Is USB Hard Drive OK?

Discussion in 'Computing' started by Lilbabyjrsob, Mar 3, 2006.

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  1. Lilbabyjrsob

    Lilbabyjrsob Guest

    I'm awaiting my laptop in the mail to use for my first DAW.

    First off its a Dell Latitude P4 2.0ghz 512 RAM. Im going to be using a Hercules 16/12 Firewire unit.

    Im planning on keeping the OS and the software on the drive in it. My main concern is the hard drive i will be using for storing and recording on. Will a USB hard drive be fast enough, or do i need a Firewire hard drive.

  2. USB will give poor recording/playback results. FireWire is your best bet.
  3. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    Based on what?

    Dont listen to him...he is absolutely wrong.

    I use a laptop with a firewire interface and an external USB 2.0 hard drive for audio. I routinely work with 20+ tracks of audio and I have ZERO problems with the drive, interface or audio. I also have a couple of projects with 40+ tracks which run just fine.
  4. twon

    twon Guest

    seeing as you are running a firewire audio interface, i suggest a usb2 hard drive. this frees up each bus. not that it should be a problem, but usb2 will give you very good results
  5. mdemeyer

    mdemeyer Active Member

    Dec 22, 2004
    Dublin, CA USA
    Agree. USB2 is fine for recording (I routinely do up to about 8 tracks in from a firewire interface).

  6. I stand by what I said.

    FireWire is the best bet in nearly all cases, its a professional standard for external digital backup and recording/playback. The FireWire in most tests has better sustained transfer rate (great for audio) while USB(1.x-2) has greater burst transfer rates.

    FireWire can communicate with any node on line with the bus and does not require going through the host to do this. USB takes a greater toll on host resources, great for most people using it as backup, or saving emails to but not great for squeezing every last ounce out of your DAW. A simple search for practical testing that has been done and you will see that time after time that the favor for pro work is in the FireWire protocol! Better yet get one of each and test/time it for yourself.

    USB was intended to be a cheap way to transmit data, a replacement for standard DB9 serial. FireWire being from the folks over at Apple who normally try a bit harder to give a quality product wins and continues to with the newer FW800 protocol.

    USB WILL work, but firewire is professional and will work better and devices are normally house hardware of much higher quality than USB devices.

    So many people will spend a few grand on a preamp and skimp on media (CD/DVD/HDD/?TAPE?). At the end of the day its your data do as you wish.

  7. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    Some of what you say is true...but the question was "Is a USB hard drive OK?" and the answer to that is yes.

    Many people use USB drives and they work well. To the best of my knowledge, I've never heard anyone complain that their USB drive wasn't performing as well as they thought it should.

  8. Just to clarify so that I and others do not spread false info, you say some of what I say is true. What part then is incorrect? I have used both types of media and have confirmed what the others testing finds.

  9. mud5150

    mud5150 Guest

    I would say that I have to agree that firewire is the way to go, a usb 2 hard drive can barely sustain a 8 Mb/s tranfer rate, mainly due to cpu overhead, where as you will notice very little difference with a firewire drive as compared to one attached directly to an ide controller. Depending on what chipset you are using your results will vary. I own pcs (sis) that if you enable usb 2 at all the cpu usage idles around 90%. With the drive so dependant on cpu usage not only is the track count going to be a factor but also plugins and anything else that will utilize cpu alot. I say if your using ubs for something that requires high sustained transfer rates you'll most likely run in to trouble. Even if it does work do you want to hinder your machines performance to save the $20 on the drive. Prob not
  10. iznogood

    iznogood Member

    Feb 9, 2004
    I did a test using my powerbook and a lacie external drive equipped with usb2 and firewire 400 + 800

    while 800 were marginally faster than 400 usb2 was about HALF SPEED!

  11. DJ FADE

    DJ FADE Guest


    firewire: 450 mb/s
    usb2.0: 480 mb/s

    a number of things go into the transfer rate, but that is what seagate says the potential is for each type.

    if you will be recording to this drive, i don't recommend you get anything other than a drive that uses the oxford 911 chipset. it is the only chipset on an external drive that will allow the transfer of data required by a daw.

    you can purchase just the case online at a few different sites, then purchase a separate hard drive of your choice to put inside. very handy, and can be done quite cheap.
  12. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    Lots of ppl chiming in on this one...maybe I can get a question answerd that I couldn't get answered a few years ago.

    For reference sake let's say someone is recording 10 tracks of audio at 24/96. If the computer has one Firewire port, and the audio interface is Firewire, is it ok to use a Firewire hard drive and would using that firewire drive on the same port as the audio interface port out perform a USB 2.0 drive that would obviously be hooked up on a different port?

