External hard drive for expanding iTunes library?

My hard drive is nearly full and I need to get an external HD for my rapidly expanding music library. I use iTunes and stream the music to my Airport Express to my Marantz SR-7200's DAC . Using a bel-canto eVo 6 and Gallo Ref 3's makes good music to me. All my music files are Aiff(uncompressed) and currently use 106GB. I've read good reviews online about the G-DRIVE 500GB External Hard Drive but I'm curious if any other Audiogoners have used it or could recommend other large,quiet and reliable external hard drives. My computer is an iMac G-5.
Thanks for any help.
I use the 2TB LaCie Bigger Disk Triple. You can use USB, FW400 or FW800. I have 4 of these daisy-chained together for my DVD movies and music.

The 500 gig Western Digital external is routinely on sale for about $200 at big box and office supply stores.. I think Best Buy has it for that now.

Don't forget a backup. Your main drive will eventually fail and you must have a backup. This is not a possibility, it is a definite.
Thank you Herman and Bruce for your replies but I'm curious as to how loud these hard drives' fans are?
Get an external HDD box like this one:

Then put a 400GB ATA HDD in it for around $110, such as this one:

This combo will set you back around $150 and will work with both USB and firewire. (I use it with firewire on my Mac, and it works great.) Very quiet and a cinch to install.

I agree with Herman that you do need an additional one for backups.

Heat is the enemy of hard drives. Unless it has a fan I would not get a box like Michael recommends. A sealed box is Ok for occasional backup use but if it is on all the time then it must be ventilated.
Thanks for the links Michael. I learned something new and I like the price and serviceablity of the products. But I'm still hoping for comments on the G-DRIVE 500GB which is claimed to dissipate heat well. I don't mind spending more money for quality and reliability. And it seem the consensus is I'll need to buy two hard drives; one active and one for back up. I know this guy who keeps his back-up HD in a safe deposit box and weekly updates it. I'm not ready to go that far.
I don't have any experience with the G-drive but it seems to be quite expensive. I respectfully disagree with the poster who said that an external hard drive needs a fan. Hard drives (and computer components in general) are much more rugged than we think. Hard drives are very reliable (certainly much more reliable than vacuum tubes). I have an old computer that kept killing its fans 7 years ago. I finally took the fans out and left the machine for dead, with its 2 hard drives, performing non-critical functions such as the print server and such. Running 24/7 in the 7 years since then, the system continues to function fine. And if you've ever taken apart an external hard drive enclosure shortly after the drive was running, you can pull the HD out and it just feels warm, not hot, to the touch.

Look at it this way: For the price of the G-drive, you could have TWO external hard drives (in other words, you would have the backup unit). Drives don't fail often (user error is a more common reason for data loss), but if it did you'd at least have 2nd drive as the backup.

It all depends on how much you want to spend. If you are OK with the price of the G-drive, then by all means get it. Then get a comparable sized drive for a backup. Simple as that.

Michael, your advice runs contrary to everything I have ever read on this subject including advice from IT professionals. The difference in $ between running them in a well ventilated box versus the cheaper sealed ones is not much. Why would you want to tempt fate and go against conventional wisdom to save a few cents?

BTW I have taken a hard drive from a sealed external enclosure and it was much warmer than when I ran the drive outside the box. It is a well established fact that running them hotter than you have to shortens their life.
I bought the G-Drive for my primary hard drive and I'm now considering Michael's advice for my back up drive. But having never transferred files from one drive to another, are there any easy mistakes I should avoid as to not lose files?
If properly constructed an external hard drive does not need a fan for cooling. LaCie, G-Force and others make metal drive enclosures that are quite efficient at ducting heat away from the drive unit. Since these enclosures depend on passive heat transfer it is important that you place them where they will receive ample air flow and not operate them in a high ambient temperature environment.
I purchased the G-Drive for my iTunes library and returned it because it was noisier than my OWC Mercury Elite Pro (300 gig) that I use for back up. So I purchased another OWC Elite-AL Pro 500 for less money than the G-Drive and now use it for my iTunes music library. I'm very happy with it so far. But my primary concern was the noise, so I can't comment on the reliability (yet). From my experience, you can hear the spinning of the HD on all external drives, but the OWC was definitely quieter than the G-Drive.
metal drive enclosures that are quite efficient at ducting heat away from the drive unit.

While I agree that some cases are better than others, it is indisputable that a drive will be warmer in a sealed box than in an enclosure that forces air across it.

If heat is the enemy of all electronic devices, which it most definitely is, it makes sense to run them as cool as reasonably possible.

