Hardware review: LaCie 500 GB external hard drive

:arrow: Updated 11/3/08: I’ve seen renewed traffic to this post, and wanted to let you know that at this point the drive retails for $99. I think that price point is a little high given that 1TB drives have become affordable, and bare 1TB drives only cost $110-130. This means that if you’re looking for an external 500 GB drive, it should cost you somewhere between $79-89. Keep in mind that the manufacturer has to strike a balance between the cost of the drive and the cost of the enclosure, and while 500GB drives are bargains now, it will soon become impractical to manufacture them at the large scale needed for low price points, because the 1TB drives will become the new commodity hard drive. My message is, get them while you can, or spring for the 1TB external drives. The original review continues below.

This unassuming little black drive is a great product and a great buy at only $120 for 500 GB. It seems that LaCie has discontinued it. Buy.com, where I purchased two of them, no longer has it in stock. Amazon still has it, thankfully. Read below to see why I like it.

500 GB LaCie USB hard drive

The price is right for all that space. C’mon, 500 GB for $120? Sign me up! On top of all that, it’s whisper quiet! My big complaint with a previous 500 GB LaCie drive that I owned was the noise it made. Boy, was it loud! Not this drive. It’s so quiet, I can’t even hear it, unless it’s being actively accessed, and even then, it’s pretty quiet.

What’s also REALLY nice about it is that it doesn’t have a power brick. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s that big, heavy annoying power adapter that sits in the middle, between the part you plug in the outlet and the part that plugs into the drive. Not on this drive! I love that! It only has a simple, unassuming cable, and that does wonders when it comes to cable management and keeping the underside of my desk neat. These are all the cables you’ll need with the drive.

500 GB LaCie USB hard drive with cables

Here’s what the back of it looks like. Again, no annoying and loud cooling vents, just the adapter and USB ports.

500 GB LaCie USB hard drive (back view)

I love the simple, unassuming, but very efficient design. Instead of a cooling fan, the drive cools via a grille built into its bottom.

500 GB LaCie USB hard drive (bottom view)

The only other drive that compares to it in terms of how little noise it makes is the LaCie 250 GB external hard drive, which I also own. But I don’t think this drive can be found on the market any more, and besides, why go for 250 GB when you can get 500 GB for $120?

250 GB LaCie external hard drive

If you want a great little drive to store your files, jump for the LaCie 500 GB USB drive before it’s gone. It’s hard to get 500 GB drives by themselves at this price point nowadays, much less already packaged up in a neat little enclosure and with cables. I’m not sorry at all I bought two of them, and I might get one more in the very near future — if there’ll be any left on the market after the Christmas season, that is.

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59 thoughts on “Hardware review: LaCie 500 GB external hard drive

  1. Spyder Dalton says:

    I had two fail within a year. Lost everything and i love how when you call Lacie they have a recording telling you they may charge your $14.95 for the call to be answered due to the high volume of calls. Nice. They are charging you because they sell faulty products!

  2. Tim says:

    Hé Richard, I have the same thing. Did you find a solution? Im thinking of breaking the HD open en see if I can connect it with my pc. But I think the clicking phenomena is just like a LP record that gets stuck, so you can’t hear the music (In our case, can’t get the HD to read and play)… Is this the ‘the click of death’?

  3. Mario says:

    Thanks for the reply Raoul. Lacie has responded by email and they have told me the drive is corrupted. If anyone knows of any good utilities for disk repairs that would be most helpful.

    Thanks again and take care!
    Mario

  4. Mario says:

    Hello all,

    This is some really great stuff. As I have just had a problem with my Lacie 1 TB External Hard Drive.
    The drive still powers on and I can still see it as a drive on “my computer” but the Lacie Logo has disappeared from behind it. When I try to access it I get, “Please format drive J: to use it.” OMG I have so much stuff on there I am gonna cry, do not want to format it.

    I opened a ticket with Lacie 2 days ago and haven’t heard back from them yet :( Any ideas?

    Thanks!

