back to article Eight pocket-pleasing USB 3.0 hard drives

My, how time flies. It has been a couple of years since El Reg did a group test of external USB3.0 hard drives and comparing prices for 1TB drives between then and now shows how much the price of conventional hard drives has fallen in the meantime. Then, only one drive was under the £100 barrier, this time around, all the ones I …

  1. Lee D Silver badge

    The problem I have with these is that they're still a bit small in terms of capacity.

    1Tb is fine for the "let's lob some photos on" crowd, but my laptop alone has 4Tb of storage. In terms of putting things on for backup, I need something huge. And when you get into those sizes, then backup speed is a real issue.

    These things are neither one thing nor the other. 64Gb USB sticks are dirt cheap, can be dropped and are very fast. These things are large but (comparatively) slow and fragile. Not the best for home backup.

    And then you consider that pretty much any old enclosure could do if you slap the largest drive you can afford onto it. I can get a 2.5" 1Tb SSD for a couple of hundred now, but I can't get four times the storage in spinning disk enclosures for the same price.

    I prefer the Zalman VE- range anyway as they allow you to mount ISO's stored on the disk and it pretends to be a bootable USB CD drive at the same time (no more carrying around boot/rescue/driver/OS install disks). One of those unique selling points that nobody else ever bothers to copy despite it being nothing but a firmware upgrade. But they can bundle some freeware backup junk that I wouldn't trust my temporary files to...

  2. Tromos

    Cable length

    Kudos to Freecom for ditching the short stubby cable. These drives are portable, hence useful for bulk transfers of files from device to device. When plugging in to a desktop tower case, I don't want to go grovelling round the back to find a USB socket, there are usually a couple at the front, often right at the top. Do I want to leave the drive dangling in the air because the cable is too short? I know most of these are rugged enough to easily survive the short drop to the desk, but it does rather interrupt the file copy when the drive detaches and takes a dive.

  3. Peter Sommer

    Not enough power!

    An important thing to worry about is whether the drive will draw more current from the USB socket than the motherboard is happy about. All too often with larger capacity drives Windows will put up a "power surge" complaint. Some people think there are software fixes for this, but really manufacturers ought to be supplying Y-cables - 2 USB connectors for the PC/laptop, the second one to provide the necessary power. Most of the time they don't and you have to source the Y-cable from EBay

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not enough power!

      That was the really annoying thing about firewire not taking off, it supplied 30v but then it's the amps that count.

      The newer USB specs are finally realising that power is important and that 5v @ 500mA isn't enough.

      Often I find it cheaper to buy these USB drives and then take the drive out if I want an internal drive as often they're SATA with a converter. But I was caught out by a Toshiba that used a custom drive. I wonder how many of them do that now? I discovered that the clue to finding a drive with a converter is if the USB is on the side not the back.

      1. TheProf

        Re: Not enough power!

        I did that too. Took the drive out of a Toshiba model. It was a standard SATA connector and fitted into my laptop with no trouble at all. It worked out cheaper than buying a bare drive.

        One thing impressed me with the Tosh case was the activity light. Plugged into a USB3 port and it glows blue. In a USB2 port it's white.

      2. elec-dan

        Re: Not enough power!

        I used to do this too. I can say though that the Samsung M3 has the USB port mounted directly on the drives circuit board, so I got caught out there (and didn't want to risk returning it as the case wasn't easy to open!). Its proved itself a nice USB drive to take around though, and has replaced my e-sata one.

        1. jason 7

          Re: Not enough power!

          When the big HDD flood happened a couple of years+ ago I was buying Seagate NAS boxes with 2 x 1TB HDDs in them far cheaper than the bare drives would have cost me.

          Bit crafty but hey...

        2. No, I will not fix your computer

          Re: Not enough power!

          Yep, I did the same thing, building a small media server with 4x 2.5" 2Tb drives (smaller and quieter than the 3.5"), but opened the Tosh to find a direct to USB3 board, no SATA - they were only £78 each, but I kept the one I opened and sent the three unopened ones back.

          I wonder, ElReg - are the direct to USB3 drives faster than the drives with a USB/SATA bridge? logically you'd think they might be, mine seems whizzy, but I've not done any tests.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not enough power!

      Or make ALL usb ports a 1A minimum...

  4. Nifty Silver badge

    How to encrypt these?

    Without spending as much again on software?

    Now that TrueCrypt is 'dead'.

    You wouldn't want to export from your encrypted Windows partition into a free to view ID theft package, would you?

    1. dogged

      Re: How to encrypt these?

      BitLocker, FileVault, VeraCrypt depending on your OS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How to encrypt these?

        Truecrypt 7.11a (I think) was the last unadulterated version and remains uncracked...

  5. Nifty Silver badge

    Windows 7 home premium 32 bit. Looks like VeraCrypt is the only option. It's the one that has has not yet had a code audit for security to nearly the same extent as Truecrypt.

