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#32607 - 01/26/15 07:56 AM how noisy are external hard drives?
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
In the near future, I will probably buy a 5K iMac Retina. My elderly Mac Pro has spoiled me because it has four internal hard drives. So, I will need to get external drives for backup purposes. My only experience with an external occurred about 12 years ago when I had bought a LaCie drive for use with my G4 DP 450. It was quite noisy and annoying.

How noisy are modern external drives? I don't mind a quiet hum but if there is a noticeable din, I'll be very unhappy (and so will my wife).
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#32608 - 01/26/15 09:46 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
In order to =answer your question we will have to know:
  • What make and model drive(s) each different make and model is different
  • are the drives SSD, 5,400 RPM, 7,200 RPM, or optical drives?
  • What make and model enclosure will the drive be in?
  • Does the enclosure have a fan, a heat sink, or no heat control?
  • If the enclosure has a fan, how heavily are you using the enclosed drive? The more it is used the more and faster the fan will run.
I have four external enclosures sitting in front of me, and they range from silent to pretty noisy and the noise level depends on what they are doing. A dedicated optical drive enclosure is silent when playing an optical disc, but both the drive and the fan hum and buzz while burning. Another enclosure that has no fan and a SSD drive is absolutely silent all the time. Another fan cooled enclosure has an HD, an optical drive, and SD card slot. There is never a peep out of it using only the SD card, and even hammering pretty hard on the Toshiba 2TB HD the main thing noticed is the flashing blue LED, but start burning an optical disc and the fan noise is very noticeable. Another fan cooled enclosure with an industrial grade HD is noticeable any time it is switched on a result of both fan and drive noise.

I never notice noise from my backup drive because it is in a Time Capsule located a distance from the computers and has no fan.

If you want to minimize noise
  • Avoid "industrial grade" drives as they tend to be noisier than consumer grade drives from the same manufacturer
  • avoid fan cooled enclosures because no one has figured out a quiet fan
  • avoid 3.5" inch drives in preference for the smaller and generally quieter 2.5" laptop drives even though that will limit you to around 2TB capacity at this point in time
  • accept slower performance and use 5,400 RPM drives because they tend to run cooler and in the 2.5" form factor that is the best the 2TB drives can do
  • If you have a bottomless bank account consider using all SSD (1TB SSDs are available for as little as $500)
  • Avoid optical drives. Even in uncooled enclosures they hum and/or buzz while burning.
  • consider using network attached drives in another room or closet where you won't hear them.
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#32611 - 01/26/15 09:59 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
Ira L Offline


Registered: 08/13/09
Loc: California
I recently acquired two USB 3.0, 2.5", 5400 rpm external hard drives ($69 each). They are the quietest devices I have ever used. If were not for the flashing blue activity light, I would never know they were operating.

The trade off is that they are not particularly fast. I think that is more a function of the 5400 rpm, since USB 3.0 is speedy. I think the combination of slow/speedy makes them usable in my situation.
_________________________
On a Mac since 1984.
Currently: 27" iMacs, Macbook Air, macOS 10.14.x,; iPhones, iPods and iPads galore!

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#32612 - 01/26/15 09:59 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: joemikeb]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
Thanks for the comprehensive reply, Joe. I don't know what I'll be getting because I won't be making any decisions about the iMac for a few months. Still, that iMac would make a nice present to myself for my 70th in March. I'll think about everything that you said.
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#32613 - 01/26/15 10:00 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: Ira L]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
Thanks for the info, Ira. That gives me more to think about.
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#32617 - 01/26/15 12:16 PM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
FWIW, I’ve got a couple of fanless OWC Mercury Elite Pros (a 3 yr old 2TB, and a new 3TB) next to my retina iMac, and I do indeed hear the disks spin as a fan-like noise. That said, with the slightest of background noises (electrical heater, stereo, outside car traffic or the odd grandchild) that noise seemingly vanishes. Drive noise is more obvious with start up and heavy disk activity. It doesn’t usually bother me (it’s sort of reassuring), but it’s there.

Two more new fanless Seagate Backup Plus 4TB USB-3 drives also make a faint fan-like noise, which becomes strangely noticeable when they spin up or down (it's the same with the OWC drives). The iMac’s drive and fan (the only real one in this menagerie) are faintest of all, but I can hear them too. Unfortunately, this is all pretty subjective, but I cannot provide a db number to be more specific.

