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Speeding up Your Usb Hard Drive

Updated on March 11, 2020
Doc Andersen profile image

i am a long-time avid technologist. i began my tech career in the Apple world but moved to Enterprise Solutions later.

In the dark ages of computing we had SCSI...

Computers have changed a lot over the last 30 years. There was a time when personal computers didn't have USB connections. Back in the day, we had other types of connectors. The Parallel port was how you connected your computer's printer. The serial port connected your modem or a scanner. In the days of old, there were also Appletalk ports for Macintosh computers and SCSI. SCSI or a small computer system interface allowed us to connect more than one device.

Parallel ports allowed you to have one device. Now you could have a switch, but that switch would only support one active device. With SCSI, you could have seven devices per chain. The SCSI chain was the connections starting with the SCSI card in the computer. You could then connect seven devices with the terminal device having a terminator.

The SCSI card plugged into a bus on the motherboard of the computer. Now initially, we could have seven devices connected to a single SCSI connection. That changed later to be a total of 14 devices, but the original limit was still there. You see, it connected into a bus that was on the motherboard of the computer. That meant if you used a device such as a scanner, the scanner needed to be a higher number on that chain of 7 devices than the hard drive. Depending on the devices you had, they always had to be turned on in a particular order as well. You wouldn't see accessories if you turned them on in the wrong order, or if you didn't turn on the devices with the terminator. The terminator ended the SCSI chain and was critical.

SCSI also required that that driver for the device had to be loaded first. If you didn't have the driver loaded, it wouldn't see the SCSI device. It was a dance to keep your Daisy Chain happy. But, done correctly, the Daisy Chain worked every single time.

The invention of and later inclusion of USB killed SCSI. USB or the Universal Serial Port arrived with the launch of Windows 95. That launch brought the new technology called USB to the personal computer. USB was impressive because we were no longer limited to 7 or 14 devices. In theory (I haven't tested this, and I am not sure it would do any good to check anyway), you can have 256 devices connected to a single USB port on your computer. If you have two USB ports, you could have 512 devices connected to your laptop in theory.

it was a dance to keep SCSI working right

First off, the number of connected devices is impressive. With the release of Windows 95, there was a new concept introduced called Plug and Play. Now in the early days of Plug and Play, we used to call it Plug and Pray. The likelihood was that it would not work correctly.

The concept was simple, plug the device into the USB port, and it would go out and find its drivers on the internet install them and let you use your device. For mice, keyboards, and many things, this worked perfectly. For more complex situations, it was better to use the old system to install the driver first then plug the device into the USB port.

The reason for the SCSI configuration lesson was to bring to bear a different point that impacts people today. The complexity involved in using devices decreased. In the days of SCSI, we had to be very careful what method was at what position in the chain. If you had a tape backup drive, that had to be at the end of your Daisy Chain, Scanners should be higher numbers, and hard drives for speed should be as close as possible to the computer or CPU.

USB frees us from the SCSI configuration and SCSI device management dance. That is a perfect thing; we no longer have to worry about how long our Daily Chain is! But, we still have a concern that we should probably solve.

If you have two hard drives connected via USB, make sure they are connected to separate USB ports. Most computers have 2, 3 or more USB ports. Use them all, and when possible, do not daily USB hubs. Again you can have 256 devices in that USB chain, but at someone point, you will reach diminishing returns.

I have four ports on my computer for USB. Two ports have USB hubs. Two ports have devices that require a more direct USB connection (Video camera for video conferencing). You can speed up your computer and your hard drives that are connected via USB by merely moving the hard drives to separate USB ports on your computer.

Or you can install a SCSI Card and join the I kept my Daisy Chain working club!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 DocAndersen

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