Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm building a new computer over the summer. I'm fairly competent in computer hardware, and am thus building the computer from scratch. I have everything planned out, but I was wondering about a backup drive.

I was thinking about having my main OS on a 300 GB WD Velociraptor (10K rpm) and my storage on a 1 TB WD Caviar (7200 rpm). I want backup, though, so I was thinking about going with a 1.5 TB Seagate Barracuda (5900 rpm) either internal or housed in an external eSATA housing (I'm not sure which would be a better idea -- what do you think?).

1.5 TB should be sufficient backup space for some time, so that's not what I'm worried about. I was wondering -- is 5900 rpm is too slow for a backup drive? Or does it not matter? I would think that it does not, but you probably have more experience than I do.

share|improve this question
There are no hard drives that spin at 5900 RPM. You mean 5400. – ChrisInEdmonton Jul 30 '09 at 19:46
Incorrect. See the drive I was considering: 5900 RPM. Maybe they are non-standard, but it's the RPM they use. – NickAldwin Jul 31 '09 at 13:09
Holy crap! I see from seagate's page (…) that this is indeed a 5900 RPM. Thanks. Live and learn. My apologies. – ChrisInEdmonton Jul 31 '09 at 15:15
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It doesn't really matter, especially if you're doing incremental backups. Though, looking on newegg it appears the 7200RPM Barracuda is $10 more...

Anyway, I strongly encourage getting either two backup devices and rotating them from home->work/safe deposit box or backing up offsite using JungleDisk+AmazonS3, Mozy, DropBox, etc.

If you're only worried about physical hard-drive crashes, user error and system errors, then there is no problem with a single backup drive inside your computer. If you're worried about your computer catching on fire, your house catching on fire or your computer being stolen, then having an external or removable backup drive that you can put in a fire safe, and/or two drives you can rotate weekly between home and elsewhere will greatly decrease the likelihood of losing data. If you go the off-site online route (which I encourage in addition to a local backup) I suggest you back up only the irreplaceable things online (documents, code snippets, photos, miniDV videos...), and not the easily replaced stuff (music, movies, programs, etc).

Finally, if you go the external enclosure route (and you're not doing eSATA) the difference between a 5900RPM and a 7200RPM drive is going to be functionally non-existent as you'll probably be limited by the throughput of USB 2.0 or Firewire more than the drive.

Edit: The goodness of backup solutions:

  1. multiple offsite + [multiple] onsite - Best possible solution
  2. Offsite + onsite - Great for nearly all uses (computer melts and takes your backup with it, you just get your data from off site)
  3. Single offsite - Alright, could be better (what if their data center gets taken out by a hurricane?)
  4. Onsite only - Worst working backup (only protects from hardware/software/user faults not disaster/theft)
  5. No backup - Don't come crying when you lose your data
share|improve this answer
Thanks for the in-depth answer! Though I've heard that online services are not a great idea -- that's why I wanted to go with on-site backup. So if it's between internal backup drive and external backup drive, it doesn't matter if it's not going off-site? (I wouldn't think it would) – NickAldwin Jul 24 '09 at 20:13
@Nick, I edited my answer to include a breakdown of my views on backup. Online services fail in that to restore 1Tb of data takes forever. If you're only going to get one drive (and your motherboard supports SATA hot-swapping), I'd probably make it internal, and plan on getting a second drive and a [hot-swappable bay ]( Otherwise an external drive will work just fine, but again plan on getting a second at some point and rotating them. – Tyler Jul 24 '09 at 22:01
Definitely get the offsite! – craigmoliver Jul 25 '09 at 0:03
Thanks for all your help, I'll think about it. – NickAldwin Jul 25 '09 at 3:37

The best thing to do would be to buy two of the same drive and set up a RAID 1. RAID 1 is a mirrored RAID. That means that both drives will contain an exact copy of the other. If one crashes, your computer will continue to operate just fine with the other drive.

share|improve this answer
...maybe not so. I first posted a question here: and it was mentioned that RAID 1 is NOT backup. It does not prevent against user error or more than one drive failure. – NickAldwin Jul 25 '09 at 3:35

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.