Home / PC Guides and Tutorials / The PC Storage Guide for the Masses
storage guide

The PC Storage Guide for the Masses

  1. Introduction
  2. Internal Drives Connectivity Options
  3. External Drives Connectivity Options
  4. Storage Method: Mechanical Drives
  5. Storage Method: Solid-State Drives
  6. Stuff to check before purchasing storage
  7. View All

  • USB

As the name suggests, Universal Serial Bus (USB) is made to allow many types of external devices to be connected for easy plug-and-play functions. This allows many devices such as MP3 players, smartphones, external optical drives, peripherals like keyboard, mouse, scanner, printer, etc. Another function and the most commonly used one is the means to store and transfer data inside an external source.

Just like the SATA standard, there are USB standards but the universal connectors on the motherboards and systems are backwards compatible. USB 1.0 was the first standard but eventually it was succeeded by USB 1.1 to allow wider adoption of the standard. USB 1.0 had two data transfer rate variants, but eventually USB 2.0 came out provides a much higher bandwidth of 480Mbit/sec. There were few variants of the USB 2.0 connector, such as mini-A and mini-B. Eventually, Micro-USB specification and even device battery charging option for phones and similar devices with batteries allowed charging via USB. After a very long time, USB 3.0 standard (colour coded as light blue) allowed up to a throughput of 5.0 Gbit/s. This connector is the currently widely adopted standard, but the best devices that take advantage of this is the external storage drives, including flash drives. Some manufacturers went further in taking advantage of the throughput by using SATA based controllers for SSDs in flash drives. Along with the standard USB 3.0 connector, this standard also has type-B AND type-A connectors.

The newly available standard as of now is the USB 3.1. Unlike the variants above, this one doubles to up to 10Gbit/s, called as “Superspeed+”. Along with the USB 3.1, the USB type C standard is introduced for allows a slim profile connector which has the same type of connector on both sides of the cable. Type C USB standard is originally designed keeping smartphones and such slim devices in mind, but it also helps to simplify by replacing USB 3.0 Type A and B connectors. Some motherboard makers have started embedding USB Type C connector, typically placed towards the rear I/O.

USB ports are colour coded so that users can identify them according to the specification, feature and bandwidth it provides for data transfer. They are as follows:

White Black Blue Yellow/Red Teal Blue
USB 1.x USB 2.0 USB 3.0 Always On/High power for charging USB 3.1

  • eSATA

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

eSATA uses the same SATA standard. The difference, however, is that the connector is designed to be more suited for external use, along with function to provide longer and magnetically shielded cables and better backward compatibility. This allowed the storage devices to reap the benefits of SATA bandwidth at the time older USB and the now currently unused FireWire interface based external storage used a SATA to USB or FireWire converter within the casing.

eSATA uses the same SATA standard. The difference, however, is that the connector is designed to be more suited for external use, along with function to provide longer and magnetically shielded cables and better backward compatibility. This allowed the storage devices to reap the benefits of SATA bandwidth at the time older USB and the now currently unused FireWire interface based external storage used a SATA to USB or FireWire converter within the casing.
eSATA also did come with a Gb/s support variant, but the organization responsible for maintaining a standard for the interface (SATA-IO) kept referring it to as ‘eSATA’ to prevent any confusion.

The problem that eSATA had was that it wasn’t to attract the user base that was satisfied with the USB standard. There was also a problem that devices uses eSATA required a separate power source, unlike FireWire and USB standard which provides power through the same cable.

Esatap_port

Via Wikipedia

Eventually, SATA-IO presented eSATAp which provides power through the same port. Also, because of the design, it allows the end user to use both USB and eSATA cables. eSATAp didn’t pick up the pace. It is said that one of the reason could be because both the companies who made storage devices and systems with this port kept referring the connector as eSATA. It is also said that the versatility and the common usage of USB just didn’t convince users to jump ship.

  • Thunderbolt

thunderbolt cable

Thunderbolt is an interface standard designed by Intel. Unlike other interface, this external interface used PCIe bandwidth and provided DisplayPort connectivity in a single cable. The standard did pose a serious competition to USB 3.0 standard that was limited to 5.0 G/bit bandwidth back then. It’s another key feature that it had the ability to daisy-chain up to six peripherals within the same cable and used at the same time at the length of 30 metres. The prototype was shown to provide 10Gbit per channel. Thunderbolt’s power to deliver extremely high bandwidth can also be used to use graphics cards. However, just like eSATA, this required external power source.

Eventually, the newer variant was out- Thunderbolt 2 provided enough bandwidth to support DisplayPort 1.2 that was required to stream 4K content on a 4K panel. This was able to deliver up to 20Gb/s per channel.

Thunderbolt 3 controller doubled Thunderbolt 2’s offering, providing bandwidth of up to 40Gb/s, but also reducing the power consumption. Because of the offering, it was to able to stream content to two 4K or 5K monitors in a single cable. It supported HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.3, while providing 100w of power, hence providing a ‘one-cable-does-it-all’ solution. As of now, these are used in Mac Pro and Macbook Pro Retina.

Two of the main reason that Thunderbolt is not widely adopted even within its particular amount of user base is because of the cost of the cable as it also required a circuit on both sides of the connectors to work. A limited number of thunderbolt devices and also the non-feasibility of bundles the cables with it also kept the mass away. Eventually, USB-IF picked up the pace with USB 3.1 and their type-C cable.

  • Ethernet

2x USB 3.0 (Top) 1Gb/s Ethernet (Below)

Rear Connectors

Ethernet ports are used for having a hard-wired connection with a broadband service, but it also is a medium to connect a NAS (Network Attached storage) on the Local Area Network by using devices like routers and switches. This also allowed networked computers, both wired and wireless (NAS depends on the Wireless routers to allow wireless communication with a system) within the LAN network. Commonly used Ethernet port provides 1Gb/s of transfer bandwidth. As it can be connected to devices linked to the internet, you can access the NAS remotely via the internet. The download and upload speed depends on the internet access speed of the user and the one which is used to connect to the NAS. Local data transfer can be quicker compared to online, and even much quicker with a more expensive 10Gb/s bandwidth.

Ethernet ports are used for having a hard-wired connection with a broadband service, but it also is a medium to connect a NAS (Network Attached storage) on the Local Area Network by using devices like routers and switches. This also allowed networked computers, both wired and wireless (NAS depends on the Wireless routers to allow wireless communication with a system) within the LAN network. Commonly used Ethernet port provides 1Gb/s of transfer bandwidth. As it can be connected to devices linked to the internet, you can access the NAS remotely via the internet. The download and upload speed depends on the internet access speed of the user and the one which is used to connect to the NAS. Local data transfer can be quicker compared to online, and even much quicker with a more expensive 10Gb/s bandwidth.

External  HDD Docks

Vantac NexStar HDD Dock

Docks are external hubs which allow you to connect 3.5″ and/or 2.5″ internal drives of your choice which are not connected to your  system. The benefits  is that you don’t  need  to rely on external drive casing or adapters and docks keep  the drives stationary while in use which is required for mechanical drives. These units are powered extra power adapter  to ensure that the unit can power even a large storage drive. These drives also provide hot-swap function, along with compatibility with multiple operating systems just like an external drive. Once the drives are docked, the system detects the drives are external drives. The throughput depends on the drives and on the connectivity type, which is usually USB variants, eSATA. thunderbolt, Ethernet and even WiFi like the unit above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*