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Buyer's Guide: Multi-interface External Enclosures
Related: backup, eSATA, hard drive, how-to, RAID, RAID-0, RAID-4, RAID-5, storage, USB
This page covers recommended hard drives and enclosures for any Mac, though some choices described here are appropriate for certain models only.
Recommended Firewire 800 and eSATA enclosures PERMALINK
The “quad interface” models are recommended for maximum flexibility (Firewire, eSATA, USB), , but for applications where every ounce of speed is required, dedicated eSATA is advised.
Single-drive solutions PERMALINK
These fanless units are a very nice choice. Don’t expect silence though—the drive itself makes some noise.
Remember, higher capacity is not just for storage but also for the best performance as the drive fills up—see Why you need more space than you need.
Remember, part of the cost is the enclosure, so usually it makes sense to go with a higher capacity unit. Alternately, as drive prices drop and/or capacity rises for the same price, you can swap the installed drive for a faster or larger model (a screwdriver is all that's needed).
Mirrored or striped solutions PERMALINK
Choose a mirrored unit where reliability is a priority: if one drive fails you lose nothing. A mirrored unit is a great way to go for any kind of backup or reliable system or data drive, knowing that even if one drive fails, the data is still intact, with no downtime.
These units include two internal drives in one case. Connect a single cable (eSATA, Firewire 800/400 or USB2). The Mac (or PC) sees the unit as a single drive. For example, a 1.5TB mirrored unit contains two 1.5TB drives replicating the same data.
Striped solutions PERMALINK
Choose a striped unit for maximum performance and capacity, though increased speed won’t be evident unless it is connected via eSATA; Firewire 800 is slower than the speed of even a single modern hard drive.
These units include two internal drives in one case. The Mac (or PC) sees the unit as a single drive. Connect a single cable (eSATA, Firewire 800/400 or USB2). For example, a 3TB striped unit contains two 1.5TB drives.
Recommended RAID 5 solution PERMALINK
RAID 5 is striping + parity, which means that one of the drives can fail with no data loss!
The OWC QX2 accepts to four (4) drives and can be used in a variety of RAID modes (RAID 0 striping, RAID 1 mirroring, RAID 5, etc). The unit is a great choice for plug-and-play RAID 5: just turn the internal switch to the appropriate setting, hook it up, initialize it like any single hard drive, and you’re done.