recommendation for a back-up drive

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mzimmers
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recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by mzimmers » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:06 pm

Hi, all –

First-time poster here.

I have a Mac Mini and a NewerTech miniStack v2.5. I bought the miniStack bare and put an old drive from my last tower into it. I think it's giving up the ghost; in any event, it's noisy and I want to replace it.

My requirements are:

- as quiet as possible (except I can't afford a SSD)
- somewhere between 500-1000 GB
- reasonably reliable

Performance is a minor issue, as this is *strictly* a backup drive. It operates for a couple minutes every hour, and then goes back to sleep.

So...any recommendations? And...I read elsewhere on this site that 2.5" drives are intrinsically quieter than 3.5" drives. The miniStack takes a 3.5"; should I just buy an adapter?

Thanks for any help.

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Post by kater » Sun Sep 19, 2010 12:48 am

Any new 2.5" will be quieter than any 3.5" (be it 5400, 5900, 7200 or any other) single, dual or whatever platter disk.
Now is there a big enough difference? If it is only to work for a few minutes every hour or so, I'd say no & I'd recommend a WD GP, Samsung Ecogreen, Seagate Pipeline. If it was to work in a v quietdesktop or HTPC, close to your ears, 24/7 - then I'd say yes, go for 2.5".

For backup I have WD GP 640 and WD Blue 500. Both are quiet, have quiet seeks, perform similarly (when connected to SATA inside my PC). WD GP seems to vibrate a little more - but it's also a matter of the flimsy dock. When I got Blue I was very nicely surprised how quiet it was. Both drives work with an Icy Box USB 2 dock.

Reliability? I've been always attracted to WD drives, somehow. But it's all a matter of luck. The last drive that died on me was IBM Deathstar, prolly 10 years ago. You'll hear ppl complaining about Seagate, Samsung, Hitachi, WD - it's just plain impossible to assess reliably.

And there's also a premium to pay for bigger 2.5" drives - whereas you can buy <200 GB drives cheaply, + 500 GB drives will cost you more.

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Post by mzimmers » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:28 pm

Well, I replaced the drive with a Caviar Green, and it's no quieter. I now suspect the cooling fan in the miniStack. Any recommendations for replacing it?

I suppose if the drive doesn't need cooling, I could even consider removing the fan altogether, but if there's a quieter alternative, I'd like to try that.

Thanks.

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Post by MikeC » Fri Sep 24, 2010 5:43 am

Here's a pic of the inside of a v.2 --

Image

Sure looks like it could be an annoying fan. I'd either dump it or slow it way down.

The review from which the photo comes from says this, tho:
On the positive note, the miniStack system runs very cool and the additional cooling fan is hardly noticeable. I suspect the cooling fan only runs when the device heat sensor registers the need for additional cooling, but so far I haven’t heard a peep.
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mzimmers
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Post by mzimmers » Fri Sep 24, 2010 6:55 am

MikeC wrote:Sure looks like it could be an annoying fan. I'd either dump it or slow it way down.
When you say "dump it," do you mean just do without, or replace it with something quieter? If the latter, where can I find a quieter replacement?

How would you go about slowing the fan down?

Thanks, Mike.

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Post by bonestonne » Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:21 am

Dump it would be completely removing.

If you're looking for a whole new external drive/enclosure, then I'd actually have to say look at the Toshiba external drives. I have a 1TB now, it's USB/eSATA, and it's VERY quiet. It seems to be very well soft mounted because it does not make any noise whatsoever unless it's spun down, and is spinning back up for data writing.

As for the unit you have, I've seen many external drives that don't have fans, so every time I see a unit with a fan, I'm skeptical about how much it really needs that.

I would say that you could (and should) try taking the fan out, but maybe putting in small RAM heatsinks on the chipsets, just to make sure the heat dissipates, but that's it, I don't think it needs anything else. Also, judging by how the heat sensors look, I don't think the fan is very effective in cooling the enclosure...at all.
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Post by mzimmers » Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:31 am

Thanks for the suggestion about the Toshiba. Unfortunately, I feel somewhat (though not entirely) wedded to this enclosure, since it does double-duty as a USB/firewire hub.

I have to admit that I'm having trouble isolating the source of the noise. Last night, I figured it was probably the fan, since it sounded virtually identical to the way it did before I replaced the drive. This morning, though, it was quiet...until I began working. The oddity is that the drive in the miniStack should be unused unless Time Machine is running (and I've turned TM off), so I'm not sure why it started making noise.

