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External Hotswap Storage Solution Faster Than Usb2

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Hi folks!

I need a hard drive that I can use at home and work. I take work home on a regular basis, and have been using a USB2 external hard drive for about a year now. Well, this drive is on it's last legs (very loud bearings), so I'm looking for a faster replacement.

My requirements:

- Hot swappable: With my external USB drive, I can click on the "Safely remove hardware" icon in my system tray, and in seconds be on my way.

- Fast: I need to copy a set of files (over 45,000 files, 8.5 gigabytes) onto my external hard drive. Right now, this takes almost 1/2 hour with my USB drive. I'd like to cut that time by half if possible (5 minutes would be great).

- Not outrageously expensive: complete solution under $250.

I'm considering either a mobile enclosure or a rack system that mounts in a drive bay.

I've seen some information that leads me to believe that certain SATA hardware supports hot swapping. From the research I've done, it seems that you need a SATA controller card that supports hot swap, and some SATA hardware that somehow signals the controller that it wants to connect/disconnect. But I've yet to see any detailed info that explains the nuts and bolts of how hot swapping works. It's not quite as simple as USB2, where you can just plug & unplug it.

I'd really like a hot swap solution, since my dell workstation takes so long to shut down and restart. Plus I need to leave my computer running 24/7. If I can't find a hot-swappable SATA system, then I'll just break down and get a IDE removable rack/tray setup.

Is there anyone with actual experience hot swapping SATA drives? If so, what are you using? Thanks!

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firewire might have faster x-fer rates than USB 2.0 and it's hot-pluggable.

Maybe you can find Firewire-B (the 800Mbps solution), which is almost 'guaranteed' to give you better performance, but it would be pricy, since you'd need two controller cards (one for the office, one for home) and the FW-B cards aren't cheap yet.

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I'm just testing a firwire enclosure now (with 120GB 7200.7 drive). I'm reading at about 900MB/min and writing at about 750MB/min. It seems that this is probably a bit faster than your current USB2 setup (though I only measured the speed of transferring one large file which will be quicker).

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The Firewire800 (1394b) looks really interesting - but it's awfully expensive right now. Enclosures running around $150 (without a drive), cards around $80-120.

That would cost me over $400 for an enclosure, drive, 2 cards and cables.

It does seem that my current USB drive (Maxtor 3000LE - 40gb 5400rpm) is at the lower end of the performance spectrum.

One thing complicating the scenario is this: My work computer (Dell Precision 650) is SCSI based. I was thinking of just putting in an IDE rack setup, but then I realized that there are problems with IDE and SCSI co-existing in the same machine. The computer is going to want to boot the IDE, which I don't want. If I go with external SATA, might run into the same situation.

Maybe the best solution for me is to swap out the drive in my current USB enclosure for a 120 gig 7200 rpm 8mb buffer drive, and just wait a while for the price of 1394b to come down.

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I am curious about the drive: Can it sustain 25MB/s?

I would at least try another drive before sinking lots of money into a new configuration - even if you had to pay a restocking fee to return the new drive.

Also if you are just copying files from one drive to another (especially with explorer), the 45,000 files will be a big slow down.

Dogeared

8^)

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It does seem that my current USB drive (Maxtor 3000LE - 40gb 5400rpm) is at the lower end of the performance spectrum.

maybe it isn't really the interface that is slow, but rather your drive?

looking at the numbers you posted, you are xferring files at 4.5MB/s, which is quite slow for USB 2.0.

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I just ran the SiSoftware Sandra File System Benchmark on this external USB drive, and it returned this (drive index = 9737kB/s):

SiSoftware Sandra Test Status

Benchmark Breakdown

Buffered Read : 33 MB/s

Sequential Read : 15 MB/s

Random Read : 4 MB/s

Buffered Write : 27 MB/s

Sequential Write : 7 MB/s

Random Write : 2400 kB/s

Average Access Time : 11 ms (estimated)

Looking around at reviews on the 'net, review units seem to max out at the low 20,000's for a drive index.

