USB or FireWire? (External Hard Drive)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by mrat93, Aug 22, 2008.

  1. mrat93 macrumors 65816

    mrat93

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2006
    #1
    I just picked up a 500gb USB 2.0 Western Digital My Book external hard drive for $100 from Best Buy. My question is: If I'm just using it for backup purposes, is FireWire MUCH better that USB 2.0? Is it worth paying much more? Thanks.
     
  2. jphall macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    #2
    My experience is that Firewire is much better than USB. Files consistently go much quicker, especially with FW 800, which is an upscale Firewire.

    USB has such a range in transfer rates, it can be pretty quick, but it can also just be dog slow. Sometimes it seems I can switch to another USB port and that's makes a difference, sometimes it just doesn't matter. In my experience, Firewire is always fast.

    I do have a USB drive connected to my Airport Extreme that I use for Time Machine, and it also streams videos to various computers in the house. That seems to be fast enough. But say I'm using Carbon Copy Cloner to clone a drive, I don't want to risk the dog-slow USB at that time. I won't use CCC with USB.

    Over the lifetime of the drive, how much time do you need to save to make it worth an extra $20, or $30? How much is your time worth? With my Time Machine, it usually doesn't matter how long it is taking, it is in the background while I'm doing other things. If I'm specifically cloning a drive, I need it to be fast, as I'm usually on the way out the door and time is money.

    Best wishes. Joel.
     
  3. hogfaninga macrumors 65816

    hogfaninga

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    #3
    I have the sameone you bought and it has done a great job. I use the USB and it plenty fast for what I do. I guess it depends on what you will be doing. I have it connected to my TC and use it for Time Machine exclusively.
     
  4. psychosis macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2008
    #4
    I got the one with firewire, and am glad I did for these main reasons:
    I have a lot of large files to back up (not necessarily with Time Machine) (some psd and ai specifically that have gotten really big...)
    Since not every peripheral gives you the opportunity to use firewire, it frees up USB ports for those that don't give you a choice.

    So, if you think you have a similar situation, it's probably worth it to get it... But it's a good piece of equipment no matter what :)

    Good luck! :)
     
  5. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #5
    You know "USB" really stands for "ultra-slow backup"? ;)
     
  6. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #6
    Most people can't tell the difference between USB and FW backup using Time Machine, since the changes made via Time Machine are so small.

    FW helps if you're moving large files, but if you're just using it for TM backups, and moving 100 or 200 MB of MP3s, you'd save a few seconds using FW.

    I have a WD 250 GB Passport, and it's USB. It's great. I also have an external drive with FW, and it's also great. However, I think I prefer my small WD despite being slower than the normal 3.5" version that you have. ;)
     
  7. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    #7
    In this order:

    FW800

    FW400

    And then if you must ...

    USB 2.0

    Backup/Clone times are faster with FW400 and much faster with FW800.
     
  8. noodle654 macrumors 68020

    noodle654

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    #8
    If I were you, you should have gotten the version above the MyBook, I think its the MyBook Home that has USB/FireWire 400. If you have an 800, get the Studio, I am planning on getting one of those!
     
  9. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    #9
    Don't get any mybook. They are horrible if/when the enclosure dies and you have to try and get the drive out. Same goes for the seagate free agents.

    You can get a lot better drive if you buy an external enclosure from newegg or tigerdirect, and an internal drive. Not only will you get a bigger drive with an enclosure, but its cheaper, and if something happens to the enclosure/drive you can swap it out. Plus you can get a different harddrive because western digital is far from top dog anymore. Seagates at the moment seem to have the best reliability in my opinion and I see lots of dead/dying drives each day.
     
  10. Bengt77 macrumors 68000

    Bengt77

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    #10
    If you have it, please go for FW800. It blows FW400 out of the water, let alone the (still) inferior USB2. On paper USB2 is faster than FW400, but don't be fooled. USB claims quite some processor power, something that FW doesn't do nearly as much. And in real world tests, it's actually slower than FW400. If it's going to be a drive for backing up to and for working on/from, please go for at least FW400. And be smart, for very little extra money, you can get a quad-interface hard drive that features both FW400 and FW800. In case you don't have FW800 now, you might have it on a future machine. Then you can use the drive to its fullest potential.

