iPod vs. External Hard Drive

  • Posted: 04 December 2006 09:03 AM

    I’m considering buying an external hard drive to store photos, movies, music, etc. This would primarily be for backup.

    My wife asks, “Why not get an iPod?” (She wants one) Now, please, I’m a Mac owner, you don’t have to convert me on how great iPods and Apple products are.

    However, I don’t know enough about iPods to know if this is the optimal solution. My primary goal here is not to buy an music player, but to buy a storage device. Having an iPod would be nice, but…

    Are there reasons to favor, say, a LaCie drive or something like it over an iPod in this situation? Is an iPod nothing more than an external hard drive with a scroll wheel and a screen?

    Any insight would be appreciated.

         
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    Posted: 04 December 2006 12:21 PM #1

    It’s more than that: it’s an external hard drive with a scroll wheel and a screen and a sound chip. But that’s all. OTOH it’s a small, slow drive.

    If speed is not important, then the iPod would be fine. The iPod will be fine anyway! It’s much more musical (infinity times) than a LaCie drive, so if you were to want a music player anyway, go for it. The new ones max out at 80G, and not many people have enough music and photos to fill it up.

    Me, I’ve got a 4G 60g iPod (listening to Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg right now), and at home there’s a 180G USB 2/FW 800 drive which I use as my main backup. My nightly backup kicks off at around 4am, and it’s invariably finished by the time I’ve got up at 6:30 - and that’s a lot of data. Were it to be backing up to the iPod, it wouldn’t necessarily finish in that time (and I’d run out of space anyway).

    Six and two threes, really, and I’m rambling. If you can afford it, get both!

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    Posted: 04 December 2006 10:13 PM #2

    I don’t think the drives in the iPod are as robust as the 2.5” drives in a portable FW drive, and they are certainly slower.  If all you want is storage, you should go with a drive.

    However, if you just sort of want storage, and you might also want the features of an iPod, it’s a no-brainer. smile

    Really, it depends on how much dedicated storage use you’ll put to it.  As a never-move device, an iPod is an expensive hard drive.

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    Posted: 05 December 2006 05:33 AM #3

    The iPod is designed for short read/write times (which is why it has a 32MB buffer), and not sustained read/write. If you are doing something sustained, such as writing a large video file or a backup, or running your computer off of an installed OS, then expect the iPod to get very warm at the least, and have a shorter HD lifespan at the worst.

    As Bryan said, the drives aren’t as robust as standard laptop drives, because that is not their intended use.

    IOW, get both!

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  • Posted: 05 December 2006 07:26 AM #4

    iPod as a drive

    For me the “disk mode” of the iPoid really shines for transferring files rather than a backup. Since I work from home one or two days a week, and a typical project ranges from 1 GB to 6GB in size, it’s very convenient for me to have a portable bus-powered drive that also plays music. That way I don’t have to carry two (or more) devices.

    Copying a current project over to the iPod is much more convenient and faster than burning a CD or DVD, plus, I can work directly off the files on the iPod if the situation calls for that. I definitely wouldn’t consider it a backup device other than a quick temporary thing for a particular project. (I’m currently working on a 40-page catalog in InDesign… ~5GB of data… and I find it’s quicker to copy the data to my Mac’s HD, work off that, and then re-copy back to the iPod to transfer back to the other office.)

    I should also mention that syncing your photos to the iPod (thru iTunes) puts them in a semi-proprietary format & structure… so you might have to jump thru some hoops to get them into another type of library. You can certainly use the Finder (or 3rd party syncing software) to “manually sync” photos. The iPod is really more for displaying and transporting photos (and music) rather than preserving it.

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  • Posted: 05 December 2006 08:56 AM #5

    Re: iPod vs. External Hard Drive

    [quote author=“ScottW.”]I’m considering buying an external hard drive to store photos, movies, music, etc. This would primarily be for backup.

    I have always used my iPod for external backup.  While it’s not as quick as other external drives, the time difference is really insignificant.  When was the last time you desperately needed to back up 20 gigs in three minutes instead of four?  With the iPod, you can listen to music while out and about, then when you need to back up or transfer something, plug it in.  Easy, simple, enjoyable.

    However, you say you want to back up photos, movies, music, etc?  Ummmmmm… You do know that this is what the iPod is supposed to do, right? wink

    Not only will it allow you back up the data, but it will let you view the photos, watch the movies and listen to the music that you’ve backed up.  If you buy an external drive for this, then want to show a picture or play a tune for someone away from your computer, what are you going to do?  Wave the external drive around while describing the photo? 

