postheadericon ECS: Harddrive Plugs Explained...

As an older Audio/Visual Engineer (ha!), I’m often asked which external hard drive to buy, and what the heck are all those plugs in the back for, and what’s the difference between them. After all, quad-interface external drives are starting to pop all over town these days, yet many folks don’t understand what that means.

A quad-interface external drive has plugs in the back for USB2, Firewire 400 & 800, and eSata. Most of Nepal’s users opt for USB2, as its what we know, but this option is also the slowest of the slow.

Mac users know Firewire 400 & 800 options, as they’ve been installed since the Mac Classic. But PC users may find they need to install a Firewire expansion card on their desktop or laptop to get the doubly fast Firewire 800 speed.

Desktop Firewire expansion cards are easy to find and cheap in Nepal - laptop Firewire 800 expansion cards - not so. But even better then Firewire (at the moment) is the eStata expansion. An eSata-connected external hard drive will be almost as fast as your internal drive and 3x-10x faster then a USB-connected drive. When editing large video files, mega-pixel photos, and super hi-fidelity sound files, this is super mega important.

To get eSata working with your desktop, you might need a cheap and easy-to-find eSata expansion card; but for your laptop, well, a bit more difficult to grab is an eSata Cardbus PC Card Type II card, found online for less then Rs.1000 plus shipping.

So assuming you have one of these high-speed options installed in your computer (Firewire 800 or eSata), you just need the right cable for the job (usually included with the external drive). These multi-interfaced drives hit your wallet a bit more, but that’s bucks well spent if doing a lot of work with audio, video and 3D.

A note to the wise: watch out for USB3 coming later in 2011, as that blows all of the above away.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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