The disk and cable sitting on the quick start guide. The quick start guide is almost as big as the box and gives you an idea how small the device is compared to the box. The device is only one third the thickness of the box.
The quick start guide
The quick start guide is a waste of space. It contains a diagram showing the disk, the cable, and a computer.
My device contains a Seagate ST9500325AS disk described by Seagate as a Momentus 5400.6 SATA. The disk has an 8 MB buffer. There is an ASG model with free fall protection but the AS model does not have free fall protection. Do not knock the disk off your desk when connected to the power.
The disk is described as being quiet, using a Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) motor, and using perpendicular recording, all the things you expect from Seagate. The rotation speed is 5400 RPM, typical of economy disk drives.
The instantaneous, or burst, data-transfer rate is up to 3.0 Gb/s, for any data in the RAM cache. The 8 MB cache will not hold much and the speed increase will mainly be for repeated browsing of directories, something your operating system will cache better than the 8 MB in the disk.
The disk will survive a 1,000 Gs nonoperating shock and 350 Gs of operating shock. The plastic case may break before the disk breaks. If you tend to drop things, or let them bump around in a tool box, look for a protective foam case. If you also spill things, get a Pelican style waterproof protective case. My backpack has 10 mm of foam protection and that should be enough for my normal use.
S.M.A.R.T. drive monitoring and reporting is available to check the disk. Look for write failures and replace the disk when write failures occur frequently. One failure per month might be ok. A failure per day indicates the disk should be replaced.
The internal transfer rate is listed as 1175 Megabits per second maximum. In theory you could see 110 Megabytes per second. The highest I have noticed is 21 Megabytes per second.
The disk should survive 20,000 hard power on/off cycles, which is 2 per day for 30 years or 30 per day for 2 years. 30 times per day would be typical of use when transferring things between computers during configuration.
The disk should survive 600,000 software-controlled power on/off cycles, something that can happen frequently if your operating system is set to power down the drive when saving power. An extreme power saving setting might power down the disk 100 times per hour, giving you 1000 per day or 2 years usage. In normal usage the disk would not be connected all day or on every day, reducing the wear and extending the disk life to five or more years.
What do you get on the disk when you first plug in the disk? The following list is the directory display for a new disk.
|Seagate||2 items||folder||Tue 28 Feb 2012|
|System Volume Information||2 items||folder||Tue 28 Feb 2012|
|UserGuides||3 items||folder||Tue 28 Feb 2012|
|Autorun.inf||162 bytes||plain text document||Sat 08 May 2010|
|SeagatePortable.ico||22.5 kB||Microsoft icon||Thu 05 Mar 2009|
|Setup.exe||156.3 kB||DOS/Windows executable||Sat 17 Jan 2009|
Autorun.inf file contains the following lines and will install the setup program. You can protect yourself from the automated action by turning off automated actions in Windows or by first opening the disk in Linux and deleting the Autorun.inf file. I opened my disk in Linux and immediately deleted
[autorun] open=Setup.exe icon=Setup.exe action=Start my Seagate Drive shell=Install shell\Install="Start my Seagate Drive" shell\Install\command="Setup.exe"
Seagate directory wastes a massive 200 MB of the disk space. Either delete the directory or test the software then delete it. The directory contains Memeo Instant Backup and Memeo Premium Backup.
You can download Memeo Instant Backup or Memeo Premium Backup at any time complete with a free trial. I am not going to use either because there are plenty of open source software applications to perform the same job without the restrictions of proprietary software.
UserGuides directory wastes 30 MB of the disk space. Either delete the guides or read them, practice using the supplied software, then delete the documentation.
All magnetic disks use a big chunk of power when the motor spins up the disk. They use little power when just sitting there spinning. They jump up in power when moving the read/write heads from track to track. Solid state disks use less power for each phase but the worst solid state disks use more power than the best magnetic disks, giving you some weird comparisons. If you want minimum power use when tracking in the jungle, backup your data to SDXC cards and put the cards in a waterproof case. Leave all the editing until you return to mains power.
You can save power by spinning down the disk when not in use. Frequent spinning down will use more power because the spin up uses so much power. Try to perform all your work on the SSD built into your notebook and use the external disk for a once per day backup when the notebook is attached to power.
If you work on a project basis and you can fit only one project on your notebook SSD, copy the project from the 500 GB external disk to your SSD in the morning, work on that project, then copy the project back to the 500 GB disk, and delete the project from the SSD. If you work on two projects during the day, you will connect the external disk only three times for a few minutes each time and use very little power.
Backup software alternatives
ubuntu Linux is a bad example for backups. Ubuntu is supplied with the Deja Dup backup utility installed by default and Deja Dup has the highest rating for a backup application in the Ubuntu Software Centre but the actual reviews say the backup is hopeless and the restore unusable.
