Firewire or USB 2.0 Drive??

f1

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Oct 11, 2007
369
0
Hi, i'm finally going to start backing up my files now. I need to buy an external HDD i'm trying to decide between a USB 2.0 and a firewire drive. Apparently USB2.0 has faster speeds than Firewire 400 (using it with macbook, only have firewire 400). Why should i pay extra for a firewire drive, they seem to be more expensive?? Is there something better about firewire drives i don't know about??
 

Porco

macrumors 68040
Mar 28, 2005
3,065
5,791
Yes. Despite the higher theoretical maximum speed, USB 2 is almost always slower at shifting large chunks of data than Firewire. I believe USB devices are more taxing on your computer's CPU. Seriously, pay a little extra and get a drive that has Firewire, or ideally both Firewire and USB 2.

I'm sure others will respond with more technical answers, but basically Firewire is much better in general usage than USB 2, IMHO.
 

iToaster

macrumors 68000
May 3, 2007
1,742
0
In front of my MacBook Pro
Firewire is much better. I tried to move a large file onto my iPod the other day (from my FW external) and it took forever (eventually giving up). I'm certainly glad I've got my firewire external... I just wish iPods were still FW... :(
 

crazycat

macrumors 65816
Dec 5, 2005
1,319
0
Firewire is faster then usb 2, it has always been so for me. I transferred some large files a few days back, it took me 5 mins with a usb 2 and around 2 mins with firewire 400. Firewire 800 is even faster.
 

minik

macrumors 65816
Jun 25, 2007
1,256
63
Bellevue, WA
Another vote for FireWire.

Chances are most inexpensive hard drive enclosures or pre-build external hard drives come only in USB 2.0 interface, what if you need FireWire port in the future? You never know. I will get an external hard drive with multiple interfaces for flexibility.
 

jackc

macrumors 65816
Oct 19, 2003
1,490
0
Firewire might be faster, but USB is still pretty good for practical purposes especially if you're doing incremental updates
 

Nuc

macrumors 6502a
Jan 20, 2003
798
6
TN
Why not find one that has both firewire and USB. I usually do this just incase I'm using both my FW 800 & 400 ports. One for camcorder & one for the drive that the media is being saved to (FW 800).

Nuc

I have this enclosure and love it! Link
 

Analog Kid

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2003
4,932
3,029
I have this enclosure and love it! Link
Looks like a nice choice, and cheaper than the enclosure I got a year ago.

Stuff like this makes me nuts though:
Maximum Data Transfer Rate:
FireWire 800 - 800Mbps (or 100MB/sec)
FireWire 400 - 400Mbps (or 50MB/sec)
USB 2.0 - 480Mbps (or 60MB/sec)

Dividing the signaling speed of the protocol by 8 does not give the maximum data transfer rate! It's stuff like this that leads to these kinds of threads in the first place... USB is not a mass storage bus, it's a peripheral bus with delusions of grandeur.

This is an old link, but tells the story:
http://www.barefeats.com/usb2.html
 

CalBoy

macrumors 604
May 21, 2007
7,849
37
Hi, i'm finally going to start backing up my files now. I need to buy an external HDD i'm trying to decide between a USB 2.0 and a firewire drive. Apparently USB2.0 has faster speeds than Firewire 400 (using it with macbook, only have firewire 400). Why should i pay extra for a firewire drive, they seem to be more expensive?? Is there something better about firewire drives i don't know about??
USB has a "burst" quality which makes it seem like it's faster, but for large files (anything beyond 200MB or so) you will begin to see that USB speed drops off, while Firewire speed remains high. On my old iPod (they used to give us Firewire cables back then unlike now:mad:) the transfer rate was always faster with the Firewire cable than with the USB cable, even if the sync was minor.

The only drawback to buying Firewire is that it is usually more expensive. Expect to spend $20-$40 more for the same storage capacity if you want Firewire. However, if you are constantly transferring large files, then it is a worthwhile investment.
 

minik

macrumors 65816
Jun 25, 2007
1,256
63
Bellevue, WA
Can you daisy-chain USB 2.0 HDDs like FireWire HDDs do?

I have this 2.5-inch notebook hard drive enclosure from Transintl.com with a 160GB Seagate 7200PRM in it. I'm very happy with the portability and performance in between home and work.
 

QuarterSwede

macrumors G3
Oct 1, 2005
9,233
1,236
Colorado Springs, CO
The only drawback to buying Firewire is that it is usually more expensive. Expect to spend $20-$40 more for the same storage capacity if you want Firewire. However, if you are constantly transferring large files, then it is a worthwhile investment.
My question is, if you're going to use it with Time Machine then can the price be justified if, after the first major backup, all backups will (most of the time) be small changes?

I want to backup my 80GB PB and my wife's 120GB MB onto one external hard drive using Time Machine (TM). I would really like Firewire since I know the benefits but I'm not sure I want to spend ~$50 extra for it if I really won't notice a difference in daily use using it in TM.

Right now I'm looking at the 320GB My Book with FW and USB. I'm not sure if both of our drives will last long on it though. I can get a 500GB My Book with just USB for about the same price. Any thoughts?

Can you daisy-chain USB 2.0 HDDs like FireWire HDDs do?
I don't think so but you can buy a USB hub in it's stead.
 

