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I have a WD MyBook 1TB external disk, and I connect it to my computer using USB. Since I travel quite a lot, so I bring this MyBook with me, wherever I go.

The issue is that I don't know whether using USB ( the MyBook comes with external SATA connection, or something like that) is good for the external hard disk and my computer. I afraid that the USB may be prone to failure, and that somehow will kill my external hard disk performance or worse, make either the external hard disk or my computer die faster.

Is my fear warranted? My experience with external hard disk encased inside a simple casing is very bad; the external hard disk broke down very often. That's the reason that prompted me to buy MyBook. I don't wish to see the same thing happens to MyBook.

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

External disks are just internal disks in a portable casing, with a converter board to make it work with whatever combinations of USB/Firewire/eSATA/Parallel/RS232 the manufacturer chose to include on the model for connectivity. (OK, those last two were jokes. Nobody uses those anymore. Do they??)

Externals are as reliable as internal disks, with the following caveats:

  1. As "portable" drives, external drives move a lot more than internal drives do. If your external is internally a standard 3.5" drive, it probably hasn't been designed for this. (2.5" laptop drives are a little better at this; these are the slim externals that don't require an additional power plug.)

    Recommendation: Try not to move your external drive when it's powered on. Be gentle when you do move it. (If it's plugged in, be extremely gentle.)

  2. USB is fine. It's got its problems, but it's fine. eSATA would be better if the computer has it, but it's probably not a big deal. If you have trouble, a) remove any extensions or hubs you may be using and plug the drive directly into the computer; b) try a different USB port; c) try a different cable; and d) try it on a different computer if none of those are working.

    Recommendation: Prefer connections in this order: 1) eSATA (fastest); 2) Firewire (more reliable, less latency); 3) USB (most ubiquitous).

  3. ALWAYS use the "Safely Remove Hardware" button before disconnecting the drive. If it's not working for some reason (error: "Can't unmount this volume because a program is using it"), try to find the program. If you can't find the program, shut down the computer. Not doing so could lead to data corruption.

    Recommendation: Defragment often, and always use "Safely Remove Hardware" before unplugging it.

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The USB connection shouldn't be significantly more (or less) prone to failure than any other type of connector. They plugs and sockets are designed to be used after all.

A failure of a cable shouldn't affect the device itself.

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Tip: Just test it. Have it connected through USB and move 1 GB of data and time it. Than do it again for your eSata connector...

USB on older computers will be slow (usb1.1)

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computers that old are likely too old for eSATA. –  quack quixote Oct 6 '09 at 13:20
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