By Karim Salmi / Blog / 0 Comments

When your pc breaks, there comes a moment when an internal conversation plays out. You may ask yourself if it’s worth fixing or if you should start looking for a new one. Because they never seem to break at a convenient time, it is easy for our emotions to get ahead of us.

In the tech industry, there are many specialties that deal with certain failures of the computer; hardware repairs such as screens, keyboards, jacks, and hard drives as well as software repairs that work specifically to diagnose and fix your programs and operating systems, as well as data recovery which will retrieve data in the case of a critical failure.

By taking the unit to a technician who specializes in these fields they can assess the overall health of the unit and let you know if it’s repairable and if it’s worth it.

We live in a society where everything is made to be quickly used and quickly disposed of. Wrappers, packaging, utensils, even footwear and clothing. However, it becomes a problem when we relegate this same system of stuff in, stuff out to our tech gadgets.

desktop computer for recycling

Americans toss out on average over 2 million tons of tech gadgets yearly, and while that generally is not a significant figure for our overall waste, it is the largest contributor of toxic materials for our environment. Additionally, these products sink close to $100 million dollars’ worth of precious metals such as gold and silver back into the ground.

With so much unnecessary waste, it is imperative to have your unit evaluated before tossing it. Repairs on screens, hard drives, keyboards and operating systems are extremely common and are cost effective when compared to purchasing a new unit. However things such as motherboard replacement on a laptop would not be recommended. If your unit does prove to be a total loss, ask about data recovery and recycling of the unit to help keep our environment clean.

If you have any questions about properly disposing of your tech gadgets please give us a call and we would be happy to tell you the proper steps.

By Karim Salmi / BlogData Recovery / 0 Comments

Data recovery services are one of the three natural expansion paths for computer service businesses (the other two being mobile device repair and business IT services). Unlike the other two, information retrieval has a high financial barrier of entry. That’s because storage devices that have failed are usually unreadable by a computer. Indeed, a motherboard knows to communicate with healthy devices but is not even remotely equipped to navigate defective drives. As a result, there are three types of equipment necessary to even have the means to provide this service.

The first is a set of desktop computers with data recovery software. Theses are used to transfer data between healthy drives and manipulate data if necessary. For example, these computers will help retrieve photos and documents that have been deleted or find partitions that have been lost due to formatting or other high level issues. We also use these to transfer data from recovery drives to destination drives. Most computer shops can provide this sort of service.

The second level of service is what we call an advanced recovery. It provides access to failing drives and gives the technician the means to analyze the failure and read the drive in the safest way possible given the damage. You will need a disk imager and a forensic analysis tool such as PC3000 to work with drives that need an advanced recovery. They allow you to do anything from building a heads map to repairing or reconfiguring device firmware. The starter packages for each unit will cost at least $8000 and add-ons will be required to manage the workflow and work with as many devices as possible (including USB interface only drives).

clean room for hard drive repair

The final level of service is clean room recovery. When drives suffer physical trauma, they need to be opened in a dust free environment where a careful hardware swap can take place to restore functionality to the drive. Once healthy again for reading, even if temporarily, the drive is moved to the advanced recovery station to read as much data as possible. An ISO class 5 workbench is required because so much as a spec of minuscule dust could permanently ruin a hard drive. These are also the most expensive recoveries as they require expensive parts, a professional recovery lab and an experienced engineer to navigate the repair and retrieval.

Unfortunately, few organizations provide training in the data recovery field. On the other hand, self training is often impossible due to the financial burden of purchasing the equipment necessary and the high likelyhood of destroying dozens and dozens of drives while attempting to disassemble them.

It is important to develop a standardized workflow and organization method when processing a drive for recovery. From diagnostic to final transfer, drives are likely to move back and forth between various stations to complete each part of the retrieval. Technicians should be constantly verifying the health and speed of the recovery and double checking the integrity of the recovered media. Whenever possible, a recovered file list should be provided to the client for review to avoid costly repeat work.

As usual, if you have any questions about the process, feel free to reach out to our rockville data recovery service.

By Karim Salmi / Blog / 0 Comments

With the popularity of all things connected at first glance you may wonder why anyone would share a device. Everyone seems to have their own phone, laptop or dedicated desktop system. Yet think about how many times the question “Can I make a call?” or “I just need to check my email” has sent you into a cold sweat. Whether it may be site history you don’t want others to see or an obsession with plaid sock pictures you don’t want others to have access to, knowing how to tighten the security on your device can prevent you from looking like you have something to hide.

