Second Internal vs External Hard Drive

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by steve_c|9, May 31, 2009.

  1. I'd like to put all my photos (now on CDs and DVDs) onto a single hard drive for use with Photoshop.
    I was looking at external drives, but I have room for another internal drive on my Dell (XP), and Dell sells the same brand and size (Seagate 1TB) at the same price as the external.
    What are the advantages and disadvantages of an internal drive besides the lack of portability and off-site storage?
  2. P.S. I should've posted this thread under Storage. Also, I found some helpful information in this thread from March (had it open in another tab before posting, but forgot it when I got sidetracked to another site).
    From what I read there, I'd get more speed from the internal SATA, but shouldn't rely on it for an archival back-up (which I already have on DVD).
  3. Well an internal should be cheaper than an external drive since your not paying for an enclosure, power supply, interface chips (hard drives are not native usb, so there are some hardware needed). If Dell is charging the same, look elsewhere. I recently purchase a 1TB internal for $109 (not the cheapest available either, just to give you an idea on costs, not sure what dell is charging). An internal drive should be slightly faster because of the lack of the bridge chip, and USB connection.
    Disadvantages of an internal drive. It does share the same power supply as your CPU, so if that dies, it risks damaging both drives. If you have a poorly ventilated case, more heat will be created by two drives, which shortens the life of the drive. That being said most external enclosures dont even have fans.
  4. I've been using mulitple internal drives for about 15 years now, coupled with a simple efficient command to mirror selected folders. Keeping on top of maintenance, including opening up the case and blowing out the dust at least yearly, I've had no problems, have files going back to '94 when we got our first pre-Pentium 486 system. Faster, cheaper, more reliable.
  5. Does your PC have an external SATA (eSATA) port?
  6. Internal is usually faster. I would expect internal to be more reliable. Internal is neater - fewer cables, less stuff on your desk. With internal you don't have to worry about tripping over the cable or knocking the drive off the desk. Internal doesn't need an additional plug just for the drive. Internal is quieter.

    External is usually fast enough and quiet enough. It's portable, which can be a big plus. When not in use, you can store it off site or in a safe. External is more convenient, especially if you're not comfortable opening up the computer case and installing hardware.

    The typical price for either is around $100-125 right now.

    Remember that no drive lasts forever. Every hard drive will eventually fail. Keep backups.
  7. Internal drive will work faster with Photoshop. External drive can be turned off when not needed, and usually will be slower, unless it is a SATA connectable.
    I use smaller in-computer drives that allows faster virus scans and system backup, while photo/video file back up storage is much larger and is external.
    For backup economical solution, get Linksys NAS200 for about US$100 (Network Attached Storage) device and put inside 2 SATA drives of your choice. I placed 2 Seagate Baracuda 1.5 TB drives, at $109 each from Fry's (despite recent national news information that "Seagate Baracuda drives self destroy themself"). This gives me access to files from desktop, laptop, and netbook comuters within home network distance, and also from the Internet anywhere, password protected access.
    I also connect additional 2 USB drives 2 TB each to the NAS200 USB built-in ports that makes them networkable, and have access to 4 drives from anywhere.
    Occasionally I connect other USB drives directly to the desktop computer for periodic backup.
    Seems that I got "paranoic"?, after troubles with DVD media storage for long time backup.
    The NAS200 has power switch, so can be turned-off and does an orderly fashion disconnecting all networkable mapped drives. The NAS200 upon power up with the switch restores all network mapped drives connections for computers that are powered up, connected to the network via Ethernet cable or wirelessly.
  8. An internal SATA drive is *much* faster than an external USB or Firewire drive. This may or may not be an issue depending on whether the drive is just going to be a storage drive for archived files or if it will be a drive that you are working off of regularly.
    One issue that may come into play is whether this is your second or third drive. If you are currently only running one hard drive and this will be your second hard drive, then you should plan on using it as your Photoshop scratch disk. Putting the PS scratch disk on a secondary drive (one different than your OS drive that contains the virtual memory paging file) will result in a significant performance boost to Photoshop (esp for large files). If this is your second drive, I would HIGHLY recommend getting an internal SATA drive and setting it as your PS scratch disk.
