Internal vs. External HD, FireWire vs. USB 2.-

I want to install a second HD to my cramped Dell, but a second internal unit won’t fit, Dell tech support says, without mounting the new HD BEHIND the original HD, an arrangment I’ve never heard of and makes me wonder how smart that is.

At this point, I’m looking at external HDs, maybe the “one touch” backups. My questions are:

  1. Is mounting a second internal HD behind the current HD a bad idea?

  2. Are FireWire and USB 2.0 transfer rates pretty much comparable–and how do they compare with the speed of an internal 7200 RPM HD?

I believe that USB 2.0 is slightly (but probably not significantly) faster than firewire. I purchased an external USB 2.0 hard drive about a year ago, and although I don’t have any hard statistics using it “feels” about like using my internal hard drive.
One big advantage of using an external USB/Firewire hard disk is that moving the disk to another computer is as easy as unplugging it from the first PC and plugging it into the second. Pretty handy if your main PC breaks down.

I don’t believe him.

Have you opened up the case and looked? How many drives are in there now?

I think the speed decrease would be noticable and painful for anything OS related, but tolerable if you’re just streaming music or video.

For compatibility’s sake, a good number of hard drives are now both USB2.0 and FireWire. USB2.0 is 480mbps, while FireWire 1 is at 400mbps. Although I’ve heard that USB2.0 has overhead that results in less throughput, while FireWire supposedely is all about throughput (I don’t know real world performance). FireWire 2, though, is 800mbps.

Watch out on your USB2.0 device, though – if you have any old USB devices (mouses, scanners, etc.), supposedly the whole buss drops to the old speed. Check your motherboard documentation to see if each port is on its own buss or not.

I just bought a USB2.0/FireWire 1 drive for my laptop’s use. It has FireWire 2, but for my use I didn’t want to justify the extra expense.

Have you checked out the mounts inside the case? One of my old Dell cases has the HD mounted on a swing-out mount at the rear of the case. You loosen one screw and the mount swivels out, and it has space for two drives, so you really do mount the second HD behind the first and it’s not nearly as kluged as that sounds.