My essential MacBook Air add-ons

macbook-air-gallery1-2014The MacBook Air is a great portable yet full-featured laptop.  It is thin, lightweight, and functional.macbook-air-gallery2-2014

However, it suffers on one very important feature:  Storage.

The flash storage is fast:  Because it is not a traditional hard drive, it has no moving parts.  But, the cost of the SSD limits the storage on the MacBook Air.  At least on the older versions.  I got the Mid-2013 128GB version.  Suffice it to say, it is now running at 98% capacity.

The immediate solution is to get two drives.

macbook-air-gallery5-2014

SanDisk Ultra Fit flash drive

sandisk-ultra-fitThis goes on one of the USB ports on the MacBook Air.  For $30, it adds 128GB of extra storage.  The limitation is if the USB port is one of the “slower” USB 2.0 (and not the USB 3.0).  So this would be good for storing and accessing data that does not require fast data transfer (music, photos, Word documents, etc.)

There are also other small-ish USB drives out there, such as the Samsung Flash Drive Fit and the Lexar JumpDrive.  Both of which come in 128GB so plenty of extra storage.

 

Transcend JetDrivetranscend-drive

There are several flavors of this drive.  I initially got the 128GB version, but recently had to get the 256GB version.  Depending on your budget and your needs, I would recommend one or the other.

 

Of course, you can also upgrade the boot drive.  This is a bit trickier, since it will require you to do research on the type of drive you need (Mid-2013 and newer requires PCIe SSD, which are different from the earlier laptops that use SATA).

With a 128GB flash drive and a 256GB JetDrive, I added enough storage to store my files from DropBox and Google Drive, as well as Photos Library and iTunes.

 

 

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Slim – Review

STBE500100

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Slim 500 GB USB 3.0 Performance External Hard Drive (STBE500100)

This review is for the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Slim 500 GB USB 3.0 Performance External Hard Drive.

My previous favorite go-to backup drive was the Buffalo Technology MiniStation Stealth 500 GB. Was. Now, I have a new go-to drive with the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Slim. I did not think a new drive would replace the MiniStation for a while, and I am pleasantly surprised with the GoFlex Slim performance.

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Samsung F4 Firmware Update – Prevent Data Corruption

I have been getting lots of inquiries about how to upgrade the firmware of the Samsung F4 HD204UI 2Tb hard drive.

The major issue is the enhanced probability of data corruption (and data loss!).  There seems to be a flaw in the drive’s firmware where disk writes can become corrupted when the write cache is enabled.

Because of this, a firmware update was released by Samsung, and this updated firmware seems to be required for many of the older drives.

However, since Seagate recently acquired Samsung, the FAQ relating to this problem (http://www.samsung.com/global/business/hdd/faqView.do?b2b_bbs_msg_id=386) is no longer available through Samsung.  Any attempt to access the Samsung domain will redirect to Seagate’s home page.  And, searching the Seagate site is futile and yields no useful information about this issue.

Fortunately, there is a functional download site to the F4EG firmware update.  Yes, it works!  I verified it several times now!

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Hitachi Deskstar Desktop Hard Drive

This is a review of the Hitachi Deskstar 3.5-inch Internal Hard Drive.  I have the 1TB and 2TB versions, but I will be reviewing the 1TB model here.

Basic specs are included in the product description. It is a 1TB 7200 rpm drive with 32 MB Cache. It comes in a retail packaging. The drive is in an anti-static bag, and suspended by plastic holders for protection during delivery and handling. It comes with 4 drive screws, and does not come with a SATA cable.

I purchased this drive when it went for $45 on one of those online deals (a price you won’t see for a while due to the recent flooding in Asia).  I need to increase the disk storage space for my workstation, so I am playing with a few different ones to see which ones suit my needs best.

What I need are disks for:

1. I need a drive for file storage; require immediate access to these files. I work with a lot of different file types, which include word processing, picture files (JPG, TIF, RAW), video files (SD, HD, mp4, VOB) for text, picture, and video editing.
2. I need a backup of this drive (manual backup) onto another drive (in the same computer); I run it almost like RAID1, but I manually backup these drives.
3. Automatic backup of this drive onto NAS box running RAID1.

This is a very quiet drive. I think this may be a different model than my other Hitachi drives, which are relatively louder than this one (I have to verify it later). It also runs relatively cool at 33 C during these testings, which means that it is less susceptible to heat damage from use over time (one of the primary causes of hard drive failure is overheating).

Firstly, as a single partition, this drive will come out as 931 GB. (You can skip this paragraph if you understand why a 1TB drive is now just over 900GB after installation.) This is due mainly to the ambiguity of the nomenclature. Briefly (and without going too much into the science), electronic memory circuits such as hard drives and memory chip sizes use a binary architecture, and this means that the number of addressable storage locations is based on the power of 2. Therefore, memory sizes are NOT integer multiples of 1000 (or 10^3), but of 1024. This magic number 1024 is based on 2^10 (read as “two to the power of 10,” which is equal to 1024), and because this is approximately 1000, the prefix symbol K (or kilo) was used for convenience. Bottom line is that this drive has 10^9 Bytes (or 1,000,000,000 Bytes, which can be termed as one “Giga” Byte), which is 977 x 10^6 KB, which is 954 x 10^3 MB, which is 931 GB. So if you were wondering where the 69 GB of data storage went, it got lost in the math of ambiguous nomenclature.

Bottom line is that this drive is cheap, fast, and quiet (for a 7200rpm drive). If you need to upgrade your desktop computer’s hard drive, I highly recommend this drive.