Perhaps I'll try unplugging the fan and see how that goes. I think I'm about to become stubborn about getting this solved.

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Post by bonestonne » Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:47 am

Well, if the drive itself is making the noise (and it's entirely possible) try turning the enclosure off. If the noise goes away, it's in the enclosure somewhere. Run it with the cover off for a while, and watch how it operates, if the fan kicks in, if there's any high pitched electronic noise going on...

In terms of being married to that one, well, there's nothing wrong with that. I would say give a shot, there are other enclosures with USB/FW operation, for example iOmega makes one, the MiniMax external drive, here at work, I have a 1TB model, 3x FW, 3x USB, so It's got hubs for everything you could need.

Unfortunately, WD MyBook drives, while being very good, having FW and USB on some, I find them too picky, and if the enclosure breaks or dies, getting to your data is sometimes a real pain, so while I have one and love it, I have trouble suggesting it to others.
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Post by mzimmers » Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:55 am

I already tried turning off the power to isolate the noise; it's definitely coming from within the miniStack. The only question is whether it's the drive or the fan (or something else, I suppose). I don't know whether the disk and/or fan are always on, or if they're turned off when not needed.

I guess I could also try putting some soundproofing underneath it, as long as I don't interfere with cooling. This whine is driving me nuts, and I'm willing to consider all alternatives.

That Iomega looks nice; I wish I'd seen that before springing for my new drive.

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Post by MikeC » Fri Sep 24, 2010 8:11 am

unplug the fan. listen to what happens next. the wd drive should not be making any whine.
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Post by mzimmers » Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:33 am

I took the miniStack to the garage, popped the cover, and turned it on. Very little noise. I brought it back upstairs, re-connected it to everything, left the cover off, and...still very little noise.

I think I'm in a catch-22 here. I suspect that, with the cover off, and the miniStack not underneath the Mac Mini, it's staying cool enough to keep the fan off. (I now really think it's the fan that's causing the noise.)

It also appears that the fan is for devices on the board of the miniStack, not for the hard drive. This makes me a bit reluctant to disconnect it. Any ideas?

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Post by bonestonne » Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:38 am

Use RAM heatsinks on the chipsets inside the enclosure...

Other than that, there isn't much you can do, the fan is probably a 50mm fan, not known for being quiet, but there are 50mm fans that exist that are quiet.

Later today I'll take a look in my bin and see if I have one, you could totally just have it, I'd love to start getting stuff out of my house.

Unless that fan is mounted on a heatsink for a specific component, removing it isn't going to cause much harm. I would say though, try placing the hard drive next to the mini, rather than underneath, because I know that Mac Minis run much hotter than people expect, so you could just be cooking the drive having it under the mini.
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Post by MikeC » Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:39 am

Sounds like a stupid design. Maybe you can just run it w/ the cover off. Often, a noise source in an enclosed space is far more offensive than when the same noise source is out in the open.
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Post by mzimmers » Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:45 am

bonestonne wrote:Use RAM heatsinks on the chipsets inside the enclosure...

Other than that, there isn't much you can do, the fan is probably a 50mm fan, not known for being quiet, but there are 50mm fans that exist that are quiet.

Later today I'll take a look in my bin and see if I have one, you could totally just have it, I'd love to start getting stuff out of my house.
I appreciate the offer, and yes, it does appear to be a 50mm fan. First, though, I need to figure out how to get the fan out. it's screwed from underneath to an aluminum chassis, which in turn is screwed to the body of the miniStack. Problem is, the screw holes are covered up with something (not sure what) that prevents me from getting at the screw heads.
Unless that fan is mounted on a heatsink for a specific component, removing it isn't going to cause much harm. I would say though, try placing the hard drive next to the mini, rather than underneath, because I know that Mac Minis run much hotter than people expect, so you could just be cooking the drive having it under the mini.
Well, my Mini seems to be fairly cool on top, but warm underneath. Maybe I should try putting the miniStack on top, rather on bottom. I'm trying to keep used desk space to a minimum here, so side-by-side isn't my first choice.

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Post by MikeC » Fri Sep 24, 2010 9:54 am

mzimmers wrote:Well, my Mini seems to be fairly cool on top, but warm underneath. Maybe I should try putting the miniStack on top, rather on bottom. I'm trying to keep used desk space to a minimum here, so side-by-side isn't my first choice.
No surprise there -- the Mini top is open to the air while the bottom gets the heat from the miniStack. The stacking is probably choking airflow/cooling for whichever unit is on the bottom... but maybe the Mini will fare better below.
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Post by mzimmers » Fri Sep 24, 2010 10:01 am

Here's a couple of lousy pictures that show how the fan is mounted. In this pic, you can see the ends of the screws that hold the fan to its aluminum chassis:

Image

In this pic, you can see one of the covered screw heads that connects the fan chassis to the body. I have no idea whether that's poured-in epoxy or what, but I don't think it's going to be easy to access those screws.

