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External Hard Drive Speed

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October 24, 2008 6:42:18 AM

Hi guys,

I'm looking for an external drive to store my files instead of on my laptop itself because I no longer have faith in Windows or something. I used to have a desktop which I'm happy with until something bad happened. The technician told me that a virus wiped out my hard drive and all my portfolios, 10 years of hard work and most importantly my family photo collection which I painstakingly scan each one of them from the photo album is gone. And with the cost of recovering the files in it would get me 2 brand new laptops. So I gave up on it. Got myself a new laptop and ever since then I've been backing up files in CDs and DVDs and my laptop is virtually empty ever since I bought it,. But it's kind of a hassle because I've got to try each and every CD just to find the correct file. So I'm looking for an external hard drive which could store my files and access them only when I need them.

A friend of mine recently got this external 1TB drive and he was telling me how good it was, the storage capacity and more interesting, the drive speed which he mention was some in the excess of 7K RPM or something.

Now, I'm not a computer hardware expert or anything like that (and please do correct me if I'm wrong) but no matter how fast the drive is, the speed of external hard drives are still capped by USB right? In the end even if we have a 7K RPM drive with extraordinary transfer rate, it would still be pretty much useless if it's plugged in as USB instead of plugging it internally into the desktop.

I'm asking this because I'm comparing between the bulkier external drive which requires external power source and the slimmer ones which is powered by USB itself. If there's no difference in terms of speed, then I might just as well settle for the latter as portability is definitely a plus point for me. The intern at my office also suggested that I get the notebook hard drive and an external enclosure and put it together myself. Any comments, opinions or recommendations?
October 24, 2008 7:19:14 AM

Tom's actually has an Oct 20th article about external storage that you might want to look at, and I'll quote some data from said article.
From page 11 - "All the external hard drives we tested deliver USB 2.0 throughput of up to 32 MB/s for reads and up to 40 MB/s with FireWire"
The full article can be found at http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/-external-hard-driv...
Basically, speed is, as you suspected, going to differ massively depending on the interface used. I do not suggest USB or firewire. eSATA is probably going to be the best bet as far as performance goes - and the article I linked does delve into more specific data - reporting closer to 100 MB/s. In short, an eSATA interface *should* not be a bottleneck in comparison to a common internal IDE or SATA interface.

a c 357 G Storage
October 24, 2008 6:40:50 PM

First of all, yes, an external HDD is a great solution for keeping backup copies of files off your computer. I'd suggest if you are nervous about corruption, etc., you do this: only connect the external to computer when you are making or recovering backups. Otherwise unplug from computer and turn off the power on the exteranl drive.

It's true, eSATA will be faster than USB2. Howver, I'll suggest that Firewire 400 (aka IEEE 1394a) may be just as fast as eSATA.

Problem I can foresee is you may not have an eSATA port on your laptop, and maybe not even Firewire. You may be limited to USB2. If you have Firewire but no eSATA, use the Firewire.

If you have Firewire or eSATA to use, consider this in purchasing the external. Most such units come with at least two interfaces to the computer: USB2 plus one other (sometimed two others). Get one that has both the interface you plan to use plus USB2. That way, no matter what computer you hook up to, there's always going to be a way to attach.

The only externals I know of that do NOT need their own power supply are the ones based on smaller 2.5" drives used in laptops. Virtually all the larger 3.5" drive-based units need enough power to run the drive that it is hard to get it from the USB port. I have two preferences here: I like the externals with their own power supplies anyway, to minimize demand on the computer's power system. But going to the larger drive form means two advantages: you can get larger capacities this way, and for the same capacity the smaller 2.5" HDD's designed for laptops are 'way more expensive. However, I must agree that the smaller ones designed for portability with laptops are easier to pack up and carry around.

To go with my desktop I bought an external case and HDD separately, put them together and voila! That is a bit less expensive than buying a ready-to-go External Hard Drive unit, and you can customize it. Just remember to get BOTH interfaces on the external case chosen correctly. Besides deciding the case-to-compouter interface(s) (USB2 plus Firewire, for example), you need a case that uses the correct connection to the HDD you plan to mount in it - SATA (Usually SATAII these days) or IDE.

But, if you don't want to customize and roll your own, buying a complete ready-to-go unit also works well. You may even get with it some freebie goodies like a CD of backup / restore utilities.
!