Six Terabytes in a Personal Computer

In the 20+ years I have been writing this newsletter, I have repeated one statement over and over: “the price of hardware keeps dropping,” and that has never been more true than today. This morning I added a six-terabyte drive to one of my computers. You can do the same within a minute or two and at a reasonable price.

I made a mistake. I stopped at the local Best Buy store. For me, that is like being a child in a candy store. I walked in with the intention of buying a 4-terabyte Western Digital external hard drive that was on sale. I quickly found the drive that I had in mind but then noticed the external disk drive right beside it on the shelf: a Western Digital SIX-TERABYTE external hard drive. Oh oh, I had to have it.

WD_6tb_drive

Of course, justifying the purchase was easy. The price for the six-terabyte drive was cheaper than the 4 terabyte device when I calculated the price per terabyte. I pulled out a credit card and soon walked out of the store with the larger capacity drive, feeling only a little bit guilty.

I arrived home, unboxed the drive, plugged it into a USB connector on the back of my Macintosh (the same drive also works on Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP as well as on Linux computers), and I started a backup of the entire primary hard drive of my computer. That required a few hours to complete. I then copied about 12,000 MP3 music files and a dozen or so television programs I had previously recorded and a few movies as well. I now have a complete media center in my computer and, using a number of different programs, I can play the videos through the 65-inch, high definition television in the living room and also play music files through my stereo system.

WD_6TB_drive2The cost for this super high capacity disk drive? $199.

That’s not cheap, but it certainly is a lot cheaper than what the same amount of storage cost a few years ago!

I remember my first hard drive, purchased more than 30 years ago. It was a 20-megabyte drive. That’s right, not terabytes, not gigabytes, but megabytes. I thought it had huge storage capacity. “I’ll never fill this one up!” You can guess what happened next: I filled it up.

That 20-megabyte disk drive cost $620, roughly $31 per megabyte. In contrast, today’s purchase of a 6-terabyte disk drive cost less than $0.00003 per megabyte! As I have said many times over the years, “The price of hardware keeps dropping.”

I now have on-site backups of my important genealogy data, checkbook, tax records, insurance policies, medical records, and all my important vegan recipes. Of course, I do not depend upon in-home backups alone. A fire or hurricane or burst water pipe could destroy the in-home backups and the computer simultaneously. For the most important files, I have additional backup copies in a couple of file storage services in the cloud. I feel that is cheap insurance, and the cloud-based files are all securely encrypted so that no hacker, not even the NSA, can access my important vegan recipes or anything else.

I don’t store music files and movies in the cloud simply because that still costs too much although such storage is becoming cheaper every month.

The $199 “investment” strikes me as cheap insurance. The information stored in my new external hard drive is worth a lot more than $199 to me. If I printed everything on paper and then wanted to file it, the required physical filing cabinets alone would cost a lot more than $200. A single 4-drawer filing cabinet costs anywhere from $75 to $200 or more, depending upon quality and whether or not it has a lock. I would need a number of such filing cabinets to store 6 terabytes of information. In my new “electronic filing cabinet” everything is locked up in encrypted files, and it requires a lot less space than multiple 4-drawer filing cabinets as well.

I haven’t calculated the price of the required paper and toner cartridges to store 6 terabytes of information on paper, but that would not be cheap, either.

You, too, can acquire this cheap insurance. High capacity disk drives are now available at reasonable prices, much cheaper than purchasing filing cabinets with equivalent storage capacity. Installing and using such a disk drive is almost a “no-brainer.” I took my new disk drive out of the box, plugged its USB cable into the back of my computer and its power cord into a wall outlet, booted the computer, and started copying files immediately. No software installation was necessary.

NOTE: All recent Macintosh computers already have Time Machine software installed. It is one of the best backup programs I have seen and is already installed in every Mac at no additional charge. Windows users will find simplistic backup programs pre-installed but probably will want to obtain a more robust backup program from a third party. There are many such backup programs to choose from, and almost all of them work better than Microsoft’s own backup programs.

I chose a Western Digital disk drive simply because I have owned a number of disk drives from Western Digital over the years, and all of them have been very reliable. I don’t remember a single one of them that has failed. However, Western Digital certainly isn’t the only disk drive manufacturer, and it is possible that you may have equally good results from a disk drive made by a different manufacturer.

I purchased my 6-terabyte Western Digital disk drive from Best Buy for $199, but I believe it is available from any number of other retailers for the same price or possibly even less. I found it listed on Amazon at http://goo.gl/7rLFE9 for the same price. If you are an Amazon Prime customer, that price even includes two-day free shipping.

