With USB, portable storage is a snap
With USB, portable storage is a snap<@VM>These USB 1.0 products will be compatible with the emerging standard for 2.0 devices
New standard will boost throughput to 480 MbpsBY J.B. MILES
| SPECIAL TO GCN
You don't have to be a power user to know that valuable data, including digitized pictures of your kids or your '65 Mustang, should be stored somewhere other than on a hard drive. Hard drives crash, and when they do all the information on them can be lost in a blink of a monitor screen.
Echo30 USB digital tape drive has 30G of storage and is priced at $288.
Proper storage for your data is the first reason to buy one of the portable, plug-and-play Universal Serial Bus storage devices in this guide. They are also relatively inexpensive, and their compliance with USB standards makes them easy to install.
Here's a brief rundown of what's available in plug-and-play USB storage systems:Zip drives and hard-disk drives.
The Iomega Zip drive with 100M or 250M of storage has been popular for years among users who want safe, dependable and portable data backup at reasonable prices. Portable hard drives such as Archos Technology Inc.'s $199 MiniHD 6GB-USB drive use magnetic 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch disks that generally can't be removed from the case, but they put removable storage capacities into the gigabyte range.CD-ROM drives.
USB CD-ROM drives such as Addonics Technologies' $179 32X Pocket CD are an excellent and inexpensive way to store up to 650M of data, the equivalent of 250,000 pages of text or 20,000 medium-resolution images. CD-ROM disks are the media of choice for installing large software programs. The main limit of CD-ROM technology is that you can't use it for writing information to disk.CD-R and CD-RW drives.
If you want write or rewrite capability, move up to a portable CD-recordable drive or investigate the even more popular and versatile rewritable CD-RW drives.
The big difference between CD-R and CD-RW is that you can read, write and erase data up to 1,000 times with CD-RW. With CD-R, you can write data only once and never erase it. The newest CD-RW disks play for 80 minutes and hold up to 700M of data. Because CD-RW drives can also read CD-ROM disks, they can play CD-ROM software and music.
Seagate Technology's TapeStor Travan, left, is a 20G external tape drive priced at $405.
Micro Solutions' Backpack external hard drive, right, comes in 20G and 30G versions, priced at $229 and $249.
Because of their versatility, sales of USB CD-RW drives such as APS Tech's $200 CD-RW USB Pro2 and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s $180 CD writer 8220e are rapidly eclipsing those of CD-R drives. Manufacturers that used to specialize in serial-port, parallel-port or SCSI CD-RW products now include USB devices in their product lines.DVD drives.
Digital video disk drives are more expensive than CD drives, but they hold a huge edge in capacity'2.6G for a single-sided DVD and 5.2G for a double-sided disk, compared with a 700M CD-RW. A DVD can store 133 minutes of a movie.
DVD storage systems come in various flavors; the best known are DVD-ROM and DVD-RAM. A DVD-ROM drive can play back information written to a DVD, CD-ROM or CD-RW disk, but it can't write anything. A DVD-RAM drive can read almost any type of CD, but it writes only to DVDs.
The jury is still out on whether CD-RW or DVD-RAM will take over the small storage system market, but CD-RW still has an edge over DVD for most computer users because it is so versatile and costs less.Floppy and tape drives.
A handful of companies, including Teac America Inc. and Vision Software Technologies Inc., still produce 1.44M USB floppy drives for less than $100, but they're useful mainly in legacy PC systems that still have floppy drives.
USB tape drives offer huge storage capacities of 20G and 30G, but have much slower data retrieval times than the hard magnetic or optical drive systems listed in the chart.
Of the companies I polled, only Onstream Data B.V. and Seagate Technology still make them.
USB came along and solved problems many users had when trying to install new peripherals on legacy PCs or Macs.
' What is it? A plug-and-play USB storage system is a portable drive that connects through USB ports on desktop and notebook PCs. Depending on base technology, they offer varying storage capacities and data transfer rates, but all are suitable for portable short-term storage needs.
' How does USB work? USB makes possible easy installation of peripherals. Most USB devices support the USB 1.0 standard, with throughput speeds of 12 Mbps. The new USB 2.0 standard permits throughput speeds up to 480 Mbps and is backward-compatible with 1.0 devices.
' When do I need one? You need one to duplicate and protect data on your PC or Mac, or to easily transfer data from one computer to another.
' Must-know info? The new USB 2.0 standard will gain popularity as more bandwidth-hungry peripherals such as storage systems, digital and video cameras, and high-end scanners come to market. By the end of the year most notebooks and many PCs will support the new standard, and there will be many more USB 2.0-compliant devices available.
