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Or should I pony up for a usb 3.0 external hard drive? (my mobo will support it) I intend to only use it for playing videos if that makes a difference. I know close to nothing about hardware so let me know if you need more info.

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Might want to direct this question to superuser.com. –  Calvin L Jun 15 '10 at 4:30
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Jun 15 '10 at 5:37

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I've streamed video off a 2.0 hard drive, but I wouldn't want to depend on it. If you have the ability to use eSATA, that would be your best bet, but fw 800 (or even 400) would work fine too. I stream music from an external right now that is fw 800, and it works just fine.

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Guess I should clarify, fw 800 is MORE than enough to get great quality and dependable streaming. I wouldn't worry about 400 either, I have in the past had 2.0 HDs skip/slow while trying to stream music or videos. –  Jesse Jun 15 '10 at 4:36
    
+1 for using eSATA, if your computer supports USB3, it also supports eSATA. And those are more likely to be compatible with other computers too –  Ivo Flipse Jun 15 '10 at 6:21
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Today I managed to pull 25MB/s from a 133x 16GB CompactFlash card. I think that's probably good enough to manage.

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Well, USDB 2.0 supports up to 420Mbps theoretical transfer rates, which narrows down to 320Mbps in practice (on a non shared bus). That would be 40MB per second, I think most of the movies will fit in that bandwidth (consider that a compressed HD movie rip of 8GB long, say, 1 hour will need just 2.3 megabytes per second)

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