External Hard Drive – SimpleTech Signature Mini Espresso Review

by Mike Holman

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external hard driveDigital cameras and computers are wonderful things. They allow us to take lots of pictures of our kids growing up and easily send them to various grandparents/aunts/uncles who don’t get to see them often.  The problem is that sometimes computers fail (especially the hard drive) and pictures can be lost. Over the last few years I’ve been taking steps to make sure that if one of the computer fails we won’t lose any files.

One of the actions that I’ve been doing for a few years to back up the files on our computers to an external hard drive. I don’t copy the entire computer hard drive – just the files that that we want to back up which are mainly pictures.

The problem is that last year we ran out of room. My hard drive was only 50 GB which seemed pretty huge when I bought it but now it was too small. The main problem is our new cameras – the file size is much bigger than on our old camera plus we take more videos which suck up a lot of space. The Sony DLSR A350 takes photos very quickly which adds to the number of files and the Canon 200sx has a great video feature.

So I went shopping for a new external hard drive. These devices are faily simple so I wasn’t looking for anything fancy. I mainly just wanted a lot more storage space.

Over the last 2 or 3 years there have been quite a few advancements in external hard drives. You can buy drives that are much smaller than the old ones with way more space. The other big advantage is that while our old hard drive had to be plugged in separately, the new one plugs into the USB port in the laptop which is very convenient. The last advancement is looks – some of these hard drives look very, very good! The one we ended up buying was designed by the same company that has styled most Ferraris. :)

What external hard drive did I end up buying?

SimpleTech Signature Mini Espresso external hard drive 500gb.  The price was $150 but I notice that Best Buy has it for $130.  Amazon.com has it for $99.

The storage is 500 gigabyte which is 10 times the old one. I’m under no illusion that this will be enough space forever but it should hold us for a few years. It had comparable data transfer rates to other drives and I found the small size was definitely a plus.

It also has a 1 click backup feature which I have yet to utilize but I am planning on doing this.

It plugs into your standard USB 2.0 port and has the following dimensions:  4.4″ x 5″ x 1.5″ and weighs in at 0.5 pounds. Very small.

This wasn’t the cheapest option for a hard drive but the small size was enough for me. The cheaper drives generally were larger (and not all that much cheaper).

Do you use an external hard drive for backup?  If you don’t do any kind of backup then I urge you to buy an external hard drive and start backing up.  I’ll be posting more on this topic.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Traciatim

If you are strictly using it to store pictures you may want to consider a device like Vosinic’s VP8870, or Sanho’s Colorspace UDMA. Though they are more expensive they have a specific function for people who take lots of pictures.

As for backups, my main desktop computer has 2 hard drives in it, we have an external hard drive, and the spouse has a laptop. We use a piece of software call Allway Sync which is set up to take important data off of important directories on my desktop and replicate it both across drives and to the external. The Laptop just replicates over to the desktop.

With how cheap hard drives are these days I have no idea why more machines don’t come with two or more drives set up in a way to protect data. Data loss these days really shouldn’t happen.

2 Mike

Traciatim – Do you do any offsite backup?

3 Traciatim

No I don’t.

I have contemplated getting a drive to store at another house and set up allway to send the data across the internet and back it up, but save for a house fire I can’t really think of anything that would destroy the two drives in the desktop and the external drive all at the same time.

I do have an ADrive free account, but never got around to setting up data to go up to that. I’m sure there are piles of other free services that would store enough data to keep anything that I really need to protect.

4 Mike

I think theft would be a reason as well. I pay for online backup.

5 Sampson

I try to keep a copy of important stuff at work – it’s pretty secure here so I’m not too concerned, and I think it is important to have stuff off-site.

I own an older 320Gb SimpleTech USB hard drive, an IOmega one, and 2 WD (larger units), and there’s one thing I am constantly aware of. External power is important. Some of those smaller drives come with some crappy USB cables and the connection can quit on you while transferring larges amounts of data.

6 Mike

Sampson – I haven’t had any problems with data transfer on this unit. It has usb but you can plug two outlets into the laptop which gives it more power.

7 RS

I use an ICY Box NAS4220 (http://www.raidsonic.de/en/pages/products/external_cases.php?we_objectID=5052) connected to my wireless router. You can put in any size disks as needed. This device has built in RAID 1 (mirrored drives) or can be used as a bunch of disks. Since it connects to my wireless router using a cable, I can then connect to it from any machine in the house wirelessly.

I presently use robocopy GUI to synch up the contents of specific folders to the above storage device, but plan to look into a good backup software at some point.

8 Erick

I use an old, but serviceable, copy of Norton Ghost to back up my entire internal hard-drive every night to an external device. This has saved my bacon on more than one occasion when the “quality” hard drives provided by Dell have failed without warning.

It’s not just the loss of pictures/docs that I’m concerned with…it’s the days of effort required to re-install and configure 147 applications.

As a extra precaution, I keep a recent backup at my place of work, just in case a giant meteor levels the house.

I also use SyncToy and Dropbox to keep specific folders in sync between various household and work computers.

9 Traciatim

Erick, if you liked using Ghost you may want to try a newer (and free) similar product called Drive Image XML.

http://www.runtime.org/driveimage-xml.htm

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