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External Hard Drive Myths

Posted by Keith Freund On March - 11 - 20091 COMMENT

You’ve probably heard someone say, “don’t buy [insert hard drive brand]… mine crashed on me and I lost everything.” You may have heard that LaCie drives do not fail.

But you’re still not sure, so you do a little research.

You check out some reviews online, do a search on… maybe you’ll go to Guitar Center and have Joe Shred* tell you what he likes to use, next thing you know you’re leaving confused, half-naked with a bunch of $3,000 Monster cables…

Or you ask me and I’ll tell you to pick whatever has cool-looking lights on the front. And I’ll insist that you buy three of them.

But we’ll get back to that in a minute. As far as deliverables** go, LaCie is the industry standard. Like Apple and Pro Tools, many people won’t take you seriously if you’re using anything but LaCie. While I was working for Avatar in NYC, we used exclusively LaCie drives for data storage and deliverables (unless requested otherwise).

So I used to believe they didn’t crash too. That is, until my D2 Quadra crashed after 3 weeks for no apparent reason. At that point I decided to do some research of my own:


That’s right, the hard disk itself isn’t made by LaCie at all. Turns out, this is true for most external hard drive manufacturers.

You can get flashy. Avastor and Glyph drives use more expensive components and are often considered the best by those in the know. Personally, I put spinners on my Glyph 050Q:

Glyph Spinners
Now that’s class.

But even Glyph uses Seagate disks*** (they have found Seagate to be the most reliable). In other words:

No matter how much money you spend, your drive will fail. You will lose data. And you will be pissed.

So what does all of this mean? Buy anything and pray?

Yes! …well no, but when you’re picking out an external hard drive you can pretty much remove reliability from the equation (barring any widely-reported glitches). I went with Glyph for three reasons:

  1. Excellent warranty and replacement policy
  2. High-quality components, including the bridging chip (bridging is supposedly the second most common source of external hard drive failures , although I could find no official study to confirm this)
  3. Good tech support

The moral of the story is this: the only real way to be safe is to have at least three copies of everything, one of which should be in another location to account for physical damage or theft. I back up sessions to several hard drives as well as data DVDs, which I mail out of state bi-weekly. That means even if Fix Your Mix HQ gets nuked, your session is in Atlanta somewhere…

FixYourMix Headquarters
(FYM Headquarters… right, Phil?)

To be fair:

  • LaCie customer service was very good to me and tech support was moderately prompt. I would not hesitate to use a LaCie in the future. I’m just saying that I also wouldn’t hesitate to use anything else.
  • My Glyph 050Q fan was clicking and whirring within a week, but tech support told me a temporary fix (stick a paper clip in between the fan blades during boot up) and sent me a replacement fan, free of charge.

Have your own hard drive horror story? Share it in the comments section.

*Okay, okay. Not all Guitar Center sales reps are evil, soul-sucking capitalist pigs. But you know who you are.

**A deliverable is exactly what it sounds like: an item, product or artifact which must be created and then delivered as part of an obligation. In the audio industry that may mean hard drives, data DVDs, CD masters, session recall notes, et al.


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