How-To: Reclaim your Mac’s old hard drive or build a new one with an external USB enclosure

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Earlier this year, I wrote several guides to boost the speeds of older Macs by swapping their internal hard drives for super-fast solid state drives (SSDs). As readers have confirmed, their older iMacs, MacBooks, and Mac Pros have seen dramatic improvements with new SSDs. But some people were left with a question: what should I do with my Mac’s old hard drive? Throw it away?

A great answer: put it in an external hard drive enclosure and keep using it! My latest How-To shows you how easy it is to reclaim your Mac’s old drive by installing it in a nice USB enclosure such as Akitio’s SK-3501U3 (shown here), which I chose because of its Mac-matching design, reasonable sub-$40 price, and compatibility. External enclosures are also ideal options if you want to choose a high-quality hard drive mechanism for yourself, rather than taking a risk on whatever might be hidden inside a fully-assembled external drive. I’ll explain that, and much more, below…

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How-To: Choose the best external hard drive for your Mac (or iOS device!)

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I feel old saying this, but having used computers since before external hard drives existed, I can say with certainty that buying a hard drive is easier today than it’s ever been before. For traditional drives, prices are low, options are numerous, and capacities are so high that your only choices are “enough space,” “more than enough space,” and “way more than enough space.” I could point you towards a gigantic 5-Terabyte $139 Seagate USB 3.0 hard drive right now and end this article without another paragraph. Since Apple doesn’t even sell a Mac with that much disk space, you could back up five (or more) computers to that drive without running out of room. Or you could store a decade worth of digital photos alongside a giant media library. For $139!

But buying an external hard drive isn’t necessarily that simple. There are a bunch of factors worth considering before making a purchase, including everything from reliability to portability, design, capacity, speed, and connectivity. Some hard drives are really cheap but have a higher chance of failing after a year or two of heavy use. So in this How-To, I’m going to discuss the big issues you need to consider, and guide you towards the best external hard drive for your needs…

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Western Digital announces first-ever 2TB capacity 2.5-inch My Passport for $250

Hard-drive maker Western Digital is the first-ever to unveil a 2TB capacity 2.5-inch portable external hard drive.

Western Digital announced the drive will first be put into the My Passport family, which previously only offered up to 1TB of storage, but the doubled-capacity external is still a condensed single-volume drive. 9to5Mac reviewed the Western Digital My Passport Studio in September 2011 and walked away very impressed with the 1TB 2.5-inch flavor.

Like the earlier version, the larger My Passport is available in various colored finishes that make its shell resilient to abrasions. The device is NTFS reformatted but easily reformatted to Mac OS, and it supports USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 for trucking large amounts of data.

More information is available below.

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Western Digital begins shipment of their Thunderbolt Duo Drives (WDBUPB0040JSL-NESN and WDBUPB0060JSL-NESN)

We first profiled the Western Digital MyBook Thunderbolt Duo at CES in January and noted the extraordinary speed of the drives, especially when daisy chained (above find 780MB/s read, 600+MB/s write). Today, Macrumors notes that Western Digital is making the drives available for $599 (4TB) and $699 (6TB).  While those prices are steep, they fall in line with new Thunderbolt parts across the line.

We’ve reviewed the much slower Firewire/USB Western Digital Studio 6TB drives and came away impressed. Those retail for around $430 currently ($270 less than the Thunderbolt version) but use energy efficient (read: slower) internal drives and slower Firewire 800 connectivity options.

Notably B&H Photo and Video is selling the Western Digital MyBook Thunderbolt Duo already with $50 discounts (6TB – $649, 4TB- $549) and tax only in New York but without solid shipping dates. Read more

9to5Toys: Portable USB/SD storage options under $1/GB

From 9to5Toys.com:

A quick roundup of storage options from 9to5Toys at Amazon this weekend:

SDHC Cards:
16GB
Amazon Class 4: $14.38; Transcend Micro Class 4 w/adapter: $12.98 (pictured)
32GB Sandisk Class 6: $29.95  Transcend Class 10: $32.95

USB Sticks:
8GB Kingston:  $6.95
16GB Kingston: $13.99, Sandisk $14.72 Transcend: $13.99
32GB Sandisk: $28.99
64GB Lexar: $61.10

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More ThunderBolt at CES 2012: Western Digital shows impressive speeds, Hitachi shows pro setups and Seagate shows off sleds

I had some time to demonstrate some of the upcoming Thunderbolt accessories from external drive makers at CES earlier today. We briefly discussed a few others from OCZ, LaCie, Belkin and Elgato earlier in the week. First up is the Western Digital MyBook Thunderbolt Duo:

These are going to compare nicely to the Promise RAID setup that has similar speeds, but it does not have a price or release date yet.  The vibe seemed to be like Q2 with perhaps an announcement at Macworld.

