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I just want to get a comparison between flash drives and external hard drives in terms of read/write speed, stability, and portability.

  1. Which one is faster at reading or writing?
  2. Which one tends to fail more often?
  3. Can an external hard drive work on windows and linux at the same time?
  4. How much impact can a hard drive sustain before it loses data?
  5. Do either of them suffer from overheating?
  6. Do all external hard drives require 2 usb ports to operate?
  7. Can the usb handle running programs, or will this degrade the life span further?
  8. Is writing the only operation that degrades the life sapn or does reading also affect the life span?

Thanks in advance for any answers

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Many of these questions depend on the quality of the components used. I've had flash-drives failing faster than a hard-drive traveling a lot, for example. –  Gnoupi Aug 31 '09 at 8:15
    
i just want a generalization... if that won't do, then a theoretical analysis.... then again, i wouldn't know haha –  cesar Aug 31 '09 at 11:29

2 Answers 2

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Which one is faster at reading or writing?

This is the big question. Right now, operating systems are optimized for hard drives, and so speed gains using a SSD (solid state drive) (depending on the quality) are still relatively small over a standard hard drive. However, I have seen some very impressive read performance from high quality SSDs, even without optimizations. So SSDs have great potential, but HDs are still very good.

Which one tends to fail more often?

Again, depends on the quality. Currently, Solid State Drives have a Limit on write (erase) cycles. Wikipedia has a detailed breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages

Can an external hard drive work on windows and linux at the same time?

If you mean simultaneous access by a windows and linux machine, then what you're really looking for is a network storage device.
If you mean using an external hard drive on windows and then taking it over to a Linux machine. This depends largely on what file system is on the hard drive. I believe NTFS can be read and written to in Linux (any distro with NTFS-3g installed) as well as Windows.

How much impact can a hard drive sustain before it loses data?

Hard drives all have a measured 'Shock Tolerance'. Which varies from model to model. Usually higher quality ones have more Shock Tolerance. This is part of the technical specifications that you should be able to find for any drive model.

Do either of them suffer from overheating?

This is very rare for standard HDs and SSDs. However they do have measured temperature tolerance as part of their technical specification.

Do all external hard drives require 2 usb ports to operate?

No. The two USB ports are only used in cases where one USB port is not producing enough power for the drive.

Can the usb handle running programs, or will this degrade the life span further?

While it can, it is not as fast as using an internal drive. Most modern hard drives are designed for this. However much writing to an SSD will use up more writing cycles.

Is writing the only operation that degrades the life span or does reading also affect the life span?

reading does not effect the life span of a SSD.

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Quick correction: On my laptop, my external USB drive gets better performance than my internal drive. –  Michaelkay Aug 31 '09 at 13:35
  1. If you're talking about a standard thumb drive rather than an expensive SSD you'll generally find a hard drive quicker.

  2. Hard drives are more susceptible to physical damage but thumb drives have a limited number of read write operations before they start to fail.

  3. There are number of file systems that are read and writable in both windows and linux including the fat variants and ntfs and also ext2 and maybe ext3 with additional windows software.

  4. It varies depending on how clever/robust the hard drive is and whether it's in use at the time.

  5. Flash drives tend not to get hot at all. Hard drives get hot if you work them hard but tend not to overheat.

  6. No, it depends on the speed of the hard drive. I've successfully run 5400 rpm drives from only one socket.

  7. Yes, although there is a performance hit because of the USB connection. The life span is degraded by any read/writes so it depends on how much reading and writing the program does.

  8. I'm not sure on this one I believe it is mainly writes or deletes which cause the most degradation

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