Firewire v. USB2.0 external hard drive

stagmeister

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 17, 2004
179
0
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.

Thanks
Jason
 

PlaceofDis

macrumors Core
Jan 6, 2004
19,239
4
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.
 

yellow

Moderator emeritus
Oct 21, 2003
16,033
1
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!
 

grapes911

Moderator emeritus
Jul 28, 2003
6,995
3
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.
 

Mernak

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2006
435
16
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)
 

kgarner

macrumors 68000
Jan 28, 2004
1,512
0
Utah
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.
 

iPhil

macrumors 68040
kgarner said:
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.

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:
 

PlaceofDis

macrumors Core
Jan 6, 2004
19,239
4
iphil said:
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:
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.
 

Spectrum

macrumors 65816
Mar 23, 2005
1,476
786
Never quite sure
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.