External hard drive - USB 2 or Firewire?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by Effortless, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. Effortless macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    Location:
    West Kent, UK
    #1
    Hi folks,

    I'm about to buy an external hard drive for my MacBook Pro to use for backups and storage.

    What are the advantages/disadvantages of USB 2 and Firewire. My early MBP only has Firewire 400, not 800, so would I see any benefits in backup speed or reliability with a Firewire drive?

    Or save some cash and just go with the USB 2 drive?

    Thanks for your input,
    Effortless.
     
  2. Hawkeye411 macrumors 68000

    Hawkeye411

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    Jun 6, 2007
    Location:
    Canada EH!!!
    #2
    If your running 10.5 then USB 2.0 is fine. If your running anything earlier that 10.5 you should get firewire.
     
  3. Effortless thread starter macrumors member

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    Mar 17, 2008
    Location:
    West Kent, UK
    #3
    Hawkeye,

    that's interesting! But why??!!

    I'm running 10.4 at the moment, but planning at some stage to upgrade to 10.5, but I don't yet understand the reason for your suggestion.

    Thanks,
    Effortless.
     
  4. a456 macrumors 6502a

    a456

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2005
    #4
    Firewire. For two reasons: (1) your USBs are probably already taken up with printers, scanners and iPods, etc. (2) Firewire can be daisy-chained, but USB cannot, so for example I have an external desktop drive and plug a mobile hard drive into it when backing up to take out of the house - no need to plug and unplug.

    Ideally I'd go for USB 2 and Firewire in the same drive (e.g. Lacie or Iomega), and if you can why not have FW800 as well for the future - hard drives last a long time especially if you are getting a high capacity one.
     
  5. jeffmc macrumors 6502

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    Sep 21, 2007
    #5
    what is the reason for this out of curiosity?
     
  6. longwood macrumors regular

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    May 10, 2005
    #6
    I would recommend a combination of USB and Firewire. Having Firewire gives you the ability to be able to boot from the hard drive, which I have done once.
     
  7. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    Sep 15, 2006
    Location:
    New York City, NY
    #7
    Firewire because it's much, much, much faster than USB2.
     
  8. pastrychef macrumors 601

    pastrychef

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    #8
    I'd like to know why, as well.
     
  9. darwinian macrumors 6502a

    darwinian

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    #9
    In the real world, it is also my experience that firewire is faster than USB 2.0. It also happens to be more reliable for me, in terms of keeping connections and dealing with bus power. I'd also recommend FireWire. But yes, ideally one should get a combo FW/USB 2.0. There are the new-fangled quad-interface drives (FW400/800/eSATA/USB2.0) drives that are noticeably pricier; I've decided not to settle for a USB 2.0 drive only on my next external drive purchase.

    Regarding 10.5 v. earlier and USB 2.0 performance, I've noticed many of the same intermittent and unwarranted Device disconnected problems on Leopard as I had with Tiger. Speedwise, I have not been able to discern a difference.
     
  10. unknown87 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2007
    #10
    Yeah I bought a USB drive recently and I sort of regret it. I mean, it does everything fine, and its fairly quick, but with only two USB slots on my MB, it means I'm constantly unplugging printers, eyetv and other drives when necessary. Plus that extra speed is always nice...
     
  11. bstreiff macrumors regular

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    Feb 14, 2008
    Location:
    Austin, TX, USA
    #11
    Firewire is also handy if you get a drive that can be powered just from the firewire port (mostly 2.5" enclosures, I don't think I've seen a 3.5" one that did that); then you don't have to carry around a separate power cable (or worse, one of those crazy double-USB things.)
     
  12. TBi macrumors 68030

    TBi

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    Location:
    Ireland
    #12
    I'd spend the extra (it's not that much more expensive) and get a dual firewire/USB interface drive!

    Firewire is a lot faster than USB 2.0 in real world applications.

    As for the person talking about 10.4 vs 10.5. I think he is a little mistaken in his views.
     
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Redondo Beach, California
    #13
    What? Can you explain why. USB works about the same under 10.5 as 10.4 what changed?
     
  14. TBi macrumors 68030

    TBi

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    Ireland
    #14
    He probably just ran 10.4 on an older machine with USB 1.1.
     
