External HDD or SSD for backups?

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Austinian
MOD Austinian Forum Pro • Posts: 10,655
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

a_c_skinner wrote:

I think that is good advice. I'd always assumed a USB drive, if cracked open, revealed a standard SATA drive that could be tried in a new enclosure. Apparently a lot don't so even if the drive is intact a failed one can be difficult to read. A USB enclosure plus a standard drive if you don't care to have naked drives lying around.

I store my backup drives in antistatic bags inside padded envelopes with the backup contents and date written on them.

Backup hardware does not need to be highly reliable because you will have a strategy (bascially several up to date copies stored off line) so a single or even duplicate failure won't affect all your data.

Yes, however, I want to know if anything in the backup system has a problem. So I always check the 'verify' box when doing Macrium image backups, and when I'm cloning backups I switch off the internal boot SSDs and boot from the cloned HDD to make sure the clone was successful.

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a_c_skinner Forum Pro • Posts: 10,423
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

An interesting tactic to check (in large part) a bootable backup.

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Austinian
MOD Austinian Forum Pro • Posts: 10,655
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?
1

a_c_skinner wrote:

An interesting tactic to check (in large part) a bootable backup.

It's not a perfect check. However, over many years I've seen a few clones that refused to boot and BSOD'ed (usually a fault in the target disk) but I have not yet seen an instance where the cloned drive booted but any data was lost. It's certainly not impossible, which is one reason I also do image backups.

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Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson Forum Pro • Posts: 14,043
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

Austinian wrote:

Yes, however, I want to know if anything in the backup system has a problem. So I always check the 'verify' box when doing Macrium image backups...

One of my gripes about the otherwise very good Macrium package is that there doesn't seem to be a way to make "verify after backup" a default.  I have to manually go into the options dialogue and check it every time.

a_c_skinner Forum Pro • Posts: 10,423
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

As I said, a clever tactic.

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Austinian
MOD Austinian Forum Pro • Posts: 10,655
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

Sean Nelson wrote:

Austinian wrote:

Yes, however, I want to know if anything in the backup system has a problem. So I always check the 'verify' box when doing Macrium image backups...

One of my gripes about the otherwise very good Macrium package is that there doesn't seem to be a way to make "verify after backup" a default. I have to manually go into the options dialogue and check it every time.

I agree, but it's a small 'price to pay' for software that works so well. Especially since I use the free version. It would be hard for me to complain and keep a straight face.

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skyglider Veteran Member • Posts: 5,678
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

Sean Nelson wrote:

Justme wrote:

I am looking at Seagate SSD and HDD for backups in the 2TB range. SSD costs double but is it more reliable?

No media, even SSDs, are immune from failure, so you should have more than one backup drive and alternate them. The last thing you want to discover after your live drives die, get corrupted or or stolen is that your sole backup is also dead. You also don't want to be in the situation where, for example, your system suffers its failure halfway through cloning your live data to your only backup drive. Now that backup is half updated and may be useless. And whatever took out your system might have taken out the backup as well.

That being the case, I see no reason to pay the extra money for an SSD as backup media. The big extra that SSDs give you is speed more than reliability, and you don't really need the speed for backup media since you don't normally run your backups while you're actually doing work on the computer. And the reliability issue is covered by having multiple backups.

+1

And use an external docking station that you can drop hard drives in. Do not use drives that come in USB enclosures.

Alternating backup drives:

Put a sticker on the end of each of two drives like B1 and B2 (Backup1 and Backup2). Keep the bare backup drives in the anti-static bag that they come in, along with a piece of paper that's labeled B1 or B2. Alternate your backups. Each time you do a backup, write the date and name of the internal hard drive you backed up on the piece of paper. Like "200809 system drive" -or- "200809 D: data drive", etc.

I also put stickers on the outside of the anti-static bag that says "Last backup of system drive" and "Last backup of D: data drive". When I do a backup, I move the appropriate sticker to that drive. This makes it easier to determine which backup drive was last used for which internal drive without having to remove the papers in both bags to compare and determine which backup was the last one.

