WD Interface Guide PDF View PDF

I. Choosing the Right Drive Type

Not sure which drive is right for your computer? This guide helps you determine the right type of drive and interface using these three questions:
    1. Which internal drive is the right choice:
      • Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA)?
      • Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment (PATA)?
    2. Which internal drive is compatible with my operating system:
      • SATA?
      • PATA?
    3. Which external drive interface is the right choice:
      • Universal Serial Bus (USB)?
      • FireWire®?
      • External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (eSATA)?
      • Gigabit Ethernet?
      • Thunderbolt™?
    4. Additional Support Resources

II. Internal Drive Interface Choices

Which internal drive is the right choice: SATA or PATA? Top

Look at the cable connections on your computer's motherboard to determine the internal hard drive interface you need:

SATA or PATA

SATA Hard Drives

Because of their considerably narrower cables, SATA hard drives provide increased airflow and less clutter in the computer enclosure compared to PATA drives.

For computer system motherboards that do not have SATA ports, a PCI SATA controller card can be installed to add support for SATA drives.

If you do not know whether your computer has SATA ports on the motherboard, refer to your computer or motherboard documentation or contact the motherboard manufacturer.

Drives in this category include:
Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 1.0
Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 2.0
Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 3.0

PATA Hard Drives

PATA hard drives were an earlier standard in the computer industry for more than 10 years.

For computer system motherboards that do not have PATA ports, a PCI PATA controller card can be installed to add support for PATA drives.

If you do not know whether your computer has PATA ports on the motherboard, refer to your computer or motherboard documentation or contact the motherboard manufacturer.

WD Internal Hard Drive Features

Feature SATA 1.5Gb/s Hard Drives SATA 3Gb/s Hard Drives SATA 6Gb/s Hard Drives PATA 100MB/s Hard Drives

Maximum data transfer rate

1.5 Gb/s

 3 Gb/s

6 Gb/s

100 MB/s

Supported devices
per cable

One

One

One

Two

Jumper block

8-pin (no Master/Slave settings)

8-pin (no Master/Slave settings)

8-pin (no Master/Slave settings)

10-pin (single, Master, Slave, and
cable select (CSEL) settings)



Which internal drive is compatible with my operating system: SATA or PATA? Top

Your operating system, as well as your hardware, must support the hard drive you choose:

Your Computer's
Operating System
WD Hard Drive Compatibility
SATA 3Gb/s SATA 6Gb/s PATA

Windows 7

Yes

Yes

Yes

Windows Vista®

Yes

Yes

Yes

Windows XP

Yes

Yes

Yes

Windows 2000

Yes

No

Yes

Mac® OS X

Yes

Yes

Yes


Note: Compatibility may vary depending on user's hardware configuration and operating system.

Other helpful information is available in the WD Knowledge Base at support.wdc.com


III. External Drive Interface Choices

Which external drive interface is the right choice:
USB, FireWire®, eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet, or Thunderbolt™?
Top

Each interface has its strengths, which are explained in the following sections. The right choice depends on compatibility with your computer and how you want to use your device. Look at the external connections on your computer to determine the external hard drive interface you need.

USB

USB is the industry-standard peripheral connection for most Windows-based computers. This interface uses a tiered star interconnect technology to attach multiple external devices to a central host controller.

The interface provides a simplified external alternative to many varieties of parallel and serial ports.

USB connector types include Standard-, Mini-, and Micro-USB configurations to accommodate most popular computer peripheral, audio/visual, and mobile communications devices. When required, adapter cables can accommodate different connector types.

The USB interface has three available configurations:
  • USB 1.0/1.1
  • USB 2.0
  • USB 3.0

If you do not know the configuration of your computer's USB ports, refer to your computer documentation or contact the manufacturer.

USB 1.0/1.1. This is the first version of USB created and features a maximum data rate of 12 Mb/s. If your USB port is this version, you can use a USB 2.0 hard drive, but transfer rates default to the slower version.

USB 2.0. USB 2.0 transfers data at a maximum rate of 480 Mb/s. Sustained data transfer rates, usually from 10 to 30 MB/s, vary depending on many factors including the type of device, data being transferred, and computer system speed. If your USB port is an earlier version, USB 1.0 or 1.1, you can use a USB 2.0 hard drive, but transfer rates default to the slower version.

USB 3.0. USB 3.0 transfers data at a maximum rate of 4.80 Gb/s. Sustained data transfer rates, usually from 100 to 300 MB/s, vary depending on many factors, including the type of device, data being transferred, and computer system speed.

If your USB port is an earlier version, USB 1.0 or 2.0, you can use a USB 3.0 hard drive, but transfer rates default to the slower version. USB 3.0 connectors, on the computer side, are color-coded blue.


Standard USB 2.0 or 3.0 Standard USB 2.0 or 3.0
Mini USB
Mini USB
Micro USB
Micro USB
Micro USB 3.0
Micro USB 3.0
FireWire

FireWire, also called IEEE 1394, is a high-performance connection standard for personal computers and consumer electronics. This interface uses a daisy-chained interconnect architecture to allow multiple storage devices to share a single host system FireWire port.

The peer-to-peer interface allows devices to communicate and transfer data with greatly reduced host system overhead and higher efficiency compared to alternative interfaces like USB.

The FireWire interface has two configurations:
  • FireWire 400
  • FireWire 800
Cables and adapters are available to connect FireWire 800 or 400 host ports to FireWire 800 or 400 connectors.

FireWire 400. Also called IEEE 1394a, FireWire 400 transfers large amounts of data between computers and peripheral devices at rates up to 400 Mb/s. It is the most common FireWire interface, present in 6-pin (desktops) and 4-pin (laptops and camcorders, etc.) variants.

