Friday, January 12, 2007
Toolbox: Networks & Storage For Photographers
Get connected and protect your image archive with the latest in networking and backup devices
External. If you don't have room inside the computer or you want to be able to switch between multiple drives, you may choose to use an external drive system. There are several direct-connect choices: USB drives, FireWire drives and SATA drives.
USB is common on Windows and Mac machines. The three USB speeds are 1.5 Mbps, 12 Mbps and 400 Mbps. USB nomenclature has become a little confusing as the technology has developed, but nowadays, plain USB refers to 1.5 Mbps and 12 Mbps; USB 2.0 covers all three speeds. "Hi-Speed" refers to just the 400 Mbps rate. For a hard drive, your computer should have a USB 2.0 (or Hi-Speed) port.
FireWire, also known as IEEE 1394a and iLink (Sony), is more common on a Mac. Its speed is around 400 Mbps. The 1394b version, sometimes called FireWire 800, offers twice the speed but isn't as common.
Serial ATA (SATA) is becoming available for connecting external drives. Because it's fairly new, you'll most likely need to add an adapter card inside your computer. Unlike USB 2.0 and FireWire, which allow you to connect multiple drives to the same port via "daisy-chaining," SATA requires one port per device.
Connecting an external drive is fairly straightforward. You must use the appropriate (USB 2.0, FireWire or SATA) cable between the disk drive and the computer. You can disconnect the drive without shutting down your computer, but you must make sure you disconnect the drive. On Windows, use either the eject command in Windows Explorer or click on the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the system tray on the right of the taskbar. For Mac, you can drag the disk icon to the trash.
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