  9. Thanks, everyone.
    To ian, the price is the same for both Seagate 1 TB external and internal - $109 to $119 at Staples, Amazon, and Dell.
    To Brad, I'm not sure about the external SATA port, but I know it has Firewire.
    Mendel, thanks for the tip on cleaning the case.
    Frank, that's a quality set-up for sure, and I'd like to work towards that, but for now I'm just taking one small step.
    And Sheldon, I've read of scratch disks for years, and so yeah, I'd like to do that and will read up on it for sure.
    So I think I'll go for the internal 'cause I'm going to be doing a lot of moving files about and batch processing, and then later get an external to back that one up.
  10. Ian, you're right - Amazon does have a better price of $97, with free shipping to boot. I'd been comparing only the external Seagate and external Seagate portable.
  11. david_henderson


    I have both. The internal drive is the one I store and work images from. The external one holds a backup copy which Lightroom sets up automatically when I import. Otherwise the external drive is disconnected. The internal seems a little faster.
  12. I use the internal drive for my most recent photos, and those I work on. For more long-time storage, as part of the back-ups, I use an external USB WD-drive. My thought is that this drive can be hidden away if I go on a trip, and is not not mounted to ant computer or current if a thunderstorm or electrical failure on the power lines suddenly should emerge. I find the extra time for loading these pictures from the external is not of significant size.
  13. Thanks - I've actually switched my thinking towards a Western Digital 1 TB, due to all the trouble people have had with Seagates (even with the firmware fix) and this nice page at Tom's Hardware:,2077.html
    And yeah, having an external drive will be good when I want to unplug it and let it rest, safe from viruses and thunderstorms and the like.
  14. I use a combination. I added a second internal drive (Western Digital) for my photo files, for all the above reasons. I did check with Hewlett-Packard first to make sure that my particular model PC's power supply would handle a second drive without upgrading.
    When I'm editing, back up files to a local external hard drive on a daily basis. The software for this is an important factor. ViceVersa Pro allows backing up in a way that only affects those files that have been added, deleted or changed, which significantly reduces the time involved.
    Once a week, I back everything up on our Linksys NAS200 storage system which is shared by my wife's computer and a laptop. Speed is an issue here, a maximum of about 5Mb/sec. But, using the same incremental backup routine, it still doesn't take an unreasonable amount of time. The first full backup could take hours, depending on total file size.
    When we go on a trip, I remove the local EHD and stash it in a safe place, just in case.
    You can also use this kind of routine for backing up your computer system (I use Windows XP ntbackup for that.)
  15. I use a range of caddy mounted HD's with a rack mounted in the tower. As fast as an internal and can be removed for secure storage as needed. Cheap and reliable.
  16. I would generally go with the external, despite the speed compromises, just because its more portable and allows you to mount to different PCs should the mood move you.
    That said, I suggest you consider some sort of NAS setup. NAS = network attached storage. Basically, instead of an external hard drive connected to the PC, you have a box with multiple hard drives connected to the network via the router. This way, not only is the box divorced from any issues with the PC that may arise, but its also accessible to multiple PCs on the network and can be configured as a RAID for data redundancy. NAS boxes range widely in price, but I have a D-Link model which was relatively cheap, almost 2TB of storage inside, and the box also has a print server built in as well. Obviously, it can serve up iTunes and other media to all PCs on the network, so it gives you a lot of flexibility, as well as not needing to have a power-hogging PC on if you want to share files.
    Just a thought.
  17. Is 'both' a good answer?
    Internal disks are faster, cheaper, usually run cooler (and thus may last longer) and are less likely to be knocked about (unless you're in the habit of kicking your computer). They are also easy to install yourself and its fairly easy to set up 2 or more into a RAID array offering some redundancy.
    External drives also (generally) run hotter (and thus may fail where the same drive might live forever inside a computer tower), the housings are often of sketchy design and/or have poor QC and are transportable but are thus exposed to the opportunity of knocks, drops and drips (if you plan to cart around files often using your external drive i'd install an internal and have them mirrored). Also some drives are always left 'on' which may further shorten its life.