I'm using eight 300 gig drives and had one of them fail recently after less than a year of use. I'm blowing some air across mine.
I've had too many external drives fail--three 250GB drives by Lacie and one by Maxstor. I just do not believe those drives are designed to be on 24/7.

I highly recommend the Terastation RAID boxes. The 1TB version is down to $600, and nets you about 700GB with RAID5 protection. I used to run a commercial RAID drive, which sounded like a 747 taking off and I had to put it in a soundproof enclosure in my garage. The Terastation is very quiet, and I'm just fine with it sitting on the shelf across the room.
I agree with Edesilva that an NAS RAID array is a good way to go. If I had to do over I would go that route.

I think it is interesting that Michael has declared hard drives to be extremely reliable based on his experience and Edesilva has declared external drives to be inherently unreliable based on his. While I don't think either one has enough data based on these personal experiences to back up their claims about these devices as a whole, there is an overwhelming body of evidence that finds hard drives unreliable enough that it is considered foolish to operate without a backup.

It's also interesting to note that the actual hard drive in an external drive is exactly the same drive that is used internaly, the difference being the case, the interface (usb or firewire or ethernet) and the power supply which is usually a wall wart. If you visit Audio Asylum's PC forum you see many declarations supporting the idea that external drives are unreliable. But why should that be if they are the same drives used internally? Could it be the heat?

Some of those failures which are attributed to the drives are actually due to the interface or the wall wart. I've had the interface fail in 2 of those cheap $29 cases and would have tossed a perfectly good drive if I hadn't removed the drive to test it.
The G Drive arrived yesterday but I haven't connected it yet because I don't have the correct cable. But I see there is a power swith on the back and wonder if switching the power off when I'm not listening to iTunes is a good idea? I plan on keeping only music files on the G Drive. Why would I want to leave it on 24/7?
In my application, I was running several different music servers off the same basic library of data files; leaving then on 24/7 is a lot easier than running downstairs to turn on a drive. If this isn't the case, then by all means turn it off. I'd note that Lacie drives I was using were the FA Porsche design ones, which I will be the first to admit may compromise heat dissipation for style. The maxstor drive I blew up was some odd blue organic shape looking thing.
I've had dozens of hard drives over the years (several of them external). Only 1 of them has catastrophically failed. By contrast, I've lost 3 computer power supplies. Maybe I'm just lucky when it comes to drives. (Most of them have been from Seagate, with several Western Digital. The failed one was a Maxtor, but that was only after 5 or 6 years.)

And while temperature is one of the many variables collected by S.M.A.R.T (a tool available in all drives produced in the past decade for predicting drive failure), according to people who know drives a lot more than I do, it's not all that predictive. (In fact, S.M.A.R.T isn't overly accurate in predicting failure.) For most electronic devices, it's the thermal stresses (ie, turning it off and on repeatedly) rather than the steady-state temperature that really causes problems. That's one of the reasons for keeping the units powered 24/7.

I'll disagree with a previous poster's suggestion about a NAS device. They're relatively expensive (you can build a fileserver with similar capabilities cheaper), and they're SLOW. Transferring at only 10 MB/s (at best) will get old really fast. (I have a 1 TB NAS and a gigabit ethernet network, and its chief limitation is the speed.) You can get better throughput with a USB or FireWire device and at a much better price.

Better still, build your own fileserver with 2 drives running in RAID 1 (full redundancy) for well under $500. Then get an external hard drive to back up the fileserver (RAID doesn't protect against viruses or user accidentally deleting things -- just drive failure).

Late to the table but here is my 2 cents. In the pro photo world, the g drive is THE standard. And trust me losing a 200,000 dollar job is alot worse than losing cd's that have been burned. Hope that helps.
I'll disagree with a previous poster's suggestion about a NAS device. They're relatively expensive (you can build a fileserver with similar capabilities cheaper), and they're SLOW.

For music files speed doesn't matter. Even 10Mbps is fast enough to rip and play discs and with RAID the backup is done in the background. Besides, how can a gigabit transfer rate be slower than USB? Please explain.

If a Buffalo TB NAS can be had for $600 how can you build it cheaper? How do you get a TB of drives, RAID controller, interface with USB ports, and a case with power supply for less than $600?

Better still, build your own fileserver with 2 drives running in RAID 1 (full redundancy) for well under $500. Then get an external hard drive to back up the fileserver

More details please. It sounds interesting but I can't figure out how to pull it off.

What volume of storage will you get for your $500? To equal a TB in RAID 5 (about 700 gig) with only 2 disks in RAID 1 would take the Seagate 750 gig drives which are over $300 each. So thats $600+ and you have to add the rest.

