Should I get a firewire, gigabit ethernet, or an e-SATA external hard drive?

by on January 21, 2009

Q: Hi guys, I’ve been recording audio on to my laptop hard drive for a while now and have been advised to get an external hard drive to record audio on to, to lighten the load on my computer and hopefully stop it from crashing.

After trying USB and finding it too slow for the job, my options are FW800, Gigabit ethernet, or e-SATA by use of my laptops PCI-e slot. Whilst it would be most convenient to use the ethernet, I wanted an opinion on what would be the “best” option and maybe even a suggestion on which hard drive I might purchase. If I was to use FW800 I would have to daisy chain and I know this can become problematic with bandwidth.

6 Responses to “Should I get a firewire, gigabit ethernet, or an e-SATA external hard drive?”

    If you use the proper cables and devices, USB 2.0 should be more than fast enough for recording audio. In fact, most internal hard drives are fast enough.

    It’s possible that your laptop is malfunctioning. Or, your laptop may simply be too old/slow for audio recording. What kind of laptop are you using? Please provide brand, model number, operating system, and as many other details as you can find.

    I look forward to helping you. Thanks!


    Computer is a brand new 4 thousand dollar MacBook Pro, maxed out on ram (4G) with a dual core 2.6 GHz processor. plenty of steam for the job. As far as recording goes, more than 12 channels at once at 48bit 9kKhz is imply too much for USB 2. Either way. Ethernet is the convinient option. If that is better than FW800 than I’d be happy with that.

    Thanks though.


    Thank you for providing more details. I agree with you that USB 2.0 is too wimpy for the kind of intense recording which you are trying to do. Please take a look at the nice table on page 4 of:

    As you can see, gigabit ethernet is faster than FireWire 800. Gigabit ethernet also gives you the flexibility of placing your external hard drive wherever you want — useful if you need to eliminate hard drive noise during recording. Furthermore, you’d never get full eSATA speeds using your MacBook Pro’s ExpressCard slot. So it seems like gigabit ethernet is indeed a good solution for you.

    I recommend that you purchase an gigabit ethernet external hard drive that is at least 7200 RPM, has a high storage capacity, and uses a large cache buffer. Look for external hard drives that are similar to:

    Does that help?


    Wow, totally helpful, thank you so much.

    Speaking with a friend, he had said FW800 was so popular because the bandwidth was the largest and this made back and forth audio work the best. I probably should have specified, that crashing generally happens not during recording, but during mixing when high powered programs are set up to affect the audio files. With the audio stored on another hard drive I’d still expect this to help things, but does this make transfer rate less important and cache or bandwidth more important? What would be great, would be a hard drive that had multiple connections! I’ve seen this with e-sata, USB and firewire, but anything with ethernet seems to come with nothing else. I’ll definitely give ethernet a go because as I said it would be the most convenient working option, but is there a hard drive out there with all the connections so if it doesn’t work out, I don’t need to but another drive?

    Thanks again for your detailed and well thought out response.



      Hi there,
      I just bought a Maxtor myself, after reading this I thought I’d give it a whirl. It seems runs really slow…maybe there’s something I’m not setting up correctly on the Network Preferences. Like you I have a recent MBP. Did it work out for you?If so how did you do it?
      Thanks for any tips,


    Hi Thomas,

    As mentioned in a link I posted previously, gigabit ethernet is actually faster than FireWire 800. And because of your computer, you can’t get full eSATA speeds. So gigabit ethernet is just about your fastest option.

    There are indeed many external hard drives which offer eSATA, USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 together. But like you, I have been unable to locate any external hard drives that include both gigabit ethernet AND FireWire 800.

    My advice is to purchase a gigabit ethernet external hard drive from a store that has a generous return policy — no restocking fees, etc. To take full advantage of the gigabit ethernet connection, you should purchase “cat 6” cable, which is superior to standard “cat 5e” ethernet cable.

    If that drive doesn’t work for you, simply exchange it for a drive that has the other three kinds of connections. If this happens, I advise that you exchange the cat 6 cable for a FireWire 800 cable (because FireWire 800 is built into your computer whereas eSATA is not).

    Good Luck!