Wait a minute! I just noticed that Amazon is selling an EIGHT-TERABYTE Western Digital external hard drive for only $249 at http://goo.gl/s74tmC. Do I still have my credit card handy?

“The price of hardware keeps dropping.”

“I’ll never fill this one up!”

26 Comments

Question: should I purchase separate external hard drives for a PC and Mac due to the different operating systems? Thanks.

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    The external USB hard drives for Windows computers and Macintosh computers are identical except for two things:

    1. If it says Windows on the box it probably has been formatted in Windows’ NTFS format while those that say Macintosh on the box probably have been formatted in OS X Macintosh OS Extended (HFS Plus) file system. In both cases, you can simply plug the USB external hard drive into any computer and reformat.

    2. Those sold as “Windows disk drives” usually have some Windows backup software included on the drive while those sold as “Macintosh disk drives” usually have some Macintosh software included. Again, in both cases, you can reformat the drive which deletes the software. You probably didn’t want that software anyway. The included software is usually rather simplistic products. You can obtain better backup softare from a number of places.

    The hard drive I installed yesterday says “Windows” on the box. I plugged it into the Mac and reformatted it and started using it. No problem.

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$199 is quite cheap for you Dick (putting aside the greater value to you for backing up your data). The cheapest INTERNAL 6TB drive costs A$327 here in Australia – we always pay much higher prices here 😦

Do you also run a local NAS server in RAID configuration for redundancy? Or use the clouds instead?

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    —> Do you also run a local NAS server in RAID configuration for redundancy? Or use the clouds instead?

    Yes. And yes. (smile)

    I do have an older Network Attached Server (NAS) that seemed huge when I purchased it a few years ago but isn’t so big by today’s standards. However, I would never depend solely on disk drives in my home. One fire or hurricane or burst water pipe or other in-home disaster could wipe out everything. Therefore, I keep additional copies “off site” in several cloud-based files storage services for “extra insurance.”

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The following statement prompts another question about data storage: In my new “electronic filing cabinet” everything is locked up in encrypted files, and it requires a lot less space than multiple 4-drawer filing cabinets as well.

How do you encrypt your files?

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You’ll never fill THAT one up!

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I enjoyed this informative article. Every techie from 10 to 80 will laugh and understand the candy store analogy.

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Care to share some of your favorite vegan recipes?

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My first hard drive on my Windows 3.0 in 1992 was a huge 80 meg.

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Great advice, Dick. You never have too many backups.
I use Acronis Backup & Recovery to create a complete image of my hard drive, every night. I back it up automatically to an external drive like the one you just bought. Acronis manages the space by deleting backups older than 30 days.

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Robert B. Kimmel, MD, MBA March 24, 2016 at 8:39 am

I bought a 10 Mb hard drive for my Apple IIe in 1985 at a cost of $989, and like you, thought I would never fill it up! Also, I recently bought the 5 Tb version of your Western Digital desk top drive. Like you, I have never, ever had a WD fail, but cannot unfortunately say the same about Seagate. As you say, despite inflation, the cost of hardware continues to drop to amazingly low levels!

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    Seagate sucks. I was lucky everything was still on my internal hard drive.
    I’m off to Best Buy. Maybe they will have a 10 terabytes one !
    What you paid is cheap. I bought a 2 Tera flash drive for $70. And it acts like it isn’t full.
    Thanks again Dick for all the goodies . Aloha

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How do you get the television programs and movies on your computer?

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    —> How do you get the television programs and movies on your computer?

    Multiple methods are available.

    One method is to record DVDs, an easy process. However, I usually record programs “off the air.”

    Some months ago I “cut the cable” connection from the local cable company, installed an outdoor TV antenna, and purchased a rather fancy box called Tablo. You can see it at https://www.tablotv.com/

    Tablo works a lot like the cable box that you get from cable companies. It includes a built-in DVR (digital video recorder) that records programs onto a standard external USB disk drive. Those videos can later be copied to any computer and saved.

    I no longer have any cable television service. I was paying a lot of money every month to receive a lot of channels I never watched. Even with cable, I spent most of my time watching local ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS channels, all of which are available locally free of charge over the air. I also watch a lot of television over the Internet, such as Netflix, Apple TV, and more. I pay for some of those channels but the bottom line expense is a lot cheaper than what I was paying for cable.