    The iPod is best of both worlds for this kind of storage.  You can back up important files for quick/portable access, and you can view/listen to the photos/movies/videos as well.

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  • Posted: 05 December 2006 12:12 PM #6

    My experience has been that an iPod makes an adequate backup drive. However, I think using it as one on a too-regular basis will acccelerate the hard-drive’s demise.

    I had a 3rd-gen 30GB iPod that was replaced by a 4th-gen 60GB. There was nothing wrong with the 3rd gen at the time of replacement. However, it took only two months of using the iPod as a BU drive on a daily basis to kill it.

    That iPod’s drive may have been ready to leave us anyway but on the face of it, daily use as a BU drive was the final nail in the coffin.

    Weekly BUs? May not have done the damage. A different BU strategy? Such as once-monthly dupes of my user folder? Perhaps that would have been kinder, too.

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  • Posted: 05 December 2006 12:48 PM #7

    The iPod is really a great device.  But, if you want to have somehting you can depend on for use as a backup, I just would not do that.  I do not believe the iPod is “robust” enough for the task, and as we all know, every now and then the iPod has to be reset, wiping out the data contained there, that is not a place I would want my valuable data (any data I want to keep is valuable) to be preserved.  Think about it, Who would want to carry sensitive information around on an iPod? I don’t even depend on my iPod as a place to backup my music.

    If you want an iPod, get an iPod, if you want a backup drive, get a backup drive.  I have an iPod for fun, and a backup drive (actually two) for serious use.

    Just MHO, YMMV

    Andy

         
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    Posted: 05 December 2006 07:21 PM #8

    iPod as Back-up

    I have a friend who uses his iPod to download photos from his camera when he goes travelling.  He seems quite content with this arrangement.
    Cheers:
    Bob

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  • Posted: 05 December 2006 07:42 PM #9

    It works for the stars

    Interesting tidbit that is sorta-kinda related: the director of Lord of the Rings transferred and backed up all of the video files for the entire production of the movie on his iPod because he found it to be the most convenient way of carrying around the information with him at all times.

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    Posted: 06 December 2006 12:46 AM #10

    Well, I hate to burst your bubble (because I hated it when mine was burst), but it’s an elaboration of the truth. It didn’t truly happen. iPods were used, but not to the extent that the urban legend had it.

    There’s actually a posting somewhere within the bowels of TMO from the person involved (it wasn’t the director - Peter Jackson - for a start), telling me off for propagating the rumour!

    Shame, really.

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  • Posted: 06 December 2006 08:09 AM #11

    Thanks to everyone for the discussion and insight. And a thread that includes LOTR trivia (even if it’s a LOTR urban myth!) is icing on the cake.

    I am leaning toward buying both. That way I don’t have to worry about the “wear and tear” issues. (As much.) I have always marveled at how iPods managed to keep working with all that jostling and bumping around. I think with storage of the sort I have in mind, I will be more comfortable with a safe, boring, stationary drive.

    Thanks again. TMO forums rock.

         
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    Posted: 06 December 2006 09:46 PM #12

    [quote author=“ScottW.”] I will be more comfortable with a safe, boring, stationary drive.

    NO! NO! SCOTT!!  Puleeze! “safe” & “boring” is Microsoft Speak”  Go to the LaCie website.  They have some very non-boring 2.5” drives.  Design by Porsche.

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  • Posted: 06 December 2006 09:47 PM #13

    I’ve got a LaCie with Firewire 800. I love it.

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    Posted: 07 December 2006 06:47 AM #14

    I’m glad that you guys/gals happen to mention external hard drives for backup because I’ll have to get one very soon.  You see, everytime that I make a one hour movie of my daughter’s soccer game, it uses up about 12 gig of space on iMovie.  Then when I transfer it to iDVD, it uses alot more again.  I never thought that I would max out my 250g HD on my iMac but, I’m getting pretty close.  To free up some space while keeping the raw movie data, I’ve copied the movie clips for each game onto DVDs but, even then, I find myself using about 4 of them to accommodate the large files. 
    So the question is (and as always, I’m short on cash); what is the best-dollar-value/best-bang-for-the-buck for an external hard drive?

    Thanks

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    Posted: 07 December 2006 06:51 AM #15

    Try Maxtor

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    Cheers:
    Bob