    EDIT: Heed what chrono1081 wrote. Get an enclosure and an internal drive. Apart from the advantages listed above, internal drives come with a better warrenty. Often it's twice as long as for prebuilt external drives.
     
  11. slu macrumors 68000

    slu

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Buffalo
    #11
    There is a lot of melodramatics in this thread. People are not factually wrong, but they are certainly exaggerating the real life impact.

    Yes, Firewire is faster and preferable, but USB is fine for most users and uses, save a scratch drive for Final Cut.

    I use a USB drive with Carbon Copy cloner with no issues. For general uses, USB is just fine. I'd say save the money unless you are using the drive as a scratch disk or will consistently doing large file transfers to the drive.
     
  12. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #12
    Exactly.

    If you're always moving 1 GB files around, then FW will save you time. For normal stuff, you'll save a few seconds.

    The facts are right, but the real-life impact is based on usage. Again, I have a FW drive, but like my tiny WD Passport more because it's far easier, and I'm far more willing to use it, even if it's slower. If FW saved me 10 minutes at a time, of course I'd favour my external HDD.

    Have you made sure that the FW chipset in your external HDD is an Oxford? If transfer speeds are really that important to you, then this would have affected your entire life! ;)
     
  13. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    #13
    Maybe it depends on how much data you regularly back up.

    For example, I routinely clone 160HD and 500GB HDs. There is a huge difference as in hours between FW and USB. To me, that is significant.

    For me, USB is convenient but too slow for file transfers.

    Even my pocket drive has FW800. :)
     
  14. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #14
    Ditto.

    You should try eSATA. :D
     
  15. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    #15
    No arguements there.

    I was thinking about it, but decided for my mobile use, it was easier to just use FW800. External HD and one short cable is all that is needed for FW800 connection.

    For a more permanent setup, then eSATA would be sweet.
     
  16. hogfaninga macrumors 65816

    hogfaninga

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    #16
    I think the moral of the story is what you will specifically be downloading most of the time. For me, the USB works great and is pretty fast. You might have bigger download and if that is the case then the USB might not work for you as well as the FW.

    Look at your needs and do what you think is best. It is almost like the Macbook or Macbook Pro debate. Many people will swear they need the Pro, but in reality the Macbook is more than enough for many people. They just want to justify their purchase(which they don't have to do, it is their money).

    You got a good deal on the My Book. I was just in Circuit City and they were selling it for $139.
     
  17. cube macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    #17
    USB relies on the host processor. If you don't want to bog down your computer, you should use FW.
     
  18. SDLSteve macrumors 6502

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    Dec 27, 2004
    Location:
    Florida
    #18
    You're good using a USB for a backup. Yes, it will take a little while longer for data to transfer but again, you are using it for a backup. When I bought my new MacPro, it took about 50 minutes for time machine to load onto my new computer transferring over 300GB of data.

    Yes, firewire is faster.

    No, as a backup I wouldn't spend anymore than $100 on a 500GB drive.
     
  19. operator207 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    #19
    Discounting what is faster, and whether or not you need that speed, this is what I bought, and has worked great as a TM drive for the last 5 months:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817182123

    It also gives you the ability to upgrade to FW800 or ESATA.

    Other than the light being really bright, its been great. It also uses a great Oxford chipset. Whatever you do, do NOT get a Prolific chipset, which unfortunately is getting common.
     
  20. Terrador macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2008
    #20
    If you're just using it to backup data, it's not worth the extra money for FireWire. BUT if you ever need a hard drive for pro audio or video, get a Firewire 800 drive thats at least 7200 RPM.
     
  21. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    #21
    I think it depends on how you are using your drive for backup.

    If you are cloning a HD, then faster is better, hence using FW800 or even eSATA.
     
  22. winninganthem macrumors 6502a

    winninganthem

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2008
    #22
    Is eSATA better than FW800 by a lot?

    I keep hearing about people having problems with stability.
     
  23. SDLSteve macrumors 6502

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    #23
    I agree.
     
  24. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    #24
    Don't know as I have not used eSATA.

    The reason that I went with FW800, is that it was a simple connection. Only one wire (cable) between my MBP15 and external 2.5 inch HD.

    I can also use the same cable to back up (Clone) to my external FW800 3.5 inch hard drives. However, the 3.5 inch drives require and external power supply.
     
  25. queshy macrumors 68040

    queshy

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    #25
    Even with FW800 my time machine backups are still pretty slow...
     

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