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External Hard Drives: USB or Firewire? What really matters?


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36 replies to this topic

#1 of 37 McPaul

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Posted January 16 2006 - 08:37 PM

how do you go about picking an external hard drive?

I'm looking at backing up my music collection which is on my computer so I don't have to keep luggign these CD's around with me when I move. I use a mac mini currently. Any suggestions? Maxtor Onetouch?

Thanks!

#2 of 37 SethH

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Posted January 16 2006 - 10:45 PM

I got my sister and brother-in-law a Western Digital Media Center drive for Christmas this year. It seems to be a great drive. It has both USB and Firewire, so you can use either. It has the single-button backup feature and some memory card readers if that matters to you.

I think those Maxtor drives have gotten pretty good reviews too.

#3 of 37 Scott Merryfield

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Posted January 17 2006 - 12:44 AM

I have a 250GB Western Digital drive and used to have an IOGear 160GB drive, which died after a few months. I never could get IOGear tech support to respond to my inquiries. I would recommend you avoid them at all costs.

Firewire and USB 2.0 have similar speeds. If you have an open firewire port and have other USB devices, you may get a little better performance from firewire, since USB is a shared bus. However, I have my Western Digital connected via USB and its performance is more than adequate. The IOGear drive was occupying the firewire port, and I never bothered to switch the WD drive after the IOGear died.

#4 of 37 DaveF

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Posted January 17 2006 - 01:28 AM

Quote:
I'm looking at backing up my music collection which is on my computer so I don't have to keep luggign these CD's around with me when I move.
Do you plan to discard the original CDs? Otherwise, you've still got to take them everytime you move.

As I've learned the hard way, don't plan on using a hard-drive as a long-term replacment for physical CDs.

As for interface: USB 2 is more common. Even Apple is dropping Firewire from its products. I recommend USB 2 simply because it appears to have a better future -- hardware will be cheaper and easier to find for it.

#5 of 37 Paul McElligott

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Posted January 17 2006 - 06:13 AM

Quote:
Even Apple is dropping Firewire from its products.
Which products? Every current Mac has at least one Firewire port. Since Firewire is still the lingua franca of digital video, Apple needs to keep it in order to keep selling Final Cut Pro.

I doubt that Firewire is going anywhere.
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#6 of 37 Rob Gillespie

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Posted January 17 2006 - 06:29 AM

It's usually cheaper to buy a 'regualr' hard drive and then buy an external case seperately. The drives are no different, but you're paying for someone to put it in the case. The 'one touch' backup things are a gimmick, and aimed at those who don't know how to make proper backups.

I've got a WD 250gb drive in a rather smart external case made by IcyBox. No fans (the metal of the case leads the heat away) and it has USB 2.0 and FW connections (also available in other configurations). Personally I don't have FW on my PC but it's supposed to be a bit faster for sustained data moving (like big video files etc).
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#7 of 37 Ken Chan

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Posted January 17 2006 - 09:54 AM

Quote:
Even Apple is dropping Firewire from its products
The MacBook Pro dropped the FW800 port that the PowerBook had. But it still has the much more popular FW400 port. So far, that's it.

As Paul said, I doubt that's going to go.

#8 of 37 Mike Fassler

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Posted January 17 2006 - 11:29 AM

you wont see any real world noticeable difference between firewire and usb 2.0 either will work fine,USB is generally more popular.

#9 of 37 Francois Caron

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Posted January 17 2006 - 11:36 AM

My external enclosures all have both USB and Firewire. This way, I never have to worry about what's available on the computers wherever they're located. At home, I normally use firewire because I can daisy-chain my two backup drives and only use a single connector on my main computer.

#10 of 37 DaveF

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Posted January 17 2006 - 01:56 PM

Quote:
Which products? Every current Mac has at least one Firewire port.
I made an incorrect inductive leap from iPods to all of Apple. :b

But I see the iMac has 3 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 1.1 ports, along with its 2 FW400 ports (and no FW800 ports). So Apple recognizes the greater popularity of USB.

#11 of 37 McPaul

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Posted January 17 2006 - 02:29 PM

As I've learned the hard way, don't plan on using a hard-drive as a long-term replacment for physical CDs.


Dave, what would you suggest, if anything?

I have uite an itunes collection now of purchased music that I want to back up too, so any advise would be helpvul.

Thanks.

#12 of 37 Jason Kirkpatri

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Posted January 18 2006 - 01:02 AM

Quote:
It's usually cheaper to buy a 'regualr' hard drive and then buy an external case seperately. The drives are no different, but you're paying for someone to put it in the case. The 'one touch' backup things are a gimmick, and aimed at those who don't know how to make proper backups.


Any links to this DIY solution? Sounds interesting.