    When I went this route a few years ago I couldn't get any clear answers and at the time I decided to go with USB to be safe. Now that there are many more firewire systems out here, maybe someone can answer this question?
  13. Spookym15

    Spookym15 Guest

    Fire wire is going to be a lot faster. I have both a USB 2 drive and a Firewire 400. I got the USB 2.0 drive because it was about 70 dollars cheaper. It is slower but it works fine. I use it as a backup drive and as sessions I dont want to see for a little while because they are just there in case. Fire wire is good a bit more pricey. I got an OWC enclouser and a hard drive so I could pop in drives. Check to see if there are any good deals. You might find one for Windows cheap. As far as Pr0gr4m I am kind of confused on what you are asking but I think you shoud be able to, if it has 2 firewire ports on the hard drive or interface. I should technically not out perform based on specs, but in reality I think the firewire should out perform based on seeing the speed of firewire compared to USB 2.0 but I might be wrong.
  14. For recording purposes, 32 tracks @ 24bit 96kHz has a data rate of
    73.728 mbps (m=1e8) which is about 16% of the burst rate capability
    of USB 2.0 so it appears highly capable. This assumes you aren't running
    any unnecessary programs or have other USB devices taking up bandwidth while recording which is always suggested to avoid problems.

    For comparison:
    USB 2.0 max = 480 mbps
    FireWire400 = 400 mbps (but less cpu usage)

    24bit 96kHz @ 32 tracks = 74 mbps
    24bit 44.1kHz @ 32 tracks = 34 mbps

    These numbers scale witht the number of tracks, ex 16 tracks would
    have 1/2 the data rate.

    Mixing is a different story since you will be using the CPU to do other work, such as running your music software and any effects. USB for mixing a project of this size may not be completely appropriate. I've
    mix 24 tracks @ 24bit 44.1kHz in Sonar w/ some effects using a USB2
    drive on my emachine and it worked ok. It's 2 Ghz w/ 512MB ram and the sustained data rate for that project is theoretically 25 mbps (about 3MB/sec).
  15. twon

    twon Guest


    it would depend on how your motherboard was set up. if there is only a single firewire controller on the motherboard then the speed of the TOTAL load of firewire would be 450Mbps but that would be shared between both devices, just as if you were using an external firewire hub. not having tested, i cant definitively say how performance would be affected but it doesnt sound like a good idea to me.... unless you have firewire 400 and 800 on your computer, which would likely run off different controllers. personally i would go with another (eg. a pci card as well as the motherboard one) firewire controller.

  16. BigTrey

    BigTrey Active Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    Grandville, Michigan
    Home Page:

    Maybe I'm confused, but in my relatively new experience I first purchased a USB drive for my DAW setup and I noticed that I couldn't record more than two tracks and it wouldn't let me play back more than two tracks. So as you know it was a pain in the butt. I ended up going out to purchase a firewire drive and haven't had any problems like that since. So I would suggest to purchase a firewire drive just incase and to avoid any problems. When I was using a USB drive it (ProTools) kept telling me that it couldn't get "audio from the drive fast enough", you might experience this problem with a USB drive, but not with a firewire drive. So I would suggest to go with a firewire drive to make your sessions go smoother.

    BigTrey~CEO/Battleground Recordz
  17. Randyman...

    Randyman... Well-Known Member

    Jun 1, 2003
    Houston, TX
    If you had a USB 1.1 port - you would certainly expect those kinds of issues (USB 1.1 is pure crap). USB 2.0 is plenty fast for multiple tracks, but I also prefer Firewire as long as your system can handle it properly (not competing with a FW Audio Device).

    I'm still in PCI Audio card land (RME HDSP Multiface and Digiface), and I still use internal SATA interfaces located on the Southbridge for zero-hassle recording. I transfer to an external FW HD at the end of the recording, and have a back up, too! I realize Laptops will not have the luxury of recording to a seperate internal SATA drive, thus why I I prefer desktop PC's for recording (even something like a Shuttle xPC is perfect as I run in my portable rig)... Desktops are cheaper and faster and allow more options as far as internal HD's and PCI slots, etc...

    Even the best FW HD's wil not reach the full potential of the ATA-100 or SATA-150 HD's. This is easily demonstrated by benching a HD through a FW converter, and then interfaceing the HD directly to a Southbridge port. You will have less latency and more bandwidth w/o involving Firewire (packet conversion). For the fastest possible HD interface, go Southbridge and copy over to an external drive later...

  18. Lilbabyjrsob

    Lilbabyjrsob Guest

    Thanks everyone.

    My laptop has 1 mini Firewire port and 2 USB ports.

    If were to get a Firewire HD i would obviously have to buy a firewire card for it. Would this just take more away from the CPU and memory by adding on to it rather than using its USB port.

    Im not going to be doing anymore than 12 tracks at a time.

    Thanks again everyone.

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