How Do I Choose the Best FireWire® Disk Drive?

Benjamin Arie

A FireWire® disk drive is a type of digital storage that uses a high-speed cable for data transfer. This variety of hard disk drive is alternately known as an "IEEE 1394" or "i.Link" drive, and is capable of receiving data at speeds of 3,200 megabits (Mbits) per second. While all IEEE 1394 drives use the same type of cables, different models of disk drives have pros and cons. Consumers should evaluate the capacity and available connections of a drive. The portability and physical size of a FireWire® disk drive are also important considerations.

Traditional internal hard drives are cheaper than FireWire hard drives, but lack the advantages of an external drive.
Traditional internal hard drives are cheaper than FireWire hard drives, but lack the advantages of an external drive.

Many varying capacities are available in a FireWire® disk drive. This number indicates how much data a hard drive can contain. Most external drives are measured in gigabytes (GB) and terabytes (TB). As a general guideline, one gigabyte of capacity can contain an hour of standard-definition video. One terabyte is roughly the equivalent of 1,000 gigabytes. Hard disks with a high amount of capacity are usually preferred, because they allow users to store a large collection of data on a single drive.

While large disk drives are popular, consumers who are particularly worried about losing data may want to consider using several smaller FireWire® drives instead of a single high-capacity unit. Several small capacity disk drives can often be purchased for a similar price as one large drive. This approach allows users to make several copies of important data, and store the drives in separate locations. Individuals should weigh the convenience of a single drive against the redundancy of several smaller, less expensive IEEE 1394 disks.

The number and type of available connections on a FireWire® disk drive are also important. By definition, a FireWire® drive can be used with a standard IEEE 1394 connection cable. Some disk drives also have ports for different types of connections, however. Many drives include high-speed Universal Serial Bus (USB) connections for convenience. This allows a drive to be linked to a computer that is not compatible with FireWire® and can be valuable if a user shares their drive frequently or has multiple computers with different capabilities.

Some FireWire® disk drives are physically larger than others. Often, the size of a drive is related to its data capacity. Drives with a small form are often easier to transport and store than their large, bulky counterparts. Additionally, some IEEE 1394 hard drives require an external power supply, which others can be powered directly from the connected computer. Drives that do not require additional power are convenient for travel, but may not have the same data transfer speeds as externally powered units.

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