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How Do I Choose the Best FireWire® External Hard Drive?

Traditional internal hard drives are cheaper than FireWire hard drives, but lack the advantages of an external drive.
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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Choosing the best FireWire® external hard drive can depend on factors such as transfer speed, storage space, and cost. There are a few different FireWire® standards that allow for different transfer speeds, so you may want to take that into consideration when looking at external hard drives. Storage space is another concern, but the speed at which the drive itself operates can also be important. If very fast data retrieval is more important to you than cost, you may want to look for a solid state drive (SSD). Another option you might consider when looking for a FireWire® external hard drive is an enclosure, which can save you money by allowing you to use an old drive.

The most important fact to know about FireWire® before you begin shopping for hard drives is that there are several different versions of the standard. Most external hard drives use either FireWire® 400 or FireWire® 800, which operate in the same way but have different transfer speeds. If you want the fastest FireWire® external hard drive, you should choose one that has the highest number. FireWire® 800 offers transfer speeds that are typically about two times faster than FireWire® 400.

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Another related factor to consider is the type of FireWire® connector that your computer has. It is typically possible to plug a FireWire® 800 device into a FireWire® 400 port if an adapter is used. If the external drive depends on the FireWire® connection for power though, some alternate power source will be necessary. Some drives have USB ports that are used exclusively for power, while others have external power sources.

The physical characteristics of the FireWire® external hard drive are also important to consider. Storage space is typically measured in gigabytes or terabytes, and refers to the amount of data you can save to the hard drive. If you select a hard drive that does not have enough storage for your needs, you may have to buy a second unit and switch between them; this is costly and cumbersome. Most hard drives use moving platters to store information, so the rotational speed of the hard drive is another factor to consider. Drives with higher revolutions per minute (RPMs) are capable of reading data at a quicker rate, though SSD units can be even faster.

You may also want to consider a FireWire® external hard drive enclosure, particularly if you have an old drive and cost is an issue. Enclosures are protective cases that can essentially turn internal hard drives into external drives. An enclosure can allow you to purchase your own drive that has the exact characteristics you are interested in, or you can even use an existing drive from an old desktop computer or laptop. There are a number of different hard drive specifications though, so you will want to purchase an enclosure that is compatible with the drive you already have.

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