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Author Topic: LAPTOP DRIVES ARE UNRELIABLE!  (Read 14841 times)
peterkrogh
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« on: May 31, 2006, 07:45:38 PM »

Just a friendly reminder that laptop drives are a very dangerous place to keep singular copies of any file you would like to have.  I just got off the phone with a friend who lost his laptop drive the other day.  He did not have good backups.

Consider anything you have *only* on a laptop drive to be at very great risk.  Each of the last three laptops I have owned (2 apple and 1 HP) have had sudden total hard drive failure.  All of those failures have been within the warranty period (1 year).

Get a solid, automated backup procedure implemented for your laptop.
Peter
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pvonk
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« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2006, 01:46:07 PM »

I'll second that.  My Powerbook's HD died within the first year, while I was on a working vacation for 6 weeks (out of state).  Fortunately, I had a bootable external HD that I kept updated daily.  That saved my bacon; and I learned a lesson!  I booted off that drive for the remaining period and continuted with my work.

When at home, I do complete backups at night to a file server, and when at work, I do an afternoon backup of user files only - this way I have backups in two locations.  When away from home for long periods, as I am right now, I have several external disks, one of which is used for daily backups.

- Pierre
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Joe Reifer
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« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2006, 04:44:55 PM »

I had a laptop die on a 6 day shoot - on Day 6. Luckily I was backing up every day and didn't lose anything other than time.

Related question: What portable firewire harddrive (bus powered) can you get for a decent price. I'm on a mac and need a 60-80GB portable drive - the USB 2 stuff is so much cheaper. Argh.

 - Joe
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Canon digital, Mac OS 10.45, iView 3.02
peterkrogh
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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2006, 05:51:40 PM »

Joe,
I just bought a second drive from Other World Computing, the firewire 800, 100 GB 7200 RPM model.  $275, as I recall.  The case is easily opened and filled with another drive.

You can use USB just fine on the Mac as a data backup drive, but I don't think you can boot off USB. (Please correct me if I'm wrong, anybody).

You might check Newegg.com after OWC.
Peter
« Last Edit: June 01, 2006, 07:39:10 PM by peterkrogh » Logged
Joe Reifer
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2006, 07:28:12 PM »

Thanks Peter. The options and prices at Other World are better than what i've seen elsewhere. Here's the link:
http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/firewire/on-the-go

I'm also considering something like an HD80 or PD70X - if my laptop totally dies, then I'd still be covered. Any thoughts?

Thanks,

Joe
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pvonk
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« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2006, 10:47:24 AM »

Related question: What portable firewire harddrive (bus powered) can you get for a decent price. I'm on a mac and need a 60-80GB portable drive - the USB 2 stuff is so much cheaper. Argh.

I bought two LaCie 100GB firewire400/usb drives in the last six months.  The last I bought was $187 plus 3-day shipping which brought it up to $203 (from Page Computer).  My problem with these bus powered drives is that I suspect they are laptop quality drives, considering how small they are (5x3x.75 inches).  Plus, these drives have had some problems in the past (judging by posts in various forums), but mine are fine so far.  And I love the small size - perfect when travelling.

I should add that these drives are not the "large" sized LaCie external HDs, of which I have three (500, 250, 160 GB).  These are tiny in comparison and are powered by the USB or firewire buses.

- Pierre
« Last Edit: June 02, 2006, 01:17:50 PM by pvonk » Logged
peterkrogh
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« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2006, 10:59:24 AM »

An internal Laptop drive has more stress than an external, since it is generally in much les demanding use (not being mmoved while spinning, not used as often, less heat), so I would not write them off as inappropriate for the task of backup.  And being portable, you are more easily able to actually have them in hand when you sneed to run backups.

That said, II would wonder about the mechanism in the LaCie drive.  I like to use Hitachis or Seagates, and I like being able to specify which drive I am using.
Peter
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Mike777
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« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2006, 01:07:24 AM »

Im interested to know what others do.

Are you keeping a bootable copy on a seperate external drive and backing up working files to another drive?

Im going to be travelling extensivley next year and I want a better system than my current one so Im thinking a lightweight 20/30 gig drive for cloning the OS and programs and another one as a mirror of all downloaded files. The only drawback to this is yet more kit to lug through deserts, Townships etc.

BTW, I have a new Dell duo core 2.6 with 2 gig of ram. The speed of file handling is amazing but whats amazing is that the duo core system really does work. While Bridge is building the cache for 3 hundred files, I did email, updated some spreadsheets etc as though it was the only thing I was doing. You've gotta love technology.

Cheers
Mike
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peterkrogh
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2006, 09:05:59 AM »

Mike,
I keep cloned copies of the system on 2 external small drives.  Since they are 100 and 120 GB drives, there is enough room for the system, apps, files and working image files that are downloaded on location.

I have two other 60 GB laptop drives that I will be putting in cases for shoots where I might be filling the above mentioned drives. 

For absolute minimum weight, you could take additional laptop drives with you without cases, and swap them out of small cases as the other drives fill up.  The acrylic OWC cases are not such an easy swap, since you need some kind of pliers to remove the logic board and drive to swap. I'd like to find one that can easily be opened with just a screwdriver, or could just plug in to the laptop drive.