Analog Kid

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2003
4,932
3,029
My question is, if you're going to use it with Time Machine then can the price be justified if, after the first major backup, all backups will (most of the time) be small changes?

I want to backup my 80GB PB and my wife's 120GB MB onto one external hard drive using Time Machine (TM). I would really like Firewire since I know the benefits but I'm not sure I want to spend ~$50 extra for it if I really won't notice a difference in daily use using it in TM.

Right now I'm looking at the 320GB My Book with FW and USB. I'm not sure if both of our drives will last long on it though. I can get a 500GB My Book with just USB for about the same price. Any thoughts?
Since Time Machine is an automated background task, you probably won't notice the speed of your drive after the initial backup. On the rare occasions that you have to recover something, you'll be so excited to have gotten your file back you won't care if it takes another second.

USB will put more of a load on your system when it's running, so you may notice that if you're doing other things when the drive kicks in. You may also notice it competing with other things on the bus if you have any others plugged in.
 

QuarterSwede

macrumors G3
Oct 1, 2005
9,233
1,236
Colorado Springs, CO
Since Time Machine is an automated background task, you probably won't notice the speed of your drive after the initial backup. On the rare occasions that you have to recover something, you'll be so excited to have gotten your file back you won't care if it takes another second.

USB will put more of a load on your system when it's running, so you may notice that if you're doing other things when the drive kicks in. You may also notice it competing with other things on the bus if you have any others plugged in.
That was a fantastic answer. You've made my decision making a lot easier. Thank you.
 

CalBoy

macrumors 604
May 21, 2007
7,849
37
My question is, if you're going to use it with Time Machine then can the price be justified if, after the first major backup, all backups will (most of the time) be small changes?

I want to backup my 80GB PB and my wife's 120GB MB onto one external hard drive using Time Machine (TM). I would really like Firewire since I know the benefits but I'm not sure I want to spend ~$50 extra for it if I really won't notice a difference in daily use using it in TM.

Right now I'm looking at the 320GB My Book with FW and USB. I'm not sure if both of our drives will last long on it though. I can get a 500GB My Book with just USB for about the same price. Any thoughts?
Analog Kid gave you a great answer, so I will simply supplement it with a few minor points.

The first question I have for you is whether or not you are backing up 80GB of data from your Powerbook. Isn't that your Powerbook's HD size? How much disk space are you using? Whatever the answer, that is how much you will be transferring (the same is thus true for the macbook). I think that if you have better things to spend your money on (kids, nights out w/ your wife, etc), then spare some change and buy a USB drive instead. Firewire is better technology, but it isn't worth the price premium at this point. Firewire is a good investment for those who transfer large amounts of data relatively often (maybe a 30 minute movie once a week for example). Save some money, and just carve out a time slot on a weekend to backup your data. It will be annoying that first time, but after that you'll find that the backups will be a breeze. :)
 

QuarterSwede

macrumors G3
Oct 1, 2005
9,233
1,236
Colorado Springs, CO
Analog Kid gave you a great answer, so I will simply supplement it with a few minor points.

The first question I have for you is whether or not you are backing up 80GB of data from your Powerbook. Isn't that your Powerbook's HD size? How much disk space are you using? Whatever the answer, that is how much you will be transferring (the same is thus true for the macbook). I think that if you have better things to spend your money on (kids, nights out w/ your wife, etc), then spare some change and buy a USB drive instead. Firewire is better technology, but it isn't worth the price premium at this point. Firewire is a good investment for those who transfer large amounts of data relatively often (maybe a 30 minute movie once a week for example). Save some money, and just carve out a time slot on a weekend to backup your data. It will be annoying that first time, but after that you'll find that the backups will be a breeze. :)
Thank you so much for really digging in and helping me to decide what to do. I figured USB would be fine once the first backup was done and that isn't a problem for me. I also don't do much large file creation so it seems USB is the way to go. Thank you all so much for your help. I love MacRumors! :eek:
 

CalBoy

macrumors 604
May 21, 2007
7,849
37
Thank you so much for really digging in and helping me to decide what to do. I figured USB would be fine once the first backup was done and that isn't a problem for me. I also don't do much large file creation so it seems USB is the way to go. Thank you all so much for your help. I love MacRumors! :eek:
No problem! Isn't this site just awesome?:)
 

macffooky

macrumors regular
May 13, 2004
156
0
The 51st State
Bear in mind that should you ever want to install a bootable system on your external, PPC Macs will only boot from Firewire externals and Intels only from USB. There's some evidence of Super Duper-created back ups on a USB drive successfully booting some PPC machines but the general rule still obtains.
 

QuarterSwede

macrumors G3
Oct 1, 2005
9,233
1,236
Colorado Springs, CO
Bear in mind that should you ever want to install a bootable system on your external, PPC Macs will only boot from Firewire externals and Intels only from USB. There's some evidence of Super Duper-created back ups on a USB drive successfully booting some PPC machines but the general rule still obtains.
Thanks for the info, I didn't know that. My PB has maybe one year left in it, maybe two if I can stretch it, but I expect to update to a MB or MBP or whatever they'll have in two years when 10.6 is released.
 

f1

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Oct 11, 2007
369
0
Oh wow!! thx for the amazing responses. I'm thinking of getting an external hard drive with both USB and firewire from OWC specifically the OWC Neptune, anyone have experience with this product? It seems like a relatively good value, and i've heard some good reviews. any thoughts?
 
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