Hard Drive Purchasing

Last updated: Summer 2020

What to buy

While The Film and Digital Media program does not endorse any one hard drive manufacturer or vendor, we do encourage Film students to work closely with operations/IT staff to determine an affordable hard drive solution.

  • You will NEED to buy at least one (1) 3.5″ (not a 2.5″ aka “portable”) external hard drive. It is recommended that it spin at 7200RPM or faster. This is because slower drives that spin at 5400RPM can cause sluggish performance when editing, especially when working with UHD/4K footage.
  • Remember that all hard drives have the potential to fail, so make sure to keep a backup of your important data. We recommend that you keep backup copies of your project files on a 2nd external hard drive if you can afford to purchase two.
  • Film & Digital Media REQUIRES that you buy a USB 3.0 (or USB 3.1) hard drive. Make sure it is version 3.0 (or 3.1) and NOT version USB 2.0.
  • Our facilities now support USB 3.0 on all editing suites. Firewire 800 interface is now antiquated and not recommended.
  • If you are buying an external hard drive that only has a USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) interface, make sure that it also comes with a standard USB 3.0 adapter cable. This is sometimes referred to as a USB-C to USB-A cable.
  • A capacity of 2TB or more is recommended and should be considered the minimum. A capacity of 3TB to 4TB is preferred.
  • Avoid external hard drives which have a size larger than 5TB in size. Any external hard drive larger than 5TB is typically much slower in performance due to longer seek times.
  • Solid State Hard Drives (SSD) also meet our recommended speed requirements, but they can be prohibitively expensive compared to standard “spinning media” hard drives. Prices start at $330-400+ for a 2TB SSD external hard drive.

Once you have purchased your drive, we recommend that you format the drive before you begin using it. This is true even if the drive comes pre-formatted and appears to work properly out of the box.

If the drive will be used with an Apple computer, including the UCSC campus Mac labs or the Film and Digital Media department computing facilities, the hard drive must be formatted for MacOS using the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) or Apple AFPS filesystems. Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is preferred. Please follow the Formatting External Hard Drives Tutorial which uses Disk Utility and ensures full Mac compatibility.

If the hard drive will be used with a Windows personal computer, the hard drive must be formatted in the NTFS filesystem using the Disk Management application in Windows.

Do not use the built in utilities for formatting that come with the hard drive. Do not format the hard drives in EXFAT or FAT32 filesystems. These two filesystems are antiquated and much more prone to disk corruption because they do not support “journaling” technology.

Some careful consideration and planning should be taken when deciding how to format a hard drive in regard to what computers the hard drive will be used with (Windows or MacOS). There is no hard drive filesystem for video editing software and large video file datasets which works seamlessly between MacOS and Windows.

Hard drive model examples

Below are several external hard drive makes/models that meet our recommended requirements. The Film and Digital Media department does not endorse any one particular brand/manufacturer regarding external hard drives. This list of popular brands/models that meet our previously listed technical requirements is provided as an example only:

  • OWC Mercury Elite Pro 4.0TB 7200 RPM (Manufacturer part #ME3QH7T4.0)
  • Glyph Technologies 4TB Studio 7200 RPM USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-B External Hard Drive (Manufacturer part #S4000)
  • Fantom Drives Gforce3 Pro 4TB 7200 RPM USB 3.0 Aluminum External Hard Drive (Manufacturer part #GF3B4000UP)
  • G-Technology 4TB G-DRIVE USB G1 USB 3.0 Hard Drive (Manufacturer part ##0G03594-1)

Where to buy hard drives

WARNING – Hard drives are highly sensitive electronics that degrade with age. Because of this we highly recommend against buying a used hard drive or relying on a hard drive that is older than 3 years as a primary editing hard drive. Hard drives must also be carefully transported, handled gently, and always ejected safely from the computer before unplugging to avoid hardware failure and data loss.

If you have any questions or need assistance please email fdmoperations@ucsc.edu.