  15. jeffmc macrumors 6502

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    Sep 21, 2007
    #15
    they make usb bus powered drives as well
     
  16. bstreiff macrumors regular

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    Feb 14, 2008
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    Austin, TX, USA
    #16
    Does anyone make them using only one USB port? Every one I've seen requires two ports. (USB only delivers 5V 500mA, which I don't think can power anything larger than an iPod hard drive.)
     
  17. jonbravo77 macrumors 6502a

    jonbravo77

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    Phoenix, AZ
    #17
    I would go with Firewire. Technically USB 2.0 is faster because it has the potential to run at 480mb/s and firewire 400 runs at 400mb/s but with firewire it's a more stable speed and more reliable, the transfer rate does not fluctuate as widely as the USB 2.0 and that's why it seems faster.

    Now firewire 800 is the way to go..

    Peace:cool:
     
  18. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

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    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #18
    If you want a 2.5'' external that you can use without the power lead, I've been told it's best to get a FW one. FW has a much higher bus power supply.

    I have a cheap 2.5'' USB external drive, and out of my collection of about 6 old 2.5'' drives, only one will spin up on USB power (from my MacBook C2D) and that's with both USB ports connected.

    (They all spin up when plugged into a mains power supply.)

    If you're just looking for an 3.5'' external drive, then get what you like. BTW all my decent external cases have both FW and USB.
     
  19. TEG macrumors 604

    TEG

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    Langley, Washington
    #19
    Always choose Firewire when you have a choice. Firewire is much faster with large file transfers, whereas USB 2 is better for smaller files. USB rarely peaks at its 480mbps, but Firewire sustains much closer to its 400mbps.

    TEG
     
  20. jeffmc macrumors 6502

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    Sep 21, 2007
    #20
    what? open up a best buy flyer theres tons of them that use a single usb cable

    they're about 100$ for 160 gigs
     
  21. cubbie5150 macrumors 6502a

    cubbie5150

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    Mar 4, 2007
    #21
    I use personally use firewire--I have a G-Drive connected directly to my MBP via FW800, and daisychained to my G-Drive is a LaCie connected to the G-Drive's FW400 connector; connected to my LaCie is another external HD via FW400 (I only use the 3rd HD for weekly SuperDuper backups, so it's not always connected). It's nice having 2 externals but only using one FW (800) port... Even if you don't currently think you need multiple HD's, it is nice to have the future flexibility rather than starting from scratch a few months down th eroad & ultimately getting a FW drive... FWIW, I agree w/ those who suggest your first external should have both FW & USB for initial flexibility as well...I'd also make sure that your first external have more than one FW port so you can daisychain.
     
  22. akm3 macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2007
    #22
    What happens if you hook a dual FW/USB drive USB to a windows PC and FW to your Mac? (Assuming you've formatted it Fat32 I suppose)?

    Can both access the same drive at the same time?
     
  23. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

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    Location:
    .. London ..
    #23
    With both computers connected, if one is off, the other one will work fine. If both are turned on then I think there'll be a disk fault as soon as both try to access the drive at the same time. Even just routine polling of the connection might be enough. So between a few seconds to a few milliseconds after both connections become active.

    Effects might range from:

    - just can't access the drive, and fixed by unplugging one computer and powercycling the drive (most likely)
    - to causing a kernel panic / bsod on one or both computer (less likely)
    - to making the drive unreadable and needing a reformat (pretty unlikely)
     
  24. bstreiff macrumors regular

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    Feb 14, 2008
    Location:
    Austin, TX, USA
    #24
    And no other separate power connector?

    I have a 2.5" Firewire enclosure. The only cable running to it is the Firewire cable from my Mac mini. No extra power connector; it's powered just from the Firewire cable.

    Every USB enclosure I've ever seen has either required, in addition to the USB data connection, a second USB connector for power or some other power connector (power brick, etc).
     
  25. Apple Ink macrumors 68000

    Apple Ink

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2008
    #25
    Firewire

    I'd recommend a firewire. Mainly because its speedier and can be configured in daisychain.

    Also all macs can boot from firewire but not from usb, though it doesnt make much of a difference.
    I mean how many of us actually dual-boot our MACs:apple:
     

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