The first thing you will want to do is to set up a guest account. Most users overlook this very simple feature that has been around in Windows operating systems forever. By going through the control panel and “managing user accounts” you can quickly activate the guest user feature so that it is available for immediate or future use. By turning on the account, all password protected files, features and settings will be off limits. If you will have a more regular user, setup a separate user account for this person and make sure they have no Admin privileges. This feature is also great for parents because you can set permissions to block access to certain programs (ie. no internet), files and also set specific time limits. Make sure your own profile is password protected so the savviest users won’t just change the settings behind your back.

children sharing a computer

For phones and tablets, many manufacturers also offer the guest user setting. Some can be accessed discreetly by plugging in a chosen password that will redirect to a limited version (you pre-choose what is accessible) of your home screen and others will be an actual guest user account. In either case, as with your laptop/desktop, it is imperative that you password protect the system or all your careful planning will be wasted.

The second thing you may want to ensure is the privacy of your search history. Browsers such as Chrome offer the ability to search “Incognito”. While this certainly will not keep the very determined from tracking your online activities, for an average snooper using the “incognito” search bar while on Chrome will cover your tracks from their nosy eyes. Keep in mind however, we do not recommend using this technique at work, trust us when we say the IT tech in your office can still see it all!

Third, you may consider encrypting your device. As we will detail in a later post this is not for the faint of heart. If you lose your encryption key, your data is toast. While there may be extremely complicated ways to retrieve it, the road to recovering encrypted data is not a path you want to choose. We recommend using a key you know you will never forget, one no one else will ever guess, and keeping it logged someplace safe in case you do forget.  Some devices also offer automatic formatting to compliment the encryption. Unless you are James Bond, you may want to forgo such an extreme measure especially if you know nosy eyes will attempt to break in. Children and significant others have been known to attempt to crack your password and with this setting in place by the tenth incorrect try your device will wipe everything clean and still be encrypted.

Last, a conversation with a tech in our office may be needed to cover all the bases of your privacy concerns. We can show you which settings are useful, assist you with setting up password protected folders within your password protected profile and per your request store passwords within your client file of our non-networked data base for a small maintenance fee.

Contact us anytime for a privacy assessment and consult!

 

By Karim Salmi / Blog / 0 Comments

I thought I was Protected!

Computer Malware and Viruses are built to be vicious. They have one goal; to make you miserable. Long gone are the days when Viruses only appeared after visiting a shady site. Now just checking the news can plummet you down a rabbit’s hole. You complete one article and another article with a tantalizing header beckons you from the sidelines. It’s on a trusted site so you think nothing of clicking that link, only it leads you far away from the trusted site and lands you in a section you really don’t want to be.  As you begin to frantically search for the little X and close out the tab a notice pops up threatening to arrest you if don’t send an immediate money order. In frustration you may be wondering with all that protection you have paid subscriptions for;

What happened?

Even if your system has separate Anti-virus, Anti-malware programs, pop-up blocking apps and you only head to trusted sites, you can still get infected. Viruses are big business and organized crime groups are targeting you specifically. You fall into a neat little demographic of careful users these organizations can’t wait to sink their teeth into. They know because you weren’t expecting them, you may not have protected your information carefully, thinking your system would never be breached. Once inside, they can gain access to your banking information, tax records, contact lists, personal data such as documents, pictures, video and more which they sell on the black market. Posing at legitimate companies they buy ad slots on trusted sites and make it very tempting to click the link for a little more info. They also send out innocuous emails directly from your trusted contacts (and to them) knowing while you may not open an email from Prince William needing a little help bringing his funds into the US, you may open one from your grandson. Once in, depending on their target you may or may not even know they are there.

image of infected computer

What do I do?

The best thing you can do is to understand how your protection programs work, and to be vigilant about backing up your data. Most Anti-virus/Anti-malware systems work to prevent you from getting infected. However, the moment you give a site or a download permission to enter your computer, harmful or not there is no stopping it. Running your Anti-virus scans later will probably not be helpful because the Virus is now recognized as an approved program. Before you download anything, do research. A quick Google search will tell you whether the “Coupon Generator” or “Weather Bug” is going to be more trouble than its worth. Also, back up your data to an external source. We recommend consistently backing up data to a non-networked drive so in the chance your data is being held for ransom you can comfortably disregard the demands and have your unit professionally cleaned.  