Image

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Post by b_rubenstein » Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:10 pm

I doubt that they pour anything thing in to cover the screw heads, because it would cost too much and add too much time to manufacturing. My guess is that its just a silver colored, vinyl dot covering the head. I would try lifting it off with an x-acto knife.

I wouldn't be too hasty about removing the fan without some way to keep the HD reasonably cool. I'm on a board with wedding photographers and I've lost count of how many have had WD Mybook drives crap out on them.

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Post by mzimmers » Sat Sep 25, 2010 4:56 pm

I've been running the miniStack with the top off for a couple of days now. Today it got warm enough that the fan came on for about 10 seconds. It is definitely the fan making all the noise. If anyone has suggestions for replacing it with something quieter, I'm open.

It's a 50mm fan, 12VDC, .1 amps.

Thanks.

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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by mzimmers » Wed Mar 02, 2011 8:59 am

I figured I'd give everyone an update on my travails with my external drive; it's turned into an interesting story.

In synopsis, I was hearing sounds from the external enclosure (originally a NewerTech MiniStack v2.5) that I interpreted as disk noise. I later discovered that the noise was in fact the cooling fan. I was unable to find a replacement fan in the right configuration, so I figured a cooler drive might solve this problem at least somewhat.

I bought a WD Caviar Green. While this indeed ran cooler, it introduced an intermittent error in Time Machine, a Mac Utility that does backups automatically. In the course of trying to find this problem, I replaced the disk, the enclosure, the cables, and ultimately the internal disk and logic board in my Mini. The problem persisted.

This week, I came to the realization that these problems began when I replaced the drive. (I don't know why I didn't realize this sooner.) I put my original (Seagate) drive back in, and it's run for two days without incident.

So, I called WD to tell them about this. Their response was that the Caviar Green drives are *not tested, nor supported, for external enclosures.* I found this rather amazing, but that's their position. Evidently, if you want to use one of their drives for backups on a Mac, you buy it within one of their enclosures.

So...I think I've ended a months-long problem, but I'm back to my original issue of my external drive running warm, and kicking on the very annoying fan. If anyone has recommendations for either a quieter drive (from a company that DOES support using them in external enclosures) and/or a quieter fan (50mm, side-venting), I'd love to hear them.

Thanks for listening.
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by HFat » Wed Mar 02, 2011 11:17 am

mzimmers wrote:Their response was that the Caviar Green drives are *not tested, nor supported, for external enclosures.* I found this rather amazing, but that's their position. Evidently, if you want to use one of their drives for backups on a Mac, you buy it within one of their enclosures.
That makes no sense. Their position is irrelevant as long as it works. And it should.
Granted, I don't buy WD drives anymore and they're sometimes crippled but there's no reason they wouldn't work. My old WD drives worked fine in any reliable enclosure.

For all we know another WD drive would work (have you made sure it works well and has no bad sector outstanding?). There's also a chance that every enclosure or cable you used caused intermittent errors.
If the problem is that the WD drive spins down and doesn't wake up (or wakes up too slowly), running it over eSATA instead of USB or Firewire should take care of that. But does your Mac even have eSATA?

You didn't provide enough information to understand what's going on (what error? what enclosures did you use? and so on) but the first support I'd hit would be Apple's, not WD's.
As long as you don't know what the problem is there's no guarantee that anything you buy would be compatible with your software. Supporting a drive's use is an enclosure is not the same thing as guaranteeing it will work with picky software.

You don't say how quiet you want your external drive to be so it's difficult to advise. There are plenty of fanless external drives but the fan is only one part of the noise problem.
I generally recommend any fanless enclosure sitting on foam or any other material that will decouple it from whatever hard surface it's sitting on. But with a little work you can do better.
Look at SPCR's storage articles for tables about hard drive noise. I'm afraid the WD drives are the quietest. In order to avoid overheating in a fanless enclosure, look for drives with low power consumption.

Last but not least, consider simply stashing your external drive some place where you won't hear it. The proper way to do that would be to use a NAS instead of an external drive but you can usually run much longer cables than the ones which came with the device if you don't want a NAS.