There is a free program called "Directory list and print pro". From time to time, I use it to print all of the backups that are on a backup drive, label the printout as B1 or B2, and put that print out in the anti-static bag.

As far as which brand of hard drive is most reliable, I just buy Western Digital or Seagate which ever one is cheaper at the time. I like 5400 rpm drives for my backup drives since they run cooler. (My internal mechanical hard drives are always 7200 rpm.)

Sky

skyglider Veteran Member • Posts: 5,678
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?
1

PHXAZCRAIG wrote:

My experience with external backup drives has been dismal, with many failing soon after the warranty expired. By many, I mean 3-4 over 6 or 7 years.

One would think that (modern) SSD drives would be more reliable, though I'm not sure what happens if no power is applied for a year or two. However, I just experienced my third (internal) SSD failure in the past 4 years. The early models seem not to be as good as hoped.

Were those external backup drives the kind that come in USB enclosures or were they bare drives that you drop into a docking station?

I think you might already know the following, but for lurkers:

  • The backup drives that come in USB enclosures can be very failure oriented.
  • If using bare drives that are dropped into a docking station, then one must be careful not to touch the drive's circuit board when handling the drive to avoid damage by static electricity. Also store the bare drive in the anti-static bag that they come in.

Sky

rickpoole Senior Member • Posts: 1,207
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?
1

When I got my 5 TB Toshiba internal drive a few years ago I also got two identical drives to use as alternating backups and a SATA USB 3.1 drive dock.  I use Genie Backup Manager Pro which makes it very easy to do mirror backups.  The first time I did backups to unused drives the backup drive was too hot to remove from the dock and I had to let it cool for 10 minutes.  Even doing a mirror backup to an existing backup drive sometimes got the drive too hot to handle.  So, I started putting a small fan right by the backup drive in the dock and it made a big difference - the drives were still quite warm but not too hot to handle as soon as the backups completed.

Eventually I noticed that Windows 10's default for removable drives is to disable write caching.  So, I did some research and found you can easily turn write caching on for a removable drive but you have to remember to eject the drive before you remove it from the dock less you loose data.  Turning write caching on and doing a full mirror backup to a freshly formatted drive dramatically reduced the temperature of the backup drive to the point it was just slightly warm after completing a mirror backup, plus it speed up the backups quite a bit.  So, theoretically by keeping the drives cooler they will last longer.

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CAcreeks
CAcreeks Forum Pro • Posts: 15,855
Re: What do you think about these portables?

Justme wrote:

These are external slim portable HDD. How do they pack a 2TB HDD into such a small case? Does that affect heat build-up in a negative way? How do these slim portables compare for reliability to external HDD in larger cases?

They probably use 2.5" laptop drives. HDD doesn't heat up much in normal use. I would not expect superb longevity.

Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB External Hard Drive Portable HDD – Silver USB 3.0 for PC Laptop.

Did you notice that the 4TB and 5TB versions are thicker?

SC489 Senior Member • Posts: 1,269
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

Sean Nelson wrote:

Austinian wrote:

Yes, however, I want to know if anything in the backup system has a problem. So I always check the 'verify' box when doing Macrium image backups...

One of my gripes about the otherwise very good Macrium package is that there doesn't seem to be a way to make "verify after backup" a default. I have to manually go into the options dialogue and check it every time.

This is very easy to do if you create a Backup Definition File which stores the verify option. In fact Reflects invites you to create such a file. I schedule backups which also runs the Verify option. Note you can use the viBoot feature to boot an image to a virtual machine as a further check you can boot the image.

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Fred Colon Forum Member • Posts: 86
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

The flash technology inside SSD drives has characteristics that limit the number of write operations that can take place before failures occur. Wear leveling algorithims minimise writing to the same blocks but even so the write life time can be very much shorter than an HDD.

I have a first hand example of this in my Kodi Multimedia machine which is based on a Raspberry Pi. It uses an SD card in place of a hard drive. Due to the way Kodi works it continuously writes a log file to the SD Card evey few seconds ( unless you know and disable it). After 18 months of this it stopped working as the SD card had to many errors. A new card was the only solution to get it going again.

