USB external harddrives

I'd like to increase the storage capacity of my laptop (Compaq Presario 1800 XL1) by adding a USB hard drive.

Compaq told me that the laptop has only a USB 1 port, and thus won't work with a USB 2 hard drive.  I don't think they're correct - I think that a USB 2 drive should work even with a USB 1 (albeit at lower speeds).  I'd much rather buy a USB 2, which I can hook up to newer machines and use it's speed.  Who's right?

Also, will USB (especially 1) drives be fast enough to run applications, etc?  I'd like to use this as a semiprimary hard drive, not just for backup.

Compaq recommended buying a PCMCIA USB 2 card - any reactions to this?

Also, could someone recommend a good drive to buy (80 or much more gigs).

Bonus points - will I have any problems getting Linux to work with these drives?
Franklin_DeMattoAsked:
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Huseyin1Commented:
Hi

A USB 1 HDD can work on a USB 2 socket, but a USB 2 HDD wont work on a USB 1 sockets, so im afraid there right.

The external HDD will work just as well as your current internal HDD, so running applications are fine.

I find using my HDD (external) via the USB port so easy and good, I'd go for that if i were you, forget the card.

I dont know anything about Linux, lol

H
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td_milesCommented:
Try here for usb support on Linux:
http://www.linux-usb.org/devices.html
http://www.qbik.ch/usb/devices/

In general USB hard disk is supported, but it wouldn't hurt to attempt to confirm before you go ahead.
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jhanceCommented:
Actually NEITHER Compaq nor Huseyin1 are correct here.  

A USB 2.0 device is REQUIRED to be downward compatible with USB 1.1 ports and will operate properly.  It will, however, fall back to USB 1.1 (i.e. 12 Mb/s) speeds.

Really the only concern here is what OPERATING SYSTEM you use on your Compaq.  You must have Win98, WinME, Win2000, or XP to use USB.  Win95 and NT4 DO NOT support USB at all.

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jhanceCommented:
Also, it speed is an issue as it seems to be.  The addition of a PC-CARD USB 2.0 interface is a great idea.  While not quite as convenient as the internal USB port, the added speed will be a big boost.  Even at USB 2.0 speeds of 480 Mb/s, USB drives are not as fast as internal IDE drives.  I find that USB 1.1 drives are OK for backup purposes but running apps from them is very slow.
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Franklin_DeMattoAuthor Commented:
So we have disputes:

1) Will the USB 2 work on my machine?
Compaq guy &  Huseyin1 vs. jhance

2) Will a USB 1 be fast enough for normal apps and usage?
Huseyin1 says yes, jhance says no

Can anyone confirm, or show evidence, for either issue?

(Right now, I'd bet on jhance...)
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jhanceCommented:
1) Yes.  I'm right, they're wrong!  With Compaq you talked with someone who is paid to close calls quickly.  With Huseyin1, I dunno, he should know better.

2) I say no.  12Mb/s is as FAST as USB 1.1 can go.  That's REALLY slow when compared to a disk/IDE channel.  ATA33 (the slowest you can find today) is 33MHz * 8 bits = 264 Mbits/sec.  So you USB 1.1 will be 4.5% the speed of an ATA33 IDE drive.  Remember that MOST drives today are at least ATA100 or 800Mbits/sec.  Once again, Huseyin1 should know better but whether you believe me or not, do your OWN calculations!!
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snerkelCommented:
I think everybody is right... ish

USB 2 devices should be compatible with USB 1, the device manufacturer should be able to confirm it for the device you are interested in.

If the hard drive is to be used for office type applications then it will be fine, for streaming video it may skip a bit.

I use a USB to IDE connector, this allows me to connect any (virtually) IDE device to my USB port, be it CD-ROMS or Hard-Drives and it worked out very cheap, even if buying a hard-drive at same time.
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td_milesCommented:
Just to add some personal experience to this question, today I plugged a borrowed USB scanner into my notebook. Windows XP detected it and then told me that I had plugged an HI-SPEED USB device into a non-HI-SPEED port. The message continues on that it will continue to work, but at a reduced speed. The scanner does indeed work, but it is at a reduced speed and while I am scanning, the CPU maxes at 100% for the whole time it is scanning.
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snerkelCommented:
Just been doing some timing tests to give you some indication of if you will be OK running applications from the USB hard-drive.

So uisng my USB 1.1 port and USB-IDE adaptor and a 80Gb 7200rpm drive it takes a tad under 3 seconds to open a 1.75Mb jpg image
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Huseyin1Commented:
Hello,

interesting battle, ok i'm going to change my answer..................

2). ok maybe the application wont be fast but like I say it will work,

and im going to stick with my Q 1). answer, a USB 2 device will NOT work on a USB 1 socket. HOWEVER my word may not be good enough so i'll get some links for ya.

H
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snerkelCommented:
Quote from Intel press release
"USB 2.0 will extend the capabilities of the interface from 12 Mbps, which is available on USB 1.1, to between 120-240 Mbps on USB 2.0, providing a connection point for next- generation peripherals which complement higher performance PCs. USB 2.0 is expected to be both forward and backward compatible with USB 1.1, and to result in a seamless transition process for the end user."

And a USB 2.0 device, read the spec, it supports 1.1 http://www.granitedigital.com/catalog/pg39_usb2harddrivesystems.htm
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Franklin_DeMattoAuthor Commented:
3 seconds to open a JPEG, yowsers!!! Yes, that does follow: 12Mb/s -> 1.5MB/s, plus a little here and there -> 3 seconds.

Okay, so it seems that I won't be able to run serious apps and stuff off a USB 1.  What about buying a PCMCIA USB 2 - will that be satisfactory?
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snerkelCommented:
The PCMCIA USB 2 interface will give you the speed you need, and you should still be able to use the hard drive with old USB 1.1 if required.
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Huseyin1Commented:

Sorry, snerkel is right, this link confirms what he/she has said

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/usb4.htm

H
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