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External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

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External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby paddy2424 » Sun Aug 02, 2020 3:18 pm

Hi everyone!

I would really appreciate some advice regarding external hard drives, specifically when related to music production. One of my external HDDs (the drive I usually work from) died the other day so i'm looking to replace it, but I'd also like to understand what the best practices are now....

My setup is as follows:
- iMac late 2015 with 4 x USB3 & 2 x Thunderbolt 2 ports
- And I run Pro Tools with an Avid mBox Pro/3rd gen (connected to a TB2 port using a TB-FireWire adapter - cheers Apple!)
- I have quite a lot of sample libraries (probably around 1.5-2 terabytes in total), plus project files...so all in I'd say I need about 4TBs worth of storage

And here are my questions:

1. is it recommended to keep virtual instrument samples on a separate external drive to DAW project files, or is it best to have them all on the same drive? Or doesn't it matter/how much does it matter?
1a. or to ask it another way, how many hard drives should I have and for what purposes?!

2. is a USB-3 7200 RPM HDD fast enough for running samples from? Up until now I've been using a 7200 RPM thunderbolt 1 hard drive for working from, so want to ensure there wouldn't be a drop in performance

3. Are there desktop-class SSDs like there are desktop HDDs (as opposed to portable)? I can't seem to find any so guessing not, but I've heard that portable HDDs aren't a good idea for working from all day...is that the same with portable SDDs?

4. Any other recommendations for best practice when it comes to external hard drives and music production?

Apologies for all the questions! I've been researching this for the last couple of days but it's often difficult to find an answer or I'm not sure how knowledgeable the blogs/article authors are. Even though I don't know anyone on the SOS forums, I've seen so much good advice and decency here over the years that I would probably trust many of you with my life!

Cheers everyone, let me know if you have any questions about my setup or whatever.

Paddy
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby desmond » Sun Aug 02, 2020 4:00 pm

paddy2424 wrote:1. is it recommended to keep virtual instrument samples on a separate external drive to DAW project files, or is it best to have them all on the same drive? Or doesn't it matter/how much does it matter?
1a. or to ask it another way, how many hard drives should I have and for what purposes?!

It really depends on you and your projects. If you're streaming hundreds of audio files, and streaming hundreds of voices of streaming samples, then spreading that load across different disks and/or busses is a good idea. If your projects can comfortably fit within what one drive can deliver, then it doesn't really matter. Only you know the resources used in your projects, so only you can judge that.

paddy2424 wrote:2. is a USB-3 7200 RPM HDD fast enough for running samples from? Up until now I've been using a 7200 RPM thunderbolt 1 hard drive for working from, so want to ensure there wouldn't be a drop in performance

USB3 and TB are all busses that can deliver performance faster than what the drive can deliver, so the limitation is the drive, not the interface.

paddy2424 wrote:3. Are there desktop-class SSDs like there are desktop HDDs (as opposed to portable)? I can't seem to find any so guessing not, but I've heard that portable HDDs aren't a good idea for working from all day...is that the same with portable SDDs?

As far as I'm aware, there is no difference other than size/form factor.

paddy2424 wrote:4. Any other recommendations for best practice when it comes to external hard drives and music production?

Not really - drives and busses are all perfectly capable of great performance these days.
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby paddy2424 » Sun Aug 02, 2020 4:29 pm

Amazing, thanks so much Desmond!
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby desmond » Sun Aug 02, 2020 4:33 pm

You're welcome!
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby paddy2424 » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:48 pm

I've just realised that my lacie hard drive (the one that failed) allows you to replace the internal drives. So assuming it's the hard drives themselves that have failed, rather than the enclosure/thunderbolt connection isn't the issue, I may be able to sort this out more cheaply than I thought.

