Is a firewire external HD worth the extra money?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Mjmar, Aug 26, 2010.

  1. Mjmar macrumors 65816

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    #1
  2. spinnerlys Guest

    spinnerlys

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    FW400 will get you roughly a maximum speed of 39MB/s, USB can give you up to 35MB/s on Intel Macs and 20MB/s on PPC Macs.

    If you shuffle around a lot of big data (25GB +) Firewire is better, but USB might suffice, if you only copy smaller files.
     
  3. Mjmar thread starter macrumors 65816

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    How about if I'm using time machine for 250gb. of data?
     
  4. spinnerlys Guest

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    Then USB will suffice, only the first backup takes long, as it has to backup the whole system (250GB ?), but subsequent backups are smaller, depending on your workload or what files you use, a backup can be from 5MB (or smaller) to 25GB (or more) but generally it is around 12MB when not doing much anyway.
     
  5. Mjmar thread starter macrumors 65816

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    Makes sense. thank you
     
  6. Gaelic2 macrumors 6502

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    I had tried a USB HD for my Time Machine. It took about 36 hours to backup my approx. 250 GB of data. The drive (Seagate) failed after a couple of months so I replaced it with an Iomega drive with firewire. It took about 3 hours to back up all my data. I had tried 2 Seagate drive 1.5 TB purchased from Costco and both failed within 90 days. I paid $20 more for an Iomega 1TB firewire drive and it has been a gem in both speed and reliability. For me, I prefer the speed of Firewire.:)
     
  7. spinnerlys Guest

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    250GB of data should take 150 minutes via USB, but as Time Machine does not take full advantage of that port and has many small files to backup, it usually takes longer. If it really took 36h to backup 250GB, then the average speed was 2MB/s.

    If the backup via FW took only 3h and the amount of data was 250GB again (probably more), then the average speed was 23MB/s. Did you use FW400 or FW800?
     
  8. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    Given that USB2 doesn't do nearly as well with large numbers of small files for whatever reason, and large numbers of small files is exactly what you get with an initial Time Machine backup, it wouldn't surprise me if a USB backup took substantially longer than FW for the same data.

    That said, does it matter? Apart from the initial backup, you're probably not moving more than a couple of gigs at a time, usually much less unless you do a lot of video editing, which shouldn't take more than a few minutes either way. And--since backup with TM is transparent and doesn't interfere with your use of the computer--regardless of how slow it is, it's not going to actually slow you down.

    I suppose, were you using a laptop and doing periodic "plug my TM drive in and wait until it's done" backups, then speed might matter, but even then you could just hook it up when you were starting to work and unplug it when you're finished and it's had time to do its thing.

    I personally go with dirt-cheap USB2 externals for backups, and it's never caused an issue for me. I do, however, use FW800 for data I'm actually accessing.
     
  9. Fishrrman macrumors G4

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    Firewire _is_ worth paying a little more for -- especially if you have a firewire800 port on your Mac.

    The other reason for having both USB and firewire connectivity is that it doesn't "lock you into a connection scheme or port". You have more flexibility.
     
  10. gnasher729 macrumors P6

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    Anything faster than USB is not worth paying money for. Initial backup takes a long time, but you are not going to wait for that anyway. Hourly backups can take varying amounts of time, but you just don't notice them. If you want to pay more than the absolute minimum, go for a bigger drive for Time Machine, not a faster one, because a bigger drive will hold everything you've ever done for years.
     
  11. Keebler macrumors 68030

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    USB if you're only doing backups or non-video work/transferring large amounts of data at once.

    personally, i find usb pathetically slow against FW400 and of course, especially 800.

    but for time machine, by all means, USB is the way to go.
     
  12. pastrychef macrumors 601

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  13. plinden macrumors 68040

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    As has been said above, USB is fine for data backups. But if you're maintaining a bootable backup, FW is much better.

    I have an OWC Mercury FW800 portable drive that has a bootable clone of my MBP. It came in useful when my MBP's filesystem got corrupted (incidentally, perhaps coincidentally, after a security update) and wouldn't boot ... while I was out of town and out of reach of my OS X disks (NEVER do an OS update if you're away from home). I was able to boot into the clone on the external HDD and work away on it. I've booted off USB drives before and it was painful - the 60+MB/s I get from the FW800 makes it much snappier.
     
  14. MacHamster68 macrumors 68040

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    the most important thing is firewire 400 does not hog on the processor and is faster as usb no matter if 1.1 or 2.0 in real life transfers are faster
    this here should make it easier for you to decide
    http://www.firewire-1394.com/firewire-vs-usb.htm

    so firewire is worth every penny you pay more

    and firewire 800 is even faster then firewire 400 which already is faster then usb 2.0 ,
    ok if you only plan to transfer small 200mb text files around then usb2.0 is sufficient ,but for anything bigger then 200mb go firewire

    never understood why people go for usb other then for mouse and keyboard or a printer , if i gave you the choice between a ferrari enzo and a fiat 500 which one would you take
     
  15. ellsworth macrumors 6502a

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    Personally, I have better lunch working off of a Firewire drive when editing off of Final Cut and After Effects than I do with USB 2. Firewire has always felt solid to me whether it be FW400 or FW800.
     
  16. neutrino23 macrumors 68000

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    We can all definitively say that FW is faster than USB. Quite a bit faster. Whether or not it is worth it is up to you.
     
  17. Makosuke macrumors 603

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    #17
    Not to beat a dead horse here, but I feel possessed to follow up the unwavering faith of some in FW800's superiority.

    Same reason that people buy Fiat 500s instead of Ferraris--both get you where you want to go, but one is cheaper than the other. Heck, if you drive the speed limit, the Ferrari may not even get you there any faster, which is analogous to the backup issue being discussed here.

    Similarly, to use very general numbers as an example, a 2TB Fantom drive with FW800 will cost you about $200, while a similar USB/eSATA-only one is about $150. Depending on what you want to do with it, that $50 may not be worth the added speed, which you may never, in practice, see.

    Since my home server backs up automatically in the middle of the night when I'm asleep every day (and it's data only, not bootable, so that's not an issue), I could care less whether it takes 15 minutes or 45--I'd rather have that $50 to spend on something else. It might take an extra hour to restore from backup if I ever need it, but that's not likely something I'll do more than once, and it's not something I'll be staring at while it works, so it's not worth it to me.

    On the other hand, my online data drive, which I actively use every day, is FW800, because the speed boost IS worth it there, at least to me. The cumulative seconds saved over a year or two are easily worth $50.

    All comes down to how you're going to use it and whether the time that will or will not be saved is worth the incremental cost to you.

    Also:
    200MB text files? What kind of text are you slinging? I have a 424-page formatted novel manuscript here that's under 1MB, and 500K words of web text and supporting info is under 12MB.
     

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