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Hard Drive Buying Guide

Connection Types
Other Connections

FireWire (IEEE 1394)
A relatively new standard that is quickly becoming very popular in portable hard drives. It supports data transfer rates of 50 MB per second, making it the ideal standard for video and multimedia professionals. It is hot swappable, meaning it can be connected and removed without having to reboot the computer. FireWire interface cards can even support up to 63 devices simultaneously.

A couple of things to keep in mind with FireWire is that it takes a dedicated add-in card to make it work and that FireWire hard drives require external power sources. Also, because they are relatively new, the cost can still be a bit high.

USB 1.1 (Universal Serial Bus)
A nother connection method used with external hard drives. Most modern computers feature USB ports standard on their motherboards and older models can easily install an add-in card. USB controllers can supports up to 127 devices simultaneously either through a daisy chain or through an add-on hub. USB controllers are also able to supply power to devices connected to them, although many hard drives still use an external power source.

The only real downside to USB is its speed. USB data transfers max out at 1.5 MB per second, which limit their use for most high-end application.

USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed USB)
A new version of the USB standard that has recently come into play. It offers backward compatibility and data transfer rates up to 60 MB per second. While a USB 1.1 system can use a USB 2.0 device, it will need a USB 2.0 controller card to achieve the higher transfer rates.

Fibre Channel
Fibre Channel is a connection method used primarily for high-bandwidth network servers and workstations. It offers incredibly fast transfer rates up to 106MB per second and connection distances as far as 32,808 feet away.

All of this comes at a steep cost. Fibre channel drives are expensive and require special interface cards and cabling.
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