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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Consumer Hardware & Components > External Hard Drive...USB or FireWire?

External Hard Drive...USB or FireWire?
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Dell Switcher
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Oct 31, 2003, 10:36 AM
 
Need external hard drive for backup for iMac and PB. Have narrowed to LaCie, Maxtor or Iomega. Not sure which is best but major concern is which is better connection...USB or FireWire? Question
Switcher and damn glad...with iMac and PB who would not be happy!
     
CIA
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Oct 31, 2003, 10:52 AM
 
USB 1.1 all the way!

Now in reality, firewire is much faster then USB. USB2 is pretty fast, but only a few Macs have it built in. Most machines only have USB 1.1, which for a hard drive is deathly slow.
For the best compat, go with a FireWire 400 drive. Any size drive should work with a modern FW case should you decide to build your own. (A great way to save some bucks and learn a basic computer buiding skill.... They are really easy to build)
In summary:
USB 1.1 - Too slow, forget it.
USB 2 - Pretty fast, but minimal full speed compat (they are backwards compat with 1.1 tho)
Firewire400 - Great for general use
Firewire800 - Faster still, but unless you are stringing several FW devices together you won't really notice a difference from FW400. With an adaptor cable, FW800 drives are backwards compat with FW400. Be aware there is a FW800 issue with Panther (OS 10.3)

One final option is a drive with both USB2 AND Firewire. That way you can bring it pretty much anywhere and have it work. These cost a little more tho....

What iMac and powerbook are you running?
     
Dell Switcher  (op)
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Oct 31, 2003, 11:00 AM
 
Originally posted by CIA:
USB 1.1 all the way!

Now in reality, firewire is much faster then USB. USB2 is pretty fast, but only a few Macs have it built in. Most machines only have USB 1.1, which for a hard drive is deathly slow.
For the best compat, go with a FireWire 400 drive. Any size drive should work with a modern FW case should you decide to build your own. (A great way to save some bucks and learn a basic computer buiding skill.... They are really easy to build)
In summary:
USB 1.1 - Too slow, forget it.
USB 2 - Pretty fast, but minimal full speed compat (they are backwards compat with 1.1 tho)
Firewire400 - Great for general use
Firewire800 - Faster still, but unless you are stringing several FW devices together you won't really notice a difference from FW400. With an adaptor cable, FW800 drives are backwards compat with FW400. Be aware there is a FW800 issue with Panther (OS 10.3)

One final option is a drive with both USB2 AND Firewire. That way you can bring it pretty much anywhere and have it work. These cost a little more tho....

What iMac and powerbook are you running?
Thanks for great response...very helpful!

I am running iMac 17 1Ghz and PB 15 Al
Switcher and damn glad...with iMac and PB who would not be happy!
     
klinux
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Oct 31, 2003, 09:08 PM
 
I too like FW better. However, I bought an enclosure that has both FW and USB2. Sure, it costs a little bit more but having that option is worth it IMO.
One iMac, iBook, one iPod, way too many PCs.
     
fulmer
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Oct 31, 2003, 10:19 PM
 
I read some time ago that FW has a better sustained and consistent rate of real-world throughput than USB 2. Sorry, but I don't know what mag I read that in, and I could always be mistaken.
     
Stogieman
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Oct 31, 2003, 11:16 PM
 
I believe you're correct fulmer. USB's throughput drops as you add more and more devices to the bus. Doesn't USB tax the system resources (CPU cycles) as well?

Slick shoes?! Are you crazy?!
     
CreepDogg
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Nov 1, 2003, 01:35 PM
 
I would get FW. Your PB has USB 2.0, but your iMac has USB 1.1 (we have the same thing - I have an iMac 17 1GHz, my wife has a 15 PB Al). If you're going to use the drive on both, it will be deathly slow on the iMac.

I have a LaCie d2 120GB FW drive, and have been very happy with it. Good luck.
     
Casper Crane
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Nov 1, 2003, 07:06 PM
 
Originally posted by CIA:

Firewire400 - Great for general use
Firewire800 - Faster still, but unless you are stringing several FW devices together you won't really notice a difference from FW400. With an adaptor cable, FW800 drives are backwards compat with FW400. Be aware there is a FW800 issue with Panther (OS 10.3)
Is this true about FW800?

I thought it was much faster than FW400 which would make it better for DV.

I don't plan on stacking devices, just one hard drive, so is it true that I won't recognize a speed difference?

CC
     
tooki
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Nov 1, 2003, 10:52 PM
 
Hahaha!

FireWire 400 is 50MB/sec. FW800 is 100MB/sec.

DV video is 3.6MB/sec, and uses something called isochronous transfer mode -- that is, the DV data stream is guaranteed the 3.6MB/sec it requested.

No way will you see a difference between FW400 and 800 during captures, the only possible difference (and then only if you have a REALLY, REALLY fast drive) is the speed in copying DV, or reading/writing it when rendering effects. (And even then, the difference will be small.)

tooki
     
tooki
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Nov 1, 2003, 10:53 PM
 
As for USB... USB 2.0's "high speed" mode has a higher raw data rate than FW400, but USB's data payload is smaller -- so even FW400 is faster than USB 2's 480Mb/sec in real life.

tooki
     
AMDB7
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Nov 3, 2003, 02:47 PM
 
Originally posted by Casper Crane:
Is this true about FW800?

I thought it was much faster than FW400 which would make it better for DV.

I don't plan on stacking devices, just one hard drive, so is it true that I won't recognize a speed difference?

CC
there have been issues with panther and drives using the oxford 922 chipset. apple is aware and is working on a solution. probably a firmware update for the drives.

i'd go with a fw400 drive myself.
     
SupahCoolX
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Nov 3, 2003, 11:56 PM
 
I'd go with Firewire.
Also, avoid Iomega. I've had nothing but problems with them (CD burners, Zips, etc), and will never buy anything from them again.
I recently purchased a Lacie d2 Firewire drive, and it's worked perfectly. No problems with Panther, either.
     
   
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