When I got home a week ago after shooting the Ajax Experience in Boston, and C4 in Chicago before it, I went through my now-normal ritual of migrating the Aperture project for the shows from my laptop to my trusty PowerMac. Then, in the next phase of the ritual, I started an update of the Vault into which the pictures go. Alas, that’s where I suddenly found that I didn’t have enough space on my backup Vault drive anymore. Oops. I’d added more data to my library than there was room for on the drive.
This wasn’t a big surprise. Even though my Aperture library comfortably sits on a 1TB RAID volume, I’ve been using a 400GB external drive as my Vault. It’s done a good job so far, but now that my Aperture library has hit the 375GB mark, my library doesn’t fit. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Wait a darn minute, you’ve got 20-someGB more to go!”. Sadly, this isn’t so. Thanks to disk drive makers selling their drives using a different counting method than one would think rational, a 400GB drive actually has a capacity of 372.5GB. It’s kind of like how that 27″ CRT TV never really was 27″. As well, Aperture seems to be slightly conservative with it’s numbers and this takes another few GB out off the picture.
I’ve known this moment was coming for several months. Every time I bring images back to the desktop machine, I watch the Vault bar move a bit more to the right, turn yellow, and then red. I was hoping, however, that I’d get another month or two out of the drive before needing to replace it. Alas, that wasn’t to be.
So, it was time to buy a new Vault drive. Since I’m adding data to my Aperture library at quite a fast rate—some 170GB this year so far—I wanted to be sure to get something that would last for a little while. This ruled out the 500GB external FireWire drives that are the next step up from my current 400GB drive. After all, that would only give me another 90-odd GB to work with and, at my current rate of data acquisition, I’d outgrow that space sometime early next year.
Luckily, the rapid expansion in hard drive capacities continues to climb and there’s now the option to purchase 750GB external FireWire hard drives. In my case, I purchased the new Seagate 750GB external drive. To be honest, it’s astounding holding one of these things in your hand knowing that there’s room for 3/4 of a TB on it. I still remember that first 10MB hard drive in the mid 80’s… But I digress.
I set up my Vault and then remembered that I should go purge out my rejected images. It turns out that I had some 3500 images waiting to be deleted silently sitting there. So I scrapped them out, sync’d the Vault, and ended up with a nice green bar with lots of room to work with.
If I keep shooting at my current rate, or even accelerate a bit, this drive will last me a while as a Vault. Certainly, it will last through 2007 if I keep using the same equipment and make sure to cull out the rejects regularly. However, 2007 might just bring a new camera which will bring with it bigger RAW files. If that happens, all bets are off. And if hard drive capacities don’t keep going up, then I’ll be forced to look at RAID solutions for the backup Vault.
Hopefully it won’t come to that. I hope that hard drive capacities continue to rise or, even better, the next version of Aperture comes with the ability to span a Vault across multiple external drives. We shall see.
In any case, make sure you’ve got enough room on your Vault for your shooting needs. And, when it comes to buy a new drive, use your current shooting rate as a planning tool. If you’re adding 20GB a year to your library, you’ll need to make a much different decision than if you’re shooting 100GB or more each year.