What enclosure do you use for the drives?
Is the RAID hardware or software based?
Would this work with multiple drives? I have over a TB of files so need multiple drives.

Regardless of what drive and configuration you choose, you should back up your data.
Hmm... Michael, isn't a terastation a "file server"? If you can put together a two drive RAID1 for $500, you are doing pretty well. But, your net cost is $2/GB--$500/250GB (this is assuming you are buying 250GB drives and using RAID1, which nets you 250GB of usable storage). My Terastation cost $600, but nets me 700GB of storage with the more efficient RAID5 spanning four drives--about $0.85/GB. So, in some ways, the Terastation is still cheaper. In further defense of the Terastation, I'd note that it can be operated as a USB drive, if that is what you want.

As far as speed goes, streaming 44.1/16 bit audio is about 1.4 mbps. I believe the Terastation's highest transfer rate is about 150 mbps (although there is a jumbo block mode that runs 450 mbps). Maybe that isn't 800 mbps firewire (which isn't, I believe, a sustained rate), but its fast enough by several orders of magnitude. There are those streaming 1080i and 720p content from terastations.

As far as the G-Drive goes, "pro photo" doesn't have the same goals as high end audio. I do image processing on my machine, and have an expensive WD Raptor drive that spins at 10K RPM for that. For image processing, fast is the end all be all, which means they are looking for high RPM drives configured in striped arrays. Think xServe RAID set up as RAID 0+1.

Bottom line is that for image processing, I'd prioritize transfer speed over redundancy, and use DVD ROM as a backup. For audio, I'd prioritize redundancy over transfer speed.
Edsilva my post on The g drive is in regards to reliability not speed. Some drives after awhile can develope problems with recognition and corrupting data. I perfer the best drives for archiving and that seems to be the G drives.Image processing has more to do with cpu speed and ram ram ram, " if its not backed up 3 times ,its not stable"

I used to think that a NAS was equivalent to a fileserver until I actually got one (Thecus N4100). I have a couple friends with other manufacturer's products, and we compared notes. They're all slow (the best gets around 12 Mbps, nowhere near the 150 Mbps that you're quoting). Despite having a gigabit ethernet interface and 4 decent drives running RAID 5, it lags substantially compared to my 9 year old fileserver (Dell PowerEdge running an ancient version of Linux).

I put all my audio data on it because the data outgrew my fileserver. Unfortunately, the whole process of ripping CD's, organizing the data, and extracting select pieces to transfer to a portable device is now much more time consuming. Don't underestimate the desire for better speed with audio data, as well.

You can construct a fileserver fairly inexpensively. Just skimp on the processor, memory, and video card while getting decent drives and network card. It won't need a monitor or keyboard once you get it up and running; you can administer it remotely from there on. One such example is https://secure.newegg.com/NewVersion/Wishlist/PublicWishDetail.asp?WishListNumber=3894685&WishListTitle=Cost%2Deffective+fileserver.

Just get your favorite distribution of Linux (you can download many for free, or pay a few dollars for a DVD). I would run this in RAID 0 because you'll have an external backup unit. This example system would have 800 GB, and would be flexible enough to allow other types of services (ie, you could also use it as a webserver and print server). This is my current recommendation for people needing substantial storage, and use the NAS devices (or just an external hard drive) as backups.

To answer Howell's original question, I think the G-Drive will probably work great for you. Just make sure you have a separate backup unit and you're fine. Many good drives are available in the $100ish range that have 5 year warranties, so I don't think you need to go overboard. As long as you have a good backup, you can fix even a catastrophic drive failure easily and inexpensively. That's just the point that I've been trying to get across.

01-05-07: Mondonitro
Edsilva my post on The g drive is in regards to reliability not speed. Some drives after awhile can develope problems with recognition and corrupting data. I perfer the best drives for archiving and that seems to be the G drives.
I imagine the popularity of the Mac for the pro photo world you work in influences those users when it comes to choosing an external drive. The G-DRIVE has the same design cues as a G5 Mac and is pre-formatted as Apple's HFS, so it's plug and play for the Mac crowd. Ergo - popular.

Best - who knows what is the "best"?

Inside the G-DRIVE (assembled by G-Tech, an offshoot of Medéa Corporation, acquired by Avid on Jan 12, 2006) are Hitachi 7200 rpm drives. If you think these are the most reliable hard drives around, good luck to you.

Michael, I'm still confused about what you are calling a file server. As far as I'm concerned, a box on the network that serves up files is a file server, and a NAS qualifies. No, its not as fast as my Dell PowerVault either, but it didn't cost $3K and it isn't loud as a 747 on take-off.

