Fastest Way to Transfer Files (HDD vs Flash via USB, PCI, etc.)

I was a little surprised when a one gig media file took 40 minutes to copy from my laptop hard drive to the SD card reader built in to my HP Pavilion dv2120us.  My expectation was that solid state would be a very quick transfer, with the HDD on the laptop being the limiting factor (and maybe that was the case.)   I want to quickly copy content from PCs onto portable devices.  What is the best way to do this?  A portable media device with a USB connected to a PC with a 10,000 RPM hard drive?  What is the specs I should look at to build a fast machine?  Is HDD RPM the bottleneck?  Is SATA a bottleneck?  Is the cardbus the bottleneck, is the SD a bottleneck?  Obviously, as you can guess, paying for a 10,000 RPM HDD would be a waste of money if it's not a bottleneck when copying files to an external device.  As such, where are the likely bottlenecks?  Even the memory of the SD is suspect, as I know on my camera, I have special high-speed compact flash cards--so I suppose the ns speed of the memory is an issue too?
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Aaron StreetInfrastructure ManagerCommented:
strange as it might seem SSD is not fast at write. espicaly lots of multiply writes!

so although access times are in the nano seconds!!! and small transpheres are also very quick (12+mb sec) large continus wites which access multiple cells (SSD stored data in cells on a memory chip) actauly casue it to slwo down.. thsi si why SSD hard drives have yet to really take off. although they are getting better..

look at your SD card and see what speed it is. and then check the speed stated against  a chart... i forget exactly but IIRC 80X is about 10mbytes/sec

imho, the fastest is eSata; but of course, all pc's must have it.
CF card speed :

more info :
imho, the fastest is eSata; but of course, all pc's must have it.
CF card speed :

more info :
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Aaron StreetInfrastructure ManagerCommented:
i agree eSATA is the fastest..

however even a good usb2 sATA or IDE externaly enclousere would work quite well.

I have a icybox with a 400gig IDE drive in it connected through USB2 and it can trasphere data at a sustained rate of 25mb/sec..

not amasling fast but thats going to give you about 1gig transphere a min. (even not running at full speed)
whish is a lot quicker and much more storage.. it does need external power though..

you can buy 2.5 inch (laptop hardrives) enclouses that are much smaller and run of the usb power. these can be about 60+ gig in size and although a bit slower they are much more mobile and than a large hard drive and much faster than a SSD card. they also fit in your pocket..

if i have a bit of cash at the moment i would be getting one.. there not that expensive though..
Calling eSATA the fastest is not really 'opinion' it is facts.  At least as far as consumer or mainstream technology.

With a eSATA connection your hard drive will be the limiting factor.  So using a Raptor 10k drive will be a bit of an advantage though some of the really big 7.2k drives are not far behind - and are much better price per GB of storage.  

Outside of speed I also find eSATA to be far more stable than USB.  I have run into lots of cases where I had to re-do large trasfers via USB.

Using USB or firewire, your speed will be limited by the interface so the choice of hard drive does not make much difference.  You are looking at around half to one third the speed of what you would get with eSATA.

The flash based sold state units that are showing up on the mainstream market are not particularly fast units.  Most desktop drives will outperform them though they are pretty good for portables.  The real strength/value is the low power consumption and very high shock resistance.  The read speed is also quite good.

Here's a list of manufacturer's and speeds for NAND based drives,

As you can see there is a big variance in speed.  Speed comes at a price and the faster units are not what is being put into mainstream notebooks.  I think a 32GB Mtron unit would be upwards of $900-$1000,  which gets you 90 MB/s write and 120 MB/s read - quite fast - more than double the Samsung and SanDisk units.

CF/SD cards are quite cheap and quite slow as compared to the SSD drives.    

You can also get cardbus eSATA which does perform well,  so it is not impossible to do eSATA on laptops.  For transferring things like drive images or sizeable backups on a regular basis eSATA is often worth the investment to add to a systems.  

There are a lot of enclosures that support both eSATA and USB.  I really think this is the way to go as it gives you the speed along with the ability to connect to most anything when needed.

I recommend the Antec MX-1 unit,  it's not the best priced but it keeps drives cool and is quiet,

The only USB enclosures I still deal with are the 2.5" units for exactly why DevilWAH suggests,  they fit in a pocket.  Handy for taking backups off site or working on the road.  You can get up to 320 GB in a 2.5" drive - for a lot less than a 32 GB SSD 2.5" drive.

The next generation of USB will of course change the playing field with a proposed ten fold increase in speed.  Though this is supposed to be out this year who knows when it will become mainstream.

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i object - i mentioned sata as the fastest first !!!
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