File Backup Manager and Lucky Backup are typical Linux backup utilities that are not backup utilities. Bother are front ends for other programs and you typically get poor to useless messages back from the other programs. Both are front ends to utilities that are sync programs, not backup programs. Sync programs keep the latest copy of a file and throw away earlier versions, making them useless if you delete too much data and have to go back to an earlier version. Sync programs delete files from the copy when deleted from the original, another disaster. To make sync programs into a backup, you have to change the sync process every day to sync to a new directory.
There are plenty of backup programs out there. Corbian Backup is an obvious choice for older versions of Windows. I have not looked at backup for Windows 7 because it is easier to upgrade to Linux than to bypass the restrictions built into Windows 7. /backup_software lists several backup choices aimed at backing up a large desktop through a network, instead of backing up a notebook to an external drive.
I have a family photo collection that is at least 250 GB and growing. I could use one 500 GB disk to store all the photos and a second one for backup. Most of my Web site projects would each be small enough to fit on a 500 GB disk. I have some projects where I would need terabytes for a backup but a test version could fit 500 GB.
When you look at a development project for an application with 25 TB of data, you might be looking at 10,000,000 files but need only 100 files to provide samples of all the different cases you will work on. On one project, with a million files, and some files running over a 100 MB each, I needed only one file, the largest file, to test my code, plus a couple of smaller files for quick tests in between the major changes. The whole project fitted in far less than 500 GB.
A full Debian installation set is about 5 DVDs. You could put them on one Bluray disk or the Seagate disk. When you connect a notebook to a device to install the operating system, the Seagate disk would use less power than many of the Bluray disk drives and be up to twice as fast.
USB memory sticks
I often use Sandisk USB memory sticks to transfer files and they work everywhere. I need something bigger, at least 64 GB, for many uses. I tried a Corsair 64 GB GT because it is fast and water resistant. The Corsair repeatedly failed when used with Linux. I could reformat it on a Windows machine and on all machines it would start accepting files but on Linux it failed at about 16 GB. The failure suggests the Corsair is not programmed to correctly act as a disk.
I cannot stand manufacturers who take stupid shortcuts then charge a premium. It is supposed to be the cheap stuff that fails. In the USB memory market, almost all the cheap stuff works out of the box because the manufacturers buy a standard reliable controller chip. Quality manufacturers, including Sandisk, test everything. Some of the other companies just rush things out the door without testing. They use a cheaper untested controller chip, to save a few cents per item manufactured, and it costs us hundreds of dollars of our time trying to recover from the mess when one of these things fail.
64 GB USB sticks can be formatted as NTFS for compatibility on every operating system. Windows 7 defaults to formatting the stick to exFAT, something useless outside of Windows 7. Smaller drives can use smaller versions of the FAT file system. If you are only going to work on Linux, you can use Ext4 so long as you switch off atime and use the right journaling settings. Apple uses something which is, of course, proprietary to Apple and incompatible, but Apple now use Unix and Unix is compatible with NTFS and every version of FAT prior to exFAT.
There are some SSD alternatives. They are very expensive in the 500 GB size. They are slow to write unless you buy from the top price range. In my case I want to store projects from 20 MB up to several terabytes. A few will fit on an economical 32 GB SDXC card and they have a read/write speed acceptable for copying 32 GB. 64 GB and 128 GB works best on SSD. 256 GB is too expensive but prices are dropping every day as more manufacturers release bigger drives for the premium market. 500 GB is the sweet spot for 2.5" magnetic disks and one of the reasons I purchased the Seagate. 1 TB is available in 2.5" disks and is still a bit premium in price. 2 TB is the sweet spot for 3.5" disks but 3.5" disks are heavier and use too much power for operation from USB.
Buy whatever is the smallest device to fit your requirement while allowing expansion for a year. In some cases price variations let you jump higher. Last month the 500 GB drives were only ten dollars cheaper than the 1 TB equivalents then a new shipment arrived and everyone is overstocked with 500 GB drives. I really need only 30 GB this month for this project and 40 next month. The 500 GB drive will last a couple of years compared to the 6 months I might have used the 64 GB I originally looked at.
The disk cost AU$129 when released, as shown by the original price label on the box. The price quickly dropped to AU$97, as shown by the label stuck over the original price. Recently the price dropped to $69. At $69, you could use several of them in rotation for backups.
$69 makes the 500 GB Seagate cheaper than an equivalent speed 64 GB USB 3 memory stick. The USB memory stick might be slightly faster for reads but you lose the advantage during writes. The memory stick could be an advantage if you only ever read from the stick, the situation you might be in if installing an operating system on many machines. The magnetic disk usually wins when you have to write many small files back to the external media.
A 64 GB memory stick is too small for some uses and many brands are unreliable across operating systems because they do not act as real disks. The Seagate Expansion external drive works so long as you do not drop it while switched on and is currently the smallest cheapest way to reach that capacity. The drive is a good backup for the current range of SSDs in notebooks and ultrabooks. Desktop computers may need something bigger.