Windows Backup and Large Sector Portable Drives

I just purchased an Iomega eGo portable drive to supplement one I purchased in 2011. The packaging for both drives is identical (and so is the product code).

However, there is a significant difference! Microsoft Windows Backup doesn’t recognise my new portable drive and refuses to use it for backups.

Essentially, the problem is that many manufacturers (including Iomega and Western Digital) are beginning to use “large sector” drives within their products, and these are not officially supported on any Microsoft operating systems. “Large sectors” are nothing to do with the actual size of the disk drive, but rather the physical structure of the disk itself. Traditional hard disks have 512 byte sectors, but this is now changing to 4096 bytes.

It turns out that Microsoft Windows Backup and Restore (for Server 2008; Server 2008 R2; Vista and Windows 7) does not like portable drives with a sector size of 4096 bytes (4k). Hmm.

It is worth pointing out that some disks are backwards compatible (512e), but again this is not made clear by the manufacturers.

Here is Microsoft’s Official Statement: Information about Microsoft support policy for large-sector drives in Windows

Microsoft isn’t saying the drives can’t be used work for general purposes (such as storing music and photos), but they are saying compatibility issues are likely to arise when using certain software (such as the built in Windows Backup routine).

This statement is all well and good, but it is getting harder to find portable hard drives with a sectors size of 512 bytes. To make matters worse, manufacturers are not making this clear on the packaging (or within the specifications listed on their web site). It all seems a bit of a lottery at the moment.

At the very least, Microsoft needs to fix the (main) issues with Windows Backup ASAP. Portable drive manufacturers need to start making their packaging clearer.

Until then, it is buyer beware!

UPDATE!! Western Digital Elements SE Portable
I can confirm that the 1TB WD Elements SE Portable (with the USB 3.0 Micro-B connector) is compatible with Windows Server 2008 Backup: http://support.wdc.com/product/install.asp?groupid=305&lang=en

The P/N on the box is: WDBPCK0010BBK-01 or  WDBPCK0010BBK-EESN

Make sure you reformat the drive with WD Quick Formatter for Windows before use: http://wdc.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/search/1/a_id/3868/c/130/p/85,306

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