Cables and adapters are available to connect mini or standard host FireWire 400 ports to 4-pin or 6-pin connectors. The host provides power through the 6-pin interface to connected devices, where required.

Most desktop external storage units are self-powered (wall power supply) and do not require power from the host interface.

Firewire 400 is commonly used to connect digital cameras, camcorders and popular external storage devices, and has the bandwidth to perform common DV-resolution video editing, in most cases.
FireWire 400 (IEEE 1394a) 4-pin
FireWire 400 (IEEE 1394a) 4-pin

FireWire 400 (IEEE 1394a) 6-pin
FireWire 400 (IEEE 1394a) 6-pin
   
FireWire 800. Also called IEEE 1394b, FireWire 800 provides the high-speed connection and bandwidth required for multiple-stream, uncompressed digital video and noise-free, high-resolution digital audio.

FireWire 800 is typically twice as fast as FireWire 400 and is necessary for HD video editing and other applications where the fastest data transfers and expandability by daisy chaining are needed.
FireWire 800 (IEEE 1394b) 9-pin
FireWire 800 (IEEE 1394b) 9-pin

eSATA

SATA is very effective for external storage applications, and the external SATA (eSATA) interface (detailed in the SATA 2.5
specification) provides a physically secure and fast connection for external hard drives.

With up to 6 Gb/s data transfers, this interface provides a high data transfer rate suitable for hard drives, home networking, digital video, and home entertainment devices such as settop boxes and personal video recorders.

Some systems can be configured to boot from an external eSATA drive.

eSATA and internal SATA cables and connectors cannot be used interchangeably. This is important since eSATA cables and connectors are designed for 5000 insertion and removal cycles while internal SATA cables and connectors are designed for only 50 insertion and removal cycles.

I-type eSATA vs. L-type SATA
eSATA warningNote: SATA cables with an L-shaped connector are not compatible with WD eSATA devices.

Gigabit Ethernet

Ethernet is a standard method of connecting computers to a local area network (LAN) using twinlead cable. As an external hard drive interface, it is most often used for network-attached storage (NAS) applications in which files can be shared across a network or accessed remotely.

Gigabit Ethernet, with its data transfer rate of 1000 Mb/s, is the latest and fastest Ethernet standard that evolved from the earlier Fast Ethernet (100 Mb/s) and Ethernet (10 Mb/s) standards.

Benefits of Gigabit Ethernet include increased bandwidth, quality of service (QoS) features that promote smooth transmission of audio and video, and compatibility with existing Ethernet and Fast Ethernet networks.

Ethernet
Ethernet

Thunderbolt™

Thunderbolt technology delivers unprecedented data
transfer rates thanks to its revolutionary bidirectional I/O
throughput. Each Thunderbolt port provides two
bidirectional channels, each with theoretically up to 10 Gb/s
of bandwidth.

Thunderbolt technology supports daisy chaining multiple
devices through a single Thunderbolt connector so you can
multitask at Thunderbolt technology speed without having
to use a switch or hub. This reduces the hardware clutter
and increases productivity.

You can connect additional Thunderbolt technology-enabled external hard drives, media players, HD displays, media capture and editing systems and more through a single connector.

Thunderbolt
Thunderbolt

IV. Summary


Interface Description Transfer Rate Best For Most Popular
Environment
USB 1.0/1.1 Hot-swappable* 12 Mb/s
maximum burst
transfer rate
Connecting to
different systems
quickly and easily
PCs
USB 2.0 Hot-swappable* 480 Mb/s
maximum burst
transfer rate
Connecting to
different systems
quickly and easily
PCs
USB 3.0 Hot-swappable*
full-duplex
asynchronous
protocol
4.8 Gb/s
maximum burst
transfer rate
High-def. video
cameras, mobile
media players
and phones, and
terabyte storage
devices
PCs
FireWire 400 Hot-swappable* 400 Mb/s
maximum
sustained transfer
rate
Fast transfer of
large amounts of
data frequently or
for audio/video
applications like
home video
editing
Macintosh®
computers
FireWire 800 Hot-swappable* 800 Mb/s
maximum
sustained transfer
rate
Multiple-stream
digital video and
high-resolution
digital audio and
video applications
Macintosh®
computers
eSATA Fast and physically
secure connection
for external hard
drives
Up to 6 Gb/s
maximum
sustained transfer
rate—nearly
equivalent to
internal drive
performance
Transferring large
amounts of data
frequently or for
audio/video
programs
PCs
Gigabit Ethernet Can attach a
device to a
system’s network
adapter, router,
switch, or hub port
1,000 Mb/s
maximum
sustained transfer
rate—ten time
faster than Fast
Ethernet
Remote file
access and
sharing large
amounts of data
and/or large
audio/video files
across a network
PCs
Thunderbolt Supports daisy
chaining of multiple devices through a single connector so you can multitask at Thunderbolt technology speed without having to use a switch or hub
Two bidirectional
channels (per port), with theoretically up to 10 Gb/s of bandwidth
Fast transfer of
large amounts of data. Multiplestream digital video and highresolution digital audio and video applications
Macintosh®
computers
* Hot-swappable means you can attach a device without shutting down/restarting the computer.

Note: For convenience and flexibility, you may want to choose a WD hard drive with multiple interfaces. Many WD external hard drive models are available with a combination of USB, FireWire, and/or eSATA interfaces.

Additional Support Resources Top

Information furnished by WD is believed to be accurate and reliable; however, no responsibility is assumed by WD for its use nor for any infringement of patents or other rights of third parties which may result from its use. No license is granted by implication or otherwise under any patent or patent rights of WD. WD reserves the right to change specifications at any time without notice.