I just ordered a WD800JB from newegg ($70 shipped) - it's a 80gig 7,200 rpm 8mb cache drive. I'll plop this in the maxtor USB case, and see how much performance improves.

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I do the same sometimes every day.

But I use my TP as the media.

This has both +/- sides to it mainly:

+ I have all good stuff wherever I go.

- More to carry.

I have one USB2 disk as well but never even

thought of having it to do the same...

/casa

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Why not use a plain and simple removable rack? If you don't know exactly what I mean, here's a pic:

mobile2.gif

Buy two of them and built the base in both PCs, it goes right on the internal IDE cable. All you have to do is shut down the PC, slide the harddisk in the rack and turn on the computer again. And you can work directly on the disk itself, no need to copy everything every time.

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Why not use a plain and simple removable rack? If you don't know exactly what I mean, here's a pic:

mobile2.gif

Buy two of them and built the base in both PCs, it goes right on the internal IDE cable. All you have to do is shut down the PC, slide the harddisk in the rack and turn on the computer again. And you can work directly on the disk itself, no need to copy everything every time.

I was considering a rack - but it comes down to problems co-existing with the scsi hard drive in my Dell Precision 650.

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Why not use a plain and simple removable rack? If you don't know exactly what I mean, here's a pic:

mobile2.gif

Buy two of them and built the base in both PCs, it goes right on the internal IDE cable. All you have to do is shut down the PC, slide the harddisk in the rack and turn on the computer again. And you can work directly on the disk itself, no need to copy everything every time.

I was considering a rack - but it comes down to problems co-existing with the scsi hard drive in my Dell Precision 650.

Why would there be any coexistance problems between IDE and SCSI, zillions of people are using a combination.

And I am sure you could find such a rack for SCSI as well. Problem is, do you have SCSI on both PCs?

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When you add an IDE hard drive to a system that has SCSI hard drives, the system will want to boot to the IDE drive first. I don't want that.

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When you add an IDE hard drive to a system that has SCSI hard drives, the system will want to boot to the IDE drive first.

Not necessarily true, but easily fixed via BIOS settings regardless.

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When you add an IDE hard drive to a system that has SCSI hard drives, the system will want to boot to the IDE drive first.

Not necessarily true, but easily fixed via BIOS settings regardless.

Yep, all of my systems have utilized both ATA/SATA and SCSI. In my BIOS there is always an option of what I want to boot first e.g. SCSI device, ATA, SATA, etc.

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I had been looking at the drive performance/transfer rate issue when considering my first USB/Firewire enclosure purchase (for use with a hard drive). Based on some hunting around I did last year, it seemed as though USB2 tops out at 15-20MB/sec under optimal conditions, while Firewire 400 can achieve 30-35MB/sec (though at the time at least, the bridge chip for IDE -> FW needed to be of the Oxford 911 variety (or its later incarnations) for this FW performance to be realized).

I bought a USB/FW (with OX911 chip) enclosure and plopped in an infamous IBM DeskStar GXP75 (which is a refurb unit still alive after 3 years, believe it or not), and my results seemed to corroborate with the expected performances for USB2 and FW - around 10-15MB/sec for USB2 and around 25-30MB/sec for FW.

Thus, based on the suggestions I've seen so far, and in keeping with a <$250 budget, I would suggest two mid-tier FW PCI cards (~<$100), a USB2/FW enclosure ($50 if you shop around; Dealsonic just had one on sale for $43 recently), and a 160GB drive (~$100, probably after rebates).

Before you make your purchases, make sure that you don't have other potential bottlenecks in your system that may bring down performance and lengthen the transfer process (e.g. fragmented drives, high CPU utilization, etc.). And as others pointed out, if you are transferring thousands of small files, you'll most likely be limited by disk access times than you would be by the bandwidth offered by your external storage solution.

Hope this info is helpful.

--thetaomega

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Looking around at reviews on the 'net, review units seem to max out at the low 20,000's for a drive index.