    • Mario, depending on whether your system is running Mac or Windows, you can try to repair the drive. You can attempt the repair with Disk Utility in OS X. If you use Windows, see if you can find some good utilities for disk repairs. I haven’t had to repair NTFS volumes in a while, so I can’t recommend any that I’ve used myself. Good luck.

  5. Richard says:

    I usually leave my LaCie Brick on all the time. When I noticed it was getting hot, I turned it off. Now when I try to turn it back on it’s making a constant clicking sound, the light is on indicating that it is “On” but the computer won’t recognise it’s plugged in. I’m looking for possible troubleshooting solutions. I called LaCie but they announe that a 1/2 hour wait on the phone is not unusual.

  6. Alfonso says:

    I restarted it some times with a power supply from a friend’s HD and it runs!! In fact, it works again even with its own power supply (strange phenomena). Greetings :)

  7. Alfonso says:

    Hi, Raoul.
    Thanks for this blog. Searching via google I found you and read the Francine issue, that seems to be the same problem I have with my LaCie brick 500Gb. I hope the solution will be the same. I’m going for a new power supply.
    Thanks again from Spain.

  8. I bought a LACIE external drive, 750 GB, and not more than 3 months, it cannot be recognized by my laptop that is running vista. when I power up the LACIE, it spins then makes a clicking noise, and then stops in not more than 10 seconds. After that nothing happens however much I try to connect it to a computer. What could this be?

    • Peter, it sounds like you have a similar problem to another commenter on this post. See how I helped him. Start reading the comment thread here.

  9. Justin says:

    Hi all,

    I can confirm that a replacement power supply fixed my “click of death” issue. I have a 500GB d2 Quadra that stopped mounting my partitions in OS X last week. The blue light would come on, but it didn’t sound like the hard drive was initializing normally. 5 minutes in the Apple Store confirmed that it was the power supply. Whew.

  10. James, it sounds like a power supply issue. The thing to do, if you don’t want to send it in for service, is to open it up somehow (see if you can find instructions for how to do this without damaging the enclosure), take the drive out, and connect it directly to your computer to retrieve the data. Or call LaCie (it sounds like you’re still covered by warranty) to see if you can send it in. But make sure that your data will be safe if you send it in. Ask if they’ll reformat or replace the drive, and make sure they say no.

  11. James says:

    Hi, iv had my lacie 500GB external hard drive for about 6 months, and suddenly last night it would not power on. I know the power cord is fine because i tested it with another hard drive. I am hoping that this is just a power problem, and the data will be safe. Can anyone please help me?

  12. skorch says:

    just wanted to say I just picked up a Lacie 1T and I like how they took the logo off the top of the box and shrunk it down on the back end of the right side. it’s sweet. I love their non-verticalness too. doesn’t seem to get that hot yet either.

  13. Francine:

    Thanks for the great info. I registered my drive on LaCie’s website and then I did called LaCie customer service in Oregon. I told them the issue and he pulled up my registration info. As if like this is a very common problem, he said he is going to send me a new power supply. The guy was very nice and said that you are covered, not additional charge. I just got an email with a tracking number from LaCie and let’s all hope that my drive kicks on again. I will let you guys know what happened after I connect the new power supply. Raoul, Thanks again for the great work keeping this website live. I would not have gone this far without this piece of advise.

    Kalpesh

  14. Francine says:

    Hi Kalpesh!

    Sorry to hear you had the same problem!
    What I did was called up Lacie tech support first… then I found out they only help out US customers. I live in Canada, and they told me there are no people I can talk to on the phone if I am a Canadian. However, the tech support person I talked to was very nice. He still tried to help me diagonis the problem and suggested what I can do and my options.

    If you are also a Canadian, I had to go to their website to get tech support. They only deal with cases online and you have to enter info and stuff through a ticket.. Then u gotta wait for them to reply you which takes usually 2-3 business days.

    I registered for my ext HD when I filed for a ticket. And technology these days…. haha They could find out when I purchased this ext HD after I gave them my serial # and luckily it was still under warranty. I requested them to send me a new power supply to try. This was at absolutely no cost. Then it solved my problem. :)

    Hope that helps. I will check back later if you got any further questions.

