Buy as big as you could.It is never enough space once you begin deal with PC stored music.
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WD makes some larger drives that are optimized to save energy and run quietly. They have a variable speed from 5400 to 7200 rpm. I'm think about buying a pair for a mirrored drive setup. Reviews say they're noticeably quieter and run cooler. I don't think you have any issue with filling up only x%. It's going to be able to deliver the bitstream at a rate above what you need for streaming uncompressed CDs. I have an external drive attached via USB that works fine with my Transporter setup. I'm using majority flac files but I have experimented with .wavs just to see if there was any difference in SQ. There wasn't IMO and the Transporter didn't have any issues with the bit rate of the drive keeping up.
Get a 750G or 1T. You will fill it up faster then expected. Noise and reliability are the two main issues. LaCie is good but I heard that some of the models (the ones designed by F.A. Porsche and shape like an aluminum brick) have overheating problem. I like the older Seagates. They are quiet and reliable. The newer FreeAgent series are just as good but Seagate added a strip of amber light running from the top of the case to the bottom, very distracting because it is bright and it blinks.
The larger the drive, greater is the chance of disaster. I think anything over 500G/7200rpm is risky. Better to start an array, in a cabinet that can support at least eight drives. These cabinets are not that expensive and you can add drives as you expand your music collection. Do compressed backups to a spare 750 drive. Like financial investments, best to 'not put your eggs' in one basket.
A couple of issues no one has touched on. First - heat is the enemy of drives - a fanless enclosure is one way to limit the useful life of the drive - despite the claims that the clever Porsche engineers used the natural convection of aluminum blah blah blah.
Throughput is really not an issue. USB1.1, USB2, Firewire 400 & 800 and SATA (my preference) will all do the job. If you can go SATA by adding a PCI card I highly recommend it - robust, rock solid and much faster when it comes to making backups.
Ahhh - backups. If you have 400Gb+ you definitely need a backup drive. I don't like to store compressed. A restore takes much longer. Also I like to rotate the drives - as I update the backup it becomes the primary. Spreads the wear.
As you probably know, you will not get the rated capacity of the drive. For instance a 500Gb drive actually only delivers about 470Gb usable storage. For that reason alone I would buy a 750 or 1T. I would use this drive (and the backup) solely for your music library. That makes backing up much simpler. Drives of this size will usually have 16mb caches which will also improve performance
Basic rules of filling up drives. Try to keep your boot drive to <50% capacity. The rest of the drives at or below 80%. Especially if you have a PC this allows room to do a defrag (or Maintenance) on a Mac.
The other big reason to buy bigger drives at this point is that the cases, trays etc are also expensive.
The key to good drive life is to buy good drives. Do not buy consumer drives. Buy enterprise drives for a few bux more - you can tell because they will have 3-5 year warrantees based on a much higher MTBF. In this size range these will usually be bare drives that need to be installed in a case, tray or inside the tower. The drives in cases with USB ports etc are not necessarily bad but I would compare all the specs carefully before I bought one.
Newegg is a great place to shop for this quality gear and they are inexpensive. They have a nice selection of 750s under $200/ea
Rdc2000 - what is the only way to go???
I'd like to expand this discussion to include network access (NAS) drives. NAS is attractive to me because computers often go to sleep while the NAS drives can be accessed from multiple devices and are not attached to a computer. Anyone have experience using/choosing NAS drives?
NAS drives are what I wrote was the way to go, but the Subject line disappeared.
I have a Maxtor 320g network Drive. So far it's great. Quiet when warmed up but weirdly noisy when first starting up.
I almost bought a Buffalo drive, which are supposed to be very good. I got scared off when I read some reviews that they are slow.
I just put the WD 1TB SATA internal drive into my Mac for just this use, I got it @ Best Buy for $229 straight up, no rebate.
Now I want to find a good way to have iTunes compress the entire collection onto another disc in Apple Lossless (other drive is smaller and I want to use it in the wife's computer for ease of use for her)
Does anyone know how to best do this?
I found a way to have it compress the library, but that leaves me with two copies in the same library.
I'm happy using a NAS drive which gets backed up about every two months. Complete image of drive, no compression in my backup.
I have a Buffalo Terastation Pro. Fan noise is too loud for me even though it's in a separate room. The fan is always running- even in winter (Texas winters). Will move to an Infrant NV+ when the next 'new model' comes out from them.
All NASs are slow but only for that first big upload of info. Use a 1 gig network connection and it will take a few hours and be over that one time it's necessary to do.
Can't imagine storing my music on a laptop hard drive. That seems risky.
Cwlondon; the short answer is "yes," you can use it IF you have the right computer setup for it. But I would say it is extreme overkill and not the best implementation for audio this purpose. The box looks like it's made more for use with non-linear editing hardware where a local, fast connection to a HD array is necessary. Much cheaper and more flexible options are available.
KennyT, you are looking for a file format converter utility. There are dozens out there for the PC (I use Poikosoft myself), but since you are on a Mac I suggest you look through the apple download store.
I found this, but it doesn't say it supports apple lossless (which is odd for an apple application):
hi, i posted the original question. thanks for all the advice. for information, i opted for 2 x 500gB LaCie hard drives (one as archive), as these were on offer at a good price! they run warm but are quiet. music quality is to my ears indistiguishable from cd, so i am happy right now.
if technology improves and/or my music collection grows i can always buy a different 1gB hard disc.