NYC Electro

How to: Make Your Music Library Truly Portable – Part 1: Buying the Portable Hard Drive

I am sure you have been there: Its your turn to DJ but first must go through the clumsy act of switching computers with the other guy. That requires putting on some filler record that usually is not the perfect transition song. Well, there is an easier way! Put your music on a portable hard drive, plug it into the existing laptop and BOOM, all of your Serato crates are there and ready to play. (Assuming the other guy lets you use his computer, its best when DJing with friends.)

The concept is simple, but setting it up is not that easy, especially if you have always kept your music on your computer. Well, its time to evolve and move to a more portable solution.

In this 4 part series, we will look at Part 1: Buying the Portable Hard Drives, Part 2: Moving your iTunes Library to your new portable (if you use iTunes), Part 2.5: Why you should let iTunes organize your music library, Part 3: Moving your Serato Files to the new portable, and 4: Plug and Play (literally).

Part 1 - Buying the Portable Hard Drive: click to continue reading:

Hard Drives

There are tons of portable hard drives out there. So the question is, what do you buy? This is probably the easiest part of the three part series. You wanna buy lots of space, aka GBs, and have it compact and it must be bus powered (aka USB powered). Thats the basics, but you need to make an informed decision.

The other factors include drive speed, cache size, ports (usb or firewire), price, durability, aesthetics, and personal preference.

Drive Size: How much space do I need?
The drives themselves these are the same size as drives in your laptop - 2.5" and have the same space limitations that the laptops experience. Currently, as of this writing, the maximum consumer storage on a 2.5" drive is 1TB of space, that is a ton of storage and I recommend only using your new drive for music. There are 1012MB in 1GB, and 1024GB in 1TB, and each song is about 10MB (thats a 5ish minute song at 320kbps), so you can pack a whopping 104,857 songs on 1TB. That is about 1 year of music continuously playing without ever repeating a song. You will most likely be able to fit way more music than this on the drive considering some of your music is probably at 128kbps or 256kbps. Also, you will most likely not fill this drive up with music alone. If you do videos, you might eventually need more storage. (If you are unfamiliar with the acronyms, read the bottom of this article for a key.)

Speed of the drive:
Drive speed is an easy one. There are two types, 5400rpms or 7200rpms. 72 is faster than 54, but most 7200rpm drives are much more expensive and not as commonly used. 5400rpms will be fine for DJing.

Drive Cache (got change?)
So, now that we have storage, and speed down, lets look at cache. The cache is high speed memory buffer between your computer and the portable drive. It generally controls how fast info is written to and from your computer to the drive. So, the bigger the cache, the faster your drive can copy and move info. Serato typically does not need much cacheing, but its a good factor to consider when buying a new drive. 8MB size is about standard.
Ports: USB or Firewire...

USB Powered Hard Drive

Ports, a very important thing to consider. If you are like me, your computer only has one choice, USB 2.0. If you have Firewire then you have one more option. Be sure your computer is Firewire 400 or Firewire 800 before you buy. Firewire transfers data faster than USB 2.0, but this is a mute point because Serato is not all that demanding, USB is fine. All computers now are equipped with USB 2.0, so that is a safe bet when you buy your hard drive, and a USB only device is usually much cheeper than drives equipped with the Firewire option. If you show up to a gig and the other guy does not have a Firewire port on his laptop, then you are SOL my friend. I recommend USB.

How much is this going to cost me?
How much are you willing to spend? Well, the good thing is that right now, storage space is really cheep. You can get lots of space for not that much money. Lets assume you want a 1TB USB powered portable drive. You could be spending about $140 - $150, somewhere around there, and that is a TON of space. If your pockets are a bit lighter, go for a bit less space like a 750BG drive, it is around $100, give or take a few bucks. You could go lower, but why would you? Spend a few more dollars and you will not have to upgrade or buy a new drive for a long time, hopefully it will be enough space for years to come.

What about the brand?
What do I recommend as far as brand? Thats hard to tell because the brands put out new models every, sometimes the product improves, sometimes it does not. I have a WD "My Passport", I got it on sale and I've had it for about 2.5 years. It has been reliable so far. Toshiba and Segate make good drives. I would stay away from most LaCie drives, I have seen too many of them fail with no hope of recovery. But the LaCie Rugged portable drives work well (they are a bit too expensive for what they are though).

32GB LaCie Key

These are really cool too, you can carry a full nights set on your keychain. But its $99 for 32GB. There are cheeper versions and they all fit in your pocket with your keys. These LaCie Keychains can be bought at B&H.

I hope this helps with your portable hard drive purchase. Buy whatever fits you and your wallet best, but make sure its bus powered and can fit your entire library with plenty of room to grow.

Be looking for Part 2: Moving your iTunes Library. If you don't use iTunes, skip to Part 3: Moving your Serato Files to your portable drive. And also read Part 4: Plug and Play (literally).
NOTE: Parts 2-4 are coming soon. Links will be provided once the articles are up.

MB = Mega Byte (not to be confused with Mb, Megabit) There are 1,048,576 Bytes in 1 MB
GB = Giga Byte, 1024 MB in 1 GB
TB = Tera Byte, 1024 BG in 1 TB

kbps - kilobits per second: in this case, used to talk about the quality of the music encoding

rpm = revolutions per minute: talking about a hard drive's disk speed

USB 2 = second generation Universal Serial Bus: it can carry up to 480Mb per second of info
Firewire 400 = can carry up to 400Mb/s of info
Firewire 800 = can carry up to 800Mb/s of info

Comments (1) Trackbacks (3)
  1. Great post. I too have recently had the daunting task of finding a suitable portable hard drive to back up all of my files on my computer.
    These days as computers become ever more important for storing all sorts of data, including music, movies, pesonal files etc, the need to back up all of our
    data has become an important issue. Personally, the thought of losing all of my files due to either a computer crash, accident (or in these days of laptops,iPads
    and other mobile systems) theft or accidently leaving your device somewhere, would be a disaster!
    I finally decided for the western digital my passport essential SE 1 TB and after a few weeks have found it to be easy to use, reasonably quick, and very compact
    and sturdy feeling. The peace of mind knowing that all my important data is nicely stored away is well worth the money that i paid.

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