And yes, I like that retina iMac. I never was much into wallpaper slide shows, but (at least for now) I’m treating myself…
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#32694 - 01/27/15 05:23 PM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: Ira L]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Originally Posted By: Ira L
If were not for the flashing blue activity light, I would never know they were operating.

Flashing blue light? Sounds like the OWC On-the-Go Pro. I have one and am never aware of its presence.


Edited by ryck (01/27/15 05:23 PM)
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ryck

iMac (Retina 5K, 27", 2017), 3.4 GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 2400 MHz DDR4
OS Mojave 10.14.6
Canon MX710 Printer
Epson Perfection V500 Photo Scanner
Time Machine on 1TB LaCie USB-C
Carbon Copy Clone on 500GB OWC Mercury OTG Pro

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#32705 - 01/28/15 09:15 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: ryck]
Ira L Offline


Registered: 08/13/09
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: ryck
Originally Posted By: Ira L
If were not for the flashing blue activity light, I would never know they were operating.

Flashing blue light? Sounds like the OWC On-the-Go Pro. I have one and am never aware of its presence.


True that OWC has flashing blue lights on most of their drives, but these were Staple-purchased USB WD drives.
_________________________
On a Mac since 1984.
Currently: 27" iMacs, Macbook Air, macOS 10.14.x,; iPhones, iPods and iPads galore!

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#32843 - 01/31/15 09:38 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Jon, you got me to thinking about the relative noise from my computer. I found and downloaded a dB meter app for my iPhone just to see what the total sound levels are.
  • Steady state (the fan in my Mac mini turning at 1,800 RPM and the drive in the NewerTech Max mini enclosure spinning) — 32 to 34 dB
  • add typing on the Apple wireless keyboard — 50 dB.
  • burning a CD in the Max mini enclosure — 48 dB.
As a reference scale…
  • 20 dB Rustling leaves
  • 30 dB a quiet whisper at 3 feet.
  • 40 dB a quiet home
  • 50 dB quiet street
  • 60 dB normal conversation
  • 70 dB inside car
  • 75 dB singing
  • 80 dB automobile (25 feet)
Note: the dB meter app is not up to professional/commercial standards, but it does appear reasonably accurate.


Edited by joemikeb (01/31/15 09:39 AM)
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#32845 - 01/31/15 10:56 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: joemikeb]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
I can tolerate those noise levels! Even my wife won't object.
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#32915 - 02/03/15 07:23 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
Virtual1 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Iowa
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
How noisy are modern external drives? I don't mind a quiet hum but if there is a noticeable din, I'll be very unhappy (and so will my wife).


my current favorite line: https://www.lacie.com/us/products/range.htm?id=10036&gclid=CK2qvIWXxsMCFQotaQodXLAAzQ

This is the one I use at work. It's DEAD quiet wink

https://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10629


It also has a stealth blinky light that took me a week to notice. Built-in thunderbolt cable, AND does USB3. 430 MB/second (not megaBITS, megaBYTES) to another SSD. One gig file copies finish before Finder can open the Copy window.
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#32922 - 02/03/15 09:34 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: Virtual1]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
That drive looks very interesting, if a bit pricey (it's cheaper at Amazon and still cheaper at B&H Photo). I was hoping to get a 7200 rpm drive but if a 5400 rpm is fast enough, that would work. I will use it to copy to and from a new iMac. Any thoughts about how fast data transfer would be compared to a 7200 rpm drive?
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#32930 - 02/03/15 12:33 PM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
I'm not sure that this answers your specific question, but since I upgraded my internal from a 5400 to a 7200, I feel like boot and copy times have improved proportionally. (Sorry, no real benchmarking.)

Edit: Your new iMac is going to have USB3, so I don't think you've got anything to worry about; you may be able to go still faster, but you'll already be going plenty much faster than now under any circumstances.


Edited by artie505 (02/03/15 03:18 PM)
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In Memory Of Harv: Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. ~Voltaire

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#32942 - 02/04/15 05:31 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
Virtual1 Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Iowa
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
and still cheaper at B&H Photo


Funny you should mention them. I was introduced to them recently here, they'd done a lot of their mac peripheral orders from them in the past.

Funny how a photo place sells macs the cheapest? And I've seen weird stuff like that be the case several times. I got my Canon Powershot S3IS for $230 direct from DELL, when the MSRP was $400 and the deepest discount places sold them for $300. Computer shops selling cameras cheap, camera shops selling computers cheap... connection?
_________________________
I work for the Department of Redundancy Department

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#32943 - 02/04/15 01:34 PM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: Virtual1]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
B&H has an amazing stock and generally great prices. (AppleCare for my MBP is $244 v $349 from Apple.) Ask them for a catalog, and be prepared to spend a day or two with it.