    Francine

  15. Kalpesh, I forwarded your comment to Francine’s email address. Let’s hope she is able to respond to you. Hope things work out for you.

  16. Raoul,

    Your website is really unmatched. Like it a lot. I am having a similar problem like Francine. After the power outage my 500GB Lacie “Designed by F.A.Porsche – Like I would care” is showing a blinking light and some scratching noise a regular interval. Is there anyway I can get in touch with her thru your website. I don’t want her email, just need to know how she approached LaCie. Did they charged her for the power supply?.Did she talked to a tech person?. Please help me..all my sons pic from child hood and tons of music with lots of documents in that drive.

    Thanks in advance,
    Kalpesh

  17. M says:

    Raoul!

    Thanks a lot for the advice! I could finally open it! I still do not know what is wrong with it though. That time the hard drive did not really start, so I hope it is just a mobil rack thing not the drive itself. Thanks again!

    M

  18. M, I think this drive’s enclosure is snapped together. If you look at the bottom, you’ll see it has two thin slots where a screwdriver can be slid in to help open it. Not sure of the details beyond that, so you’ll just have to experiment. Just take it slowly and don’t force it apart, or the plastic may crack.

  19. M says:

    Hey Raoul!

    You seem to know this LaCie 500GB hard drive well. So I have the same one here, and few days ago I forgot my power cord to it and my boss plugged in his own(I do not know which one) and we tried to start it, at that moment we felt something burning inside of it and it turned off and it is dead since then, it never started again even with its own power cord and adapter. I wonder if you can help me out solving this problem? My boss told me it is just a wire problems of the mobil rack which holds the hard drive safe. So I tried to open it, but if you look closely to the drive, you can realize it does not have screws on it! I do not know how to open it now. I was thinking to buy a new mobil rack and just replace it(which at this moment means that I would have to break its original one, which I do not want to do!). I really need this hard drive working in couple days, if you can think of something please help me out!!!!!! thanks

  20. hassan says:

    dear Raoul
    Thanks for help
    I gave it to future shop to try what they can do.They told me they might have to break the cover.i hope at least they can recover my data.
    thanks again

  21. Hassan, that won’t work one bit. If the drive platters are making that noise, opening the hard drive will not only void your warranty but render it fairly useless. You need a trained technician to do that sort of thing. Hard drives are put together in sterile environments, and besides their fragile parts, they contain a lubricating liquid that will seep out when you open them. I’m sorry for your problem with the drive, but it looks like you’re stuck. Perhaps you can find a computer guru in your local region that knows how to open hard drives, and can help you connect it (at least temporarily) until you recover the data.

  22. hassan says:

    hi
    I have 500 GB ext. Lacie HD and last week I got the same problem that francine have it.I hear a noise that looks like motor cant work completely.it is under worronty but if I send I`ll lose my data.If I buy the same hard is that ok to change mulfunctioned part in order to work and back up data.actually recovering copmany asked me $1700-2200 for recover my pictures.my pictures not too many ( but important)and it is too much for me at the moment.if not may I keep this hard for future for possible coming new technology for easer recover and low cost as well?

  23. michael con says:

    I bought a lacie 500 gb hard drive it fried out 3 months after the warranty expired over 300 hundred gigs of stuff gone . replace it? you couldn’t give me a lacie product again

  24. Simplyjava, I don’t think it can hurt at this point. Try it out and see if the click still occurs. If it does, then it’s probably the hard drive that’s at fault.

  25. simplyjava says:

    i have an AcomData external 250gb drive. i am trying to determine the problem with it. i have the exterior case removed and i can see that there is a western digital drive inside. the problem is this: when it is hooked up via USB 2.0, it only shows up in the Device Manager under Universal Serial Bus Controllers with a yellow exclamation mark next to with the error: this device cannot start (code 10). the FAQ on the AcomData site for troubleshooting says that this may be an interface board problem. the reason i posting here for help is because i think that it is making the CLICK OF DEATH sound you are all talking about. the clicking is constant from the time it is turned on until turned off. a rhythmical very quiet sound. like a triple clicking sound. click-click-click – pause – click-click-click. i’m thinking of disconnecting it from the interface board and connecting it to the IDE cable and power supply of my desktop computer.

    what do you think?