Next up is the Hitachi G-Drive series of Thunderbolt Drives, and these drives are 8TBs…

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Apple’s Black Friday 2011 deals revealed: discounts on iPad, iPod, iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and accessories

A trusted tipster has provided us with the details on Apple’s Black Friday (November 25th) 2011 sale. The sale is very similar to Apple’s offerings in past years, but does give better discounts to higher capacities of the iPads and iPods. The deals on the Mac end cover the iMac, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, while the iPod nano and iPod touch are the discounted iPod offerings. The Macs will be $101 less, the iPads will go from $41-$61 discounts depending on capacity (16GB, 32GB, 64GB), the iPod nano will shave off $11 for both 8GB and 16GB storage sizes, the iPod touch will follow the iPad’s lead of bigger discounts for bigger capacities, ranging from $21-$41 discounts.

The biggest break is the base level MacBook Air which will now start at $898, but both Best Buy and Amazon have it now for $849.

Apple will also (images after the break) discount accessories. On the Apple in-house accessory list is $11 off the iPad 2 Smart Cover (comes out to $28 for the polyurethane and $58 for the leather), $11 off ($58 in total for each) for the Apple Wireless Keyboard and Apple Wireless Magic Trackpad, $5 off ($45 total) for a $50 iTunes/App Store/iBookstore gift card, in addition to discounts on the AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule, and AirPort Express. Third-party accessories such as Western Digital hard drives, the mophie JuicePack Air, Speck CandyShell iPhone 4/4S case, Jawbone Up, a Griffin Universal Remote Control system for the iPod touch, the Jawbone Jambox, a Phillips clock radio, and more are also on sale. Check out the entire sale with the rest of the leaked pamphlet after the break:

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Review: Western Digital My Passport Studio portable hard drives go high class

We’ve been messing around with a damn fine looking set of portable hard drives for the past few days from Western Digital called My Passport Studio and My Passport Mac. They are encased in an all-aluminum shell, the My Passport Studio comes with two FireWire 800 ports as well as a Mini USB port around back; the latter only has a Mini USB port. The speed tests on these guys (see results below) was pretty average for 2.5-inch Firewire hard drives at just under 80MB/sec read, making the slight premium Western Digital is asking for these mostly “an aesthetic upgrade”.

…not that there is anything wrong with that. You can feel the quality in these drive enclosures. The aluminum shell is going to protect these from more drops than a plastic casing and these drives look the part of a high quality Mac setup. These drives are also so whisper quiet that the only way to know if they are running is the white LED on the back (much better than the front). As you can see from the pictures, both the Studio (formatted Windows) and Mac go well with a Unibody MacBook.

On the downside, these are slightly heavier than your typical hard drive at half a pound. Still though, that’s a small price to pay for quality. They are available now for $189.99 from Amazon for the Studio and $159 for the 1TB Mac

Press release follows:

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3TB Western Digital Elements USB Hard Drive (Factory Refurb): $100

From 9to5toys.com:

MacMall via eBay Daily Deal offers the factory-refurbished Western Digital Elements 3TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive, model no. WDBAAU0030HBK-NESN, for $99.99 with free shipping. That’s $0.03/GB, $20 below our mention of a new unit from three days ago, and the lowest total price we’ve seen for this drive. (It’s $18 below the current price low for a new unit.) This drive uses GreenPower technology to reduce power consumption by up to 30%.

A Western Digital warranty applies; however, MacMall does not mention the length of this warranty on the product page.

Western Digital fixes OS X Lion Time Machine incompatibilities with My Book Live series

One of the teething problems in Lion is that the operating system does not work well with some third-party network attached storage (NAS) solutions. As we await OS X 10.7.1 update to fix those problems, manufacturers like Western Digital are taking this matter into their own hands. Western Digital, for example, yesterday released a firmware update for the My Book Live series, making it compatible with OS X Lion and Time Machine.

Western Digital uses Netatalk, an open source AFP fileserver. When Apple made changes to AFP function in Lion, it caused major woes as Netatalk had to be updated. According to release notes (PDF document), the software can be downloaded manually or automatically, by accessing the drive via Bonjour or using the WD QuickView app on your Mac.

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Review: Western Digital My Book Studio 3TB

There’s not much to say about the new Western Digital My Book Studio 3TB hard drive.  It looks quite nice and would go nicely with a Mac Pro or any aluminum Mac. The new MyBook Studio, unlike the previous My Book LX models, doesn’t have the LED display which showed free space and other nice specs without the need to dig it up from the connected computer.  It does, however, have a quiet, cool running green hard drive with a fan-less enclosure. But the $150/$200/$250 for 1TB/2TB/3TB models, it isn’t going to hit 9to5toys.com anytime soon.

In fact, the same 3TB Western Digital Internal Green Drive resides in a USB-only package for only $130.  Because this is a green drive, the extra speed that Firewire provides isn’t as noticeable as with a high performance drive.  See speed tests and more images below. Read more