I Change My Mind Occasionally

I have gotten into numerous discussions about how to securely save digital image files. My method of using gold-gold CDR discs for this purpose has not altered, I have an established system so making a change would not serve me well. But the only alternative in the past I could recommend were then expensive RAID-1 mirrored hard drives. They are now affordable, so are a reasonable alternative. This came to my attention in a MacWorld report I received via e-mail, featuring a Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual mini 640 GB external drive for as little as $180.

So first of all I should explain what a mirrored RAID-1 external hard drive is and how it works. In this instance it is actually two 320GB hard drives in a single enclosure. So you have two identical hard disk drives that total 640GB. When in mirrored RAID-1 mode any data files saved to the system is stored twice, identically on each separate hard disk. This provides the security that if one drive fails, it can be replaced physically with a new one, then all of the data on the remaining drive is copied to the new one. The chance that both RAID-1 drives would fail at the same time is very remote, so you have a good assurance that your data will remain secure.

Although the source for these Mercury Elite drives is Other World Computing, at www.macsales.com, and is an Apple related hardware and software supplier. The OWC web site indicates the Mercury Elite drives are both PC and Mac compatible. These drives have FireWire 800 and 400 connections, and in this interface are Bus powered, as well as USB 2.0 and eSATA, with an input for DC power when the bus powered FireWire interface is not used. A selection of five different sized and configured RAID-1 drives are listed by OWC with combined capacities of 640GB to 2.0TB with prices listed from $180 to $319.

So today if someone asks me for a way to safely store digital photo files I can give them a choice of affordable RAID-1 drives or gold-gold CDR discs. Personally if I were beginning now I might very well choose a RAID-1 drive. But I will go along with that old saying, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. My old gold-gold CDR system still works fine for me.

rwdallas's picture

Please consider that a RAID 1 device set up in and of itself is not a true fail safe back up UNLESS on occasion the user replaces one of the drives and stores this mirrored drive AT ANOTHER LOCATION from the RAID device. While the RAID system in David's article works fine for a redundant data copy, there are other RAID systems, albeit a little more expensive, that allow the user to easily swap out drives for the express purpose of storing a copy off site.

kovacsge's picture

Two 320GB drives in a raid-1 config only equals 320GB total space not 640GB.

kthywin's picture

First, let me thank you for including my comments about my failed WD hard drive, in this month's issue. Not to belabor my point, but here are some reviews from CNET @

There are more reviews on the page referenced,but I think your CDR idea is a safer bet.


My 1TB WD has also failed on me after only a year! I think it's absolutely ridiculous that a drive designed for use as a back-up would fail before your regular drive which last years. But what's even more ridiculous is WD's replacement program which looks more like a scam than a genuine warranty with them charging your credit car 2.5 times the retail price of the drive ($160) and you if don't follow 3 pages of instructions and jump through a whole bunch of hoops, that's how much you'll end up paying for a crappy replacement drive that you can buy for $70! Frankly, I'm shocked that a manufacturer would call something like this a warranty program and I would never buy another WD HDD.

ukwrecker Sep 19, 2013

Just had the Miss fortune of purchasing a Western Digital 1TB Passport drive, and what a mistake it was, I backed up a weeding shoot to the drive, checked the photos over on the drive to check every thing was ok and every thing was fine couple of days later plugged in the drive to process photos in in Photoshop, comes back with drive not recognised, and what ever I have done I have got no results, I have lost all the photos, and possibly held liable to being held responsible, when it's all down to a Western Digital Passport drive, if anyone is considering purchasing one of these, then I would advice you to pay that little bit extra and get something that is more reliable then what these are, because all in all, all they will do is cause you grief

I bought this unit brand new and used it normally, after 2 weeks it fails. With my works in it!!. From now on I will never buy another WD drive. This is the 2nd time WD drives failed on me. Never-never ever again buying WD. Such a low quality product.

princetd001 Sep 2, 2012

I replaced the power unit from an official source paying the premium and the HD powers up, spins and the blue light showing activity at the data plug is evident however the laptop and my pc at work dont recognise the existence of the HD.

I have tried alternate cables but to no effect.

No known maltreatment of the HD and as it survived the transport in my camera bag on the aircraft from the UK, and worked, assume there was no effect there.

Any ideas what to do next?
Regards, Graeme