For an external Hard Drive - USB2 or FW400?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Balli, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. Balli macrumors 6502

    I will be using it to transfer and backup most movies (around 700MB each). Which Hard Drive connection is better, USB2 or FW400?

    The 2 drives I have narrowed it down to both have 16MB of cache - if that helps?
  2. shipdestroyer macrumors 6502

    Jun 5, 2007
    New Hampshire
    USB 2.0 has a higher potential speed (480mbps vs 400mbps for Firewire), but typically doesn't sustain its max speed because the data runs through the cpu. Data over Firewire doesn't, so it can run at a constant 400.

    The general idea is Firewire for large files, otherwise it doesn't really matter.
  3. Jessy macrumors regular

    Oct 18, 2006
    NE Ohio
    FW is better for hard drives, but I sold my FW drives for a USB 2.0 one because Apple were pieces of garbage again and used that on the Airport Extreme Base Station instead of FireWire.
  4. Balli thread starter macrumors 6502

  5. roland.g macrumors 603


    Apr 11, 2005
    One mile up and soaring
    Firewire for video. 800 if possible. 400 if not. USB2 is more universal and good for backups, external photo and music libraries. But for movies, firewire. If once you have all your videos on there you will be occassionally adding a movie or two, and are not still working with DV footage on a daily basis or daily transfers, you can get USB2 and be fine.
  6. flopticalcube macrumors G4


    Sep 7, 2006
    In the velcro closure of America's Hat
    Buy a dual interface drive. I find FW400 faster on my MyBook drive when doing backups but a USB interface can come in handy.
  7. HMSAgincourt macrumors newbie

    Feb 11, 2007
    Although USB 2.0 rates at 480 mbps, much performance is lost from the huge overhead required. FW 400 requires much less, so you can expect average transfer rates of around 35 megabytes per second for a large file while USB will get about 25. Most of the time, USB will perform at comparable speeds to FW 400, but overall, you can expect better performance with firewire. If you can get both USB and firewire on the same enclosure, buy it. If you don't have FW 800, don't spend a premium for an enclosure; it will not do any better than FW 400.
  8. CV4 macrumors member

    Apr 7, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Don't mean to hijack the thread, though I kind of am, but

    Are you guys saying that for someone who will only be using their external HD for music, backups, and dvdrips (generally xvid format) that a usb2 is all that is needed and it isn't worth paying more for the FW800 port?

    This would be with a new MBP for reference.
  9. nnick macrumors regular


    May 17, 2006
    The dual interface drives are nice. You will want firewire for movies. Dual interface is nice if you take the hard drive somewhere where the local computer does not have firewire port.
  10. fairnymph macrumors 6502


    Mar 12, 2007
    Chapel Hill, NC
    I'm impatient so I would get FW800 if possible!
  11. iBookG4user macrumors 604


    Jun 27, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    I would get a FireWire 400 over a USB external hard drive, you don't need a FireWire 800 for your uses, but I find that I do most of the same things as you do with my FireWire external hard drive and it's great for that. I also have a USB external hard drive and it's slower than the FireWire, so I much prefer the FireWire drive.
  12. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    agreed. options are good.

    FW 400 is better than USB 2.0 though imo. especially for continuous access or long transfers.
  13. WannaGoMac macrumors 68020


    Feb 11, 2007
    FW may be nice, but the chances of it being on EVERY computer you go to is much smaller than there being a USB port.

    Better yet, get an eSata external for best speed... oh wait... macs don't have eSata ports
  14. yodermk macrumors member

    May 13, 2006
    Absolutely. My ASUS Z84JP has a built in eSATA port.

    USB2: 27MB/sec
    Internal SATA/150 drive: 40MB/sec
    eSATA with a SATA-II drive: 80MB/sec

    There are ExpressCard eSATA cards that may work in an MBP. Not sure if they're /34 or /54 though.

    Including one in the next MBP revision would be one more way for Apple to rock us!
  15. The Stig macrumors 6502a

    The Stig

    Nov 4, 2006
    On the track
    I have a drive that is both usb 2 and firewire 400 and FW400 is SO MUCH BETTER. Much faster. I recommend it.

    The Stig
  16. WannaGoMac macrumors 68020


    Feb 11, 2007
    Ya, kinda disapointing that a company known for pushing the tech edge (wireless, firewire, 3.5" floppy) is lagging lately. Guess they don't want to try and set standards anymore, and just follow the industry. Might be smarter business for them this way...
  17. himansk macrumors regular

    Oct 16, 2006
    i backup my main hdd from my mbp revA to a dual interface external hdd every friday night. real world speeds for the backup:

    USB2.0: 12-14 MB per second (variable)
    FW400: 24MB (sustained, almost constant speed without spikes)

    (this is from the activity monitory looking at the disk activity graphs and details without any other program running at the time of the backups)

    so this is why I would rather have a FW400 than a USB, plus I am currently booting from the FW drive without any speed or response problems. running the OS from USB, its slow as hell cant even get it to boot and try to press the restart button without long periods of beach balls.
  18. Edandlindz28 macrumors regular

    Apr 26, 2007
    Get an one with both so you have flexability.
  19. Balli thread starter macrumors 6502

  20. L3X macrumors 6502a

    Oct 18, 2006
    Chesapeake, VA
    FW800 is available on the new MBPs, get it if you can.

    Otherwise, it's a toss up between USB2 and FW. If you are using other USB devices on a laptop especially, i would save those for devices that need them. Most external HDs come with USB and FW so use the FW.
  21. myjellyass macrumors regular

    May 1, 2007
    Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  22. T0mmyGunZ macrumors member

    Oct 28, 2006
    Long Island
    i dont know much about this stuff but why isnt anyone talking about fw 800?
  23. shantyfolk macrumors newbie

    Apr 6, 2006
    with a firewire drive you can make bootable copies of your harddrive, then you can take your external to someone elses mac, boot up from your drive, and its your computer (on their mac). it rawks
  24. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    USB 2.0 for sure. If you can I would use FW800. It's not as standard, but I like it. I am using it (currently) for my back_up drive. I will likely go USB 2 when 10.5 comes so I can really take advantage of Time Machine.
  25. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    I have a Western Digital MyBook Pro.

    I love it so much, it has a triple interface which allows me to use the Firewire800.

    I would definitely go with Firewire even if it is Firewire400, as it's been stated it's consistent where USB is really shaky. Besides speed it's also nice to know when your files will actually finish.

Share This Page