDs allow you to spread your data across multiple drives that act as a single volume. Each of the RAID levels are different mixes of speed, capacity, and redundancy. Some are fast, big, and not redundant. Others are slower, smaller, but more redundant. Redundancy in this case means that your data can survive the failure of at least one (or possible more) of the drives in the RAID set.

I think it's important to note that RAID IS NOT BACKUP. RAID (with redundancy) ONLY protects you against the loss of data due to drive failure, but there are plenty of other ways to lose data: filesystem corruption, accidental deletion, RAID controller failure, multiple simultaneous disk failures, fire, flood, theft, etc. RAID will not help you with any of these.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Michael Locke
Re: Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?
on Jun 7, 2011 at 4:19:25 am

Sensei Soyka,

Thank you for big picture view; ahh, so many things that can go wrong. But I'm troubled:

"... RAID controller failure," am I mistaken that if my little Oxford chip dies, can't I take the good drive
(from a RAID 1 dual-drive) and put it in a single enclosure and access the data? Hope this is more of a
RAID 0/5/6 thing (striping?)...ML


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Walter Soyka
Re: Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?
on Jun 7, 2011 at 2:52:49 pm

[Michael Locke] "I'm troubled: "... RAID controller failure," am I mistaken that if my little Oxford chip dies, can't I take the good drive (from a RAID 1 dual-drive) and put it in a single enclosure and access the data? Hope this is more of a RAID 0/5/6 thing (striping?)"

This is probably a corner case, but I suppose it depends how the controller fails. If it fails at idle or during read, probably yes. If it fails in a write, then probably yes, but you may have file system corruption. If it fries your drives, nope.

The big reason that I chant "RAID is not backup" in every thread I can on this forum is a scenario like this: if you have RAID1, and you don't backup because you think your data is safe, what happens when you accidentally overwrite or delete the wrong file? Poof -- it's gone! Both drives are updated with the bad data immediately.

If you want backup, maybe consider Time Machine. Lots of folks around here just use hard drives on a shelf. I did exactly that for years before I bought my tape backup system. Better still, develop an off-site backup plan to protect you against the physical hazards I listed in my first post.

I'm not saying that redundancy isn't valuable -- I use RAID5 here for a reasonable and affordable mix of redundancy and performance -- I'm just saying that redundancy in a RAID doesn't replace a proper backup plan. For businesses like ours, our data are among the most important assets we have, and they're worth protecting.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Michael Locke
Re: Best hard-drive setup for Macbook Pro?
on Jun 7, 2011 at 4:28:33 pm

Indeed, practical logic. Data loss is not an option. Thanks again for reality check...ML


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