  26. Howard says:

    i did a search on google and it was amazing all the answers to that question i found. I was able to reformat both the maxtor and the lacie which by the way is working fine since they replaced it.
    I do not remember the exact procedure so I am sorry but to say do a search on google you will find many answers I am looking for an answer to my iphone camera not working now and being in Thailand does not help however, google lets me put in the whole error message and I found many people have the same problem but so far no solution. Good luck reformatting is not that difficult.You will find the answer if you are persistent.

  27. Harry Washington says:

    My new LaCie 500 external Harddrive I cant reformat it to work on my Mac G5 computer. I initally hooked the LaCie to my PC. I went to disk utilities to erase what was on the LaCie but it will not let me do anything. What can I do? I need this to work on my Mac only instead of my PC. Please help!

  28. Howard says:

    update from me, Maya did finally get the drive picked up from me through Fed Ex again without a charge in Bangkok, and no charge this time in return.
    The drive was overheating and making a lot of noise since I got it in NYC.
    Now they did change it I see and it works fine so far.
    I did lose allot of info but that is life.
    Even though I had backed everything up on my Maxtor, I lost that also, I guess I was not meant to have the info I did save my music on the Macbook and am so happy to be finished with MS Windows.
    What a relief.
    Good luck to all.

  29. Francine says:

    I want to give everyone an update too.
    I got a new power supply from Lacie and my ext HD is working now!!!

  30. Howard says:

    hi again, funny that this situation with this drive is still haunting me so I told Maya at Lacie in Hong Kong that I must write some blog about the horror that I have experienced with getting this drive to be covered by the warranty and how long it takes for her to write me back once I write her and when I sent the drive for repair and it came back absolutely the same as when I sent it and now after weeks again she is setting up another return RMA, she does seem to care but is not willing to let me speak to a supervisor or manager, and didn’t set up correctly to have it picked up in Bangkok and Fed Ex now tells me they need a commercial invoice but the address in Hong Kong is missing so I have to wait again to hear from Lacie through Maya, and I told her that at this point I want a new drive that works and then I will send this back.
    I have not been given an answer on that request but it is terrible how long all this takes and I lost all my data already it is only about getting what I am entitled to that is a drive that works.
    It was under warranty but after all these delays and sending and paying for shipping already which was over a 1000 baht and cost of vat on the way in.
    So i wait to see if I throw this in the garbage.
    My Maxtor is quiet as a mouse and beutiful piece of equipment this Lacie has a cable connection that is rediculous since it doesnt fit right and falls out if it is move a fraction.
    Ok I didn’t pay much but shoudn’t i at least get what I paid for and that was a drive that had a warranty and one that works?
    I will let you know how this plays out except to say i am tired and burnt out here on this matter.

  31. Well, if it ends up being a power supply issue, it could have happened with any external hard drive. If it’s the click of death, then it’s unfortunate indeed. I’ve had good experiences with all my LaCie drives, so I’m sorry to hear when people have trouble with them.

  32. Francine says:

    Thanks a lot. =] I guess that’s what I have to do.
    How unfortunate that I got to encounter with a LaCie HD …

  33. It’s possible that it’s a power supply issue, perhaps caused by the surge that occurs when the power is restored after an outage. It’s also possible that it’s a hard drive issue. The best thing for you to do if the things described in that article are too difficult is to send it into a company that does data recovery. That same article has links to a few companies toward the end. Choose any one and send it in. I haven’t needed to use any such services yet, so I can’t recommend a specific company.

  34. Francine says:

    Hi Raoul! You are so nice and thanks for the quick reply and the article. A few hundred is nothing if I can get my data back… I’ll just won’t go shopping for a month or 2. haha
    I don’t really get how to do all that stuff on the article trying to connect the drive to my computer and all.. Is there any more easier things to try by myself?

    Perhaps I should describe my problem a bit more. Actually a few days before it died, I noticed the clicking noise from my HD. But I ignored it cuz it was so faint and soft.. nothing loud like how others described it to be. That Monday while I was at work I know there was a power outage in my house. Then when I came home, it doesn’t work any more.
    Does this sound like a power supply thing?