Moving Forward-Tips to remember

Do not give out personally identifying information to anyone online and be aware of your surroundings in the online community at all times.

Do not follow links-whether on Facebook, MSN or anywhere else. Often times these links will only lead you into trouble. The cat video, or Kim Kardashians vacation pics are not worth it.

Do not download anything that comes from an unverified source, particularly if the price tag is free.

Do not ever give anyone other than a trusted computer repair tech access to your computer, particularly if THEY have contacted YOU. Reputable companies will NEVER contact you to let you know your computer is infected, and anyone calling or emailing you to tell you your computer is infected is running a scam.

Do not forget to back up your data. We offer non networked back up drive setups as a service and you can call us anytime to get that arranged.

Do not give access to your user account to anyone. Just because you are a careful does not mean they will be. Give everyone their own User account or invite them to use the Guest account.

In the chance something still does occur despite your diligence we are available 6 days a week so feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email, even if you are just unsure we will be happy to research the problem for you.

 

 

By Karim Salmi / BlogData Recovery / 0 Comments

The news was released yesterday that the FBI has managed to access the data on the San Bernardino gunman’s iphone. If you haven’t been following, there has basically been a fairly public struggle between the FBI and Apple in the news because the FBI has been requesting Apple’s help in unlocking an encrypted phone. The electronics giant refused on the grounds that the government cannot be trusted with such a tool and cannot be expected to limit their use of it to just judicially approved devices. So, to keep millions of iPhone users safe from prying eyes around the world, Apple has stood their ground.

According to news reports, this whole issue might have been avoided if the FBI had handled the phone properly and not locked themselves out of it to begin with. Apparently, their incompetence is to blame for this fiasco. I would like to touch on this point from the perspective of a data recovery engineer. The most basic of first steps when trying to perform a recovery, let alone a forensic recovery, is to secure the device and image it in its entirety. In fact, it will have probably been imaged multiple times to begin with so that their agents can easily work with a perfect copy of the phone without risking compromise to the source device.

fbi logo

We have seen how quickly the FBI is able to deploy its resources, search through vast amounts of data and locate their suspects. In recent memory, the Boston Marathon bombers were located within hours of the act and cornered shortly thereafter. That level of speed and effectiveness would not be possible without a very skilled and coordinated organization. So I don’t believe for a second that their data specialists are technologically impaired and would have shot themselves in the foot by locking themselves out of the device in the first place. I don’t appreciate why the FBI would have made such a public attempt at calling for Apple’s help either. They must know how the public feels about data privacy after whistleblowers like Snowden have shared the truth about mass surveillance.

All this to say that this looks like theatre. I would take everything I hear from these organizations with a grain or two of salt. As time goes on, we discover more and more of the governments technological advancements. They seem well thought out and placed years before anyone even suspected they existed. What was the point of this debate and how did they access the phone in the end? Who knows for sure? I am convinced that none of this was done by accident so until we discover the motives behind this very public dispute, I would withhold judgement.

By Karim Salmi / BlogData Recovery / 0 Comments

What ended up as a benign suffix for technology, “ware” is now being tacked on to a long list of nasty words. Ad-ware. Malware. Bloatware. Ransomware. It has become a short hand way to reference some new development in the software world. While the first three co-exist in a space designed to force product advertisements in front of unsuspecting users, ransomware is in a league of its own because it sells a very particular product: your own data.

Ransomware is a type of software that uses encryption offensively to deprive you of your data. If you’ve been watching the news, you may have heard of the FBI v Apple debate that is on-going in reference to a cell phone whose data cannot be read because it is encrypted. Cryptography brought us this technique when messages were at risk of interception. In order to make sure enemy agents cannot read your message even if they get their hands on it, individuals and organizations have turned to ciphers to lock the data away from unauthorized access. It was only a matter of time before it became a common computer feature because online interactions are easily intercepted as your messages are sent from your computer and routed through dozens of hops before reaching their intended recipient.

fbi ransomware virus

Lo and behold, one day you turn on your computer and a seemingly convincing message from the FBI pops up claiming your computer has child pornography or worse on it. You’ve violated federal law, your data has been locked (via encryption) and you have 3 days to send $200 or more in a money order in exchange for dropping the charges and regaining access to your pictures and documents. If you’re not the only person using this computer, you might be even more likely to believe this is a real FBI message. Afterall, they have your city and state shown below the logo and who in their right mind is going to impersonate the FBI?

