Comparison: USB, FireWire and Thunderbolt

If you are in the market for an external hard drive and would like to know which type of drive is for you, read on. In this article we will be showing you the pros and cons of the three main inputs: USB 2.0, Firewire 800 and Thunderbolt.

USB 2.0


  • Universal, almost every Mac and PC on the market have USB 2.0 built-in. This will be really handy if you are always switching between multiple Macs and PCs.
  • Low Cost, since most drives have USB 2.0 as a standard I/O, USB 2.0 drives will usually be cheaper than their FireWire and Thunderbolt counterparts.
  • Selection, you can find a wide variety drives that support USB 2.0.


  • USB 2.0 is the slowest of the three with a write speed of 480MBPS.

FireWire 800


  • Speed, FireWire 800 has a write speed of up to 800MBPS.
  • Most Mac compatible drives have built-in FireWire 800 support.


  • Not all of the current Macs support FireWire 800. Currently the MacBook Air and the MacBook do not support FireWire 800.
  • Most PCs do not support FireWire 800. This may be an inconvenience if you have a Mac and a PC and plan on using the drive on both computers.



  • Extremely fast, Thunderbolt has a top write speed of 10GBPS. This makes transferring files extremely fast.
  • Thunderbolt will let you daisy-chain hard drives and other external drives together while maintaining the same speed.


  • Currently only 2011 MacBook Pros have built in ThunderBold ports. This will expand when the rest of the Mac lineup is refreshed.

Thanks for reading today’s post, we hope we helped you find a new external drive. Check back soon for more Apple help.

Comments [2]

  1. You cannot explain complex things like this. FW is full-duplex. USB is half-duplex. Also, FW is nearly independent of processor activity, but USB slows with processor activity.

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