General Question

Waffle's avatar

What's the best external hard drive for gameing?

Asked by Waffle (248points) January 15th, 2009

I’m going to be working in a computer lab, just making sure nothing is stolen. While I’m there, I plan to bring an external hard drive with PC games on it to play on the lab’s machines. I’d like to know if there is a particular brand or model that would be best (and cost efficient) for playing games. If it helps, the games would be mostly steam titles and a few old RTS’s like “Tzar” and “Warcraft 3.” Capacity could be anything over 320GB.

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11 Answers

RandomMrdan's avatar

brand…I like seagate..

connection wise, if the lab computers have E-Sata connections use that, or Firewire 800. I don’t think playing games through a USB connection would be that great (thought I’ve never tried).

best solution would be having an internal hard drive that you just plug into the lab computer if you can. For performance reasons I’d assume. I’ve never tried to play a game over USB before.

robmandu's avatar

As a rule, the limiting factor of external drives is not their own internal speed characteristics, but that of the interface you’re using to connect it to the computer – hence @randommrdan’s suggestion to go with an internal mount.

The best consumer interface for external drives right now is Firewire 800, whereas USB 2.0 ain’t even half as fast.

USB 3.0, OTOH, should become commercially available in the latter half of 2009… should you choose to wait.

RandomMrdan's avatar

if you’re going to go external, check out this link, near the bottom is a chart comparing all external connections. Esata and Firewire 800 are a couple of the best ways to go external it seems.

Jamspoon's avatar

One thing to keep in mind is that unless you’re planning on actually installing said games on these machines you’re going to have some trouble playing them off of your hard drive. When an application or game is installed entries referencing the location where the software is on the HDD are made in the operating system’s registry—you can think of it as a sort of index for the operating system that contains information it needs to run any installed applications.

There certainly are exceptions to this rule but you’ll probably have a heck of a time in some cases.

One more thing to take into consideration is the computers in the lab and what they’re capable of. I noticed everyone here is mentioning newer and as of yet unavailable interfaces in the case of USB 3.0. If the computers you’re using don’t have eSATA or Firewire 800 then there’s no point in buying one of these more expensive options. A USB 2.0 drive is most likely you’re best option—3.0 should work on a 2.0 system but it won’t be taking advantage of the increased transfer speed available.

Remember, playing games off of an external drive is tricky. There are ways around it in some instances—I’m not particularly sure if they can be talked about here—but the best thing to do is when you get your HDD, test it at home, make sure the games aren’t installed on your machine but are only on your HDD. That being said, do a bit of reading about external drives. Like Waffle said if the machines in the lab have eSATA or Firewire 800 get something capable of that as those are fast but if not and if you’re willing to wait for USB 3.0 that would be ideal. Though in the end I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed with a USB 2.0 drive.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@jamspoon USB 2.0 is not an interface to game off of, even if it would work. esata and firewire is not expensive either, I found this with just a quick search where I work here. But you bring up good points on the registry, it sounds like that would create some problems, I didn’t even think of that.

check out the wiki page I linked in my previous post, it compares USB 2.0 to other connections. it’s a far cry from the speed of what you’d be use to inside your computer. esata is identical in speed to sata 300 according to the chart.

Jamspoon's avatar

@RandomMrdan—Your point is definitely valid regarding transfer speeds though not in this situation. 480Mbps is enough throughput to play games with, it comes down to the system memory (amount and speed) and the power of both the GPU and CPU. When a game is running, or any piece of software for that matter they’re not constantly referring to the HDD for needed information, whatever is needed is loaded before the game actually gets going and is stored in temp memory.

If you’re playing a game where the requirements grossly exceed that of the computer you’re using then you’ll notice that the HDD will constantly be accessed this is because either the GPU, CPU or memory aren’t able to deal with the load and are therefore depending on the HDD to pick up the slack.

*BTW I when I mentioned Waffle in my last reply I meant to you, RandomMrdan ;)

RandomMrdan's avatar

@Jamspoon touche sir…and I figured you meant me =)

Sakata's avatar

Best ones I found are here and here. Both are Seagate. The 1st is 500GB & the 2nd is 320GB.

As far as speed goes, it’s almost solely based on your connection be it hi-speed USB (as in USB 3.0 – to be released this year) or Firewire (3200). A comparison of the two can be found here. (Start with Firewire and you can stay with it for upgrades. Just a tip.)

Good luck

Note: There’s always the InfiniBand option too, but I don’t think you’re running a supercomputer lol

Waffle's avatar

Well, i would like to start by saying thanks for all the responses.

I’ve done some research and when it comes to playing games off of an external, there is
no problem with the USB 2.0. The speed is plenty fast so going for Firewire 800 (which isn’t much faster to begin with) or eSATA (which is unnecessarily fast) would be a waste of money. My friend brought in a drive running on USB 2.0 and both Oblivion (running on max setting at 1920×1200) and Crysis ran beautifully.

The only thing I need to decide is size right now :D

tehrani625's avatar

try going to new egg and picking up a drive case and then a bare drive. Its much cheaper then anything you could get and you can mix and match your drive to the interface. And fire wire of any kind is better then USB at the moment. Because 480MBps is not how fast UBS2.0 is all the time it can’t maintain those transfer rates and usually never gets close. Fire wire on the other hand can reach its max speed and maintain it. I doubt that a lab computer will have an esata port but that would be the best way to go.

tehrani625's avatar

Oh and when you choose a drive look for one that spins at 7500RPM this is faster than almost anything you could buy ready made.

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