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Drives, Drives and More Drives


Following on from my previous article “Extending Your Systems SSD Drive” I thought it appropriate to discuss the various drives and transport techniques and the impact each can have independently or in variation. Although it sounds like there is some work to this approach it really is more of a front end process and something which doesn’t require constant revisiting unless you made a terrible mistake (unlikely) or came into the inheritance of a great number of Thunderbolt SSD drives.

The Standard Configuration

When we get our Mac and look at it we are basically looking at a well configured system provided we purchased a device that ideally suits our needs. it will have an internal hard drive configured from a various array of possibilities. For brevities sake, we’ll assume you have a 1 Terabyte HDD.

To step this up a notch from our standard configuration, if it was say an iMac you might have ordered it as a Fusion drive device wherein the primary hard drive has integrated within both a very fast HDD combined with a certain amount of SDD space thus the name Fusion drive. This drive is dramatically faster than an ordinary HDD and is well worth the little extra you pay for it.

Extending the Standard Configuration

Having your new Mac is of course thrilling. However, it is, I would go so far as to say irresponsible, if you don’t configure it with a backup drive. There is simply no such thing as too much safety when it comes to having a good backup strategy.

In “A Robust Backup Strategy I go to great length to outline a foolproof backup system to protect your data under a number of vagaries that can befall you in your day to day computing. I won’t reiterate what I wrote there other than to point you to that as it is intended to cover you under just about any potential pitfalls that might occur.

Drive Types, Drive Configurations

One thing about the Mac is that we have a great range of devices that we can attach in a variety of ways at varying speeds. There is one rule of thumb that rules over everything – the faster the better on all fronts the better but it is not totally necessary.

On the other hand, you don’t want old reliable Betsy that will get you from A to B but you won’t remember what you’re doing at B as it took so long to get there. So always, the faster the drive and the faster the connectivity, the better. When they’re both as fast as they can be you’re reaching computer nirvana.

The Zen of Computer Hard Drives or Achieving Computer Nirvana

All systems require at least one other disk and that disk is for backup. First, purchase the disk that is appropriate for the computer. Portables have drives that are designed to complete the portable aesthetically yet are powerful.

My favourite portable drive is the Lacie 9223 which has an aluminum frame and comes in 500 meg, 1 T and 2 T sizes. As in all cases, the larger the better but it is not essential. What is essential is what is essential. A 500 meg drive in the computer should be complemented by a 1 T external drive. This will give you plenty of space to do more than just backup which is what you want. Purchasing this way is more cost-effective than walking back to the store to buy a second drive.

Finally, transfer speeds should be given due consideration. If available, get a Thunderbolt drive but this is not likely available so in this case USB 3 will do more than a fine job.

The Same Holds true with the Desktop

Follow the same logic when it come to getting a drive for the desktop. Purchase a 2 T drive if your internal drive is 1 T. However, drives are not expensive now and giving yourself a lot of space on your external drive has benefits. Most current Macs support Thunderbolt so if you can find a Thunderbolt drive choose that as the data throughput is unsurpassed. It’s not essential but it’s nice to have this kind of throughput even on an HDD Thunderbolt drive.

A Quick Word on data Transfer Capabilities

Just to quickly insert a comment on data transfer is probably useful at this point. There are really three data transfer speeds to be concerned with and I would not veer into anything else. These are:

- USB 2
- USB 3
- Thunderbolt

As we move up the chain so too does the speed and dramatically. Thunderbolt is the most current transfer system and running a program such as Disk Magic on a Thunderbolt drive compared to even a USB 3 drive will demonstrate the speed read and write performance differences.

SSD vs HDD External Drives

Finally, looking at the drives themselves there is SDD external drives in addition to conventional HDD drives. I won’t go into the various nuisances of this kind of drive other than to indicate this is as fast as fast can be for an external drive.

Combine this with a Thunderbolt connection and you have a drive that will operate almost as fast as an internal SSD drive. However, the costs of this kind of drive array for all but the most demanding of function is far too costly currently.

A Perfect Harmony of Size, Speed and Cost

The goal of using an external drive is multifold and that’s why it’s important to purchase the largest drive that you can afford running at USB speed unless you can afford Thunderbolt. With drive in hand, the final thing to be done is to partition the drive into multiple, logical drives to handle various functions from backup, storage, sys lym functions and finally to that of a boot drive should your internal drive fail.

Your external drive will exist to complement your system but in a highly functional fashion bringing capabilities essential for healthy computing. Backups will ensure no data loss; bootable partitions will allow you to get up and running immediately on the external drive thus preventing interference with your function; and extending the system using sys lyms will ensure that modern SSD drives won’t be strapped to the limit making comfortable compute function impossible.

Your combination of a good drive with an effective transfer rate for for the application at hand will lead to a healthy compute environment. The idea is to feel safe, be able to do what needs to get done and all without blowing the bank.

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