I've backed up 600GB off my terastation overnight. 600GB/(8 hrs x 3600 sec/hr) = 0.02GB/s = 160 mbps... Would it be faster configured in RAID0? Yeah, probably (and I can configure it that way). It also works as a printserver, BTW. And, I gather it will run slimserver on a standalone basis.

So, you get slower performance ripping CDs, organizing tunes, and d/ling to your portable. Ripping CDs is not a process that is storage drive limited--99% of the time there is (if, like me, you use EAC) CD reader dependent and processor dependent for the compression. D/ling to a portable? Yeah, maybe a bit slower, but I usually do that overnight and, frankly, the speed of that is probably more dependent on the interface to the portable. Organizing tunes is a big topic, but I find that as long as the XML library file is on my local fast drive, searching isn't an issue. If I want to retag 10,000 files, well, yeah, it takes a while. I don't do that very often.

So, I still don't understand why you advocate RAID 0. Especially as a low cost option. The speed--for audio--is overkill. And, now you seem to be saying $500 for the RAID 0 server *and* you still need a NAS to back it all up. Why not something simple like the terastation or similar boxes?
Michael, you seem to know a bit about this, and I also considered the route you advocate with a cheap computer controlling the drives, but why not go with a board that supports SATA drives and has a RAID 5 controller built in? They also have IDE ports so you can have backup drives in the same box. I know a bit more $$ up front but SATA drives are cheaper and this is much more powerful so it seems like a better route in the long term.

I know just enough about that to be dangerous so any input would be appreciated.
I advocate RAID 0 because (non-zero) RAID protects against one thing and one thing only: A single hard drive failure. (Lose 2 and you're hosed.) It allows you to work even when a drive fails. It does NOT protect against the more common reasons for data loss (user screwups, viruses, etc). Hence you still need a backup solution. So if you're a business that depends on having continuous 24/7 access to your data, you use RAID. On the other hand, if 24/7 continuous access is not critical to the application, as is the case here, save your money and just purchase a replacement HDD if/when it becomes necessary. You have backups, so you can restore the data easily. Make sense?

RAID 1 doubles the number of drives you need, and RAID 5 really only makes sense with at least 4 drives. So you're adding an additional 2 drives effectively to achieve redundancy for comparable data storage. You'll have to purchase an additional HDD if any of the drives dies regardless of which RAID type you use.

Edesilva, are you referring to Buffalo's 1 TB Terastation? My friend has one and we're getting nowhere near the 160 Mbps that you're getting. Which model do you have? We do much better transferring files PC to PC across his gigabit ethernet network than we do from Terastation to PC.

And the reason I advocate building your own machine is that it is more flexible in the long run. Want to add additional capabilities to make it some sort of media server? No problem. Want to add Myth TV software to make it like a TIVO? It's doable (although that does take some work and special hardware). Or you can also use it as a router/firewall.

I guess my point is that it's your backups (preferably stored away from your computer), not RAID that really protects your data. You'll pay extra for RAID. Just make sure you need it.

Yes, but... RAID 0 doubles the number of drives as well, and it doesn't give you any redundancy protection. Frankly, I've backed up my RAID 5 as well anyway--no way I want to rip that many CDs again and do all the indexing and get all the artwork. Once is enough...

Sure your friend's isn't on a hub versus a switch or something? At 16 mbps, it would have taken four days to back mine up, and it was overnight. Maybe I'm underestimating overnight using 8 hours, but I'm not underestimating by a factor of 10--it was overnight...

As far as building your own, I built my last computer and, while I won't claim to be any sort of computer genius (last system I built was a Z80 on an S100 bus), it isn't purely plug-and-play. I had to work out a fair number of oddball issues, and some of them took some time and research. Not sure everyone is up for that. I like the terastation b/c it is basically plug-and-play. Its not perfect--multiple access is a lot slower than my PowerVault, for example--but it is pretty good protection versus the consumer USB/firewire drives so many use. After the number of failures I've had with those, I'm much more comfortable with the idea of my catastrophic failure being two drives failing at the same time...

Guess everyone is going to have their own comfort zone here. Part of the reason I'd advocate not giving away or selling the original CDs. Those are, ultimately, the last backup...
I'm coming to this thread late, but I have a G-Drive 500G Q Drive to hold music files and use as a back up for my Mac Powerbook and Macbook Pro. I bought it for speed (FW800), reliability, and because it is fanless. I've been happy with the speed and reliability, but for a fanless HD, it is a bit noisier than I'd like. When I'm listening to music from iTunes, the hard disk is spinning and it is fairly loud. When I'm listening to music, it doesn't bother me, but when I'm trying to concentrate with no music, the drive noise seems pretty loud. I agree that RAID's are the way to go if you want the most reliability, since there is a backup built in if the drive fails. Nevertheless, RAID's are a pretty expensive option. I have an old cheap external I can use to back up my iTunes collection.