Sadly, there’s only one way to get your data back. You need the key to the encryption. If you’ve been struck by an older version of this cryptolocker virus then you might be in luck! Many of the keys used have become public and you can “easily” unlock your data. In one particular case of lazy programming, the author of one of these viruses re-used the same key for all infected users. If you aren’t so lucky, then you better hope you have an offline backup of your data. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay the ransom and trust that these crooks will uphold their end of the bargain and give you a working key.

Why did we mention an offline backup? It is because many online backup services such as carbonite or dropbox synchronize your files in the cloud immediately. As soon as a change is detected to your files, they are quickly copied to the company server. While that’s convenient for most situations, it is decidedly counterproductive in the case of ransomware. Your local data and your online backup will both be encrypted. The only way around that problem is if your online storage provider keeps multiple copies of recently changed files just in case something like this happens.

If you’re against the idea of being blackmailed, you can try your luck with a data recovery service. Encryption is extremely effective only if it has been correctly implemented. Some of these viruses are not mathematically sound and thus the cyber defense community has had quite a bit of success in developing tools to reverse their effects. To protect yourself against this threat to your data, it is critical to keep an offline backup of your data. In case anything happens to your computer and online back-up, the offline storage will be your saving grace.

By Karim Salmi / BlogData Recovery / 0 Comments

If you’ve recently lost files on your Mac—whether because your hard drive failed or simply because you accidentally deleted a folder—you might be wondering what options are available to you for data recovery. If you don’t have a Time Machine backup and don’t use an external hard drive or a cloud service to back up your files at all times, know that the process will be more difficult. It’s not tough to see why many Mac users will start backing up all of their files after going through a data loss scare.

Still, while an incident like this might push you to buy an external hard drive and start preserving your files, such a solution will only save your data in the future. It can’t retroactively recover any lost data that you did not already have backed up.

 

imac data recovery

Data Recovery Strategies

Luckily, external hard drives, cloud-based services, and Time Machine backups are not the only options for data recovery on a Mac. On the contrary, there are a number of methods out there that you can use to find, access, and recover files that you thought were deleted. Even after you’ve deleted a file and emptied the trash, that file isn’t completely gone. On the contrary, as this Cult of Mac article explains, until you write something new to the disk, a vacant spot is kept open where the deleted file used to be. As long as this vacant spot remains, data recovery is completely possible.

Unsurprisingly, many app developers have created data recovery tools to take advantage of these new technologies. As such, if you need to recover data from your Mac’s hard drive, there is no shortage of apps that you can use to make the attempt.

Still, recovering your data is not as simple as downloading a recovery program directly to your hard drive and clicking run. The more you do with your computer after deleting a file (or losing a whole slew of them), the more new data is going to be written onto your drive. The more new data that is written to the drive, the more difficult it will be to recover the deleted files because they may be overwritten entirely. For this reason, most experts advise that you largely stop using a computer if and when you realize that data recovery is necessary. Close your email client; shut down your apps; do everything you can to minimize new data writing.

If you are going to try a data recovery program, do not download it to the disk that requires the recovery. Instead, download it onto an external hard drive or USB flash drive and then run it from there. Data Recovery Guru, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, and Prosoft Data Rescue are among the more acclaimed data recovery tools for Mac. All of these programs will scan your disk and create lists of deleted files—often sorted by different file types. You can search through the files to find your deleted data and then back it up to the external disk you are using to run the recovery tool.

The Drawbacks of Data Recovery Tools

Data recovery tools, while far ahead of where they were just five or so years ago, are not foolproof or especially user-friendly tools. They can be used to recover deleted data, but they aren’t particularly useful if you don’t have an external disk to run them from, can take hours to scan if you have a lot of files, and are sometimes fruitless anyway. Not all recovery tools find the exact same files, which means you might have to use several to recover everything you are looking for. They also don’t usually recover filenames, which can make finding your deleted file like searching for a needle in a haystack.

In order to avoid the frustration of using data recovery tools—or worse, the permanent loss of your data—you might consider hiring a professional data recovery team to do the job. If you don’t feel comfortable running programs from external disks or sorting through lots and lots of deleted files, skip the DIY process and call Vital Tech instead! Our senior technicians will delve into your system and find your deleted data, with the experience and self-assurance that you might not necessarily have for this kind of project. Call us today at 240-813-0692 to get our help.

