External HDD Buying Advice (4/5/6 TB)

john1911

Disciple
Hi guys. How are you doing? Hope everything is alright in these tough times.

I'm in the market for an external HDD, preferably above 4TB since by paying a little more I'm getting 5TB and a little more gets me 6TB (~10600). The more the better. The maximum I can spend is around 10k.

I have a few questions before I make the purchase.

1. Where should I buy the HDD from, in the past Amazon shipped me an Ext. HDD in just the plastic white bag, no bubble wrap, no kind of protection, nothing. So I'm a little skeptical of buying from them. Any suggestions are most welcome.

2. I'm more inclined towards WD since a few members here had their Seagate failed recently. Is the incidence of failure more in Seagate Drives?

3. This will be used like a master backup drive (backup of backups) and will be plugged in once like every fortnight or month to create backup. Rest of the times it'll be kept in some drawer. So size doesn't matter to me. Should I look towards WD MyBook (7299) or Seagate Backup Plus HUB (7499), both of them need an external power adapter and house 3.5" drives? Are their any benefits of using 3.5" in my use case scenario? Transfer speeds don't matter much to me once it is around 100MB/s. Are 2.5" more prone to failure than 3.5" ? WD MyBook and Seagate Backup Plus HUB has an external power supply, what if the adapter fails?

Thanks a lot for your time. Any inputs would be greatly appreciated.

PS: I had put this purchase on hold for a long time but Chia scares me. The storage prices have already began creeping up. So looking to buy it soon.
 
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NotMyRealName

1. Where should I buy the HDD from, in the past Amazon shipped me an Ext. HDD in just the plastic white bag, no bubble wrap, no kind of protection, nothing. So I'm a little skeptical of buying from them. Any suggestions are most welcome
Retail external drives are already well protected. There is shock absorbing damping for the enclosure inside the box, and even the drive has a bit of anti vibration damping inside the enclosure. Plus they have a non operating shock rating of 350gs or likewise. So any extra 'protection' is just psychological. All that's necessary is protection from rain water intrusion. This is the truth but there are people who whine otherwise...

2. I'm more inclined towards WD since a few members here had their Seagate failed recently. Is the incidence of failure more in Seagate Drives?
100% of ALL drives WILL fail, whether after 10 minutes or 10 years is hard to predict. Typically if a drive works for the first 3 months of it's life, you can pretty much rule out premature failure due to manufacturing defects. So do your research, there are usually specific models in all brands with exceptionally high failure rates, so avoid those. But the whole wd vs Seagate argument is moot. Personally i prefer WD, but my 3 year old 8tb my book had an awesome helium drive inside, but the new one i got last year had an air drive which runs MUCH hotter. I would rather get the exos which comes only in 16tb though.

More important than all these topics is to realise that a drive is only storage, backup is the strategy you implement to protect important data. Multiple copies on different media/locations is backup.

3. This will be used like a master backup drive (backup of backups) and will be plugged in once like every fortnight or month to create backup. Rest of the times it'll be kept in some drawer. So size doesn't matter to me. Should I look towards WD MyBook (7299) or Seagate Backup Plus HUB (7499), both of them need an external power adapter and house 3.5" drives? Are their any benefits of using 3.5" in my use case scenario? Transfer speeds don't matter much to me once it is around 100MB/s. Are 2.5" more prone to failure than 3.5" ? WD MyBook and Seagate Backup Plus HUB has an external power supply, what if the adapter fails?
For your use case even SMR drives may be ok, though i would personally never use one if i had a (even more expensive) choice.

3.5" drives like the ones you've linked above are the most cost effective option if portability is not a requirement. 2.5" can fail sooner because of poorer cooling in the smaller un-ventilated enclosures.

In fact, for typically Indian weather, even the ventilated 3.5" externals can overheat in a sustained copy session for example (personal experience with heat related damage in Bombay). I now use all my external drives (2.5 or 3.5) with the case opened, exposing the drive to the outside, but that is not doable or feasible for everyone. What people do is point a small table or pedestal fan at the drive while is running. I also strongly suggest running a drive monitoring software like hdtune etc while using it, and if you see the temps increasing too much just give it a break till it's cooler.