Howell, by now, you've probably spent some time with the G-Drive. What do you think?

Does anyone know where to find a review of noise ratings for different external hard drives?

Thanks for your response Mark . I agree with you that for a fanless HD, the G-Drive seemed surprisingly loud when I fired it up for the first time. Especially when compared with the built in HD of my iMac G-5 which is unbelievably quiet. So loud in fact, that I moved it from a high and central location to a more low and sequestered one (in relation to my main speakers) on day two. That 10' change made a big difference, and the noise hasn't bothered me since then. And it just occurred to me. Either I'm getting used to the noise; and/or it is becoming more quiet with use because the only times I notice it, is when I'm sitting at the computer when activating the G-Drive which is a few feet below my computer desk. In my experience, precision machines improve as they break in; and I hope that is what is happening in this case.
I have had the drive about 6 months and I don't think it has gotten quieter. In fact, I've grown more sensitive to the sound, so it sounds louder, even though it probably isn't. I have it sitting next to my computer on the top of a desk. When I'm sitting at the computer, it is very noticable, but when I'm sitting in the listening chair, I don't notice it much. I think the laptop-sized hard drives are the quietest (but also most expensive) option. I'm not surprised your G-5 drive is quieter, since my other external drives are much quieter than the G-Drive. Most of the time drive speed isn't an issue for iTunes, so I may use my 250gb Porsche La Cie drive (which I thought was loud, but it is much quieter than the G-Drive) for listening and use the G-Drive for archival purposes. I also may try to keep a small version of the music server on my internal laptop HD, which is practically silent, and just use the G-Drive as a holding bay. For this purpose, the speed of the G-Drive should come in handy!

Have fun with it. It is a cool looking and high quality computer accessory, even though I wouldn't recommend using it in near field listening environments.


You bought a drive for reliability that doesn't have a fan? How hot is the case in terms of degrees over room temp? I really hope you consider backing up your data in another form...

In this vein, I'd also note that I can't hear my drive at all--because its hooked up to my network, not my computer. Which means its in a nice, cool basement a long, long way away from my listening position.

I just felt up the G-Drive and she's runninq cool. A few degree above my room temperature which is 66 F.
Mine runs very cool as well. The only criticism I have of the drive is the noise level.
Just in case anyone is interested, I called up G-Tech Customer Support and asked some questions about the drive. Of potential interest to Agon members, this is what they said:

1. The drive noise is due to the five platters, which are spinning at the same time. For a comparable hard drive from another company, the drive would be even louder because it would have a fan.

2. As I expected, they said the G-Mini drive, which is similar to a laptop drive, is much quieter than the 500 gigabyte G-Drive.

3. I asked if there were any ways to reduce the noise. As expected, they advised against putting it in an enclosure, due to potential overheating.

4. They were surprised I was so concerned about this and asked if I was using it in a recording studio. I should have just said yes, but I explained that I was using it in a listening room.

5. They don't have specifications on db levels for different drives.

6. So, I didn't learn much that I didn't already know. However, I could try getting a long cord and moving it farther away from the listening position.

For reviews of noise levels for various drives, check out www.silentpcreview.com. The comments on silentpcreview are consistent with what I've been saying. If you want a 500GB external drive, then it isn't going to be silent, even if it is fanless. It seems misleading, but silent to audiophiles is much different than silent or quiet in the computer products field. The quietest 3.5" drives appear to hover around 30dbA@1m, while the quietest 2.5" drives (laptop-sized drives) can be below 20dbA@1m, which is a huge difference. For a quiet drive near the listening position, the 2.5" drives are the best option. However, they max out at 160GB, so if your iTunes library is bigger than 160GB, you'll need to try one of the quieter 3.5" drives (which, for all I know, may include the G-Drive in the 500GB category). If you have a huge iTunes library and you have a wireless setup, then you could set up an iTunes library in another room or in an audio closet, using a cheap used Mac or PC connected to your wireless network.

For near field listening, I'm thinking about buying one of the quietest 2.5" models recommended by silentpcreview and using my G-Drive for backups and videos.

I’ll toss my 2 cents in.

