Ideal Time Machine Hard Drive

After coming close to losing a few years’ worth of the kids’ digital photos (I had a backup, thank you, rsnapshot, but when I only have one copy it’s close to being lost) I decided to find a good full-time backup hard drive for the wife’s computer. Hers is a Mac Mini running Leopard, and it has the Time Machine backup system (think exactly like rsnapshot, but with directory-level hard links as well). So, I wanted to find a drive that would be:

  • Small
  • Quiet
  • Easy
  • Big enough to handle backup of an 80GB drive
  • Reliable
  • Cost-effective

Now, there are several drives out there that have the capacity. Most are pretty big (physically), and many of them require an AC wall wart and have fans in them. That I didn’t want.

I usually just head over to Newegg and find a case and a drive and screw something together, but they didn’t have any that met the requirements. By this time I had decided that a Firewire bus-powered drive with a 2.5” 160GB drive would be perfect, and I finally found one at MacSales/OtherWorld Computing. These guys sponsor the open source project XPostFacto which lets you run OSX on hardware Apple has abandoned (so that you can connect to the Internet without being pwned). So, good guys, and they have the 160GB OWC Mercury On-The-Go Oxford911 FireWire 2.5” 5400RPM 8MB Cache Portable Storage Solution, which, while a mouthful, is just the right drive for Time Machine backups.
I didn’t think I’d buy another PATA drive, but the Oxford 911 chipset is really quite well-proven, a nice feature for a backup drive. The drive comes with a cable and a pleather case:

and a CD that contains some software for something I don’t need (it would be a nice green move to be able to leave out pleather cases and CD’s if they’re just headed to the trash heap). I plugged the drive in, the Mac asked me if I wanted to use it for Time Machine, and a few clicks later the backups started running. Nicer interface than rsnapshot, for normal mortals anyway.
Now after all that, there are two complaints. First, it’s in a very nice lucite case. But the case doesn’t have much in the way of markings on it. There’s a 3-position switch on the back, and you have to refer to the user’s manual pamphlet to figure out what it does. It’s a switch for Bus Power/Off/AC Power. I made a label on my label maker so I could recycle the instructions.
The second point isn’t about the product but the marketing. The box exclaims, “Fits in your shirt pocket!”. Here’s how well that works:

This particular oxford (not 911) shirt of mine has bigger pockets than any others, and it just fits. When I hear a claim like that, I think of another 2.5″ drive I have:

that can almost fit reasonably in a pocket. This isn’t a shirt pocket drive – maybe cargo pants. Better to just call it a really nice drive.