This one might work:
http://eshop.macsales.com/item/MacAlly/PHR250CC/

Or maybe this:
http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Other%20World%20Computing/ME25AUFW/

Or how about this cool little gizmo:
http://eshop.macsales.com/Item_Specials.cfm?ID=9011&Item=OWCUSB2PATA

As a matter of fact, I think I'll order that...


Peter
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Mike777
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« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2006, 09:19:32 AM »

$14.95! what a great idea, thanks for the link.

Cheers
Mike
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Carl
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« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2006, 02:46:11 PM »

Quote
LAPTOP DRIVES ARE UNRELIABLE!

Can't agree with this statement. I have had a laptop for 5 years without any problems other than getting slow for modern software. Sold it and purchased another and hope for another 5 years. Maybe if they are abused they will fail earlier. I always set mine on a flat surface so the cooling vents could function. On occasion I would use it on my lap being careful not to jar it. I doubt they are made for rough abuse like continual jaring or walking with while on. I know lots of others with laptops and no drive problems.

No mater what kind of computer or HD you have there is always the possibility of it failing at any point so still very wise to have a current backup of your important stuff.

I am considering getting an external HD storage to take with me on trips. Never have used anything except my laptop for storing pictures on but may have been lucky. Grin  Not a professional but do value my pictures and enjoy them.

Carl
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peterkrogh
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« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2006, 07:30:47 PM »

Carl,
As I wrote elsewhere earlier tonight, reports of non-failure are a bit deceiving. Even in the case of an abysmal failure rate, like 10%, nine in ten have no problems.  It's *supposed* to work, so it's not really news when things are fine.

What's important, or at least what's actually useful, is a general idea of percentages.  Laptop drives are *much* more prone to loss and failure, because of the way we use the computers.  We move them when they are on, we take them when traveling and when tired.  They get put in unwise places, etc...

You bring up  a very good point however.  If you want to treat your laptop drive as well as possible, only use it on a desk (not on your lap, like I'm doing right now). Never move it while the drive is spinning.  I'm sure that has something to do with why my drives failed.

But that's also the way almost everyone I know treats a  laptop.

Peter
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Doug
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2006, 12:22:26 PM »

I can chime in about this $14.95 gizmo that peter mentioned.

http://eshop.macsales.com/Item_Specials.cfm?ID=9011&Item=OWCUSB2PATA

I bought one and have been using it mostly with 3.5" drives. It works *sometimes* but often the drives simply refuse to mount. I thought it would be great for several large 3.5" backups I have that I don't update that often (my 3rd backup) rather than buying more cases. For me anyway, it doesn't cut the mustard.

I also have the 2.5" MacAlly enclosure that peter mentioned (http://eshop.macsales.com/item/MacAlly/PHR250CC/) and like it. Having two firewire ports (which most 2.5" cases don't) I can ingest from my card reader and simultaneously make a backup to the drive (photo mechanic), eliminating the separate backup step. It is also smaller than the nice OWC cases.
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Marc Rochkind
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2006, 10:19:48 PM »

Let me throw in my 2 cents here.

I completely agree that laptop drives are probably less reliable than desktop or non-portable external drives, even though I have had no first-hand experience to prove it one way or another. My reasoning is that laptop drives are not optimized for reliability, but rather for light weight, low power, and small size, and are subjected to movements and extremes of temperature that desktop and non-portable drives aren't. In addition, laptop drives are more easily stolen (along with the rest of the laptop) and can even get misplaced.

However, I also agree in part with Carl (his 2nd paragraph, anyway) that any difference in reliability should not equate to a difference in backup approach. If desktop and non-portable drives had a zero failure rate, then that would maean such a difference, but the reality is that all drives can suddenly fail, and protection against it is essential. Losing the only copy of an image is simply not acceptable, even if the chances of it occurring are very low.

While the card is in the camera, there may be one copy, but there should be at least two within a few minutes of the card's removal. It's OK if the laptop is one of them, provided the card isn't erased. Three copies aren't 50% better, but much, much better than that (I haven't worked out the math).

Just my late-night thoughts...

--Marc
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peterkrogh
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« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2006, 07:00:27 AM »

Marc,
I was definitely not arguing that the reduced reliability of laptop drives argues for not using them.  Rather, I just wanted to point out that they should always be backed up.  I'm constantly finding, as I make presentations, that many people have the only copy of important files sitting on their laptops.

In thinking about cards, and when you need to duplicate these files, I would suggest the following.

It's my understanding that Flash memory is considerably more stable than hard drive - certainly if you are talking about the generally short time frame that our images remain only on the memory cards.  The greatest hazard with memory cards is related to connecting and disconnecting them to other devices. 

All the file corruption I have seen with flash cards has been related to mounting and unmounting (typically by pulling cards before the filesystem is really done with them).  The one exception was a card that was defective right out of the box. 

I would suggest this argues that the card is a very safe place to keep the files until you get a chance to download safely.  That, of course, would be tempered by an evaluation of other risk, like actual physical loss or damage to the cards themselves
Peter
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