Finding a reliable and compatible hard drive for your laptop or portable Pro Tools system is a critical but time consuming task.
This post will help you find the right Pro Tools hard drive by introducing you to three Avid Approved Pro Tools external drives and giving you a short guide to some of the Pro Tools 9 Hard Drive requirements1
Why Use an External Audio Drive?
Pro Tools requires that you have a dedicated audio hard drive – that is not also your system drive.
Why is this?
With any disk-based recording system, large amounts of digital audio data are being written to and read from a hard drive. The more tracks, the higher the sample rate and bit depth, and the more edited audio in the session, the greater demands on the drive become.
Therefore, in order to ensure smooth Pro Tools performance, audio drives must meet certain performance demands related to disk rotation speed, seek time, data transfer rate, and bus type. These requirements are different from your typical built-in system drive.
So, when it comes time to setting up your Pro Tools system you must have at least two drives:
- System Drive: Your Pro Tools application and plug-ins, virtual instruments, and documentation are installed here, alongside all of your other applications and system files.
- Audio Drive: One or more hard drives dedicated for audio. Think of this as the ‘tape’ on an analog tape machine. This drive is strictly reserved for your Pro Tools session files and audio. When you create a New session and PT asks you to pick a location to Save the new session – it should be on this drive.
Pro Tools Audio Drive Requirements
Avid invests a great deal of time and money into testing different hard drives with the various Pro Tools systems. They publish the detailed results at their support site. When you’re done here, go deeper and explore all the details and the recommended drives using the links at the bottom of this post.
For now, here is a summary of the current Pro Tools hard disk requirements.
Internal Hard Drives
If you don’t need or want portability, you can add a second hard drive for audio inside your computer and save some money. Go and buy a Seagate Barracuda 7200 RPM SATA drive and install it in a spare drive bay inside your computer. Simple.
If you have a HP Z-series computers (and only if) you could get a Seagate Cheetah SAS drive.
External Hard Drive Connectivity
You can connect an external hard drive to your Pro Tools 9 system using the following bus types.
- USB 2.0 (Windows only)
- Firewire (Mac systems only)
Pro Tools Firewire Hard Drives
You can use a Firewire400 or Firewire800 Drive. However it is recommended that you do not combine FW400 with FW800 on systems where you’re using more than one drive.
Also, when purchasing a Firewire Drive, Avid has officially approved drives that use one of the following chipsets. Note: The three recommended drives listed at the bottom of this page use the Oxford 924 Chipset.
- Oxford 934 – FW 400
- Oxford 924 – FW 400
- Oxford 924 – FW 800
- Oxford 911 – FW 400
- Oxford 912 – FW 400
- Oxford 912 – FW 800
Your audio drive should rotate at 7200 RPM or higher. By comparison many system drives rotate at 5400 RPM. All of the drives listed on this page are 7200 RPM drives.
The transfer rate on all of these drives is sufficient for Pro Tools audio recording and playback. But this is where you may want to consider more closely which bus type you use.
For example, notice the differences in transfer rate of the OWC drive depending on the bus:
- Firewire400 50MB/second
- USB 2.0 – 60MB/s
- Firewire800 100MB/s
- eSata 150MB/s
Using a FW800 or eSATA bus your drive will be able to transfer more data to and from Pro Tools each second than if you use FW400.
Drive Seek Time
In general Pro Tools requires a drive with a seek time of less than 10ms. All three of the drives listed below meet that requirement. The Glyph has an average seek time of 8ms, the Avastor 8.6ms.
Introducing Avid Approved Pro Tools Hard Drives
All three of these drives meet Avid’s requirements2 for a Pro Tools 9 system. Each should be expected to be reliable, quiet, and include a solid manufacturers warranty.GT50Q by Glyph Technologies
Glyph Technologies have been providing pro level storage solutions to the audio and video production industries since 1993. They’re known for the most comprehensive service and support in the business.
HDX-800 by Avastor
Avastor is fast growing, but fairly new company (est. 2005) supplying digital storage solutions to audio/video professionals.
Mercury Elite-AL Pro by OWC
Other World Computing have been around since 1988 and the Mercury drive is one of the few drives that Avid has officially recommended for use with Pro Tools.
Avid Support Documents
Share Your Experience. Are you using any of these drives? What has your experience been?