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some ?s - external drive, new laptop, vista, file systems


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#1
getRand0m

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Hi, folks. This might be sort of a long post with lots of questions, but please take some time to read it and I love you long time.

Firstly, I want an external hard drive to store movies/music on and to back up my data (as well as move files onto a new laptop I will be buying soon, more on that in a minute). Preferably I am after an external that will fit inside my safe in case of fire. So the specs I am looking for are roughly as follows:
- 10.5Ēx 8Ēx 3.5Ē maximum physical dimensions (hopefully smaller so I can store other things in the safe too)
- 200 to 1000GB capacity (preferably around 320-500GB, happy medium for capacity/cost/size)
- USB connection required (anything else a bonus)
- good performance (buffer size/seek time/spin speed)
- cost less than $200 (in Canada, factoring in 13% tax rate)

So what is out there that meets these requirements and is reliable? This is the kind of thing that should be purchased from a real store with a warranty, right? Iíve seen some very cheap ones on eBay, but undoubtedly they are ďMade in ChinaĒ crap, correct? Also, are FireWire and/or eSata a lot better than regular USB, like worth some extra bucks on the external and the new computer for the performance they provide? I still need USB to get the files off this old system, though.

Which brings me to getting a new laptop. The lappy I have now is approximately three years old, and itís getting close to time for an upgrade. But all new computers ship with Vista, right? Should I wait for SP1 to come out (and when is that going to be) before I invest in a new machine, so I can get the service pack installed on there as soon as I open the box? Also, I have heard Home Basic is utter crap, so I will need a more powerful machine than the cheapest ones out there so I can run Premium, right?

What specs will this require, and bearing in mind I intend to play Wil Wrightís Spore when itís released? Iím not a PC gamer by any stretch, but Spore is definitely a game I want to check out. And as I need a laptop (for school etc) I canít just build my own system, so I need to get one that is Vista Premium- as well as Spore-capable right off the shelf. So what sort of specs do I need, and can I get it for roughly a grand in Canada, or will it run me closer to fifteen hundred?

Finally, some questions about file systems. The lappy I have now uses FAT32; it came preloaded that way. I will want to use my external to ship a bunch of media files and programs etc over to the new lappy, so will there be any issues with either the external or the new lappy when it comes to the file system of the original files (Iím guessing that newer computers and external hard drives all use NTFS these days)?

Also I plan to reformat and reinstall XP on the old lappy, and put some of the old programs back onto it from the external afterwards. I want to give this old one to my mom in a clean yet well equipped state for her, i.e. with anti-virus/spyware, firewall, photoshop, ms office etc. Now if Iím using a system recovery disc, is it going to make the file system FAT32 again, or will I have a chance to select NTFS instead? Iíve considered using the convert feature in XP to make it NTFS in the past, but didnít want to lose/corrupt any of my precious data on the hard drive. And now that Iím getting a new lappy I can just wait until I get all the files over to the external and do the wipe/reinstall.

So thatís my situation, and Iíll try to sum it up briefly once more:
- What is the best external hard drive meeting what I specified above?
- Is Vista Home Basic basically useless, or will it suffice for casual users?
- When is SP1 going to be released, and should I wait for it before buying?
- What specs will my new laptop need to comfortably run Vista Home Premium and Spore?
- What problems may surface in going back and forth between FAT32 and NTFS with files?

Thanks in advance for your time and for any help you could provide: resources, links, anecdotes, contacts. Iím a bit of a noob when it comes to the actual nitty-gritty of computers. Good day all, and i'll owe you one if you can help me sort all this stuff out; cheers!
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#2
Samm

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Hi there

External drives:
I'd recommend Seagate as the manufacturer of choice because their drives are extremely good, plus they tend to offer the longest warranties.

As an example, the Seagate Freeagent desktop drive. This is available in 250GB, 320GB & 500GB.
Dimensions without the base attached are 7.5" x 6.4" x 1.6". It has USB v2 interface, 8MB cache, 7200rpm & comes with a 5 year warranty.

The 500GB version is available from Canada Computers for $149.99 + $6.99 shipping. (Sorry, not sure about the tax)
http://www.canadacom...d...&cid=HD.342
(but currently out of stock)

They also do a 250Gb version for $86.99 (in stock)
http://www.canadacom...d...&cid=HD.342

Canada Computers also stock other Seagate external drives. You may have to go to Seagates website & check the data sheets to get the physical dimension of the other ones though (this is how I found the dimensions for the ones listed above).