Edit: B&H is the first website of its type that I've run across: It's owned by orthodox Jews and is closed on the Sabbath, etc. (You can browse, but you can't buy 'til after sunset.)


Edited by artie505 (02/04/15 07:40 PM)
_________________________
The new Great Equalizer is the SEND button.

In Memory Of Harv: Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. ~Voltaire

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#33149 - 02/18/15 04:31 PM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: Virtual1]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
I'm very interested in your recommendation of LaCie drives. I was looking at LaCie User Manuals - Precautions and came across the statement Do not place the LaCie hard drive near sources of magnetic interference, such as computer displays, televisions or speakers. Magnetic interference can affect the operation and stability of your LaCie hard drive.

Since I would be plugging the unit directly into the Thunderbolt port on an iMac, is this of concern? The thunderbolt cable is 14.5 inches long. Does this give a comfortable distance from the display?
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#33151 - 02/19/15 01:43 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: Virtual1]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
Another question: The LaCie drives run at 5400 rpm but the connection speed via Thunderbolt is super fast. Given the choice between a 7200 rpm drive on USB 3 and a 5400 rpm drive on Thunderbolt, which would have faster data transfer?
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#33156 - 02/19/15 05:24 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
Ira L Offline


Registered: 08/13/09
Loc: California
I'm not an expert on this aspect, but it would seem to me that if the data arrives super fast and then has to wait for the drive to move into position (yes, an oversimplification), you would be better off with a faster moving drive.

This also seems to make sense if you are reading or writing many small files as compared to a few large ones (e.g., video). Plus, USB 3 is quite fast compared to what you might have previously experienced..
_________________________
On a Mac since 1984.
Currently: 27" iMacs, Macbook Air, macOS 10.14.x,; iPhones, iPods and iPads galore!

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#33159 - 02/19/15 07:32 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
I was looking at LaCie User Manuals - Precautions and came across the statement Do not place the LaCie hard drive near sources of magnetic interference, such as computer displays, televisions or speakers. Magnetic interference can affect the operation and stability of your LaCie hard drive.

Given the hard drive in your proposed iMac is a LOT closer to the monitor and CPU than any external HD could possibly be that would imply…
  1. LaCie enclosures (LaCie does not make drives, just enclosures with third party drives they purchase in bulk from whoever has the lowest price) are incredibly sensitive to electrical interference
  2. That warning is block copy from a long time ago when CRTs were the rule and not todays LED monitors
  3. The copy writers are extremely cautious in covering their exposed nether regions
  4. All of the above

Right now I have an OWC and a NewTech drive enclosures parked directly beneath my monitor and have never had a seconds problem with either. I am not a particular fan of LaCie but they are better engineers than to build an enclosure that sensitive to magnetic fields.
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
The LaCie drives run at 5400 rpm but the connection speed via Thunderbolt is super fast. Given the choice between a 7200 rpm drive on USB 3 and a 5400 rpm drive on Thunderbolt, which would have faster data transfer?

There are other factors than rotation speed that can have a major effect on perceived drive performance. If you are transferring lots of small data files and/or the drive is badly fragmented a 7200 RPM drive will generally yield better performance. If you are transferring large data files the sustained data transfer rate of the drive is more important and 5400 RPM drives may be capable of higher sustained data transfer rates than some 7200 RPM drives. In external enclosures you also have to consider the sustained data transfer rate of the enclosure's SATA bridge chip. The drive may be capable of 6 Mbps and the bridge chip can only handle 3 Mbps.

Little "gotchas" like that long ago drove me to buying bare enclosures and installing my own hard drive. By doing that I am able to optimize system performance to match my personal application needs. Besides that I found buying an enclosure with a drive pre-installed usually limited the warranty for both to one year whereas buying them separately I can end up with a one year warranty on the enclosure and three to five years on the drive. In my experience the drive is more likely to fail than the enclosure is. I have one little enclosure that has outlived two drives. Of course the FW400 interface in that enclosure is relatively antiquated by today's standards, but for some situations it continues to soldier valiantly along.

FWIW I have been duly impressed by the performance of the USB 3 interface in my NewerTech MaxMini enclosure. All things are not equal but comparing the performance of the NewerTech on USB 3 with an OWC enclosure on FW800 shows the USB 3 to be roughly 45% faster. (No guarantees on that as there are too many other variables that are not controlled but a reasonable approximation.