Even with serial and parallel port connections, nonprofessional users had to wrestle with setup complexities that seemed beyond them'removing the host backplane, installing proprietary software, even fiddling with manual setting and dip switches. Even then, getting a printer or scanner running was a hit-or-miss proposition.
Setting up a SCSI or SCSI-2 device was even worse. Who can forget weekends spent trying to make sense of poorly written manuals and the series of telephone calls to tech support the following Monday?
The USB 1.0 standard, established five years ago, provided any-to-any connectivity at speeds up to 12 Mbps between USB-compliant peripherals and host computers.
It supported multiple devices, meaning that any USB-compliant device could be hooked up to the USB port on a PC or Mac and be up and running instantly, often without the need for a proprietary software driver.
USB 1.0 devices also can be attached, detached and reattached without the need to reboot a host system. Theoretically, a single USB port on a host computer can support up to 127 daisychained devices.
USB 1.0 is the de facto connection standard for mice, keyboards, scanners, printers and other low-end to midrange PC peripherals, including plug-and-play removable storage drives.
The USB 1.0 standard isn't perfect, though. It got off to a shaky start because early versions of Microsoft Windows 95 and NT 4.0 didn't support it, and PC manufacturers were reluctant to include USB ports until Windows 98 made room for them.
The 12-Mbps speed of USB 1.0 isn't nearly as fast as SCSI-2 or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' 1394 FireWire standard. Bandwidth-hungry devices such as high-end scanners, digital cameras, video cameras and high-capacity removable storage devices have to fight for bandwidth on the same USB line.
To compensate, some storage device manufacturers have built drives that combine USB connections with serial and parallel ports. Some new combo drives also bundle USB with fast SCSI-2 and FireWire ports.
But users needn't fret about choosing among competing connectivity options such as SCSI-2, FireWire or Bluetooth. The emerging USB 2.0 standard pushes the USB speed limit from 12 Mbps to 480 Mbps, making it faster than either SCSI-2 or FireWire. It will allow multiple peripherals with rates up to 50 Mbps on the same wire. It can daisychain hundreds of devices.
User investments in legacy USB equipment will be protected because products compliant with the USB 2.0 standard will be backward-compatible with USB 1.0. Chip vendors are hustling to launch USB 2.0 interfaces and controllers to move the standard along.J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers. E-mail him at [email protected].
|Data capacity, data transfer rate per second|
|Addonics Technologies Inc.|
|4X4X24 Pocket CD-RW|
|8X4X24 Pocket CD-RW|
|8X8X4X32 Mobile DVD/CDRW All in One Drive|
|8X12X10X32 Mobile DVD/CDRW All in One Drive|
|Pocket Floppy Drive|
|APS Tech Inc.|
|20GB USB Hard Drive Pro2|
|CD-RW 4X4X32 USB Pro2|
|Archos Technology Inc.|
for PC and Mac
PC Card and USB
and PC Card Combo
|MiniZIP 100 PC USB|
|MiniZIP 100 PC Card & USB (PC)|
|MiniCD with USB Interface|
|MiniCD-USB & PC Card Combo|
|Castlewood Systems Inc.|
|ORB 2.2GB External USB Drive|
|CD Cyclone USA|
|CD Revo USB CD-RW 4X4X32|
Palo Alto, Calif.
|CD-writer 8220e 4X4X6 Series|
|CD-RW 4X4X6 USB Burn-R|
|External Zip 250MB|
|External CD-RW 4X4X6 USB Drive|
|Micro Solutions Inc.|
|20G and 30G|
external hard drive
|Onstream Data B.V.|
|Echo30 15/30GB External USB Digital Tape Drive|
|400 Series External Parallel USB 4X4X6|
|10G and 20G,|
up to 1.5M
|Seagate Technology LLC|
Scotts Valley, Calif.
Portable USB 2.0
|External 20G tape drive|
|Sony Electronics Inc.|
San Jose, Calif.
|Spressa CRX1600L-A2 12X8X32X|
|Teac America Inc.|
|USB Floppy Drive|
|External floppy drive|
|4X4X6 External USB|
|External floppy drive, SmartMedia and CompactFlash reader and writer|
|SmartDisk USB Floppy Drive Series|
|External floppy drive|
|4X4X8 Portable CD-R/W Drive|
|6GB USB/FireWire Ultra-Thin Hard Drive|
|External 6G hard drive|
|3GB USB/FireWire Ultra-Thin Hard Drive|
|External 3G hard drive|