I just ordered a WD800JB from newegg ($70 shipped) - it's a 80gig 7,200 rpm 8mb cache drive.  I'll plop this in the maxtor USB case, and see how much performance improves.

Ordering a new drive prob won't help too much, I believe those Maxtor units have pretty poor performing bridge chips.

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Looking around at reviews on the 'net, review units seem to max out at the low 20,000's for a drive index.

I just ordered a WD800JB from newegg ($70 shipped) - it's a 80gig 7,200 rpm 8mb cache drive.  I'll plop this in the maxtor USB case, and see how much performance improves.

Ordering a new drive prob won't help too much, I believe those Maxtor units have pretty poor performing bridge chips.

I have to agree with him on maxtor. I had the Maxtor Firewire 160gig and by changing out the external firewire box I got a 25% improvement. I just bought a cheap FW enclosure for Newegg. I then bought a combo enclosure (FW/USB2.0) from Newegg, just for comparison reasons. When I hook the drive up FireWire it's about 25% faster then the USB2.0.

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TEST RESULTS

Ok folks, I got the new USB/Firewire hard drive up and running, and wow, what an improvement over my old Maxtor external USB.

Copying a series of files (47,604 files, 8.83 gigabytes) from my internal hard drive to my old Maxtor USB2 drive took 34 minutes.

With the new Speeze/WD800JB combo, using the USB bus, took 16 minutes. Connected to firewire, it took 14 minutes.

Overall, I'm very impressed with this enclosure. Very compact, well built and stylish. 5 stars!

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Although you've already achieved your target of half the copy time, I have a suggestion that may help you get closer to your ideal of 5 minutes.

With that many files, I'm assuming you're copying over a whole folder or drive every time, regardless of whether the files already exist on the other drive. Instead of doing that, there is software out there that will synchronise from one folder/drive to another folder drive, copying only files that are required.

I use FileBackPC, which is very powerful but somewhat complex. There are plenty of others, just check out your favourite freeware/shareware site.

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More test results:

Old Maxtor USB:

SiSoftware Sandra Test Status

Drive Index = 9737kB/s

Benchmark Breakdown

Buffered Read : 33 MB/s

Sequential Read : 15 MB/s

Random Read : 4 MB/s

Buffered Write : 27 MB/s

Sequential Write : 7 MB/s

Random Write : 2400 kB/s

Average Access Time : 11 ms (estimated)

********************************************

New Speeze/WD800JB on Firewire:

Drive Index = 15103kB/s

Buffered Read : 27 MB/s

Sequential Read : 21 MB/s

Random Read : 5 MB/s

Buffered Write : 19 MB/s

Sequential Write : 19 MB/s

Random Write : 11 MB/s

Average Access Time : 10 ms (estimated)

********************************************

New Speeze/WD800JB on USB:

Drive Index = 16187kB/s

Benchmark Breakdown

Buffered Read : 31 MB/s

Sequential Read : 22 MB/s

Random Read : 6 MB/s

Buffered Write : 25 MB/s

Sequential Write : 23 MB/s

Random Write : 11 MB/s

Average Access Time : 8 ms (estimated)

********************************************

Interesting to see how synthetic benchmark improves on the USB bus, but in a real world test, the firewire bus shows better results.

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Speeze/Spire AKA Fanner is well known for making fans and heatsinks, I'm glad they have extended their line up. I might purchase one of these guys.

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More test results:

Old Maxtor USB:

SiSoftware Sandra Test Status

Drive Index = 9737kB/s

Benchmark Breakdown

Buffered Read : 33 MB/s

Sequential Read : 15 MB/s

Random Read : 4 MB/s

Buffered Write : 27 MB/s

Sequential Write : 7 MB/s

Random Write : 2400 kB/s

Average Access Time : 11 ms (estimated)

if that was a USB 1.1 drive, then those numbers cannot possibly be true, since the max raw bandwidth os USB 1.1 is 11Mbps...

or Sandra is just 'off' a bit

nothing agianst your drive, or you running the benches, just goes to show that sandra comes up with a score that is impossible for a 1.1 drive.

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