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External Hard Drive or No

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Bjazzman, Mar 3, 2008.

  1. Bjazzman


    Dec 7, 2004
    Madison WI
    Is it better to get an external hard drive and record to that than to use the computer's own hard drive? I want to record my band on my new macbook pro but i will eventually want to have a professional studio mix and master it. If we did that would we need to record directly to the external and bring that in for the mixing/mastering?
  2. Grantrudd


    Jun 26, 2007
    Boston MA
    i am still new at this recording deal, but here goes what i know.

    It is best to use an external drive that is specially made for recording because those drives allocate space big enough for the file, instead of splitting it into many different parts like the hard drive of a computer will do. basically, the special hard drives make space to put all of the file in one spot, while computer drives scatters the information and puts peices of the file wherever it can find space. this does effect the recording quality (slightly, but it is noticeable)

    Just curious, but what software are you using? i am lucky enough to be using ProTools 7 LE with a pretty nice digitech mixing board.
  3. BetterBottomEnd

    BetterBottomEnd <- Not me I just like looking at her

    Jan 9, 2007
    Cable Wi
    No. I've ranted on this a couple times on these boards. If you want to save stuff to an external drive when you're done working with them for the day thats a great idea but an external drive is too slow to do much serious work on. The ideal situation is two internal drives one with your OS and Pro Tools installed and the other with the files your working on.

    What your talking about is basically your hard drive getting fragmented. With modern computers thats really not a problem but if it bugs you or you're really OCD like me just running a disk defragmenting utility once a month or so.
  4. Yep +1. The SATA drives will be much faster than trying to pipe all that through the fire wire or USB as they usually are already doing the recording. Run your recording drive in its own IDE channel if you are running IDE. Put the CD and other HD on another channel.

    Your bus speed will be a real determining factor for the performance of this computer.
  5. BetterBottomEnd

    BetterBottomEnd <- Not me I just like looking at her

    Jan 9, 2007
    Cable Wi
    He's using a laptop but the internal drive should still be faster. I would assume that Macbook Pro's have a 7200 RPM drive. If not then maybe a nice firewire drive would be a bit better.
  6. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Part of the reason for using an external is convenience. It is best to record on a separate drive that your OS is not running on.
  7. TheJoSko


    Feb 4, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    The concept of recording directly to a hard drive baffles me. No offense, but its impossible. More specifically, you are recording to your computers RAM and then saving it to a hard drive. If you dont have enough RAM then your computer is paging the data to a hard drive for use as virtual memory, or swap space. I have never heard of anyone using an external hard drive as swap space. The concept is completely ridiculous.

    The internal drive will always be faster due to the inherent limitations of usb and firewire. It doesnt matter whether your OS is stored on that drive or not.

    The main reason most people prefer an external drive is to have a portable, safe, reliable copy of their data. Internal hard drives, specifically the primary drive with the OS, have a higher probability of failure due to their increased use. This way, if your OS gets blown away, you still have your data.

    I agree with the argument about the USB being slow due to most recording being done through it. This is mostly true if you use a splitter or if your computer is designed to use the same interrupt request for multiple ports. This is more common than one would think.

    I guess my point is, if the data is stored in RAM until you save it does it matter where you put it? Obviously saving huge files on an external would be slow and admittedly frustrating, especially if done throughout the day.

    If you are constantly loading and saving individual tracks, then by all means use the internal drive and save it to an external later. Internal bus speeds will always be faster than external transfer speeds. Simply the nature of computing. But if your simply saving your work, why not use an external drive.

    I'm sure that didn't help at all. Just food for thought.
  8. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    if you plan on recording more than 2 tracks at 16 bit 44.1k you will need an external drive.
  9. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
  10. ermph... eSata has been out well over a year now, and it is just as fast as internal Sata without a single bit more overhead... faster if the internal is 5400rpm and you get a 7200rpm external... and they have their own cooling system, which means they won't heat up your lappy's internal.
  11. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    +1 eSata works great.
    And there is no firewire or USB protocol hanging over it. My only problem is it's not hot swap-able. I have to shutdown to unplug. No big deal really.
  12. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    You would assume wrong, all 3 macbook pro models come with a 5400 rpm drive by default.

    Saying you need an external to record more than 2 tracks is probably stretching things a little bit. Internal is ALWAYS faster than external? Please.

    It's still a good idea to have one though, if only for the fact that it's best to record to a drive other than your primary system drive. Avoid USB, but even a FW400 drive is sufficient for most recording. FW800 is cool, eSATA is even better.
  13. Bjazzman


    Dec 7, 2004
    Madison WI
    can someone recommend me a good eSATA harddrive?
  14. Dang it - I wondered why my work wasn't being taken serious!!! :)
    My Pro Tools HD3 (with 24 inputs and 48 outs) currently has something around a terabyte of hard drives attached to it; all running Firewire800 drives (two are LaCie's, two are, I believe, Rockstor drives). And the other HD3 in my B room has about the same amount of storage space on the external Firewire drives.
    I regularly mix sessions with 60-80 simultaneous tracks from those firewire drives; we can go from editing in the B room to mixing in the A room in about 20 seconds (just by unmounting a drive, plugging in the Firewire connection to the other computer and letting it mount). We've even done 96K sessions with more than 24 tracks off of one firewire drive; I simply can't believe that they're too slow, because they work here every day, all day.

    Another issue about using the internal drive (besides issues of data backup) is the sheer amount of room that audio data uses; the project I just finished ended up being 48 gig, and that was only one of 4 that are currently being worked on. the internal drive on a macbook would get filled up pretty darned quick....
  15. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I have the WD My Book Studio 500 gig drive (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136182).
    I was originally running it FW400 but using eSATA now. FW400 it worked pretty well, with eSATA it screams. I imagine most 7200 rpm eSATA drives will though.
  16. I believe 5400rpm is standard on MacBook Pros. I got a special order with a 7200rpm HDD.

    I record onto the internal HDD then backup projects to the external WD MyBook (via USB). Remember to save all audio / clips / external samples etc into the project folder before saving it out to the external drive (i.e. save as self-contained). That way when you open the project elsewhere everything you need will be on hand. You may want to think about saving over VSTs and settings as well in case these aren't available wherever you take your recording.

    NOTE If you intend to take your external HDD (whatever flavour) to somebody else to mix / process be careful how you format it. If you format using FAT32 then Macs and PCs will be able to read it. If you format using "Mac OS Journaled" format (default) then you may have trouble getting PCs to read the content.
  17. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    I record onto my external. Never had a problem.
  18. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    That's because it all depends on individual setup. Bus contention can play into to this. If multiple USB devices then they both are contending for the USB buss and that could slow things as they wait for each other. If one device on FW and other on USB then two different busses in use The same thing happens on computers with too many cards in the PCI slots they all start contending for the bus time. That is why big servers have multiple PCI busses so you spread your I/O intensive cards across the separate PCI busses.

    The devil is in the details.
  19. kevinmoore73

    kevinmoore73 Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
    Yeah, I laughed out loud at that post too.
  20. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    East Bay, CA
    Dave--just curious--do you have some sort RAID setup? And what sort of backup strategy do you use with a 1TB hard drive rig? Also, are there any partitioning/swap ideas you can share for ensuring quickest read times on big audio drives?

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