By Karim Salmi / Blog / 0 Comments

I’m going to make the case for why you should avoid doing virus removals when your computer gets infected. Over the years, I’ve repaired thousands of laptops and desktops that have fallen prey to all sorts of online malware scams. Some just had annoying adware and pop-ups. Others were full blown system infections that prevented any sort of windows functionality. Every single time, the computer was better off with an OS reload instead of a virus removal.

malware scan in progress

Starting Fresh

When you reinstall Windows, you’re starting with a clean slate. That means no more malware, no more trojans, no more keyloggers or other malicious software. However, it also means getting all your programs back on the machine and configured the way you like. If you’ve lost some disks over the years, that’s going to be a pain (especially for things like Microsoft Office). Depending on how old your system disk is, you might also have to download a lot of Windows Updates. But if you can stomach an hour or two of setup, the rewards are totally worth it:

  • Starting anew means that you are GUARANTEED to be virus free. You don’t need to worry about whether every single piece of malware was removed or is just waiting for a few weeks before striking again. You don’t need to worry about having your passwords stolen by some monitoring software. You can just relax.
  • Your computer will be faster than before! Without years of built up junk to load anymore, your computer will whistle on by.
  • Viruses sometimes corrupt operating system files. That means even after spending two hours on clearing the computer with your virus scanner, malware remover and registry optimizer, you might end up removing infected but critical OS files. That means next time you turn on the computer you won’t be able to reach Windows anymore. You’ll need to try a startup repair or a system restore and hope they work. If they don’t, you’ll have to re-install windows ANYWAY!
  • You’ll have the opportunity to set everything up correctly from the get-go this time. Make sure your anti-virus and malware scanner are up, configure automatic backups and avoid installing any bloatware this time.

I never recommend performing a virus removal anymore. It’s too time consuming for a process that doesn’t guarantee a favorable outcome. You might get every virus off or you might not. You might get a new infection shortly afterwards but not be sure whether it was an old one that was missed or a new one taking advantage of your compromised pc. You might remove critical files and get locked out of Windows anyway. When it comes to computer repair, I’m a big fan of 100% fixes. That’s why I always choose to do an operating system reload. There are too many pros and no cons if you can find your software disks.

By Karim Salmi / BlogData Recovery / 0 Comments

Data recovery isn’t exactly a service you use everyday. As a result, you’ll probably end up searching the internet for answers. While free tech support and tips can be found online easily for computer issues, data recovery questions all over the world tend to end with “take it to a professional.” The reason for that is pretty simple: computers weren’t built to work with failing hard drives. If an area of your drive can’t be read, your computer will just lock up while waiting for that process to time out. Besides, if your drive does have damage, trying to force a read isn’t going to make things better. It’s going to make things worse.

While data experts are not literally saving lives, it’s easy to explain data retrieval by drawing a parallel to hospitals. In our metaphor, the average person with a first aid kit and some basic knowledge of CPR can take care of minor scrapes and bruises. But once things escalate even a little bit higher than that, it’s time to see a doctor (or in extreme cases, a surgeon).  Professionals have two things the average person doesn’t: decades of built up knowledge and very expensive machines. The data recovery world is no different. To work with storage devices, you need expensive imaging hardware designed to communicate with failing hard drives and expert technicians that won’t compromise your data.

professional data recovery
The matrix-like view data recovery professionals see.

Data recovery businesses come in three flavors:

  • Level 1: The vast majority of businesses in this field are level 1 centers that can handle logical recoveries and no more. They only work with healthy drives to recover deleted files or revert formatting issues. They don’t have the tools or expertise to work with damaged drives so they need to outsource 80% or more of their work to another service. Reasonable cost: up to $200.
  • Level 2: The bulk of data recovery work is done on damaged hard drives and level 2 centers have the tools and staff to recover data in those conditions. When a drive has sector damage, cyclic redundancy errors, LBA mismatches or worse, these teams examine the drive head by head and sector by sector to find the sources of damage, correct them and retrieve the data. Reasonable cost: up to $800.
  • Level 3: Also known as disaster recovery or mechanical recovery, this level of service requires opening hard drives to repair or replace parts. Unfortunately, the internal data platters cannot be exposed to open air so providers need to work in a Clean Room Environment. Drives that have been dropped or are making strange sounds are likely candidates for this tier of service. Reasonable cost: $1200-$2000 on average.