If you want absolute maximum drive performance using the Thunderbolt port you really need to consider a RAID 1 or Raid 5 enclosure. OWC has one that used 3.5" drives and another less expensive one that uses 2.5" drives. Of course by the time you add 4 1TB drives you are looking at nearly $700 but blazing performance.
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#33160 - 02/19/15 12:55 PM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: joemikeb]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
Thanks Joe and Ira. I'm seriously rethinking a TB drive in favor of 7200 rpm and USB 3. I'll be using the external drives strictly for backup, one for Time Machine and the other as a clone. My main concern was the speed of data transfer in case I either had to restore from TM or run the computer from the clone. I have been spoiled by my present Mac Pro because all the drives are internal. The new Mac Pro doesn't have that option and it's way overpriced for my needs.

When I have made a final decision, I'll post it. I'm glad that I haven't rushed into anything.
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#33163 - 02/20/15 08:24 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
I think you will find USB 3 to be up to the task you describe and it will save you a substantial number of dollars in the bargain. cool

While you are still in the planning and decision making phase there is an item you may want to consider. I am currently using Mac minis and while they have a plethora of ports, I still find the demand for external devices (optical drives, hard drives, scanners, headphones, thumb drives, postage scales, etc., etc.) uses up those ports very quickly and USB 3 hubs often do not yield USB 3 level performance. Other World Computing is selling a Self-powered Thunderbolt Dock that provides: 2 Thunderbolt ports (1 for input from the computer), 5 USB 3 ports (2 of which provide enough power to charge an iPad), 1 FW 800, 1 Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI with 4K display support, 1 audio in and one audio out. It doesn't reduce the rats nest of connector cables coming off the back of the desk, but it does eliminate at least 2 previous USB hubs and everything works at full speed. The second production run was sold out before it shipped and they are taking orders for the third production batch. (Please note, I am not an employee of OWC and receive no compensation for mentioning this product — I am just a satisfied customer)


Edited by joemikeb (02/20/15 08:37 AM)
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#33164 - 02/20/15 09:51 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: joemikeb]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
Right now, I'm considering the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual.

I would install two Toshiba
2.0TB DT01ACA Series Hard Disk Drives
and use the thunderbolt connection. My only other peripherals would be a OWC Mercury Pro
24X External DVD Burner
, a USB printer, and the USB connection from my APC UPS. Occasionally, I might hook up my Nikon film scanner but that would involve using a firewire-TB adapter.


Edited by jchuzi (02/20/15 09:54 AM)
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#33169 - 02/20/15 07:32 PM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
I'm very interested in your recommendation of LaCie drives. I was looking at LaCie User Manuals - Precautions and came across the statement Do not place the LaCie hard drive near sources of magnetic interference, such as computer displays, televisions or speakers. Magnetic interference can affect the operation and stability of your LaCie hard drive.

Since I would be plugging the unit directly into the Thunderbolt port on an iMac, is this of concern? The thunderbolt cable is 14.5 inches long. Does this give a comfortable distance from the display?


You're fine.

Old fashioned CRT displays are the problem here. CRTs generate powerful magnetic fields--they use an electromagnet to steer the electron beam that draws images on the screen. Flat-panel displays are not sources of magnetic interference.
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#33172 - 02/21/15 03:16 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: tacit]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
That makes sense (Joe said basically the same thing). As an interesting side note, we patronize a vet who specializes in reptiles (for our snakes). His office has one of the original iMacs (CRT display, probably using OS 8 or 9). As far as I know, it has been running smoothly since he got it, back in prehistoric times. If the magnetic field from the CRT had affected the hard drive, he would have known about it by now.
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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#33173 - 02/21/15 04:17 AM Re: how noisy are external hard drives? [Re: jchuzi]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
I finally placed the order but substituted 2 Hitachi Deskstar 2TB hard drives for the Toshibas. I don't have experience with Toshiba drives and the warranty is for two years as opposed to three for the Hitachis. I have always used Hitachi Deskstars and had no problems. Their write speed is slower and the cache is smaller, but I'm willing to trade some speed for known reliability. The Hitachis also cost less than half the Toshiba price.

I'll be ordering the 5K Retina iMac within a few days. Wish me luck!
_________________________
Jon

OS 10.14.6, iMac Retina 5K 27-inch, late 2014, 3.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 1 TB fusion drive, 16 GB RAM, Epson SureColor P600, Photoshop CC, Lightroom CC, MS Office 365

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