#13 of 37 Kris McLaughlin

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Posted January 18 2006 - 04:37 AM

Quote:
Any links to this DIY solution? Sounds interesting.


I have 2 of these drive cases . Got one on Ebay (from a place in Victoria) & found one locally. I got 160GB western dgitial hard drives (7200rpm, 8mb cache) when they went on sale locally and bob's yer uncle.
FW and USB2 connections, no noisy fans, drives work great. Cost me about CDN$60 for each case and CDN$80 for each drive - quite a bite cheaper than buying a real "external drive".
I use the FW connectors so I can daisy chain them, works great with my powerbook & only uses 1 port on the computer.
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#14 of 37 Rob Gillespie

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Posted January 18 2006 - 05:59 AM

This is a UK retailer, but gives you some idea of the range of caddies that can be bought.
http://www.overclock....bstring=Icybox
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#15 of 37 DaveF

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Posted January 18 2006 - 09:23 AM

Quote:
Dave, what would you suggest, if anything?
Nothing quite yet. You can see in another thread my tale of woe. My HD crashed I lost all my ripped CDs (about 80) and 6 months of photographs.

Perhaps you can expand on your situation and goals. It might help people give useful suggestions. It sounds like you want to rip all your CDs and then get rid of them. Is this the case?

I've found "permanent" physical media, e.g. CDs , more robust than digital copies onto a hard-drive. Paper lasts longer than Word documents. And photographs are more durable than digital images.

So, using a HD to copy CDs for convenient use is fine. And as a backup in case of broken or lost CD is sensible. But if you get rid of your CDs, you're back to a single point of failure, except if that one glitch can cost you all your CDs!

I suggest ripping all your CDs to a hard-drive and keep the CDs. If a CD dies, make a new on from your rip. If the drive fails, re-rip your CDs.

If you have downloaded materials, duplicate to backup CDs or DVDs, or even a second hard-drive. And make a note to check those copies every year or so, in case the backup media fails.

#16 of 37 Ken Chan

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Posted January 18 2006 - 09:25 AM

Quote:
I see the iMac has 3 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 1.1 ports, along with its 2 FW400 ports (and no FW800 ports). So Apple recognizes the greater popularity of USB.
Sorta. The 2 USB 1.1 ports are on the keyboard, which is itself a USB keyboard. It makes sense to put ports on the keyboard, although they are only 1.1. You lose one of the 2.0 ports on the machine when you plug in the keyboard. You end up with 2 USB 2.0 and 2 FW400 (and 2 USB 1.1).

#17 of 37 Rob Gillespie

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Posted January 18 2006 - 09:39 AM

Paul, your backup solution is going to depend on how much data we're talking about. A few Gb - CDs are your friend. Tens of Gb? Hard drive.

I have just under 40Gb of MP3s (all my own CDs too, before anyone gets itchy!). Backing these up to CD or DVD just isn't feasible. It's too time consuming and personally I don't trust DVD media that much.

So, I anytime I add a new album, the entire collection gets backed up onto my external hard drive. That means I now have two copies of the collection (in addition to the original CDs) at any point in time. Sure, hard drives fail, but two at the same time? Highly, highly unlikely. It's good to be safe, but you have to be realistic.

Consider what is important to backup and what isn't so much of a concern. Think about what would be of most importance to you and give those backups the most attention. Personally speaking, my photographs are more valuable to me that anything else on the PC. So in addition to regular backups to the external HD (regular meaning anytime there's a change), I also upload all the JPG files to my Fotki account and keep DVD-RW copies at work. That way if my flat blew up, I'd at least have usuable copies of the files in another place. CDs can be replaced via the insuranc claim, but photos and other personal documents have to be really looked after.

In short, if your data is important, you'll make a backup whatever the cost. Because hard drives only ever fail when you don't have a backup! Posted Image
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#18 of 37 Paul McElligott

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Posted January 18 2006 - 11:14 AM

Quote:
Any links to this DIY solution? Sounds interesting.
My DIY external drive had one problem. It was very loud.
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#19 of 37 Jason Kirkpatri

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Posted January 18 2006 - 03:44 PM

Thanks for the starting points on the DIY. I'll be checking this out in the near future.

Thanks again! Posted Image

#20 of 37 Michael_K_Sr

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Posted January 18 2006 - 03:53 PM

Another vote for buying a separate drive and enclosure to help save a few bucks. Regardless whether you DIY or get an out of the box solution, I'd highly recommend OWC. I've always gotten my drives there and never had a problem. Both their Mercury Elite and On-the-Go drives always score high in Macworld testing as well. And you have the choice of FireWire only, USB 2.0 only or a FireWire/USB 2.0 combo. I'd opt for the latter as it provides maximum flexibility.


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