If the adapter fails you will have to get another one, these days depending on the drive format, you may not be able to connect the bare drive, after shucking it, to a computer and access the data because of the translation done by the enclosure's PCB. Only certain combinations can work both externally and internally. I'll post more details later, on mobile now.
 

john1911

Disciple
Hey NotMyRealName, thanks a lot for your valuable inputs. Cleared a lot of my doubts.

Retail external drives are already well protected.......
Oh, okay. I was not fully aware of it. I remember reading somewhere that Seagate calls its internal plastic container SeaShell or something similar and it already provides adequate protection.

Regarding Seagate vs WD. I also personally prefer WD, my last Seagate Ext. HDD was purchased by my mom because she liked the shade of Red on it. :p

For your use case even SMR drives may be ok, though i would personally never use one if i had a (even more expensive) choice.
I also would be buying CMR. I almost made up my mind to buy WD MyBook 4TB from Amazon but it turns out they recently started using WD Blue 4TB (60EZRZ) inside it which is a SMR. They should mention it in the title itself. They give CMR only in 8TB or more. Back to square 1.

I also strongly suggest running a drive monitoring software like hdtune etc while using it, and if you see the temps increasing too much just give it a break till it's cooler
Thanks, checking it out.

on mobile now.
Wow, salute to you..!!


Update: Was looking at WD My Passport 5TB, turns out that is SMR as well.
 
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john1911

Disciple
Personally, I would go for smaller size multiple disks, so I don't loose all data in a day if stored it on one big size HDD. I have 8 Seagate 4TB HDDs which I use to store my 4K movies collection and no issues so far. Just use your external HDDs to copy data on it and preserver it, do not go copying/deleting data everyday on a drive which has important data, which will shorten its life. For such a dynamic purpose, use single HDD only without keeping any important on it which you will regret if lost.

Yes, that's my plan. I have multiple 1TB and one 2TB Ext HDD. I'll mostly be buying a 4TB Ext HDD on which I'll dump data once in a while and keep it disconnected.

The question is which one should I buy? Most seem to be SMR these days and I don't want to buy a SMR drive.
 
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NotMyRealName

Nope, you will only get SMR in smaller capacities. You will have to choose between SMR or large drives.

Also you still seem to be undecided about 2.5 vs 3.5.

Personally, I would go for smaller size multiple disks, so I don't loose all data in a day if stored it on one big size HDD.

Like i mentioned in another thread, i too agree with the eggs-basket theory. But within practical limits.

For example my PC has 3x2TB drives. (All are not powered up all the time though). I got an 8tb couple years ago and another 8tb late last year. I couldn't possibly get two or four 4TBs. Space and power constraints, plus there's also the VFM aspect to consider. At a particular point of time, a certain capacity range has the best bang for the buck. Smaller or even bigger, not so.
 
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john1911

Disciple
Nope, you will only get SMR in smaller capacities. You will have to choose between SMR or large drives.
Also you still seem to be undecided about 2.5 vs 3.5.
Yes, I'm. Portability isn't a problem but I'd slightly prefer 2.5" to 3.5" mainly due to no additional power requirement. WD My Book and Passport come with hardware level 256-bit AES Encryption. I guess this can't be disabled. So if the SATA to USB PCB fails, all the data is lost.

I wasn't well aware of the differences between SMR and CMR and the more I read, the more I get convinced that I want a CMR drive but almost all of them under 5TB seems to be SMR. :/
And I don't have the budget to get a larger CMR drive.

If no other option, then I'll most probably buy SMR WD My Passport 5TB. Are there any durability / longevity differences between SMR and CMR ?
 
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NotMyRealName

For your usage of occasional offline backup, SMR is fine.

I think portable is a waste of money if not specifically needed. Maybe ok for a laptop but definitely not for a PC which already has a ton of power and data wires.