Because of this I have the OS in my PC running from an SSD and all data that needs frequent creation and modification on HDD.

I don't recommend "external" HDDs at all based on what I often see in PC Talk.

What I recommend is a USB dock that accepts standard desktop SATA HDDs. That way any failure of the USB hardware won't affect your existing backups; the dock is easily and cheaply replaced, and you can back up multiple HDDs in rotation and have most of your backup HDDs safely off-line.

I'm afraid I don't accept this.  If you think the usb hardware in the drive enclosure is going to fail then it's probably just as likely the SATA interface in the drive will fail.  Plug in docks in my opinion are more likely to fail because of the increased number of mechanical connections - especially if they are plugged in/out reguarly.

But whatever works for you

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afterburn Senior Member • Posts: 1,315
Reliability
2

CAcreeks wrote:

Internal 3.5" drives have more capacity than 2.5" laptop drives. Are they more reliable?

Mechanical harddisks are 'old tech' and have not fundamentally changed over the last 30 odd years other than their capacity, physical size and interface. They are proven technology and generally very reliable regardless of size or capacity.

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Austinian
MOD Austinian Forum Pro • Posts: 10,655
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?
1

Fred Colon wrote:

I don't recommend "external" HDDs at all based on what I often see in PC Talk.

What I recommend is a USB dock that accepts standard desktop SATA HDDs. That way any failure of the USB hardware won't affect your existing backups; the dock is easily and cheaply replaced, and you can back up multiple HDDs in rotation and have most of your backup HDDs safely off-line.

I'm afraid I don't accept this. If you think the usb hardware in the drive enclosure is going to fail then it's probably just as likely the SATA interface in the drive will fail.

Given the many reports here of external USB drive failures, I would want to see comparable failure rates data before I'd believe that they were as reliable as standard desktop SATA HDDs.

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afterburn Senior Member • Posts: 1,315
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

Austinian wrote:

Fred Colon wrote:

I don't recommend "external" HDDs at all based on what I often see in PC Talk.

What I recommend is a USB dock that accepts standard desktop SATA HDDs. That way any failure of the USB hardware won't affect your existing backups; the dock is easily and cheaply replaced, and you can back up multiple HDDs in rotation and have most of your backup HDDs safely off-line.

I'm afraid I don't accept this. If you think the usb hardware in the drive enclosure is going to fail then it's probably just as likely the SATA interface in the drive will fail.

Given the many reports here of external USB drive failures, I would want to see comparable failure rates data before I'd believe that they were as reliable as standard desktop SATA HDDs.

There's many angles here. There are definitely external disks out there, where the enclosure, while pretty, does not provide any cooling to the drive and in fact can be suspected to increase drive temperature. You do not want to use such drives extensively without risking failures.

That said, using a SATA dock as you posted elsewhere can be tricky too: the drives are standing upright in the dock and gravity can pull a fast one on you that way, particularly with high density drives where the heads are ever so slightly in a different position while reading and writing standing up to such extend that you can read errors or even failures when mounting it normal in the flat position.

Personally, I don't like those 'rugged' 2.5" USB drives. They are slow and can't cool the drive inside and it doesn't add much of anything in the form of protection. I guess they are ok for on the go, due to their size but I wouldn't use them for permanent backups. I'd very much prefer something like the dock, especially if it has an eSATA connection. Fast and reliable, provided you keep in mind the above caveat (you want to format and use them always in the same position).

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Austinian
MOD Austinian Forum Pro • Posts: 10,655
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

afterburn wrote:

Austinian wrote:

Fred Colon wrote:

I don't recommend "external" HDDs at all based on what I often see in PC Talk.

What I recommend is a USB dock that accepts standard desktop SATA HDDs. That way any failure of the USB hardware won't affect your existing backups; the dock is easily and cheaply replaced, and you can back up multiple HDDs in rotation and have most of your backup HDDs safely off-line.

I'm afraid I don't accept this. If you think the usb hardware in the drive enclosure is going to fail then it's probably just as likely the SATA interface in the drive will fail.

Given the many reports here of external USB drive failures, I would want to see comparable failure rates data before I'd believe that they were as reliable as standard desktop SATA HDDs.