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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by nzdcoy » Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:58 pm

I am using a WD Green 2tb drive in an external enclosure w/ esata, for silly (temporary) reasons I also have the OS on there (been like that for a month). no problems yet.

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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by mzimmers » Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:36 am

So...any recommendations for replacement parts?
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by MikeC » Thu Mar 03, 2011 7:53 am

mzimmers wrote:So...any recommendations for replacement parts?
With all the time, effort and replacements sunk into your NewerTech MiniStack v2.5, I don't suppose you're going to accept any advice to ditch it once and for all, huh? :lol:

There are two other brands with quiet high capacity drives -- 5400rpm Samsung Eco Green (F3/F4), and Seagate 5900rpm Pipeline HD & 'cuda Green (new branding). How hot any of them run is directly tied to power draw, so check on that along with the acoustics in our reviews.

I still say you should undervolt that fan, too.
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by mzimmers » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:04 am

MikeC wrote:With all the time, effort and replacements sunk into your NewerTech MiniStack v2.5, I don't suppose you're going to accept any advice to ditch it once and for all, huh? :lol:
Hi, Mike -

Yes, I would ditch it, if I could find an acceptable substitute, wherein "acceptable" is defined as:

1) works
2) is quiet
3) doesn't take up much space (I *really* like that about the miniStack)
4) does double duty as a USB/FireWire hub.

That last item is negotiable; I suppose I could always get separate hubs, but again, space is really at a premium with me.
There are two other brands with quiet high capacity drives -- 5400rpm Samsung Eco Green (F3/F4), and Seagate 5900rpm Pipeline HD & 'cuda Green (new branding). How hot any of them run is directly tied to power draw, so check on that along with the acoustics in our reviews.
Will do...thanks.
I still say you should undervolt that fan, too.
Hey, I'm willing to consider anything. It just seems like the easiest thing would be to replace the fan, but...tell me more about "undervolting" it.

Thanks for the response.
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by MikeC » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:04 am

2 things:

1. if you swap in a high capacity 5400rpm 2.5" drive, it will be quieter and way cooler. They pull only a watt most of the time, about 2.5W peaks. Fit could be an issue, but with a little creativity, it could be made to fit. The actual SATA/power connector is identical to 3.5" drives. Seagate makes bare 2.5" drives to 750gb capacity now, $70~80 -- I'm sure similar are available from other brands.

2. Seagate's GoFlex for Mac Ultra-portables use very high capacity 2.5" drives (1 & 1.5 tb) and feature both firewire 800 and usb2. $160 at Amazon & even smaller than your NewerTech & no fan, about as big as a bare 3.5" drive. I think the interface is either/or tho it comes w/ both connectors -- like this: http://www.silentpcreview.com/seagate-goflex-1.5tb
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by mzimmers » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:10 am

Thanks, Mike. Tell me why fit would be an issue...is it because the 2.5 to 3.5 adapters are bigger than the actual 3.5 drives themselves?
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by MikeC » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:27 am

mzimmers wrote:Thanks, Mike. Tell me why fit would be an issue...is it because the 2.5 to 3.5 adapters are bigger than the actual 3.5 drives themselves?
Adapters should work... but it depends on adapter type and how exactly the newtech secures the 3.5" in there. Usually adapters are meant for use in 3.5" drive bays in cases, which are not identical to inside an external drive case.
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by mzimmers » Fri Mar 11, 2011 6:20 pm

Well, the 3.5" drive attaches to a heat sink, which in turn attaches from the underside of the enclosure. The heatsink-to-enclosure mounting points form a rectangle that's roughly 3.5" x 3.25".

If you can give me recommendation for a chassis that is likely to work (obviously no guarantees), I'd appreciate it. Otherwise, if you could tell me what to look for, I'll do my own legwork.

Then, I guess, I need to pick a drive that's fairly cool-running.

Thanks.
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by mzimmers » Thu Mar 17, 2011 10:14 pm

bump.

Mike, I'm all ears. Tell me what I should do. I no longer need the hub features of the miniStack, so I just want a quiet drive and enclosure for backups of my Mini.
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Re: recommendation for a back-up drive

Post by MikeC » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:57 am

mzimmers wrote:bump.

Mike, I'm all ears. Tell me what I should do. I no longer need the hub features of the miniStack, so I just want a quiet drive and enclosure for backups of my Mini.
If it was me and I wanted a no fuss solution, I'd give/sell/dump the ministack as is and get one of those super quiet 2.5" external drives by Seagate (in Mac format) that SPCR has reviewed.
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