And dunno about the new passports but my book can definitely be accessed by connecting to a PC's sata ports provided you format the drive a certain way BEFORE copying data to it. The encryption is optional and not by default so you have to explicitly enable it. There is a matrix on WD's which lists what drives can be accessed without the PCB. Passport, no chance because there is no sata port on the drive, the drive PCB itself is USB. My Book, is sata with an additional sata to usb pcb. Again, on mobile now so I'll share both these points when i can.

I guess theoretically, SMR would involve more wear than CMR/PMR but it's unlikely to affect a normal use case or lifespan.
 

john1911

Disciple
I need something with a USB connector because I'll need to connect it to my laptop as well and my current case is miniITX so there is no space inside also. I once thought of buying an 3.5" internal drive and a SATA to USB adapter with additional power for 3.5" but then thought it would be too much hassle.
And dunno about the new passports but my book can definitely be accessed by connecting to a PC's sata ports provided you format the drive a certain way BEFORE copying data to it. The encryption is optional and not by default so you have to explicitly enable it. There is a matrix on WD's which lists what drives can be accessed without the PCB. Passport, no chance because there is no sata port on the drive, the drive PCB itself is USB. My Book, is sata with an additional sata to usb pcb. Again, on mobile now so I'll share both these points when i can.
Oh, okay. I read up very superficially about this. I'll also try to find out more in depth about them. Thanks :)
For your usage of occasional offline backup, SMR is fine.
I'm also thinking the same. There will be occasional writes and rare reads so I think I'll be fine. Read performance isn't affected in SMR drives, right?
 
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NotMyRealName

I need something with a USB connector because I'll need to connect it to my laptop as well and my current case is miniITX so there is no space inside also. I once thought of buying an 3.5" internal drive and a SATA to USB adapter with additional power for 3.5" but then thought it would be too much hassle.
No, you misunderstood. All external drives are (usually) USB. But the passport cannot be used if the PCB dies. The my book can, if formatted a certain way before copying data to it. If your laptop usage is mostly on a desk a 3.5 makes more sense. An internal drive+USB adapter will cost way more than an external.
 

john1911

Disciple
But the passport cannot be used if the PCB dies.
The my book can, if formatted a certain way before copying data to it. If your laptop usage is mostly on a desk a 3.5 makes more sense.
Ohh, alright. Then considering these points, my the best would be to buy WD My Book 4TB?


I saw some disassembly videos and understood the point. I was still under the impression that they still put a regular SATA 2.5" HDD and a SATA to USB PCB inside but WD Passport has ditched it altogether. I even had a Seagate USM 1TB HDD in which doubled as USB to SATA adapter. The companies are locking things down, be it for cost saving or to make it harder to repair.


From what I understood, say I buy WD My Book 4TB, the drive has SATA ports inside and there is a SATA to USB PCB which handles the encryption? Say i take out the drive and format it in some way by directly connecting it to my motherboard using SATA cables and then put it back in the WD enclosure, then the encryption will be disabled?

The hardware level encryption stays ON otherwise and I didn't do this special formatting in the beginning and later on I somehow damaged the USB port on my WD MyBook and then if I take out the drive from within and connect it directly to my motherboard using SATA cable, then the data would not be readable?

Also this encryption is different than the WD Security software (password) based encryption that we can setup (I never do).
What is the point of hardware level encrypting the drive and making the enclosure/SATA to USB pcb the decryption key, smh. Just trying to make things difficult for end users.
 
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NotMyRealName

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So I had made this table during my 8tb my book testing. I don't even remember what the last column means lol.

usb-wd is the stock sata-usb adapter, asmt is another of the same adapter but with the translation chip disabled. seag is an old seagate external's adapter. and sata is internal connected to the pc.

Basically, it needs to be formatted with 512 bytes/sector instead of 4k to work with both usb and sata seamlessly. and a gpt style partition table instead of mbr of course.

I use the utility WD_Quick_Formatter_2.0.0.65 under windows 7 over usb to get 512 bytes. The drive can then be copied and the data equally accesed via usb or sata.


You may have to block pin 3 on the sata power connector for it to work. quite simple with a bit of tape. check reddit for more details.


The link above shows which WD drives can be read without the enclosure as long as the data hasn't been encrypted. Pretty much the first row only for us in India. Also elements and easystore. User dr100 on reddit has posted quite a lot about this.

