Is USB 3.0 backwards compatible?

I need to buy an external hard drive soon, since it’s clear I’m not getting one for Christmas. However, my computer is very old and doesn’t support USB 3.0, which is the only type I can find in the brand I want. (Except Western Digital, but screw them.) Can’t afford to upgrade, so it’s important to know, can a USB 3.0 drive be used on a system that’s 2.0 or lower?

Also (this is more IMHO territory I know) what’s the most reliable brand? Seagate?

Yes, but it will only transfer data at USB 2 speeds. If you want the better performance in the future, USB3 cards for your computer are generally pretty cheap, plug into a PCI slot, and give you a few ports out the back (assuming a desktop).

There’s very little real data showing a difference between hard drive brands; they’re all pretty reliable these days.

Yes, USB 3 devices are usually version 2 compatible. However, they will work only at USB 2 speeds if connected to a USB 2 port.

Brands to recommend are Verbatim or Iomega – better USB interface.

Also, if it’s a 2.5” device the USB interface is not integrated like with some WD or Seagate external HDD’s, if your USB interface fails, you may still be able back up your data from the HDD itself.

Which means basically that they’ll crap out very quickly after first being powered up or run just about forever.

Some USB 2 devices don’t like USB 3 ports. For example, my Harmony remote will not connect using my USB 3 card or hub; I have to plug it into the USB 2 ports on the front of my PC. But such minor incompatibilities have always been a part of USB, especially for non-mainstream devices.

BTW, you can add USB 3 with a small, cheap PCIe-bus card. I recommend Anker, about $20. If you’re going to be moving a lot of data on and off sticks and drives, it’s really worth it.

This means some external HDDs aren’t SATA drives with a USB converter - they’re direct USB drives. Like some WD Elements Portables.

Whichever external disk you get the disk will have been made by one of the surviving three makers: Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba.

There is no great difference.
My external drives are Hitachi, which means they are probably Toshiba inside; and they come with USB 3.0 and 2.0 leads. The first are maybe 3x faster.

TYFTA. It is probably best to go with 3.0 since I could use with my laptop or a future new desktop machine. My dead 2.0 drive didn’t seem to have any issues with the laptop, but it may have been using a 2.0 plug (there’s only one slot that I know for sure is 3.0 and it’s being used for the wireless mouse.)

So you’re saying that any off-brands are most likely manufactured by the big guys, but they didn’t pass QC? :wink: In any case, I don’t trust WD anymore, this is the second time one of their drives took a dirt nap after only 2-3 years, and I’ve never had any other HD failure except the one that failed almost immediately.

Is Maxtor still around? Those are extremely reliable IME, but I can’t seem to find any.

Ditto WD.:mad: I’ve had good luck with Seagate.

Why on earth would you use a USB 3 port for a mouse? Meeses and keyboardia probably don’t even need USB 1.1 speeds, much less 2. Swap things around so the mouse uses the slower port, and use USB 3 for data transfer.

I don’t know if it’s a good general recommendation, but I did the research and bought a SiliconPower 1TB “military grade” drive for my essential travel backup. It’s highly water resistant and built like a tank; all I can say is I’ve had zero issues with it in almost two years and expect none.

Nope: I’m saying all current hard drive disks — not SSDs — are made by those three, thanks to Marx’s Law of Monopoly. There were 200 manufacturers at one time or the other according to:

Wikipedia -List of defunct hard disk manufacturers
Maxtor are now owned by Seagate.

Yes, exactly – AVOIDE the ones with direct USB drives. WD is famous for them – they are utter heaps of shit.

No, the actual internal Hard Disk Drive of your drive is made by those 3 manufactures. Let’s say, you buy an Silicon Image, Iomega or Verbatim; you may find a Seagate, WD or Toshiba drive inside.

The USB interface (and case) is what makes the drive good or bad.
However, external drives are not like a USB flash drive – they have moving parts inside.

I always tell my customers to handle them like raw eggs – don’t move them when they are plugged in – don’t transport them with the cables plugged in.

Okay so I should look for a drive that isn’t pure USB. How do I determine that’s the case?

Huh. I never took the drive anywhere except to store in the safe when I’m not home, but always left the USB cable plugged in because I didn’t want to wear out the port on the drive itself. Was that a mistake?

And is it okay to go with pure USB (if that’s all I can find in my price range) if I never intend to travel with the drive?

Can you buy a new internal drive to replace one in an external drive’s case? Is it generally worth doing, or does the case more-or-less come along for free?

Yep. However you might want to consider putting a USB 3.0 card on your computer. As others have said, it will only work at 2.0 speeds.

I had a USB 3.0 external hard drive connected to my computer by a 2.0 port for doing backups. It took hours to do a complete backup. After installing a 3.0 card, the backup took about 3 times less.

The cases for one-piece external drives are usually not made to be reopened. It might be possible, depending on the drive, but you’re likely to break the case in the process. I doubt it’d worth trying. I have heard of people removing the drives from externals to use inside a PC, but not the other way around.

You can buy inexpensive external USB enclosures that are designed to fit a standard HDD. They typically fit together with screws.

This. If your PC has a PCI Express 1x slot you can fit a 2-port or 4-port card for only a few bucks. This turned an overnight backup into a mealtime backup.

On a more general note, it’s not a good idea to plug your keyboard and mouse into USB 3 ports on any but the newest machines as the BIOS probably won’t recognise them. Leave them in USB 2 ports.

Why would that be? One would think that, without the need for a converter, there would be less to go wrong.

I was completely ready to disbelieve this, but a quick google confirms that the drive inside the WD Elements devices has a PCB that only bears a USB connector on it.

I reckon there might still be a SATA (or possibly IDE) interface in there - but that they have integrated the USB to IDE/SATA chipset onto the main PCB of the drive.

(My reason for thinking this is that it would be simpler to integrate two common existing technologies on one PCB than it would be to invent a direct USB drive controller from scratch)