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Consolidating four external backup hard drives into one Drobo 5C

In this review, I’m going to share with you my experience in setting up of taking 4 external backup drives. I copied the data on them to my working drive, a Drobo 5D3. First, I removed them from their housings then put them into the Drobo 5C. The 5C is a backup for my working drive. The Drobo 5C is a 5-bay, USB 3 RAID from Drobo. I’m using it with an iMac running macOS Mojave.

Note: External drives with data on them must be copied to another volume before adding them to a Drobo. The Drobo will format the drives causing any data on them to be lost.

Combining your backup disks into a single unit

So why am I putting my separate drives into a Drobo 5C? The first and most important reason for me is to create a backup system that I can have confidence in. By using my four separate USB drives combined together with Time Machine did provide me the storage space, what happens if one drive fails?

What happens is that I’ve lost my entire backup! By combining them into the Drobo 5C, I’m getting storage space and if one drive fails, I can replace the bad drive and the 5C will rebuild itself while maintaining my backup. What’s the cost? Storage space. I do lose some storage space due to the added protection that the Drobo system provides. To see how that works you can go here to the Drobo Capacity Calculator and drag and drop the drives you have into the Drobo you have and see how much storage space you’ll have available.

It is possible with the Drobo 5C to have it use two drives to protect the backup if I want. And another big reason for me is that as my system grows and I need more backup, I can remove a drive and replace it with a larger drive without having to shut down the Drobo 5C. All of my data is available all the time as the Drobo 5C rebuilds the backup for me using the larger drive. So I can expand the system as I need to over time. One note is that the drives need to be 3.5″ SATA and you’ll need a minimum of two drives to have the safety factor active.

Setting it up

First things first! Backup your data before you add the drives to the Drobo 5C. When you put the drives into the Drobo 5C it formats them and that deletes all the data on the drives.

The Drobo 5C comes nicely packaged and is easy to assemble. The only complaint I have — and this is true of most manufacturers — is that the USB-C to USB-A cable is too short. I would have liked to have it comes with a longer cable so I have more flexibility in placing the drive relative to the computer. In the initial setup, the 5C wouldn’t power up and I realized that I needed to really seat the power cord into the power brick. Once I did that, everything worked fine.

First, I backed up all my data to another RAID drive, in this case, my Drobo 5D3. I have attached it to my system and verified the backup of my individual drives. Next, I went to the Drobo website and found the step by step walk-through. It took me through the process of getting everything installed and working correctly. You’ll find that here. Here’s a quick overview of what to do:

  1. Select your language.
  2. Select your Drobo 5C.
  3. Am I migrating data from another Drobo? If so, they walk you through this as well.
  4. Insert all your drives into the 5C — you need to have at least two drives installed to set up a Drobo.
  5. Connect your USB-C cable to the 5C.
  6. Connect the power cable to the 5C and power it up.
  7. Download the Drobo Dashboard and install it and run it.
  8. Register it with Drobo — you can skip this step and do it later.
  9. Let the Drobo initialize — download the latest firmware, etc.
  10. Following the prompts, format the Drobo.
  11. You’re ready to go!

Registration issues

When I first started up the Drobo Dashboard it asked me to register the drive, but I needed to create an account to do that. So I went to the Drobo website to create one. In the process, I was supposed to receive a verification email, but that never arrived.

After checking my Spam folder and not finding it, I went back to the website and used the “I forgot my password” option and they did send me a password reset email, which I was then able to create to access my account. Even after doing that, I wasn’t able to automatically register the drive. I contacted support about the issue. They quickly responded and asked me to send the serial number information and registered it for me. Support was very responsive.

Adding and removing drives

When you are wanting to add or remove drives from the Drobo, add a single drive at a time. During the rebuilding process, the Drobo lights on the side will flash alternating green/amber. Don’t remove, add or replace another drive until all the lights are green!

I found using the Drobo Dashboard the most straight forward way of doing this. Remove a drive and wait until the Dashboard tells you to add a drive. This way the Drobo will have the time it needs to update and adjust everything. You can also use the lights on the front of the Drobo 5C to do the same thing. I just found the Dashboard to be more to my liking.

How’s it working so far?

So I have everything installed and working. I’ve set up the Drobo 5C to send me emails notification if there is a problem and I’m doing my first backup to the Drobo 5C and it is working great. I will continue to use this over the coming months and will report back to you on how it’s working for me.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this article helpful!

Save $10 on your Drobo on, by using the code PHOTOFOCUS!

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