Ohh, alright. Then considering these points, my the best would be to buy WD My Book 4TB?
It kinda depends. Is your data more important or your drive (warranty)?

Coz if you open up the enclosure (assuming a usb pcb failure) and connect to sata, you might get your data but may not be able to claim warranty. If getting a replacement drive under warranty is more important, the 2.5" is the same. Except costing more than a 3.5" external.
 

john1911

Disciple
Thanks a lot. Did you disable the translation chip (USB-ASMT) by manually physically cutting off the Vcc ?

It kinda depends. Is your data more important or your drive (warranty)?

Coz if you open up the enclosure (assuming a usb pcb failure) and connect to sata, you might get your data but may not be able to claim warranty. If getting a replacement drive under warranty is more important, the 2.5" is the same. Except costing more than a 3.5" external.
Data is more important to me. I saw a disassembly video of the new My Book and disassembly didn't leave any mark on it. Is it so?
 
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NotMyRealName

From what I understood, say I buy WD My Book 4TB, the drive has SATA ports inside and there is a SATA to USB PCB which handles the encryption? Say i take out the drive and format it in some way by directly connecting it to my motherboard using SATA cables and then put it back in the WD enclosure, then the encryption will be disabled?

The hardware level encryption stays ON otherwise and I didn't do this special formatting in the beginning and later on I somehow damaged the USB port on my WD MyBook and then if I take out the drive from within and connect it directly to my motherboard using SATA cable, then the data would not be readable?

What i thought was an automatic encryption chip is actually a translation chip, I didn't need to cut it i later realised. More importantly, cutting it didn't help access the drive over sata, the sector format did, even on the pcb with the uncut chip.


https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/c46men
This is very confusing so don't bother about the details now. Just make sure you format it right BEFORE copying any data, in case you want to connect to sata at a later point.


But my experience is with the 8tb my books, can't be sure if the smaller ones are dynamically and automatically encrypted by the pcb without setting it in the software. The post below (and the WD matrix) says no.

https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/h84x9o
https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/9o4urk
https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/b6yivk
https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/comments/fkr7xi

p.s. i'm optimistic chia is gonna fizzle out and drive prices and availability will stabilise, maybe not very soon but eventually

Thanks a lot. Did you disable the translation chip (USB-ASMT) by manually cutting off the Vcc ?


Data is more important to me. I saw a disassembly video of the new My Book and disassembly didn't leave any mark on it. Is it so?

Yes, and yes. I'm 80% confident if i pack up my enclosure and drive they won't notice it's been shucked. Needed about 8 guitar picks to shuck though lol

I too had to snip both pins 7 & 8 for the board to work. Actually desoldered, but the heat required meant it was destroyed as bad as cutting. The point is i didn't need to disable the chip, i'm not even using the asmt board, only the stock one. I wasted a good board experimenting on the chip. All that was required was the format to 512.
 
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john1911

Disciple
What i thought was an automatic encryption chip is actually a translation chip, I didn't need to cut it i later realised. More importantly, cutting it didn't help access the drive over sata, the sector format did, even on the pcb with the uncut chip.
Yes, from what I understood, that chip is to make the enclosure incompatible with other hard disks.

This is very confusing so don't bother about the details now.
Yup it is. Buying HDD was so easy in the old days. :tearsofjoy: :tearsofjoy:

Yes, and yes. I'm 80% confident if i pack up my enclosure and drive they won't notice it's been shucked.
Great. Plastic cards don't generally don't leave any mark behind.

I too had to snip both pins 7 & 8 for it to work. Actually desoldered, but the heat required mean it was destroyed as bad as cutting. The point is i didn't need to disable the chip, i'm not even using the asmt board, only the stock one. I wasted a good board experimenting on the chip. All that was required was the format to 512.
Ohh, but the asmt board works na? I mean it should work better since now it would be compatible with any sata drive.

The more I read, the more confusing it gets. :banghead::banghead:
 
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NotMyRealName

No even the stock board works with other HDDs. It's just that the winbond does some translation, i think like to make large hdds compatible with older OSs i think. I can't really remember exactly now, but i think it has slightly less compatibility overall than the stock one. Heck, i can't even understand my own Excel table now lol.

