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We want to get some external hard-drives >= 1TB for copying large videos (10-500gb) and image sequences (1-150k files) in-house ala sneaker-net between Macs and PCs.

Does anyone have real-world experiences using either or both interfaces and can tell me which one is generally faster?

Please don't refer me to theoretical or specification speeds, as we all know those never hold up in the real world :(

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

USB 3.0 is (much) faster than Firewire. That's my experience.


As requested, performance over Firewire 800 is 2 - 3 times faster, which equates to 100 - 150% 200% quicker.

This is my experience, with the files you'd normally find in a Windows 7 profile, including Temporary Internet Files, Documents, Pictures, etc.

Also, it's quicker than eSATA, but not by much in real terms.

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In a similar scenario, specifically copying many smaller files? My experiences with USB 2.0 have always been deplorable in that area... – oKtosiTe Nov 29 '10 at 23:49
It's not that USB 2.0 is slow. Copying lots of small files is slow, regardless of the medium. And yes, I've had close to internal SATA speeds on USB 3.0. – user3463 Nov 29 '10 at 23:50
I know my question is somewhat vague and I didn't specifically ask for it, but can you give more details than "much"? Any kind of estimated figure would be nice such as 5-25%. – glenneroo Nov 30 '10 at 1:36
I've updated my answer. – user3463 Nov 30 '10 at 1:45
2–3 times faster actually equates to 100–200% quicker. – fideli Dec 18 '10 at 10:03

The much touted USB 3.0 will only give a maximum throughput that the storage medium on both ends will allow! Unless you have several SATA HDD linked up in RAID 0 or a fast SSD on both ends, high throughput cannot be achieved.Therefore, super-fast data transfer cannot be achieved without a lot of very expensive fancy hardware.

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Good point, but we have several RAID 0/1/1+0 systems along with SSD drives so that shouldn't be our main concern. On my laptop I'm currently getting ~50 MB/s from my SSD to a 2.5" 7200RPM drive in a USB 3.0 enclosure, although this SSD can go much faster. – glenneroo May 18 '11 at 19:36

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