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Which bus has the best read/write performance for small files when used with an external drive? I'd guess eSATA, but the MacBook Pro in question lacks an ExpressCard slot. So it comes down to either USB2 or FireWire 800.

The reason I'm asking is because I want to run Ubuntu Server virtualized (through VirtualBox) on an external hard drive. I'll only use it for web development (Apache, MySQL, PHP) so the reads/writes should mainly be of smaller files.


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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you use an external HDD, small files doesn't matter. It'll work as a HDD. Only pendrives are slow if you copy small files. When it comes down to pure speed, Firewire wins. If you have an option to use that, go for it.

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Thanks for the answer. I keep hearing that FireWire 800 beats USB2 when it comes to large files or many small files in one operation, but I've not seen proof that this is also the case for many small read/writes as is the nature of a web server. It would be great to see some benchmarks or technical data of this! My googling didn't bring up anything interesting. – ximo Jul 22 '10 at 10:50
As I said, performance will be the same. I mean read and write. It depends on what you use. SSD, HDD or pendrive. All of them got different performance depend on what you want. Like SSD is awesome with small files. HDD is a HDD like the one you use now, it'll be just the same. Pendrive is really bad with small files. So basically you'll have the exact same performance, just the maximum transfer rate is the question. With Firewire 800 you definitely outrun the HDDs performance, that's all. (But only if the HDD will use 100% output, higher than USB2 bandwidth, that is.) – Shiki Jul 22 '10 at 16:16
If you CAN go with Firewire, GO WITH THAT. In a nutshell. :) – Shiki Jul 22 '10 at 16:16

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