LearnThe fastest and most reliable backup drives (via Twitter!)


Ryan Carson
writes on December 15, 2008

The other day I asked this question on Twitter (twitter.com/ryancarson):

“My sis is looking for an affordable, but fast and reliable backup drive for her Mac. Suggestions? Is Firewire or USB faster these days?”

I got a huge number of really helpful responses, so I thought I’d go ahead and share. Enjoy!


stuscuba: @ryancarson Firewire if you can…I wouldn’t touch Western Digital I’ve found them serioulsy flakey

boboroshi: @ryancarson there are drives with both – check out owcomputing.com. not sure of shipping to uk. i have abotu 8 of em

davehodg: @ryancarson anything but lacie.

kyleridolfo: @ryancarson For the absolute fastest speeds I’d recommend an eSATA card and eSATA drive. They are available for both MBPs and MacPros.

erskingardner: @ryancarson that is one i have and it’s awesome.

lewisking: @ryancarson firewire is faster for big files as it stays at a constant rate, USB jumps up and down in speed. As for drives, WD 1TB £80 odd.

pd0: @ryancarson what kind of backup drive? If just USB HDD, buy any. Otherwise, Time Capsule or @dropbox, IMHO

stevekennedyuk: @ryancarson FW800 is faster than USB2.0 (800Mb/s vs 480). FW is 400Mb/s, however USB max is burst, FW sustains

SteveMarshall: @ryancarson FW800 is, as @drewm said, fastest. FW400 runs 380MB/s stream, USB2 can only do that in bursts (ie. short periods).

tanya_peasgood: @ryancarson FW is a more consistent transfer speed than USB and FW800 is much faster if available. I’d get a Seagate FreeAgent – has both.

nikf: @ryancarson Maplin were doing some good deals on External drives recently (Maxtor & Seagate USB drives).

john_oshea: @ryancarson Go Firewire if possible. Avoid Western Digital “MyBook” products like the plague unless she has a penchant for data-recovery
herus02: @ryancarson Firewire = 800mb/s, USB = 400mb/s.

rik1p: @ryancarson DON’T BUY AN IOMEGA ULTRAMAX – had 3 fail in less than 2 months. Buy 2 seperate drives and RAID (mirror) them. FW800 FTW.

drewm: @ryancarson FW is faster. FW800 is fastest, but new Macs have no support. USB2 is similar to FW400 for small files, slower for large.

pauljevans: @ryancarson Recommend USB 2. I *love* WD Passports, small, silent, robust, cheap. Up to 320GB. Perfect Time Machine drives.

JulianKross: @ryancarson FireWire trends indicate it’s on it’s way out. FW800 still beats USB 2.0, and the deals are everywhere on those drives

lachenmayer: @ryancarson USB2.0 is slightly faster than FW400 (480 vs 400Mbps). And seeing as FW has disappeared from MacBooks, I’d say go with USB.

lvtrii: @ryancarson Firewire’s still faster, for now. USB3 is coming, though. And that’s 10x faster

kjlloydie: @ryancarson this is an awesome portable backup drive: http://is.gd/aZ8W. Also, Firewire is way faster (shame it’s not on the new MacBook)

roba3000: @ryancarson WD my book http://twurl.nl/4z7hps

spaulds1: @ryancarson ur sister will want firewire;I like Western Digital or LeCie Drives. Use Carbon Copy Cloner.

awojtowski: @ryancarson Personally prefer Western Digital. If she isn’t editing video or rendering high end graphics I would say usb 2.0.

nikf: @ryancarson USB are cheaper. Firewire more consistent transfer speeds (but would only matter for 1st backup w/Time Machine). Avoid MyBooks

G_Masta: @ryancarson Firewire is still the faster interface, no matter what the USB guys say. FW800 is the shizza. WD MyBook is great


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13 Responses to “The fastest and most reliable backup drives (via Twitter!)”

  1. Ryan, did she get one in the end? If so, I think we’d all like to know which!

  2. An important factor is that the new macbook & macbook pro DO NOT HAVE FIREWIRE (although the macpro has FW800) Even if your sis has an older model, it’s probably worth getting a drive with a USB2 interface, so that the drive will remain usable if she ever updates to a newer mac…

  3. Has nobody mentioned G-Technology? I figure they’re the all-round best. A summary of what you interpreted all this (contradictory) tweetage would have made the article more complete, but nevertheless cool information.

  4. @ Adrian Parker – Why do you say that? It was a really interesting bit of information and I thought you all might benefit from it.

  5. Adrian Parker on December 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm said:

    I like the Carsonifed blogs, don’t get me wrong, but blogging a Twitter thread is setting a new low, bro.

  6. … I wouldn’t touch Western Digital … avoid Western Digital “MyBook” products like the plague … Personally prefer Western Digital … Avoid MyBooks … WD MyBook is great …

    Funny, but the Twitter replies demonstrate that (on the web at least) you’ll get as many different answers as people you ask – probably ending up more confused than when you started!

  7. it’s got to be a mix for me, Lacie for desktop backup and Western Digital for portable storage!

  8. I am using an usb 2.0 Maxtor One Touch, 750gb. It’s not so fast, but I found it perfect for time machine backups. Obviously a Firewire drive is better, but it’s more expensive.

  9. If reliability is of the absolute utmost concern, no single hard drive is safe unfortunately. Probably way overkill for most regular sisters, but the Drobo is the best of breed:


  10. To the people who claim USB 2 is faster than Firewire: Stop spreading misinformation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FireWire#Comparison_to_USB

  11. I have got the eSATA My Book 500GB. I have no complaints so far. Thanks for the backup hint though spaulds1.


  12. Hey! Good summary. Hope your sister got the right thing.


  13. Hi Ryan,

    I went out and bought a time capsule at the weekend. Now it is my business, the prospect of losing all this data on a train doesn’t fill me with joy. So far it’s been a dream, so if your sis has a mac, I would suggest one.
    USB 2 is faster than standard Firewire (hence it being dropped on new Macbook Pro’s) so she’ll be fine with that if she goes with a wired drive.


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