Like some of you are discovering, HD can be loud. They can make all sorts of sounds, fan sounds, spinning up/down, chirps, beeps, clicks, etc.
I’d like to read the above referenced review on www.silentpcreview.com.
As far as fan cooling/no fan cooling for external HDs, there is no hard and fast rule. I have gone to fanless because I do not want the fan noise and have had no problems thus far. This latter doesn’t mean anything, as ALL drives will fail in time, it’s just a matter of when…so it must be backed up. A fanless vs. fan cooled HD also tells us little: the cooling all depends on how well the fan/ventilation passages/materials/vents have been designed…there’s a lot of very cheap poorly designed enclosures out there (both fan and fanless) and a low quality enclosure can also give up the ghost.

Oftentimes internal HDs will come with a longer warranty than their external counterparts. However (this was pointed out to me recently) do not put too much stake in big warranty claims, ex. ‘5 year warranty’, it will not do you any good anyway after the drive sh**s the bed; as for a warranty replacement HD 5 years from now…think back to the drive you bought 5 years ago (10GB, 20GB, 60GB??) …5 years from now the drive you buy today will be boarderline, if not completely obsolete, based on HD capacity and features in the year 2012…hard to predict the demands of a music library hard drive 5 years from now, and I’d put money that you would not care to replace the HD you are using now, with an identical one 5 years from now.

IMHO RAID is overkill for a music server unless you have $$$ to burn. After you make changes to your music library, just back it up to another 1 or 2 HDs.

I’m ready to step up my iTunes and computer based music server from casual listening to more quality. I too am looking for a HD, a 500GB internal drive, which I will put into a well designed fanless enclosure. If anyone has a recommendation for a QUIET drive (speed isn’t an issue) please do post it.
Read the noise ratings on www.pcsilentreview.com. You'll find out that the 3.5" 500GB drives generally have significantly more noise than a 2.5" laptop hard disk (max. size is 200GB, but 200GB is very expensive, so realistically, you're maxed out at 160GB). There are some recommended 3.5" drives on the site, but from an audiophile perspective, I don't think you'll be very happy with them and they definitely aren't quiet. The recommended approach for an internal drive in a silent pc is to use a 2.5" laptop hard disk. If you want to purchase a drive and put it in an enclosure, check out www.newegg.com. They carry most of the drives recommended on pcsilentreview.

I have the fanless 500GB G Technologies G-Drive. There is no fan, but the drive spinning is noisy. I've gotten used to it and maybe it isn't a big deal for you, unless you like to listen to low-level classical music. I thought about buying a quiet 2.5" drive and putting it in an enclosure, but a 160GB or 200GB 2.5" drive isn't very large as a music server. Even a 500GB drive can only hold about 1000 CD's worth of music using Apple Lossless.

Here's one recommended solution. I haven't implemented it yet, but I plan to in the future. If you buy the new Apple Airport Extreme, it allows you to wirelessly hook up a USB hard drive. So you can buy a reasonably priced 1TB drive (plenty of room for a large iTunes library), hook it up to the Airport Extreme, and put it in a closet or a room separate from your listening room. Then, you have no noise problem and you have plenty of space for music. There are other side benefits from having a wireless server if you run multiple computers in the house. The overall cost is much cheaper than a silent solution in the room, which would require multiple 2.5" drives.

Also, you should consider backing up the server. If you do it right, you'd buy two hard disks, since you'll want to have one drive as a backup.
I think we should really break this up into a discussion about sub 500GB collections and 1-2TB Collections and IT professionals versus Home users.

Different solutions work better.
Sub 500GB.. Direct attached Performance USB (slowest)/Firewire (Faster)/eSata (eSata ROCKS!!!)

Sub 500GB.. Removing the noise from the room using a NAS
There are a couple of single and double drive NAS's that are cheap but transfers to them and from them are slow but for listening to music this is not important. Some even support 2 drives for Mirroring (Raid 1)

Edesilva: +1 for a NAS solution as he has a large collection.
I could build a PC or use on of my old ones but as soon as your collection reaches a certain size other options make sense. Stuffing 5 drives into a PC case suddenly generates a lot of heat and requires big slow moving fans and isolation and a REAL Hardware RAID CARD $300+ not one of the built-in motherboard controllers that is a software raid card. (3ware is the company to go with for raid cards)

NAS - Advantages:
Newer Buffalo Terrastations have faster processors and you can get the 2TB (or 1.5 in Raid 5) from www.newegg.com for under $900. You can add more ram to the Buffalo and performance will increase. If you run it in Raid 0 speed will increase if that is important but then you need another backup solution which as has been already recommended is a requirement (last thing I want to do is rip another 1000CD’s again lossless, my time is worth more)