File formats:
You're are right to assume that an external drive of this size will be using NTFS, not FAT32. Whether or not this is a problem for your old laptop, depends entirely on the version of windows you have. If it's Windows 2000 or newer, then you'll be fine with NTFS. If you're running 9x however, then this can't recognise NTFS. You should be able to get round this problem however by creating a FAT32 partition on the external drive, along with a NTFS one (eg 32GB FAT32 partition & the rest of the space as a NTFS partition). The reason I suggested 32GB for the FAT32 partition, is because Vista/XP cannot create FAT32 partitions larger than this, even though they will recognise FAT32 partitions up to 128GB in size.

Windows 2000 upwards can recognise both file systems so there shouldn't be a problem transferring data between your old laptop and your new one.


Re, your laptop query...
If you want a laptop with XP on instead of Vista (probably sensible at the moment), then Dell offer you the option of having XP. As for Vista service packs, I have no idea when MS are planning to release a SP for Vista. Bear in mind however, that with or with out a service pack, Vista is still extremely resource intensive, which is why most laptops on the market nowadays come with loads of memory. Vista requires a minimum of 512MB or 1GB of ram (depending on which version of Vista you have). This is the mimimum requirement just to run the OS! Imagine how much quicker the same laptop would be running XP instead....

Re. Spore. I have no idea as no one seems to know what the minimum system requirements are going to be for it. All I would say is, make sure that any laptop you buy has a second (empty) memory slot so you can upgrade the ram in the future. If you're going to run Vista though, you probably ought to be looking at at least 2GB of memory in order to run any games at all.

Also, make sure the laptop comes with a half decent video card as it won't be upgradable!

Hope this helps a bit

Edited by Samm, 14 January 2008 - 07:12 PM.

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#3
getRand0m

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thanks for that answer. i suspected seagate freeagent was the way to go. so that bit is squared away.

now when it comes to vista, i think it makes sense to go to it from xp just because that's going to be the future, even though it may still be somewhat unstable. and for once i'd like to get current instead of waiting 3-5 years.

i had guessed that 2GB ram was going to be the "acceptable minimum", especially if i want to use vista premium. but i would guess that the manufacturer is going to load it with 2x1GB cards not one 2GB with an open slot. any idea what the resale value would be on those 1GB rams if i were to in future go to 2x2GB cards?

and when it comes to cpu, what is a competitive processor? most of the lappies i searched on bestbuy/futureshop in the low to mid price range were dual core 1.5-1.8GHz, this means it really has twice that amount of speed as it's dual right?

and what makes a good graphics card that you can get on a laptop? what are you looking for in this respect? i've heard things like 64 or 128MB shared and something acceleration, but what kind of specs actually make for a decent card? again, i'm not overly interested in gaming, just spore (but i'll bet that will be somewhat resource intensive, however not like a crysis or bioshock or whatever fps mega-action game, in my eyes).

as it stands now, i am on xp home sp2, amd sempron 1.6GHz, 512MB ram, and 64MB shared (i think) video. so no matter what i get is going to be a lot better, but i want to set myself up in something that can do the job for a couple or three years without becoming archaic and insufficient.

and back to file systems. the thing is that i want to take files that are fat32, and put them onto the external and the new computer that are going to be ntfs. can i do this? will the files automatically store under the new file system without any hiccups or inefficiency? i don't want to retain the fat32 format on any of the files, and hopefully after i wipe/reinstall on the old lappy, i am going to have that one running ntfs as well.

so the files are fat32 now, but i want to have everything ntfs, so what's the best way to accomplish that? i know i can convert my entire partition using xp command line, but i don't want to risk wrecking any of my files. or is that mandatory, that somewhere along the line, i have to put those files through a process (that conceivably might corrupt/ruin them) such that they can store as ntfs? and while we're at it, for what reason would my lappy have been initiated using fat32 when ntfs clearly is superior?

again, thanks for your help, and it was good info that i will take to heart, but i am just asking more questions so i can be reassured as how to best proceed. cheers,
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#4
Samm

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At Canada computers, a 2GB DDR2 stick for a laptop is approx $50, a 1GB one is approx $25 (this is for decent stuff, not generic). I would hazard a guess that if you sold your 1GB sticks, as they would be second hand, you'd probably get about half of the new price for them (ie $12 - $15 each). This is a complete guess though and would depend largely on where you sold them, Ebay probably being your best bet.