Because of the expenses required to become a level 2 or level 3 service, these tiers are crowded with expensive nationwide companies. They have much higher overhead and rely on their satellite offices to mail hard drives in to their main repair center much like a level 1 service would. However, you can save time and money by finding a local data recovery provider like VitalTech in Maryland.

So how do you sort through these companies and find out which are doing the work and which are just an unnecessary middleman? Ask the tough questions:

  • Do you have a clean room at your location or do you mail drives out?
  • Do you use data recovery hardware to work with drives or just software?
  • What is the turnaround time for recovery?
  • How many technicians will be working on my drive?
  • What happens if recovery is impossible or unsuccessful?

Data recovery is hard work and the tools are expensive. Be wary of a mismatch between the level of repair needed and the price you are offered. No one in the world is doing clean room work for $200 and no one should pay thousands for deleted file recovery. Find reviews, check experience and get a quote up front.

By Karim Salmi / Data Recovery / 0 Comments

Article 7: External Hard Drives and Data Recovery

In our final article of the series we’ll look at external hard drives so you have a better idea of what’s out there, what’s involved when it comes to external data recovery, and what to do if your external drive has been damaged, typically from being dropped.

These days, through really cost effective external drives PC consumers can dramatically increase the amount of data in their lives and keep it better protected by backing it up. Almost all modern PC-tech allows for one to multiple external drives so they’re worth getting to know.

Other Articles in This Hard Drive and Data Recovery Series

Note: Through the hyperlinked titles below you can browse this blog series easily without getting lost and cover each base.

Article 1: Your Hard Drive (How It Works and What Causes It to Crash)

Article 2: The Basics of Modern Hard Drive Disk Failures

Article 3: Hard Drive Mechanical Arm Failures 101

Article 4: How Hard Drives Save and Retrieve Your Files

Article 5: Hard Drive Printed Circuit Boards and Data Recovery Explained

Article 6: An Intro to Internal Hard Drive to PC Connections

Article 7: External Hard Drives and Data Recovery

an external hard drive, usb thumb drive and hard drive

With these products you just need to figure out which external drive is best for you, providing the right amount of space and performance (speed) to suit your needs, and then match it with the right input connection. Let’s look at common drives first, then we’ll talk a little bit more about input.

The 3 Common Types of External Drives

  • Desktop Drives: These are going to require an adapter and come with 3.5-inch mechanisms inside so typically they’re kept stationary v. carted around. When possible, we advise people invest in desktop drives that have a built-in cooling fan to extend the life of the external drive as much as possible. Simply because people tend to leave their desktops on longer than mobile PCs. In terms of space they can go as high as 6 terabytes, but through multiple mechanisms (similar to ram sticks) they can get up to 8 TBs – or two 4TB drives.
  • Notebook-Class Drives: Common size for these smaller 2.5-inch mobile-friendly external drives is 500GB-1TB, but 2TB capacities are out there.
  • External Solid-State Drives: Because of their much higher ticket price, shock resistance, and increased complexity, SSD notebook-class external drives are rarer. And they’re on the smaller end of data capacity (64-512GB) which is why a fair amount of DIY’ers use them as internal drives instead.

In terms of input, as discussed in Article 6 of this blog series your common external cables are going to be USB 2.0/3.0, FireWire 400/800, and eSATA. Then there’s the more exotic options like USB 3.1/USB-C or iSCSI.

In his informative PC Mag article, “How to Buy an External Hard Drive” Joel Domingo does a great job of summarizing basic information on the USB and FireWire connection options:

External drives typically have a USB port, which is a good thing since even convertible tablets and ultrabooks have at least one USB 2.0 port with its theoretical 480Mbps throughput. Less common, but ostensibly speedier, is the FireWire port, in both 400Mbps and 800Mbps formats. FireWire 400 and 800 are signal-compatible (they can use the same wires), but they have different FW400 or FW800 connectors on the ends of those cables. FireWire can be daisy-chained; i.e., you can connect several drives or devices up to a single FireWire port when you connect them together first.”

While we could go much deeper into eSATA and advanced stuff like Thunderbolt from Intel, or even G-Tech options with much steeper pricing, but that would be a bit much for this setting. Besides, there’s other things to consider when choosing your external drive like style/coloring, included software, and warranty!