If you would like to see some benchmark results, read on (warning: geek alert):
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Buffalo Technology MiniStation Stealth

This review is for the Buffalo Technology MiniStation Stealth 500 GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive

Buffalo Technology MiniStation Stealth

I have to admit that this drive may be my new favorite go-to backup drive. When this drive dropped sub-50 dollars, I snagged it, and so far I have been pleased. I have used this device on various computers, including a PC (WinXP SP3), Mac (OS X Leopard), and Linux (various flavors).

Overall, I found this to be a very good drive.

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Seagate Barracuda ST500DM001 2 TB SATAIII Internal Bare Drive

Seagate Barracuda 2TB

Seagate Barracuda 2TB

This is a review of the Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM 2 TB SATA 6 GB/s NCQ 64 MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive (ST500DM001).

This is part of the “Barracuda” series, and not a Green drive. According to the manufacturer specs, this 7200 rpm drive has a 64MB cache, advanced format 4K sectors, 6GB/s interface. I cannot find any information regarding the warranty, but my experience with Seagate warranty has been pretty good.

From what I’ve seen with this drive, I would not hesitate to use it as a performance or data drive. It is fast enough to run the OS, and large enough to store tons of data files. In fact, I will be replacing my WD Raptor (10K rpm) drive with this one because this Barracuda outperformed the Raptor in ALL of my benchmark and real-world testings. (For detailed specs, see below).

Overall, highly recommended.

For more information (ie. benchmark numbers, tests, etc.) please read on.

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Upgrading a Hard Drive

What to consider when upgrading a hard drive.

You just came from your 3-day bachelor party in Vegas, a vodka martini in one hand and an HD camcorder in the other.  You start to upload the movies onto your computer, but with all the mp3 music files you *ahem* acquired during the napster days your computer is filled to capacity.

Or, you just got a brand-new digital SLR camera to take pictures of your child’s first solid food, first solid poop, first step (and fall), or the absolute cute-overload of your dog cuddling with your baby.  Yes, you will take thousands of pictures, and these pictures will take up hundreds of GB on your computer.

Or, you found a way to “back up” your DVD and Blu-Ray collection onto your computer so that your 3 year old will not use the disks as ice skates on the kitchen floor.

When the time comes for the need to replace your hard drive, choosing the right drive is not always the easiest task.  Whether it is because your previous drive failed, or your 80 GB drive is no longer sufficient to save your digital photos, music, and videos.

Sure, you can go to any brick-and-mortar store in town, and more often than not they will try to sell you something that will fill their pockets with commission rather than fulfill your needs.

If you’ve been researching online, and you are not as computer-savvy as you would like, chances are your confusion can be limited down to two simple questions.

1.         Do I need 1TB or 2TB?

2.         Do I need a 7200 rpm (performance) drive or a 5900 rpm (green) drive?

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Samsung Spinpoint 2TB

This review is for the Samsung F4EG 2TB HD204UI drives, 5400RPM, 32MB of cache.

Samsung 2TB EcoGreen drive (HD204UI)UPDATE:  Those who have been asking about how to update the firmware for this drive, I wrote a tutorial here.

Hopefully you’ve read my blog about what to consider when it’s time to upgrade a hard drive.

When the time comes for the need to replace your hard drive, choosing the right drive is not always the easiest task.  For data storage, a higher-capacity drive is better, and a 2TB is always a good choice over the 1TB because you will always need more drive space.

For data storage, this Samsung 2TB drive receives my top recommendation.

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Western Digital Black WD1501FASS

This is a review of the Western Digital Caviar Black 1.5 TB SATA II 7200 RPM 3.5 Inch Internal Hard Drive (WD1501FASS). 

WD1501FASSHopefully you’ve read my blog about what to consider when it’s time to upgrade a hard drive.

When the time comes for the need to replace your hard drive, choosing the right drive is not always the easiest task.  If you do a significant amount of audio/picture/video processing, you will need a high-performance drive to run your computer (ie. boot drive) and/or to run your editing programs.  An eco-green drive may not be sufficient for this purpose, unless you are just replacing a data storage drive.

If you are interested in upgrading to a high-capacity performance (7200 rpm) drive, do you go for a 2TB drive, which has more space but also costs more, or do you get a 1TB and save some money?  In this case, how about somewhere in between.  For drive performance, this WD Black 1.5 TB drive receives a top-5 recommendation.  Sure, there are others with similar performance, but IMHO this drive has the optimal balance when considering performance, storage, and price.

With this drive, you will have the space and speed to store and edit all your space-consuming HD videos of your dog swimming in the lake or the bachelor party you never should have filmed.

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Seagate Barracuda LP 2 TB SATA Green Drive ST32000542AS

Seagate Barracuda LP 2 TB ST32000542AS

3.5-Inch Internal Hard Drive
5900RPM
SATA 3 GB/s 32 MB Cache

I purchased a handful of these for various purposes:  to increase storage capacity in a few computers, to put in a D-Link DNS-343 NAS box, and to replace the existing drives on a Buffalo LinkStation Duo (2TB) NAS box.  Bottom line is that these drives are excellent data storage drives.

First thing I did was update the firmware to CC35 for these drives, and thankfully so because each of the drives were still running CC34.  I used the bootable disk (available at Seagate.com), and unfortunately the updater rejected all of the drives.  The error message is as follows:  “The existing CC34 components did not match what was called out in the update matrix in the configuration file.”  So I just forced the update on the drives by using the bootable CD and going into the FreeDOS prompt.  After power cycling the drives after the update, the disks were ready to go.  For detailed information on how to upgrade the firmware, see this blog.

After updating, I ran a benchmark test on these drives.

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