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Cheap, and may be reliable - but is that enough?
on 19 October 2011
I bought this a year ago, and have waited a while to review it because there had been a number of reported early-life failures in various forums for disks in this family. I'm pleased to say that mine is still functioning.
It is a basic, mains-powered (so it will use another socket of your surge-protected extension lead!) high capacity external HDD.
The usage conditions:
- at about 15% capacity now, used as the main (external) storage for a Linux-based media server (using MediaTomb)
- has been used approximately 28-56 hours per week for a year, so probably "light" usage
On to my usual Pros and Cons...
- operation is very quiet - much quieter than my main computer, so can only be heard if used with other machines.
- cheap (when bought!)
- unobtrusive smallish footprint package (glossy black plastic box)
One rather odd point, neither Pro nor Con for me, is the white LED power light, which sits at the *back* of the unit, and is only visible in low light conditions as a reflection from the wall, or if you turn the unit round to use it backwards! A strange design choice, but nothing else.
- when the unit arrived it was unusable with Windows XP - it would not mount (i.e. the computer "couldn't recognise" it). Linux mounted it normally straight away however.
This made me a bit suspicious, so I did a very lengthy (~17 hours) surface scan. There were no errors. I fixed this problem by deleting the partition table, and creating a new one (using the "Manage My Computer" app on Windows). This worked fine, so I suspect some slight corruption that Linux could live with, but Windows couldn't. More on that later.
- the disk in the box is a "green" one, which minimises energy usage by doing things like parking the heads and I think (but haven't confirmed formally) spinning down after a few minutes of inactivity. This means there's a delay of several seconds the next time you access data, which can be frustrating, and might occasionally cause problems.
A cheap probably-reliable disk, which less techy people than me would probably (justifiably) have returned because of either the corrupted partition table on arrival, or because of the several second delays experienced every time it goes into energy saving mode and then wakes up again.
I am fine with it, but I can't wholeheartedly recommend it to you unless you know how to deal with these issues, and are comfortable doing so.
Bear in mind that if you are looking for an external HDD these days, the majority of them now have "green" disks inside which will exhibit similar delay-causing behaviours under certain usage patterns, so don't expect to get around that by simply trying to buy a product from another manufacturer!
At the time of writing, there are approximately 20% of reviews for the products in this family (1TB, 1.5TB, 2TB) reporting disk failures. I wouldn't be surprised if in at least some of the cases which aren't obvious hardware failures, a corrupted partition table is the culprit based on my experiences. That's a shame, and points to possibly poor quality control at the manufacturer. Whatever the explanation, it is a high rate of failure - but then people whose disks don't fail are less likely to review of course.
Because of the dodgy partition table problem, I can only give this a 3-star review, as the thing that really matters for such commodity items is that they work out of the box for retail consumers. "Probably reliable" isn't good enough for storage devices.
And a final Tip...:
You should always have a backup - and if you're using a disk like this for backups, then it's sensible to have a backup for that too. That way, you're substantially reducing the likelihood of backups or precious data being lost. They cost so little these days, you really can't afford not to!