Thecus N5200 ($640 from Newegg) plus Drives is the solution I'm looking at because it supports 5 drives! (Since raid 5 takes one drive space away for parity)
Yes it costs as much as a PC, but buying a real raid card costs almost as much as the Thecus. The Thecus N5200 uses under 100watts of power versus a pc with a 500watt powersupply. This unit uses a Celeron M 600Mhz Processor (a single jumper can make it run at 800mhz) and can be upgraded from 256 to 512mb of ram. It has gigabit and it is 2-3 times faster than the Buffalo plus has a eSATA interface on the back for backing it up or expanding it is critical for me. I have an external 1TB eSATA Case I will use to backup my NAS and eSATA is smoking fast! The unit supports Gigabit Jumbo frames. I plan on starting with 3 750Gig drives (being pulled out of my Noisy fileserver) and using the expand function (of course while backing up to a bunch of smaller external drives periodically) to eventually hit 5 750gig drives (for 3TB of storage) which should let me do my whole collection.
Another advantage is not having to patch an OS every month, pay for OS licensing, Antivirus licensing... No one ever mentions the $140 for a software OS license. I already have 4 PC's at home and don't need another one to patch each month and this NAS is going in a Closet in the guest bedroom on a UPS (remember if you are running RAID of any kind that PC or NAS had better be on a UPS (battery backup) unless you want a power glitch to corrupt your Raid (Recovery services$$$)

I intend to use the NAS as a central data repository for all my machines so my video content (Media Center), my 100gig of digital photography (grows by 20gig each time I shot my Digital SLR), and all working media documents are centralized and backed up on a schedule. This way all my PC in the house can have single drives to reduce noise, risk of data loss, reduce heat in the case and generally reduce my headaches of finding things.

Performance comparison of the Buffalo, Thecus, and Infant NAS
The Thecus is 2-5 times faster than the Buffalo in Raid 5 Gigabit due to the faster processor and design.

This site has some excellent articles on NAS versus build your own. The latest Thecus N5200 Bios Updates have fixed a lot of the problems discussed in the article since they reviewed the earlier one, but Infant has superior support compared to Thecus which you have to use the support boards. But once the unit is setup and working this is not a constant battle. Some of the smaller Thecus have iTunes support built in.

The interesting thing about all this is that the latest stuff almost requires the users to have some IT background, due to home networking, Permissions on SANS or remote servers, Backing up criteria, Configuring network cards and buying routers/switches that support jumbo-frames.

NAS's are typically Linux and require some configuration so if you aren't Techy, this might not be the right option.

Home built PC's once again might fit a price point but not necessarily an easy, quiet, or self maintaining solution.

MAC - Quieter, Lacking internal storage capacity (except for their high end machine$$$$) Require externally attached drives via USB/Firewire and some sort of backup process to additional external drives. Currently can go to up to 1TB of external storage for about $400 without raid (maxtor sells a 1TB two drive external drive) but these external chassis will be noisy. So wireless (Squeezebox, Sonos, Airport express) might require relocation of the machine out of the listening room.

I love the immediate access to my music collection and this causes me to listen more! So all this hardware is still cheap compared to the cost of my music collection or even a couple of cables..
I've decided to go with a Western Digital Caviar SE16 (WD5000AAKS or WD5000AAKS) 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive. Noise etsts are here:


This drive can be bought for about $130 online.

For an enclosure I’ll drop it in a well made fanleess USB2/Firewire enclosure (I'll use the FW 400 connection on my Mac):

a)Mcalley 3.5in USB 2.0/1394 Aluminum Enclosure - PHR-100AC (about $39 online)

or a more expensive alternative:

b)OWC Mercury Elite-AL Oxford911+ FireWire & USB 2.0/1.1
(about $80)

At $180 shipped for the whole enchilada it comes to 36¢/gigabyte [if I'm correct, the breakdown cost is 15¢/digitized CD]. Of course, I have a drive for backup.

This is for a Macintosh based system. I have a G5 Desktop (also a G4 iBook) and the G5 is a pretty quiet machine, it has been in the room in which I listen to music and it doesn't distract me.
Scratch my previous post's solution. It would work if the HD was internally mounted in an Apple G5...a quiet drive. But, it will NOT work with the two enclosures mentioned...the hard drive is SATA and the enclosures are compatible with ATA drives only. SATA enclosures are expensive so I'll need to find a quiet ATA drive.
Go on newegg.com. SATA is now standard. I checked. They have 81 different external enclosures for sale for a 3.5" drive, with some inexpensive ones for less than $40. Please let us know how it works out for you and what you think about the noise level.
Cytocycle, I found the link you provided interesting. I don't have the Thecus N5200, but I have the N4100 at home and it appears that they run at vastly different speeds. My N4100 gives 1/10 the performance of the N5200 according to their data.

