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Apple external hard drive

(9 Posts)
monkeysmama Mon 30-May-11 22:25:42

I am looking to buy an external hard drive to use with my MacBook Air and iPhone and possibly a Dell laptop with Windows software (desirable but not essential) I have no idea what to go for. Any advice?

OberonTheHopeful Mon 30-May-11 22:46:57

More or less any external HD with a USB connection should be OK. The small portable ones can usually draw power from the computer without requiring a separate power supply. I'm not aware of the possibility of connecting an external drive directly to an iPhone (it has no USB/FireWire connection).

I've used Seagate and LaCie drives successfully with both Mac and Windows PC's. A Mac can use an external drive if formatted for Windows (FAT32), but you can't usually use a drive formatted for Mac (HFS+) with Windows.

MotherMountainGoat Mon 30-May-11 23:01:10

I was sold a La Cie 256 GB by my local Mac shop - it works wonderfully with Time Machine. Last year my laptop hard drive (MacBook) just died from one second to the next and had to be replaced, but thanks to the external La Cie I didn't lose a single bit of data - all the settings, mails, photos, files were retained. I was well impressed. I have no advice on whether it will also work with a Dell, though.

MotherMountainGoat Mon 30-May-11 23:05:05

Just one thing related to what Oberon wrote - my La Cie doesn't use a separate power supply, but it also doesn't use the USB connection. It plugs into the hole with a picture shaped like a y - on a MacBook it's the fourth hole from the back. This is important because there are only two USB slots, so one of them is not taken up by the drive.

OberonTheHopeful Mon 30-May-11 23:41:41

The other hole with the y symbol is the firewire (IEEE1394) port. It's really just an alternative to USB but while popular on Macs not all PC's have them.

montmartre Fri 03-Jun-11 00:03:08

Can I ask a v dim question?
The seagate and lacie drives- are these just the ordinary ones, or do you have to get mac spec ones? (told you it was dim)
Can you buy them anywhere? (eg dabs?)

montmartre Fri 03-Jun-11 00:03:50

My main concern is backing up photos btw, if that has any bearing!

OberonTheHopeful Fri 03-Jun-11 12:04:46

It's certainly not a dim question, but the answer might be a bit complicated smile

The problem is that MacOS and Windows use different methods for storing information on a drive (the "file system"). A Mac uses a file system called HFS+ (sometimes called "MacOS Extended"), whereas Windows uses one called NTFS, however an older Windows file system called FAT32 is also usable. A Mac can read from and write to a disk formatted with FAT32, but can only read from one formatted with NTFS. The main restrictions with FAT32 versus NTFS are that the performance is a bit slower and with FAT32 you can't have an individual file that's bigger than 4GB (probably not a problem for most people). This means that most larger external drives are pre-formatted with NTFS.

So your options would be: a) If you're only using the drive with a Mac it would be easier to get a drive that's been pre-formatted for MacOS (not so common these days and possibly a bit more expensive, but I think LaCie still make some of their drives in both Mac and Windows versions or at least supply instructions on how to use them with both operating systems); b) Get any hard drive, connect it to your Mac and format it for MacOS using the Disk Utility application (Applications->Utilities); c) If you want to share files between a Mac and a PC you would need to re-format the drive as FAT32 (you can do this in Windows) or there is third party software that lets Macs write to NTFS drives.

It's honestly not as difficult as it sounds! You can buy the drives anywhere but most of them will be configured to work with Windows. An Apple store will sell you one that will work straight away with your Mac but they tend to charge higher prices than other outlets (e.g. Dabs). Feel free to pm me if you need any help smile

montmartre Fri 03-Jun-11 14:35:17

Thank you Oberon- very helpful! smile

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