Grant McWilliams

Flash card backup

When I travel I take lots of pictures and it always makes me nervous to only have them on flash. I've lost two flash cards in the last couple of years to file system errors. Considering how much it costs to travel it's nothing to buy a backup harddrive or extra flash cards. I bought

a harddrive case for about $12 like the one above which works great with a 60 GB 5400 rpm Hitachi laptop drive in it. The only problem is I still need my laptop because my camera can't talk directly to the drive. AP25-U-unit

I also need to bring along my memory card reader too because my daughter's camera uses CF cards and mine uses SD cards. I've found a new device that may help me. I've been considering not even taking my laptop to Ecuador in the winter because I don't want it to get stolen. Anyway the device I just purchased is a combined laptop hard drive and memory card reader. It's a lot bulkier than my other drive case but it can work without a computer. It's made by BAFO and I got it from which had it for $14.95 without a drive. I inserted a 60 GB drive into it and was thinking to myself I wonder how I format it. I was about to take the drive back out and plug it into my PVR client since it has a ribbon cable that takes 2.5 inch drives when I realized that I could just plug it in via USB (duh) and format it that way. I plugged it in and used mkdosfs to format it which took all of 3 seconds. Now that it was formatted I plugged in an SD card and pushed the Copy button and away it went. It beeped twice when it was done. This would be a great backup tool for my flash cards. I've mentioned that I'm a little paranoid about losing data and for good reason. The summer of 2005 we spent in Paris and I only backed up my pictures to my laptop and uploaded little 1024x768 versions to this website. This summer I did the same but brought along the portable harddrive and it was a good thing too because my laptop got rained on in Poland and I lost the data on the hard drive. Had that been my only copy I would have been toast. Thankfully that was one of three copies. So back to the BAFO device.BF-6010-unit This thing is so easy to backup flash cards with it should be a crime not to do it. You plug the flash card in and push the Copy button. That's it, really! It copies the contents to the hard drive and beeps twice.

I only have two complaints.

  1. It could be smaller
  2. the batteries could last longer

The battery is good for 1.6 hrs and it's about the size of an old
portable walkman. The power adapter is made for continental europe but comes with an adapter for the U.S. It's a bit bulky but not heavy.

To test the speed I created a 1 GB file and copied it to my 2 GB 120x SD card across a USB 2.0 connection.

  • Copy from PC to SD card - 5 minutes (3.3 MB/sec)
  • Copy from SD card to BAFO internal hd - 14 minutes (1.1 MB/sec)
  • Copy from PC to BAFO internal hd - 3 minutes (5.6 MB/sec)
  • Copy from BAFO internal hd to PC - 5 minutes (3.3 MB/sec)
  • Copy from BAFO internal CF card to PC - 4 minutes 53seconds (3.9 MB/sec)

So it's not the fastes thing on the block.. I then plugged it into my USB controller and used hdparm to test the internal hd. It clocked at about 4 MB/sec. It looks like the little device just doesn't have enough oomph to read and write at the same time. Copying from the PC to the hd is almost 5x faster than copying from the flash to the hd. The flash can't be the problem because I can write to it fairly fast. The interesting thing is it's actually faster to copy to the internal hd than from it! This is completely backwards from what it should be. The internal hd shoould be able to sustain 20 MB/sec and our fastest time was 5.6 MB/sec which is about 40 Mbits/sec so clearly we are using USB 2.0. So it appears that something internal to the device hits a roadblock about about 5 MB/sec.

None of this matters unless you're in a speed contest. You can figure that it will take about 10 minutes a day to backup your digital pictures if you're on vacation. The battery is good for 100 minutes so it theoretically could last you a week and a half without recharging...