    1. dogged

      Unless you can afford a one-off $2USD. Then you can support this effort -

      Remember to compare checksums...

      1. Neal Stephenson


        Followed the link and went to the Mac app store. Well worth the 69pence asking price but a message pops up "Purchase of this App is not available " with the text " this item is being modified, please try again later"

        Looks like the NSA haven't quite finished the back door.

        1. Toothpick

          Re: Hmmm

          Probably because Apple are upping their prices

          1. Neal Stephenson
            Thumb Up

            Re: Hmmm

            Spot on. now available at the revised price of 79 pence ! :-)

  6. scruncher
    Thumb Up

    Samsung and Seagate do it for me

    I use these disks as a replacement for long term DVD storage.

    The Samsung M3 is pretty to look at, reasonably quick and the USB socket is lovely. The default build standard for these new-fangled miniature USB3 sockets is shit to the point where you think you're going to destroy it just by plugging in the cable but Samsung put a really nice one on this. I've had a 1TB one for 2 years and just added a 2TB one. I also have 1TB and 2TB plastic Seagates (not the ones here) which are fine, just not quite as lovely as the M3s. My 1TB plastic Western Digital was in a distinctly lower ballpark though.

    I'll check out the Freecom next time as I've had good experiences with their huge metal desktop jobs in the past.

    1. Phil W

      Re: Samsung and Seagate do it for me

      I have a previous generation Freecom XXS drive, which is very similar except that it has a Mini USB 2 port and at the other end there is a flap in the rubber allowing you to remove the drive.

      It is about 4-5 years old now and still going strong.

      I did have a problem with it shortly after i got it, where the USB port detached from the PCB and since the USB port is directly on the HDD instead of a SATA port I couldn't get the data off. I sent it back to Freecom directly under warranty expecting to get a replacement in the post and to have lost my data.

      To my extreme surprise they had repaired the one I sent them, replacing the socket with a more substantial looking one and better soldered joints. As well as this all my data was still intact on the drive.

  7. Chika

    WD My Shovelware

    I own one WD My Passport which works OK. It comes, however, with shovelware installed, something I'd prefer to do without so my advice here would be to avoid My Passport and go for the Elements range instead. I tend to avoid the Seagate units as the last one I bought was Linux unfriendly, something I haven't suffered with any of my other externals.

    Having said that, I've also got an Adata or two knocking about and I have no quibbles about those, though the one Freecom "gimpdrive" I ever owned had a flimsy USB socket which broke away from its mounting (it mounted directly onto the board inside the unit) which wasn't impressive IMHO.

  8. Zog_but_not_the_first

    USB Achille's Heel

    Great little drives BUT watch out for the drive side USB connector. It's a fragile beast on the Samsung (and possibly others) and is sadly all too easily damaged.

  9. Gannettt

    WD, No Thanks!

    I've always relied on WD internal drives, but the MyPassport i have isn't that great. Like a previous poster said, you can't remove the crapware, it's on a non-removable partition. The other drives look pretty good, though, might have to invest in one for the laptop bag!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WD, No Thanks!

      No such thing as a non-removable partition.


      1. stevebuttonmoon

        Re: WD, No Thanks!

        There is if it's on a ROM.

        It was an HP thing. Took the disk out and put it in a new caddy.

        Now I just stick to the WD Elements range.


  10. Brian Allan 1

    We've had terrible failure rates with Seagate drives over the past five years; makes me really nervous buying more of them. Western Digital drives have performed much better, although might be a bit slower? Security vs. speed? I'll take security!

  11. Jan 0 Silver badge

    Hurrah! No irrelevant pictures!

    Well done Simon Crisp. If you can do it, why can't the other elReg journalists? Keep up the good work. Have a Rökporter on me.

  12. roger stillick

    Jason 7 is right= BUY NAS BOX...

    tried 2 different USB extension hubs... neither would support more than 1 pocket drive on 5 different laptops, MS or LINUX Os...

    IMHO=they need to be externally powered if you need more than 1 pocket drive... and if you are really using it to keep ANY data off the laptop, Q= do you really need encription it if it never gets off your person ?? how about a NAS box for backup, and a pocket drive for daily use w/laptop ??

    The Steampunk folks hollow out a book and totally shield that pocket drive in foam, adding an extermal extension cable ( available at L-COM ) and keep the "book" in their shoulder Messinger bag along w/ the laptop or pad / tablet...

    caveiat= dropped my laptop AND my external Pocket drive and killed both drives... lost everything that wasn't backed up on my 3 16GB flash drives...a lot went South, (now have pocket drive duck taped to side of printer table) need a real NAS...RS.

  13. Mr. Sir

    What, still no indication of capacity?

    I have some (more than 3) different drives floating about for various things. They are identical on the outside, but capacity and content varies. Why it remains a trend to not print the capacity on the outside of a drive continues to be a mystery.

    I can't help but think there's a really good reason that I just haven't guessed. Regardless, it makes for a bad user experience.

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