As for whether or not your new laptop had 2 x 1GB sticks - you would have to check with the manufacturer or reseller. The main is, that the laptop can support upto 4GB of ram. I have a feeling though that Vista 32bit can only address about 3GB of ram correctly. Bearing in mind of course, that some of your system ram will be assigned to the video card as shared video memory.

Laptop processors:
Stay away from Celerons and Semprons if you want good performance. The best ones are probably either a Mobile Athlon 64 or Intel Core 2 Duo. A good indicator of performance, apart from actual speed, is the L2 cache size.

Dual core - these are generally faster than the single core equivalent but not twice as fast performance wise. This is partly due to the fact that a lot of software doesn't yet use the dual core capability to it's maximum advantage

Laptop Video - for games etc, you're probably better off with either Nvidia or ATI video card, rather than Intel, Via Uni Chrome or S3 etc

Re. FAT32/NTFS
An actual file itself isn't FAT32 or NTFS. This just pertains to the way the file is stored on the drive (ie the file system). In other words, you can copy a file thats stored on a FAT32 file system straight to an NTFS file system without any problem, and vice versa. Providing of course that the Operating system in question is capable of recognising both file systems (which 2000, XP & Vista obviously are). Think of it as a paper filing system - one person might arrange all files in chronological order, while someone else arranges their files in alphabetical order. The order used doesn't affect the actual files themselves, just the way they're arranged.

In short, this means that you don't need to convert the FAT32 drive to NTFS. You can simply copy your files across from the old laptop to the new one. Once that's done, when you go to wipe the old drive & reinstall XP, you can choose to format the drive as NTFS as part of the XP installation process.
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#5
getRand0m

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thanks, that was a great answer.

and in retrospect, obviously if i am upgrading the ram in my new laptop, i would hand-me-down the old ram sticks to the old lappy that my mom will have.

looks like i'm armed with all the knowledge i need to start shopping around.

cheers
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#6
Samm

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As your old laptop is exactly that - old(ish) - then it won't be compatible with DDR2 I'm afraid, so you won't be able to use those memory sticks in it.
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#7
getRand0m

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ah. anyhow, i found some things on ebay.

seagate freeagent 500GB - $120 + 35 good deal for the quality, and get this:

dell laptop - $1500 + 60
intel core duo 2.2GHz 4MB L2 cache
3GB ram
256MB nvidia geforce 8600m gt
vista home premium
15.4" widescreen, built-in camera
250GB hard drive
hdmi port, firewire
usb x 3, sd-card reader
wireless g, bluetooth
"lojack for laptops theft protection"

same seller so maybe i can save on shipping. but does waranty void if an electronic crosses the border? the manufacturer must accept that international trade by peers is the norm. so long as the user will ship to the country of origin for repair/replacement, right? or would i be able to get a comparable laptop cheaper elsewhere? it seems like a good deal, but will the prices go down in say 2-3 months from now?

oh right, i am going to wait for the service pack before i drop on a pewter. but i think i should snap up that 150 dollar freeagent 500, no?
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#8
Samm

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Re. the Dell laptop on Ebay:

I've just been to Dells Canadian website. You can purchase the Dell XPS M1530 (with a choice of 4 different colours) with the exact same specs as you have listed above for $1449 + tax. Delivery seems to be free. With tax the total is just over $1600 so the Ebay one does seem a little cheaper assuming that it inlcudes tax. As far as the warranty is concerned with regards to the USA/Canada issue, you'd probably have to ask the seller or Dell about this. Just make sure that the Ebay seller is an authorised Dell reseller.

Price is bound to go down as higher spec stuff comes out but it may take more than a couple of months.