There's many angles here. There are definitely external disks out there, where the enclosure, while pretty, does not provide any cooling to the drive and in fact can be suspected to increase drive temperature. You do not want to use such drives extensively without risking failures.

That could indeed be a factor in external drive failure.

That said, using a SATA dock as you posted elsewhere can be tricky too: the drives are standing upright in the dock and gravity can pull a fast one on you that way, particularly with high density drives where the heads are ever so slightly in a different position while reading and writing standing up to such extend that you can read errors or even failures when mounting it normal in the flat position.

In my case at least, if the backup was made with the drive docked in a vertical position, any restore would also be made from the dock, so the drive would again be in a vertical position.

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CAcreeks
CAcreeks Forum Pro • Posts: 15,855
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?

afterburn wrote:

Given the many reports here of external USB drive failures, I would want to see comparable failure rates data before I'd believe that they were as reliable as standard desktop SATA HDDs.

There's many angles here. There are definitely external disks out there, where the enclosure, while pretty, does not provide any cooling to the drive and in fact can be suspected to increase drive temperature. You do not want to use such drives extensively without risking failures.

Full backup might be the most demanding application for an external disk. Ours heat up noticeably during Macrium backup. We have had failures over the years, but USB HDD continues to be an excellent solution for backup and file-sync. (No SATA dock yet.)

That said, using a SATA dock as you posted elsewhere can be tricky too: the drives are standing upright in the dock and gravity can pull a fast one on you that way, particularly with high density drives where the heads are ever so slightly in a different position while reading and writing standing up to such extend that you can read errors or even failures when mounting it normal in the flat position.

The one I cited above keeps the drive horizontal, which seems optimum after thinking about the physics of spinning platters. Plus it has a dust cover. Our house isn't as dusty as it used to be before we bought a Roomba, but it's much dustier than my workplace.

Sean Nelson
Sean Nelson Forum Pro • Posts: 14,043
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?
2

Fred Colon wrote:

..continuously writes a log file to the SD Card evey few seconds ( unless you know and disable it). After 18 months of this it stopped working as the SD card had to many errors. A new card was the only solution to get it going again.

Because of this I have the OS in my PC running from an SSD and all data that needs frequent creation and modification on HDD.

It's a good idea to avoid SSD for heavily write-intensive files, but desktop drives are a lot more robust than SD cards because they're usually powered on for a much larger percentage of their lifespan.  During idle periods the SSD's controller scans for marginal storage pages and rewrites or reallocates them.   You also have the ability to look at the state of the drive's SMART counters to keep track of degradation before it becomes a real problem.

SC489 Senior Member • Posts: 1,269
Re: Reliability
1

afterburn wrote:

CAcreeks wrote:

Internal 3.5" drives have more capacity than 2.5" laptop drives. Are they more reliable?

Mechanical harddisks are 'old tech' and have not fundamentally changed over the last 30 odd years other than their capacity, physical size and interface. They are proven technology and generally very reliable regardless of size or capacity.

External hard drives are reliable provided you ensure they are static whilst running. I once nudged one whilst operating and it died.

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Fred Colon Forum Member • Posts: 86
Re: External HDD or SSD for backups?
1

Austinian wrote:

Fred Colon wrote:

I don't recommend "external" HDDs at all based on what I often see in PC Talk.

What I recommend is a USB dock that accepts standard desktop SATA HDDs. That way any failure of the USB hardware won't affect your existing backups; the dock is easily and cheaply replaced, and you can back up multiple HDDs in rotation and have most of your backup HDDs safely off-line.

I'm afraid I don't accept this. If you think the usb hardware in the drive enclosure is going to fail then it's probably just as likely the SATA interface in the drive will fail.

Given the many reports here of external USB drive failures, I would want to see comparable failure rates data before I'd believe that they were as reliable as standard desktop SATA HDDs.

Yes it would be good to get actual failure rate data rather than rely on what you read on forums.  In my experience forums are full of people complaining about things and those with no problems seldom post just to say 'My widget works really well without any problems.'

From my own experience over many years I've had a couple of internal drives fail but no external drives.

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