USB 2.0 HD as main boot drive. OK?

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by yuenadan, Mar 5, 2012.

  1. yuenadan macrumors newbie


    Sep 3, 2010
    Taipei, Taiwan
    The internal hard drive on my Summer 2010 iMac appears to have died (or at the very least is not functioning properly). Thankfully I had an external drive connected with Time Machine, so my data is backed up. AFAIK here are my options for replacing the drive:

    1. Get the internal drive replaced by an Apple service provider.
    2. Buy a Firewire external hard drive and use that as my main drive.
    3. Buy a USB 2.0 external hard drive and use that as my main drive.

    I'm leaning towards #3 simply because it's fast and easy, and there is a wide selection of USB 2.0 drives around here and they're a good deal cheaper than Firewire drives (NT$3500 for 2GB USB 2.0, vs. about NT$5500 for Firewire).

    But I've heard mixed reports about USB 2.0 performance. Some say that it's flaky and unreliable, and overall Firewire is more stable. Others say this is hogwash and that in the real world there's no noticeable difference.

    What do you guys think?
  2. obsidian1200 macrumors 6502


    Jun 19, 2010
    Albuquerque, NM
    If the drive is under applecare still, I'd opt for option #1 personally. But, if you'd rather not/can't go that route, I would NOT suggest using a USB 2.0 drive for a main boot drive. I just recently tried booting a CCC clone on a western digital USB drive and the boot time was painfully slow, somewhere in the ballpark of 15 minutes, and this was on an i7 iMac. I don't think you'd have a decent user experience with those speeds. FW800, while a bit more pricey as you've found out, is well worth the extra cost if you plan on using it long term.
  3. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    Yes, USB 2.0 is quite slow as boot drive, though I never had boot times of 15 minutes with USB 2.0 boot drives. More like two to three minutes, regardless of CPU speed (which has almost nothing to do with boot times).
    Firewire 800 would be the better fit, as USB also goes via CPU, while Firewire has its own chip.
    You could get an enclosure with Firewire 800 ports from inXtron, which has a Taiwanese website, and then get your own 3.5" HDD, if that is cheaper.
    Or you can get a 3.5" S-ATA HDD and put it in yourself. iFixIt has guides for that.


    Maybe have a look at Advanced Search to find threads: about 2010 iMacs and HDD replacing
  4. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    I think option one is still your best bet, but DON'T use USB as your boot drive...Pitifully slow...I use external USB drives simply for archiving, and not for speed.

    I'd get it back to Apple for a replacement. If that isn't an option, then FW is better as posted.
  5. yuenadan thread starter macrumors newbie


    Sep 3, 2010
    Taipei, Taiwan
    Thanks for all the replies. I didn't buy Applecare for this machine so sadly it's out of warranty at this point. I did check with the local service provider here and a 1-gig drive replacement would be NT$6500, which is a bit out of my price range at the moment (just last month I had some big expenses come up and now I'm trying to rebuild my finances). I could buy a 2-gig external FireWire 800 drive for less.

    It's interesting that you guys all talk about speed. I have my machine temporarily set up on a little 250G USB external I had lying around, and it's running fine speed-wise. Granted it's a squeaky-clean system install, and I'm not doing much but web-surf and check e-mail because all my apps are on the other drive, but it's pretty snappy.

    I was more concerned about stability. Like when I got home today the system was powered off, even though I had left it running when I went to work this morning. It makes me wonder if the drive briefly lost connection when I was away. This is the kind of thing that concerns me more.

    Nevertheless, it appears the masses have spoken, and USB is not the recommended option.

    After clicking around the inXtron site I did see they have a shop around the Guanghua digital plaza, which is only about a 10 min walk from where I live. Maybe I'll shop around there for a Firewire external drive for the immediate future, and then who knows maybe when I'm more flush with cash, I'll have the internal drive replaced with an SSD or something.
  6. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    "Nevertheless, it appears the masses have spoken, and USB is not the recommended option."

    I'm going to go "against the flow" here.

    There was a time when USB was -not- the "better boot option". But those times are changing.

    In 2012 we should expect to see USB3-capable Macs, which will shift the entire paradigm of "USB vs. firewire". I suspect that USB3 will become a very usable option, insofar as booting is concerned.

    I have an older white Intel-based iMac that I regularly boot from a USB/SATA dock. Yes, it does take a couple of minutes longer to boot vis-a-vis from the internal drive. But it's tolerable, and not that much longer than it would take to boot from the firwire 400 port.

    If you choose to buy an external drive, I would strongly suggest that you get one that is BOTH firewire and USB3 capable. Then you'll have a choice, now and in the future.

    Another alternative:
    Spend about $30 and buy a USB3/SATA dock. Then scrounge up a SATA drive to go into it, or buy a new one. The dock is bootable, easy to swap drives around, and it will become a VERY handy piece of hardware to have around....

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