I reckon the Seagate drive is a good idea though
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#9
shard92

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And by the way if you are looking to store your drive in a safe in case of fire..... something to consider... If the safe is fireproof, what temp will it get to inside the safe? What is safe storage temp for the hard drive? i've seen people put stuff like that ( including cd's ) thinking they were safe from the fire only to find that the heat destroyed them anyway...
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#10
getRand0m

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hey, i'm back.

i managed to find myself a freeagent pro 750GB for just under $200 all said and done. i could not get anything new whatsoever in 500 gigs for any less than $150 in stores or ebay, so i went for the high-end seagate/pro/750 for a little extra. i bought it from ebay (NIB/factory-sealed of course) and it's coming from the states, do you think the warranty will still be good?

now back to lappies. i found a HP pavilion, core2duo 1.67GHz with 2GB ram and nvidia 8400m 256MB dedicated graphics (can allocate up to 1GB more). vista home premium, 250GB hdd, 8-cell battery, 17" display, 3.5kg, $1000 bestbuy.

the non-integrated/dedicated-memory graphics card makes a vast difference right? or would the nvidia 7150 onboard do okay as well if i can allocate it with 800MB or 1GB of my system memory? i am thinking division of labour is going to make it way smoother right?

is 17" and 7+lbs too much to carry around (please don't take that out of context)? bearing in mind this will be serving as my home computer as well as something to take to school. as far as i can tell the difference in physical parameters only increases by like an inch in both directions, and perhaps 2lbs in weight. doesn't seem like a big difference, but is it?

would it be worth a few hundred extra to move up to the 512MB (+<1.5GB allocated) nvidia 8600m and into a more compact 15.4" model (i think the aforementioned one is cheap because it's large and possibly tough to get rid of for that reason, also 17" will eat more battery power), all other things remaining reasonably fixed? or going the other way, would it make sense to go to a slightly slower cpu with the 7150 onboard nvidia (.5-1.0GB allocated) in a 15.4" package for a couple hundred less? i need to get something that will not need anything but a RAM upgrade in the near future, and something that will run "spore", which reportedly will require approximately what "the sims 2" needs to run, which i don't think is utterly demanding.

vista sp1 is due to come out in about a month, do you think computers will go up in price if they are sp1 ready? do you think, now or after the sp1-ready computers ship, that non-sp1 machines will go on sale? is there any discernable difference in buying sp1 preloaded versus buying pre-sp1 and downloading the service pack immediately after opening it as the first operation performed on it? would sp1-preloaded be more stable/compact/effective?

so to wrap it up, my external hard drive is on its way and by september, i need to have a new laptop. sooner than that is preferable, so my mom can have this one and i can learn the ropes of vista and get everything set up and backed up to my satisfcation before school starts.

the specs i think i need in this new laptop are:
- core2duo cpu or comparable amd version (actual number of GHz not so important right? anything <2.0GHz will be roughly the same, and more than 2.0 way expensive, correct?)
- 2GB RAM or more (or 1GB plus empty socket for easy upgrade to 3 and eventually 4GB)
- decent graphics (is nvidia 256MB dedicated good enough? is onboard nvidia comparable with or a far cry from a dedicated processor? what makes a competitive graphics card?)
- vista home premium (sp1 preferred unless cost goes way down to not have it preloaded)
- medium to large display (14.1, 15.4, 17.0")
- hopefully stickering around $1000
- anything else is gravy

finally, any tips on batteries for a laptop? this lappy i have now never got more than 50 minutes off a full charge, so i was in a bad way if my classroom had no outlets or i came late. so a battery that can go 3-4 hours or more is somewhat necessary as well. are there universal batteries that plug into the ac socket, or do you have to get a second battery predesigned to fit in a particular machine's battery compartment?

sorry for another long post. please give me any tips or resources you might happen to have. you guys know everything! thanks again.

edit: and in response to shard, god willing there'll be no fire. but if a fire occurred while i was home, i could grab the safe hopefully and bolt with all my valuables, including my data. and yes i will be sure to grab the key, because it's on the ring with my house key which lies in the deadbolt, which i would have to turn to open the door and escape. also in case of theft, i'd like to have all my backups to put on a new computer if my house got robbed. it's a portable safe, but it's well hidden and clearly that key is not going to be in the door if i am out of the house. basically just because of the value/preciousness of my data i want to have it locked up. i do appreciate the warning though.

Edited by getRand0m, 11 February 2008 - 06:47 AM.

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