All i remember is going crazy with a million reboots and plugging-unplugging drives.

If only someone had clearly explained that encryption is not the issue, all you need to see your USB drive on sata as well is to format to 512 before copying.

I mean i copied almost a full 8tb to the drive to discover it won't work on sata, then cut the chip, still didn't work, then found the format solution. And then had to copy all 8tb again. SMH. Happy times.

Also, credit card thickness might break or damage the locking tabs, so thin flexible guitar picks work best. Even if you don't play guitar, they're damn cheap, just get the biggest, thinnest local ones. Not imported stuff.
 

john1911

Disciple
I commend your efforts trying to find out the solution.

Do you know if formatting it to 512 instead of 4096 can cause some problems, I couldn't think of any but asking to make sure.

I'm ordered 40 cheap flimsy thin picks from Amazon for some 100 rupees.
 

nRiTeCh

Skilled
For all your encryption confusions, only if you set password the encryption comes into action else it remains disabled by default and for rest of the time. You use the drive on any no. of pcs, laptops, almost anywhere you wish without bothering about encryption unless you havent permitted it for it.
I digged through some videos some time back just to get know if wd passports can be shucked and be used as sata. Yes they can but at the cost of complex/shitty solder mods or swapping pcs from ebay/ali express sites.
 

john1911

Disciple
For all your encryption confusions, only if you set password the encryption comes into action else it remains disabled by default and for rest of the time. You use the drive on any no. of pcs, laptops, almost anywhere you wish without bothering about encryption unless you havent permitted it for it.
There is some hardware level encryption going on in some of WD ext hdd such that if you take the actual hdd out of the external enclosure and connect it directly to sata on your motherboard, it won't be readable.

This is different than software level encryption which we can setup using any software and a password.

The hardware level encryption works without the user even noticing it. You plug the ext hdd using USB in any number of PCs and it'll work as intended. But after shucking, you'll need to reformat it and all the data is gone. Some drives have this HW level encryption, some don't.


WD Passport have a single PCB with just USB 3.0 MicroB but there are solder points on the board if someone wants to solder SATA ports to it.

WD My Book have a regular 3.5" internal HDD with SATA and another SATA to USB board inside the enclosure.
 
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NotMyRealName

Do you know if formatting it to 512 instead of 4096 can cause some problems, I couldn't think of any but asking to make sure.

Not that i know of, and haven't had any issues yet with both drives. One is in the enclosure and another is regular internal daily use storage (pin-3 taped).

There is some hardware level encryption going on in some of WD ext hdd such that if you take the actual hdd out of the external enclosure and connect it directly to sata on your motherboard, it won't be readable.

This is different than software level encryption which we can setup using any software and a password.

The hardware level encryption works without the user even noticing it. You plug the ext hdd using USB in any number of PCs and it'll work as intended. But after shucking, you'll need to reformat it and all the data is gone. Some drives have this HW level encryption, some don't.

Again, this is not the encryption but the translation. If formatted on usb it wont work on sata and vice versa. Unless it's formatted to 512, in which case the data will be accessible on both usb and sata, seamlessly. Basically, any drive which says YES under Readable w/o WD Enclosure in the WD encryption matrix i linked above, does not have hardware encryption enabled by default and can be accessed on both usb and sata if 512 bytes. Just read that document carefully. It's very easy to confuse the hardware encryption with the 512 <> 4096 translation.
 

john1911

Disciple

It says here that it is some sort of encryption.

"The encryption key is stored in a block near the end of the raw disk (raw = not in the enclosure). That key is encrypted, based on your password, or if none is used, on a factory-set key."


Basically, any drive which says YES under Readable w/o WD Enclosure in the WD encryption matrix i linked above, does not have hardware encryption enabled by default and can be accessed on both usb and sata if 512 bytes.
But if a drive is Readable without WD enclosure then it should just be readable without enclosure out of the box, without requiring it to be formatted in 512bytes initially.
 
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