    External drives could, in theory, be as fast as if they had been mounted internally if the housing and connection type are up to snuff. As some have commented they find external drives to be 'fast' enough, for edditing and such, which this may very well be true in certain situations. However if you're copying 10 gigs of files from CF cards via a USB card reader and copying them to a USB hard drive and browsing/edditing photos on that same hard drive and perhaps you've stored music/videos on that same hard drive and are listening to music or watching video on your second monitor..... well that's a lot of traffic through the USB channels, and it ain't bottomless and depending on your computer architecture it could less than stellar.
    Depending on what your back up needs are and since hard drive are so cheap my suggestions would be as follows:
    Option 1: install 2 identical internal drives and set up a mirrored RAID array
    Option 2: install 1 internal drive burn optical disks as archival backups
    Option 3: install 1 internal drive and 1 external drive, use a program to sync the files between them and use one or the other as your backup (depending on if you want to use the external drive as a transportable drive)
    Option 4: install 1 internal drive and be done with it. but can you imagine loosing 500 gigs of data and having basicaly no way to recover it?
  18. I'm afraid that my experience is the opposite of what some have said. I've had a lot of problems with dual internal drives. Because they are in the same case, on the same motherboard, any internal issues such as overheating and power spikes may damage both drives. Hard drives generate a lot of heat and my experience is that many PCs are inadequately cooled. Even if they are well designed, internal fans may clog, or break, frying the PC. Unfortunately many PCs are built to a price and spec. and not to a quality, and since adding extra cooling increases the cost, many have trouble with dual drives.My Fujitsu Siemens was a POS. It fried 3 hard disks, and damaged various subsystems on the motherboard before I realised the cause was inadequate cooling.
    One solution is to use one fast internal SATA HD, and dual backup to external USB connected drives. The fact that they are external means that they are protected from issues with the PC (apart from malicious viruses, lightning strikes etc.). I suggest dual backup as when the internal drive crashes - I have hard 4+ drives crash - you don't want to rely on only one backup. I keep two external backup drives turned off, and only power them up when saving copies of critical data. I suppose I should keep them unplugged, but I have a surge protector.
    Even if you do use main and backup drives mounted internally, I recommend a second backup on an external drive, even if you only update it weekly, to reduce potential losses.
    As others have said, you really want to have files that you edit with Photoshop on the main internal SATA disk.
    Les's eSATA suggestion sounds good assuming it gives the full SATA speed (I'm wasn't aware of that technology).
  19. "How fast are the NAS drives, are they even as fast as USB2 or firewire?"
    Depends on how much you want to spend for the NAS system. The NAS200 by Linksys that Frank and I mentioned is dirt cheap (around $150US) but the downside is a very slow data transfer rate - about eight times slower than USB2. I've seen other NAS systems advertised for a few thousand dollars which are probably much faster.
  20. I haven't benchmarked my NAS, but its fast enough throughput to watch DVD files as well as work with large photos. Part of it may be because both the router and NAS box are gigabit ethernet rated, although its difficult to see how much impact that has. That said, given the cost, its been a pretty effective solution.
  21. With respect to case cooling, I agree - a lot of cases are undercooled. I built my PC, so that has been less of a problem. However, even with that level of control, I think the other problem is that the internals of the PC get absolutely choked with dust, which impedes cooling dramatically and can create serious temperature problems. Unless you're already in the habit of opening your case up and vacuuming out dust, you should start now. It is not a pleasant task.
  22. George, I was basing my 8 to 1 speed ratio on the graph my ViceVersa software runs during backup. The respective graphs show a max speed to 40-50 Mb/s for a USB2 EHD and 5Mb/s for the NAS200. I understand (but haven't verified) that the speed problem stems from the processing hardware in the NAS200. Also, it makes a considerable difference how the the NAS200 is configured for backup. The fastest transfer rate seems to be when both drives are configured as independent, non-journaled drives. The slowest (around 3Mb/s) occurs with a RAID 1 configuration. I know for a fact that speed is one of the most common gripes seen on the Linksys website. But, being retired, I have lots of time to sit and watch the numbers flash by, so speed is not a major issue for me.
    Let, I'd say you're right about the NAS200 haveing little value as a primary or even secondary drive - backup only.
    About vacuuming the inside of a PC: Hewlett Packard strongly recommends against using a vacuum cleaner inside the cabinet as it may cause damage to the mother board or power supply. Of course, I learned this from the HP website only after my wife's PC suffered a death by vacuum. (She calls it murder. I'm claiming accidental death.)