My impression of my Thecus N4100 is this. The only thing that went easily was installing the drives. That went without a hitch. But then I had a terrible time configuring it. I sent an e-mail to Thecus and got a cryptic response back. I ended up upgrading the firmware, and things got better after that, well, once I figured out a peculiarity of the two network jacks and their default network addresses. The bottom line is that it wasn't the easiest thing to set up, and it's slow as molasses. I use it for backups because it's too slow to be used for anything else. Maybe the newer N5200 has fixed many of these problems?

That's why I now advocate home-built NAS solutions. It's about the same price, and you can spend just a few dollars for an Ubuntu Linux DVD and it's all the software purchase you'll have to make. And it's MUCH faster for me. You can also use it as your web server, router, firewall, etc. Add to that the possibility of automated remote backups and you can see why I much prefer this option.

Cyctocyle, thanks for the informative post. Do you know anything about how the new USB share drive on the Apple Airport Extreme will work with a MAC system? It seems like you could connect multiple large USB drives to an Airport Extreme and create a pretty inexpensive remote, wireless hard disk server for music, since it doesn't require high speed.
Morris: Sorry not to familiar with the airport extreme. When I looked at doing that, the sound quality out the toslink on the Airport Express was not up to the same quality as other options (aka SB3). But easy of use and setup are of course easy. www.audiocircle.com has some posts on the airport express systems.

Sufentanil: I am going to try ClarkConnect home linux which I've heard is really easy for setting up raid, on one of my systems on a spare drive, plus it is meant to be run headless with a web ui. My next step is finding either a motherboard with 8 Sata connectors or a couple of Sata 4 port cards that are linux compatible. I will be running 5+ drives.
Cytocycle, I haven't heard of ClarkConnect home Linux. I use mostly Ubuntu and Fedora distributions. If you're using hardware RAID, just about any distribution should work fine. And most distributions make it easy to configure software RAID, too.

Most motherboards have up to 4 SATA RAID ports (though some have 2 of them). If you want one contiguous volume rather than mounting two separate RAID systems on two separate mountpoints, then consider a RAID controller such as the following:

3ware 9650SE-8LPML PCI Express SATA II Controller Card

Good luck,

Sufentanil: Thanks for validating what I was leaning towards except for the cost. I know that is the 3ware card I would love to purchase (plus the $129 for the battery pack that makes it like 5 times faster in Raid 5, without risking write caching) but for a hundred more I can buy a 5 drive NAS chassis.. That's the problem...

I'm still trying to focus on how much space and how many machines I want in my house. (Currently 3 + TabletPC) And worse how many running 24/7.

I am thinking of converting one of my machines (P4 2.4Ghz with 1GIG of RAM) which only has 2 SATA150 ports to a linux server and buy two of the Promise 4 port 300 PCI Sata Cards ($46 each at newegg and linux drivers are available) and run software raid.

Thanks again for the suggestions.
Cytocycle, why do you need to have up to 8 drives? That's the constraint that's causing it to be more expensive. You won't find an NAS with >4-5 drives at a reasonable price point. Commercial RAID racks are going to start in the couple thousand dollar range. The 3ware card is actually about your least expensive option given that constraint. If you are willing to be limited to 4 drives (1.5 TB using 4 500 GB drives in RAID 5), then try something like:

Tekram TR-834A PCI-X 133MHz/64bit SATA II Controller Card

I would advise against software RAID, because it's more difficult to configure and to recover, as well as being slower.


Thanks, I need 5-6 drives (750gig drives.) I already have 2.2 TB of space (JBOD) and need to expand that. The Thecus 5200 supports 5 drives for $635.

I know the dangers of software raid, but actually O'reilly books are now suggesting software raid for linux. If I go hardware I'll go 3ware (as I've had friends with LSI logic chipsets fail...and they were not recoverable).

I was a Network admin for 9 years so I'm very familiar with hardware versus software raid of the past. I have a PCI-X LSI logic Raid card but no server motherboard for it.
I'm probably going to go Raid 0 and backup eSata to another external device... to maximize space and protect against other losses and actually have a backup offline.
for music servers, i would recommend a raid 5 setup because it is faster reading the disk. you do pay a penalty on writes, but so what if the ripping of a cd takes another few seconds or minutes. when the music is played back, i want the fast access.