Two (and a bit) questions come to mind, if Desmond or anybody can advise:

1. is there a way to test if it's the hard drives themselves that are the issue (there are 2 x 2 terabyte Seagate Barracudas inside) or if it's the enclosure/something else - if you don't have another hard drive to test it with? And if I could find a spare one, is there any risk to the test HDD?

2. Is it possible to simply swap an HDD with an SDD in an external hard drive? Google keeps returning pages about replacing your computers HDD with an SDD, but not with external hard drives. My Lacie shipped with HDDs.

Thanks again!

Paddy
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby desmond » Sun Aug 02, 2020 5:58 pm

paddy2424 wrote:1. is there a way to test if it's the hard drives themselves that are the issue (there are 2 x 2 terabyte Seagate Barracudas inside) or if it's the enclosure/something else - if you don't have another hard drive to test it with? And if I could find a spare one, is there any risk to the test HDD?

It's generally usually easy enough to swap drives, but you need to be careful sometimes. I know nothing about whatever drives you're using but a bit of googling would help you figure out if the enclosures are locked to the drive or are easily replaceable. Plus if you have multiple drives in there, you need to look at how they are configured, as if they are in various raid configs or something, then you might not be able to just swap a single drive in and out etc.

I've swapped loads of drives around and never had an issue but I mostly use WD drives and have more experience with them.

paddy2424 wrote:2. Is it possible to simply swap an HDD with an SDD in an external hard drive? Google keeps returning pages about replacing your computers HDD with an SDD, but not with external hard drives. My Lacie shipped with HDDs.

Probably not a good idea - plus your enclosure might only support limited drive sizes. Better to buy a decent modern enclosure to handle newer drives, then you can be sure it will work. It might work, but I'd be a bit wary of doing that, but I can't really give specifics as I don't know what gear you're dealing with - and I'd then only go and do some googling around anyway.
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby paddy2424 » Sun Aug 02, 2020 6:08 pm

Cheers Desmond, really helpful again.

I'll do some more googling and figure it out. Or maybe I'll just buy a new external drive and climb out of this hard drive rabbit hole.

:headbang:
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby ManFromGlass » Sun Aug 02, 2020 7:00 pm

From what I’ve been hearing from fellow composers if you are switching to good quality SSDs then it no longer matters keeping multiple drives for what you are running. Some are still leery to run everything from the boot SSD though.
I keep numerous HHDs and SSDs for multiple backups un-cased beside one of those dock units. I learned the hard way to get a dock unit that can handle higher Terabyte counts as each generation seems to have a Tb limitation.
I’ve only changed my boot drive to an SSD so inside my old machine still keep 2 drives for samples, 1 for Logic projects and one for the movie files.

When this computer dies I’ll probably go all SSD inside with matching loose external SSDs so I can have 2 clones of each drive. As I currently have 26 HHDs sitting here from over the years it would be nice to have one big SSD to clone.
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby paddy2424 » Sun Aug 02, 2020 7:38 pm

Cheers for the insight MFG! How do you cope with so many drives?!

Sadly I can't afford SSDs for the capacity I need (about 4 terabytes). But as soon as I win the lottery....

I'm currently trying to figure out what new drives might be compatible with my lacie 2big raid enclosure. But whilst i'm capable of reading stuff and figuring it out, i've got no real technical expertise so don't know what i'm missing etc... But have contacted lacie support for advice.

Thanks again!
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Re: External hard drives & music production (and backing up)

Postby ManFromGlass » Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:26 pm

SOS is great for advice but it gets a bit trickier finding composer specific setup information, if that’s what you are looking for. Coping with the drives is easy enough. I actually write on them with permanent ink what they are a clone of and the date of the clone.
Knowing hard drives fail I try to spin them up once or twice a year.

With luck the LaCie people will get you sorted and Desmond always has great advice. I haven’t gone the raid route yet. I did have an 8Tb HD for backups and it worked great for a few years, then it died a short while after the warranty ran out. Then I have drives from 2003 and earlier that still work fine.
So at least double backups for me.
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