  35. Hi Francine. It’s possible that it’s the click of death. While you may not be able to recover your data, there are companies out there that specialize in doing just that. It all depends on how precious your data is to you, and if you’re willing to pay a few hundred dollars to get it back. This is a good article that shows you what you can do before you send the drive in for repairs/replacement.

  36. Francine says:

    Hi All! I Also got a 500GB Lacie ext HD about a year ago. It was working just fine until that horrible Monday of this week, I came home from work and it couldn’t detect it any more.
    I noticed it has amber/green blinking lights and there is a faint clicking noise that won’t stop unless I turned it off.
    From the comments above, I do believe it sounds like the “click of death”. Haha
    I haven’t been backing up my data at all as I didn’t even think about my ext HD would fail on me all of a sudden… I do plan to send it in for repair but everyone has warned me not to count on being able to recover my data.. Is this true?!?!? I’m freaking out cuz I store all my precious pictures on there.. =(((((

  37. Howard says:

    i see that you are having problems well my maxtor has no problems quiet as a mouse.
    THe lacie was returned and I paid almost 1000 baht for sending fed ex, after many many weeks of overheating and noise and the cable continuously falling out, they at Hong Kong office sent me an address to send since it was under Buy.com warranty and theirs.
    However I had to pay when it came back allot for vat and other things.
    It was not fixed and still same problems and they do not respond to my emails over and over and finally when she does respond she says take pics of cable and drive like they don’t know what it looks like
    so now i have written again five times and no replies.
    As for Parallels i used on macbook with win xp professional and had alot of problems that I uninstalled the parallels and trying to sell and xp as well.
    I have had it with windows products and Lacie as well.
    Unbelievable sorry for the rant but who else to talk to they ignore me.

  38. Hello
    I’m running a new iMac with Lepord and I have the same Lacie 500gb drive.
    I have a problem when running Windows XP via parallels.
    The drive just won’t display in Windows, it’s fine on a Mac.

    Has anyone had the same problem and found a solution?

    Thanks in advance

  39. Sorry Howard, not sure what’s happening with your Maxtor drive. If you can’t get the files off and they’re important to you, you might want to look into data recovery services. There are a number of companies that can handle those types of situations, though I’m not sure what’s available in your country. Good luck!

  40. Howard says:

    thnaks for the reply, i am now using the usb 2, and i got it working again somehow on the macbook, however the Maxtor 250g which now seems to be locked in ntsf and was ntsf-3g from some items i downloaded from the web has files and songs that seem to be corrupt, most of them on my win xp sp2 with paralell desktop, has allowed me to take most of the songs and files and put them on the mac drive in explorer and then in mac copy them to the Lacie, which is not so loud now and no clicking? The files that do not show up in Mac are the files I need to get to move and i get error 36 when i try to open in windows, I know i need to google it and will hopefully come up with a solution and then hopefully i can move those files to the mac or lacie and reformat the Maxtor to mac
    and i want to get away from windows entirely now that i am getting used to the mac,
    sincerely for your help

  41. PR, sorry to hear about your drive troubles. Firewire seems to be a little more problematic than USB when it comes to getting its connectivity working properly across a range of computers. Not sure why. I prefer it to USB, it’s faster and altogether better.

    Howard, not sure what to say. If it makes loud noises, especially clicking noises, then it’s probably bad. The best thing to do is to contact LaCie (provided the drive is still under warranty), and to see if something can be done. It doesn’t matter where you bought it as long as you bought it from a store (yes, online stores count just the same). It should have come with either a 90-day or a 1-year warranty. See what you can do to get it fixed.