  23. Both here. I have Lightroom and NikonTransfer set to import on the primary physical drive and backup simultaneously on the second (internal) phyiscal drive. Every week I back up to an external drive.
  24. I dunno - i used a vacuum attachment to clean the obvious dust, especially that on the fan blades and blades of the cooler/dispersion unit. I generally stay away from the board as that's not where the active cooling is taking place.
    I've never used the Linksys unit. I have a D-Link unit which has worked fairly well and apparently is hackable, or so I'm told. I'm able to use it as a primary storage unit for streaming media and photos, so I'm fairly pleased with it. I don't currently have it configured as a RAID array, so I can't speak to how that might affect throughput. As I said, with Gigabit Ethernet, it seems to work fairly well, and is easy to configure.
  25. Good call on the WD Caviar Black drives. I use Western Digital Caviar Black drives (150GB Velociraptor plus 2x640GB in a RAID 0 plus a 1TB) for internal drives and they have done really well for me. For your application the internal drive is definitely the way to go, especially for PS scratch. I can't stress enough how important it is to have a Photoshop scratch disk on a drive with fast data throughput - an external USB or Firewire drive is a bad idea when it comes to PS scratch.
    The reason that the PS scratch disk is so important is this... when you are working on larger files the RAM gets used up to full capacity. So, PS then needs to start using the hard drive (which is MUCH, MUCH slower than RAM) to serve as additional RAM - this is called the scratch disk. At the same time, your operating system is also running out of RAM and it starts to use what's called the virtual memory paging file as additional RAM (exact same principal, hard drive space serving as RAM). The problem arises when both the OS and PS want to use the one single hard drive at the same time (since there's not enough RAM to go around). There's only one set of read/write heads on the drive, so it has to go back and forth between the OS paging file and the CS scratch disk - resulting in dramatically slowed performance. When you can have two hard drives, one for the OS paging file and one for the CS scratch disk performance can improve dramatically (while PS is actually using the scratch disk).
    One tip - when you get your internal drive make sure to set aside the FIRST partition as a section dedicated to the scratch disk, 15-30GB should do fine. The first partition resides on the outside edge of the drive where the speed is the fastest, plus having a dedicated partition avoids issues with the scratch disk becoming fragmented as the drive fills up. You can then take the remaining space on the drive and make another larger partition for storage or general use.
  26. Also, the folks who recommend an external drive are right, you do need a drive that you can separate from your physical computer. On my setup, I run duplicate copies of all my photos internally. One copy resides on the RAID 0 array (which also serves as PS scratch disk) and one copy resides on the 1TB drive. If an internal drive fails, I've already got a duplicate copy immediately accessible. In addition to all this, I have another 1TB external USB drive that backs up EVERYTHING and is stored off site. This way I am protected against fire or a thief coming and walking off with the computer.
    Storage is cheap at $100/TB. Tens of thousands of photos representing years of shooting are not replaceable.
  27. Thanks again for all the input and tips.
    In the future I'll have an external hard drive system for all the reasons outlined above, but for right now I'm going to go for a second internal drive and continue to back-up to DVD, with one set stored off-site (which is still great for me considering just six months ago I was still stacking up CDs).
    For heat, I may go with a WD Caviar Green, which runs cooler, and I keep the tower off the floor and often vacuum the room to help with dust.
    I'm looking forward to finally having a scratch disk to assign. All my books outline the need for them, and as someone who on my old computer used to have Photoshop Efficiency ratings of 20%, this'll really help with Photomerge and the like.
  28. Go external, don't even worry about internal.
  29. Hi Steve,
    I have both and apart from the speed issues etc which have been covered here, i get a lot of peace of mind knowing that my external drive will be safe and unaffected if my PC dies or in the worst case is stolen.
  30. I have two external hardrives both 500 GB and all my photos are on those plus one is a backup for another. Reason I chose external over the other was the ability to take it anywhere I want. Another reason is that when I am done working on photos I turn the drive off and I know that incase computer crashes (happened before) I won't loose any of my files.
    my comp. has 350 BG internal HD but I only use it for music and nothing else.
