Firewire v. USB2.0 external hard drive

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by stagmeister, May 5, 2006.

  1. stagmeister macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2004
    So I am in the market for an external hard drive for my mac so that I can back it up. What is your opinion on having a Firewire v. a USB 2.0 external HD? They are pretty much the same speed, is there any big differences? The USB2.0 ones are cheaper but I am not sure if I am missing out on anything by not having firewire.

  2. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    Huge differences.

    1. you can boot from Firewire on your mac
    2. Firewire is faster for any long transfers/use of the drive

    if anything get a dual interface enclosure that has both USB 2.0 and FW

    FW operates at 400mbps, and USB 2.0 works up to 450mbps, the difference is that FW uses its own chipset, and thus doesn't have to bypass anything through the processor, as well as FW also does not work in 'bursts' like USB. the way that USB works is that it sends bursts of data back and forth, and you'll never achieve a true constant speed of what's possible. its marketing. FW however, will be a little slower for the first few seconds, and then hold steady at a constant transfer rate.
  3. yellow Moderator emeritus


    Oct 21, 2003
    Portland, OR
    It depends on which Mac you have.

    If you have a pre-Intel Mac, then you cannot boot from a USB2.0 HD if you clone your current install.

    If you have a PowerBook (or iBook), then the USB bus doesn't have enough juice to run a non-external powered USB device reliably.

    Finally, for sustained speeds, FW is fater than USB2.0.

    Can you tell I'm trying to steer you towards FW? Or better yet, get an enclosure that has BOTH FW400 AND USB2.0, the best of both worlds!
  4. grapes911 Moderator emeritus


    Jul 28, 2003
    Citizens Bank Park
    For more detail search the forums but I'll give you a quick overview.

    Under most real world conditions Firewire outperforms USB2. Yes it is usually more expensive, but I feel it is worth it. PPC Mac can even boot from firewire, Intel Macs can boot from firewire or USB. Personally, all my external hard drives have both USB and firewire. I usually use firewire, but you never know when you'll want to connected it to someone's PC that only has USB.
  5. Mernak macrumors 6502

    Apr 9, 2006
    Kirkland, WA
    i personally think firewire drives ae better, ransfers of large files are quicker and if you have an older mac it might not support USB2 (why cant ipods use either, im having to transfer my music to my desktop(not mine), then loading the stuff from there)
  6. kgarner macrumors 68000


    Jan 28, 2004
    Your best bet is to get one that has both. If that is out of the question. it becomes a question of use. If you are going to be using it on your Mac only, get Firewire. If you are going to use it to connect to a PC w/o Firewire (or you don't know if it will have it) then get USB2.

    I much prefer FW over USB2, but getting the interface that works best for your intended use is the best stategy.
  7. iPhil macrumors 68040



    If there's a chance of getting both USB/Firewire in a case then take it. it'll allow more options to connect to more systems then one or the other.. :eek: :eek:

    In my choice of external hd cases have been usb/fw ports but they have 2 fw ports and 1 usb port on the back and thats the 3rd time i've bought cases that said usb/fw on the box and have 2 fw400 ports/1 usb2.0 port :eek:
  8. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    the reason for the two FW ports is for Daisy-chaining them together. if you're using more than one external drive, you don't have to hook them all up individually to your computer, but through the ports on the back of the drive that is connected to your computer, etc.

    for example, i have an iPod Mini, i use FW to connect it to my mac, since my FW drive is always connected to my mac, rather than use up two FW ports, i just chain it through the FW drive.
  9. Spectrum macrumors 6502a


    Mar 23, 2005
    In addition to what everyone else has said:

    Backed up a 1.7GB folder full of 2-3MB photos

    just over 2minutes over USB2 (powered via FW800 :))

    Under a minute with FW800.

    Seagate 5400rpm 160GB 2.5" drive.

    I'm sure 7200rpm 3.5 inch drives will show even more of an improvement when using FW.
  10. jeremy.king macrumors 603


    Jul 23, 2002
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    NOT the same speed. See

    The IOGear (triple interface) drive I got was very affordable at the time. I think I ended up paying $140 or so after rebate for a 300GB.

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