    Depending upon the hardware and software you have, those programs also can be saved for later use although instructions may vary for each one. For instance, to learn how to record Netflix videos, start at https://duckduckgo.com/?q=record+netflix&t=h

    Another interesting article about recording streaming videos may be found at http://www.pcworld.com/article/2048278/how-to-download-streaming-media-and-watch-it-anywhere-anytime.html

    My latest toy is one that I just unboxed a few days ago and am still learning to use. It will record ANYTHING that is displayed on a high-definition television and doesn’t even need a computer to record video. See the HDMI Cloner Box at http://goo.gl/md4bVP

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Sadly, my experience with Western Digital drives is not as good. I had FOUR WD drives go belly up on me, all after short periods of time. I vowed never to get another after that. I switched to Seagate and have been happy with them. Have had a couple of drives fail over time, but not as quickly as the WD’s ever did. I use 3 Seagate drives for Time Machine backups, keeping one connected at all times, and the others stored in a media fire box when not in use. I also use CrashPlan for cloud backup. I tried OneDrive and another cloud service but their software kept hanging my iMac. I also have selected files (i.e., genealogy data) backed up to 32GB thumb drives.

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    Unfortunately I, too, had a WD external drive fail. Bought it about 6 years ago; it failed in about 2 years. Tried some tips that a local computer repair man suggested to get it to work, but it just became an expensive paperweight! I now use the cloud and thumbdrives for my backups.

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    I also have had various Western Digital drives go bad over the years. The latest one went bad just this past February after about four years of use. Unfortunately it was on my primary working computer. It took a week of misery to restore the thing, especially since I discovered that Microsoft’s backup utility for XP does not copy the complete registry, the part that has all the unique user settings.

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I bought a WD drive for back-up 3 years or so ago. It never worked the way it said it should, their concierge service was in some foreign country and their regular customer service was less than helpful. After several tries, over several months, for many, many hours on the phone with several different “helpers”, it became a very expensive doorstop. I will never buy anything from WD again.

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Am I clear that YES I would need a separate WD for my windows PC and one for my Mac Lap top, because they are formatted differently?

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    —> https://blog.eogn.com/2016/01/01/where-is-genealogy-technology-headed/

    No.

    You can buy either the Windows version or the Macintosh version and then plug it into any Windows, Macintosh or Linux computer. If it is not already formatted for your operating system, you simply reformat it for your system. Any computer can reformat any hard drive to make it work on this computer’s operating system.

    The hard drive I purchased said “Windows” on the box but I didn’t care. I knew it would also work on a Macintosh or on Linux once it was reformatted. I plugged it into my Macintosh. I then formatted the new drive for Macintosh. The process only required a few minutes to complete and then it worked perfectly on the Macintosh.

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Dick, what ever you do DO NOT go to Ebay as the prices there will drive you nuts. 6TB for less than $160 on buy now. Much less if you bid. I only buy mine there to save money. Never had a problem! Not sure what import fees are in other countries. Enjoy! Yes you will fill it up. I said the same on my first 30MB Hard drive. Now my camera burns that up in nothing flat. Happy days!

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    —> Dick, what ever you do DO NOT go to Ebay

    Oh, over the past 20 years I have probably purchased several hundred items on eBay, including two automobiles. I have also sold a few dozen items on eBay as well, including one of the same autos and one other automobile as well. I have always had good luck with eBay.

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I bought a new Lenovo “slim” laptop a couple of months ago, then discovered to my horror the thickest HDD it would accept was 5 mm – limiting the laptop’s HDD to 500 GB. Larger capacity laptop HDDs are all thicker than 5 mm. I refuse to accept a laptop that will not accept a minimum 1TB HDD, so I returned the laptop for a full refund. That information was not easy to find on the laptop’s promotional literature. Slim / thin isn’t always good.

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I used to buy individual external hard drives and I still have a few (one is my Mac’s Time Machine), but a few years ago I invested in a Synology 5 bay NAS. The 5 bays now hold up to 20tb (4tb x 5 bays), though the largest drive now supported is an 8tb. I can upgrade drive sizes as if/when any one of them fail. With 5 drives, I have redundancy if a drive fails. I use the NAS for multiple purposes–backing up the computers on the network (but they also back up offsite) and as a Plex media server (where I have >3,000 TV programs, 250 movies, 23k music tracks, shared e-books, etc.). The NAS and all of the data are accessible (computer/phone/tablet) anywhere I have an internet connection. Not for the non-technical, but not an overwhelming setup process either. The media folders on the server are backed up to external hard drives, so I still have a use for them but decided to quit buying an ever expanding array of external drives.

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