  31. Lots of good opinions and information in the previous posts. One thing not mentioned is that with an external drive, it's a lot easier to grab your drive (and save your valuable files) and go quickly if the house catches fire, or the nearby river starts to rise quickly.
  32. John, that's right. You never know when disaster strikes.
    I have saved all important drives, photoalbums, papers and other (non-monetary) valuables in a special part of the house, so I don't have to start searching in case of an emergency.
  33. A second internal drive gives you more options on how you want to organize your project data. You can also elect to get a faster running hard drive than the primary C drive. For example, you can install a "Velocity Raptor" 330GB internal drive as a second drive. Then keep your active photo and video projects on that. It runs at 10,000 RPM which noticeably quickens file reads and writes, to/from the hard drive. When you finish working the project, you can do a simple drag/drop on the folder and move it to a slower USB type drive.
  34. Both
    Here is an example of what I have: Two internal SATA 1TB disks configured in RAID 1 - Then I have an external RAID 1 (again 1TB) device as my main backup. I use SuperDuper to clone the internals to the external.
    I would predict that you would be very unhappy with the speed of an external as a working disk unless it was connected via SATA.
  35. I don't like having my archive in a drive that's always connected to the computer (spinning wear and tear, vulnerable to viruses, power spikes, etc). So I prefer the external route.
    If you use eSata it's basically just as fast as an internal.
  36. Internal drives generally faster, they are working right off the system bus. Assuming you have an adaquate power supply and fans, I optimal would be your internal drive for your photos, and then an external firewire or eSata drive to back-up the pics you want to save.
  37. Internal drives generally faster, they are working right off the system bus. The System Bus is the pathway between the CPU and Chipset. An internal hard drive interface is orders of magnitude slower
    And an eSata port is basically the same thing as a sata port.
  38. Hello George & Les - you guys seems to understand what others in this thread do not - bus-drives (USB & FireWire) are slow and the more of them you have, the slower they get. Regardless of how many 'ports' (plug-ins) you have, they're all sharing the same bus and competing for a slice of a fixed amount of bandwidth. Both internal and external drives will fail, only a question of when. Why haggle over $10 to safeguard your work product? Penny-wise and pound-foolish.
    Ideally, an extensible, protected drive array (such as RAID-n) out on the network as George suggested is an excellent choice. Worst-case, when the water starts rising you can unplug it an boogie. Another option I've looked at is a Data Robot, marketed as 'Drobo' (how unfortunate..). It's extremely attractive as it offers RAID-type protection without all the technical BS you have know to set up, or God forbid, expand a RAID-5 box. The Drobro is basically a box you can put drives in without having to care that they're not the same size, mfg. etc. and it will allocate space and manage protection. It offers live fail-over if a drive crashes, you can keep on working while you pop out the old one an slap in a new one. If you run out of available space, just add a new drive or replace a smaller,older one and the Drobo will format and mount it while you continue working. It is literally RAID for dummies. As you can imagine, a box that smart does not come cheaply, but once you get north of 3T it's per-GB competitive cost wise with G-Tech and others.
    And here's the great part - you don't have to have external SATA or Fibre channel (hooray for iMac users!) you can use Firewire, or if you really want to smoke it, the 'Pro' (8-drive) model offers iSCSI via an Ethernet port! That's a direct-connection thats faster than your internal SATA. The 4-drive consumer model has USB, FireWire, or offers NAS via an additional interface.
    As I said, cost-wise a 2T setup will set you back the cost of a wide-angle 'L' lens, but the expandability literally goes on forever. As drives capacity increases, replace the old drives with new drives, up to the 64-bit O/S limit of 16T/logical volume. And each box supports multiple logical volumes....and no, I don't work for them.
  39. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Bernard, I have been looking at the Drobo the last couple days and have been unable to figure out from their documentation if the drives can be used elsewhere if the Drobo box fails. It's not clear that they are formatted in the same way that a regular disk is, which I would find unacceptable. If I can't take the drive out and drop it into a computer or a drive dock, it's not going to be very useful. Any thoughts or experience on this?
