It’s quite common to be frustrated with the speed of your external hard drive – most of us would like to have more performance because we have less and less time. It is frustrating to wait all that time for something to load from the external disk, and if you are using it to split the load between your internal disk to get better performance, that is not what you are looking for. Waiting forever when uploading your photos to your portable disk, or simply having poor performance when watching movies that are stored on the drive is not something that you should accept these days.
The newest and fastest external hard drive at the moment is the Western Digital My Book Essential 3 TB USB 3.0
If you are looking for the fastest external hard drive, you basically have one option – you will have to go with SSD. The data transfer technologies have evolved to the point where it is the hard drive that is the limiting factor. On the other hand SSD is still a very new technology that doesn’t apply well for massive data storage. It is mostly used as the start up disk on computers thanks to it’s fast access to frequently needed files. This is why we still recommend you get a hard drive disk for your external storage needs.
How about USB for fast data transfer?
We live the age of high technology, and there are technologies already developed which will allow almost instant data transfer. In the past we talked about USB, which was quickly followed by USB 2.0 and now there is even USB 3.0 which can do ten times faster data transfer rates than is predecessor. That means that the fastest theoretical transfer rate is 5 GB/s, which is quite impressive, but still not at all the maximum. The reason for that faster transfer is the full duplex transfer where it uses two of five lanes for sending data, and two to receive. If you do the math, it means that it can simultaneously send and receive at maximum speed, making it very useful for devices like external hard drives which are used interactively. You might be listening to music or watching a movie sourcing in the external disk, and at the same time you could be transferring photos to the drive. Unlike previous versions, where you would easily notice the device hitting a wall when trying to transfer data in both ways.
Even though USB 3.0 external hard drives have the theoretical limit of 4.8 Gbits/s, the practical maximum that they can reach is somewhere around 3.2 Gbits. This is observed with this ultra portable external hard drive with USB 3.0 by Western Digital which hits the speed limit at around 3 Gbits/s.
They have also increased the power that is transferred through the USB connector, and today the USB 3.0 runs at 150mA unit load, and each device can use up to 6 unit loads for a total of whopping 900mA. What does this mean? Basically it means that your external hard drive will have more power to draw from. There might be technical innovations coming that use this additional power and you could possibly even find USB Raid systems where the seek time can be improved, or mirrored RAID systems where you will have some extra security against hard drive failures – yes unfortunately external hard drives do break as well. Right now, it is used more for recharging devices, and it means that using an USB hub will still allow enough power for each of the devices.
One of the most important things is that you can use 3.0 devices with 2.0 computers – it is backwards compatible. If you don’t have 3.0 connections on your computer, but you are planning on getting one that has, you don’t have to buy an older technology fast external hard drive to transfer the data from your old machine to the new one. But unfortunately not all hard drives will not enjoy all the benefits of USB 3.0 because of other limitations.
How about eSata or “External Sata”?
It’s touted as the fastest data connector but in reality it was out powered by USB 3.0. It can go for data transfer rates of up to three times faster than Firewire 400 and USB 2.0, but like said before it is still slower than newer technology.
One of the most important things when it comes to using eSata in the fastest external hard drives is the fact that it doesn’t have power going through it. You will need a separate power cable, or a power adapter for your hard drives. That is a problem for most who are looking for a very portable hard drive, but not so for others who are merely looking for something that stays on their desk at home. Even so, it is still not the fastest around and it is quite inconvenient at the same time. Hard drives will always suffer from limitations of physically storing the information, and that is why SSD (or solid state drives) hard drives are significantly faster than regular disks.
What is the fastest external hard drive?
Without further confusion it is time to make it clear at what we are looking for when we are trying to find a fast external hard drive. Basically all the external disks these days run at the same RPM and all the fastest ones are powered by USB 3.0 that is the current fastest transfer method – the drives are the limiting factor, not the connection. At the same time you should realize that it is not only the external disk that is the limiting factor here, but also the one you have inside your computer.
The current fastest external hard drive is the Western Digital My Book Essential 3 TB USB 3.0, which is the overall fastest drive that we have ever tested. A close second was the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk v 2.0 3 TB USB 3.0 which was actually slightly faster in reading large files than the WD drive, but slower at other tasks. Both of these drives are the fastest ones that you can find for storing and accessing large files such as images and movies. If you need fast speed when using small files there are other drives that might over perform these two.