  42. Howard says:

    thanks for sharing that info, my 500 G bought when I lived in NYC and now living in Thailand makes so much noise that it must be bad.
    I bought mine cheap at Buy.com and didn’t get a warranty and now have a Macbook, which I had to get a program so that I could read my files called Parallels desktop. Which I am having problems with in Internet explorer reading certain webpages, so I format the Lacie twice had put all my info on my quiet and good Maxtor 250g and now this LaCie is driving me crazy it does show up in the Mac with a different name than La Cie this time but I am afraid to store anything on it. I was using it to copy everything I saved on my Maxtor as a second backup since I was buying a new Macbook. Anyway i will do some more Google on this and see if LaCie will do anything for me. Or else this goes in the Garbage. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  43. PR says:

    I bought a 120Gb version of the LaCie drive but when used with on the Firewire port of an Apple G4 Powerbook with no other drives when not being used for a while, it sleeps but never recovers! The only solution is to unplug and reboot – makes the whole thing very awkward and unusable.

  44. Gilles, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I speak from personal experience when I say the LaCie drives work great. I bought three of them. Plus, I’ve been using two more LaCie drives for a couple of years, and I definitely put those through the works. They’d held up just fine. Yes, they get a little hot, but that’s because they cool passively, not actively (through a fan). LaCie drives have worked out fine for me.

  45. Gilles says:

    I have read several negative reviews about LaCie drives saying that they get very hot (much more than is normal) and that they have a high failure rate and low data recovery rate. Have you heard these criticisms, and do you share these concerns? If not, what makes you comfortable with these products?
    Thank you!

  46. djevoultion says:

    @Raoul: Thanks for your reply. It’s good to know it doesn’t sound like the click of death. I will send it back for a replacement.

  47. @djevoultion: Okay, listened to all the sound files. It doesn’t sound like the click of death to me at all. As a matter of fact, it’s the fairly normal noise that the drive head makes when it seeks and reads data off the platters. But, it is unusually loud. I can’t even hear that sort of noise from my drives when I write or read from them, unless I put my ear very close to them, and even then, it’s very soft and subdued.

    These drives must have some sort of sound barrier that cushions and softens the sound from the hard drive, and it looks like your drive doesn’t have it installed properly.

    Although the sound is normal, you shouldn’t have to put up with it. Return the drive and tell the vendor it’s unusually loud. I hope the replacement you get will be a lot quieter. I know my three drives are.

    Oh, and about the warranty card, just checked and couldn’t find one. There’s a warranty mentioned in the little manual that’s enclosed with the drives, but no term is mentioned. Just to be on the safe side, I would assume a minimum of 90 days warranty, and possibly a full year, but don’t quote me on that. A sure way to find this out would be to contact LaCie and ask them.

  48. @djevoultion: I couldn’t download that sound file, RapidShare kept making me watch ads then timing out on download. This is why I don’t use them… I did watch the YouTube video, and I’m not sure what those clicking noises are. They don’t sound like the click of death to me, but they don’t sound entirely right either. I know for sure that NONE of my three LaCie 500 GB drives (yes, I purchased another one over the weekend) make that noise.

    My advice to you would be to return it and get another drive, just to be on the safe side. Tell the vendor that the drive makes strange clicking noises.

  49. @djevoultion: There are two kinds of clicking noises a hard drive makes. One is okay, and it’s the sound it makes when it parks/unparks the drive head. That one should only happen once when the drive starts from sleep, or goes to sleep. The second one is bad, and it happens when the drive head cannot park or seek properly. That’s when the drive’s gone bad. That sort of noise starts and doesn’t stop until you power off the drive. Which noise are you hearing?

  50. djevoultion says:

    Hello, I Recently purchased a 500gb LaCie Hard Drive. It Arrived today, everything works out of the box except whenever I Read/Write Data I hear this annoying clicking noise it makes. The hard drive still works.

  51. Well, no one owns a patent on a glossy black look… :-) I have a Drobo as well, and the while the front and black are glossy, shiny plastic, the corners are much more rounded. The sides are a matte metal finish on the Drobo, and also rounded.

    If anything, LaCie followed up on their “brick” designs used on their previous models when they came up with this drive. The corners are not rounded but fairly well defined, and the drive enclosure is all plastic. Although it could have a metal underside for support, it doesn’t show. I like their design, and I think it’s fairly original.

  52. EddieZ says:

    I have to admit, it’s a good looking box. I still contend they used a bit of the Drobo design in the glossy black look they came up with. But Drobo is much more a “big box” for 1TB+ and growing…

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