  40. Jeff - you are indeed correct that you would not be able to drop their drives into another non-Drobo box and have them work. You would likewise be limited in your recovery options with drives in a traditional RAID array other than RAID 1, which is simple drive mirroring. With RAID 1, each drive of the pair is whole unto itself and could be mounted in any carrier or in a PC. If the NAS enclosure suffered an electrical problem, all the drives would have to be assembled in a new NAS enclosure to recover data. RAID schemes spread data recovery information among all the drives to minimize the risk of single point of failure, as does Drobo.
    I think moving to a NAS or Drobo solution presupposes your storage size requirements and/or work product security (you're lucky enough to make a buck taking pictures) is important and makes the manual drive backup/cloning process just too much work and the risk of loss too high if you make a mistake. Myself, I'm a not a good or prolific enough photographer and probably would not invest in this just for my photo library. However my hi-def music and movie collection is into the 2T range and represents a serious investment of time and money. Much of the source material does not exist in 'hardcopy' and I want it available across my home network. I've been in IT for 25 years so I know RAID to the point it's not the technical support issues that would dissuade me from building a RAID box, it's the fact I get the same protection and speed with Drobo without having to worry about it with the flexibility to grow the storage size incrementally. That is a real pain with a traditional RAID box.
    By the way, to my thinking the risk of box failure is much less than the certainty of (eventual) drive failure, however I plan to take a 'belt and suspenders' approach and eventually have a 2nd Drobo box to backup the backup for offsite storage.
  41. Hi Les - iSCSI is a disk transfer technology based on an Ethernet physical connection , not a network protocol (such as TCP/IP) with all the attendant overhead. It is not used to network-attach the Drobo box. Instead it is directly connected to the workstation, which can then act as a server to the network. I'm not sure I understand your comment about switching interfaces,as the Drobo (or NAS) box appears as a logical volume, not individual drives.
    But all that aside, you are correct of course that I jumped way outside the lines. Mostly I'm stoked about Drobo from the perspective of us iMac users that can't do any connection requiring an add-on card. iSCSI as any other connection is going to take a small speed hit from the protection-striping algorithm during the data-write process (but not as much as if you were doing RAID in software, i.e. the O/S), but data-reads conversely benefit since the data seek occurs across multiple drives simultaneously instead of on one drive sequentially. Either way it beats the pants off USB/Firewire.
  42. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Thanks for the info Bernard. I'm close to 1TB of image files and that doesn't include scans. I'd like to find a better way going forward - I currently write to two 1TB disks and will need to move to bigger disks if I keep the same methodology. The Drobo looks a lot simpler, but I think what I really want is something like a drive dock with four to six slots that lets each drive look like a separate one. I guess I'll have to wait...
  43. You can try to buy a harddisk at the size you need and buy an external case/box which comes with SATA interface. Should your computer main-board need to have spare SATA port(s) available, you can use a SATA cable to make a SATA port on your computer. Hope this help.
  44. Jeff - it boils down to the fact that the only way to provide complete portability for your drives is to never exceed what you can put on a single spindle. Once you cross the physical disk boundary with a logical structure, whether it's RAID, JBOD or Drobo, you can't recover outside the framework of the array. Even RAID 1 is a hassle when you have to resize your volume. The good news is that we've gone from 750G per spindle to 2T in less than a year; 2T drives are available at B&H for about $250. Good luck.
  45. The HP MediaSmart Homeserver is a Drobo-like box that is affordable (I paid $440 from Amazon) and allows all sort of mix-and-match options with eSATA drives. I am currently running the 500 GB drive that caame with it plus a 1.5 TB drive and two bays are empty. It can be used as a backup system (what I am doing) or a server. it also will serve MP3 files, photos etc but I have not delved into this.
  46. Hi Rob - networked storage does seem to be moving away from RAID-only based technology and to me, that's a good thing. The way to get improvements and prices down is to have competition, which is probably why you can now get the 4-drive Drobo for about $350 with rebate on Amazon. The Mediaserver is certainly an attractive box backed by a great company (my spouse-equivalent works for HP) and should provide peace of mind.
  47. I'm currently using this:
    with this:
    The Icy Dock is set up as JBOD full of 500G WD disks, and the Thermal Take is an access point for 1T drive backups of the Icy Dock drives. These are taken off line when not actively backing up. Easy and cheap.
    The Thermal Take dock is a fast way to mount and make a backup of the boot drive with all software and OS... t

Share This Page