USB 3.0 is an immature implementation of promising technology

Posted by Paul Braren on Nov 13 2011 in
  • Storage
  • Back in August of 2010, I embarked on a mission to replace the historically finicky eSATA connector type with USB 3.0 for my backup to external hard drive needs. My plan was to copy terabytes of files for offsite storage, starting with my Windows Home Server.

    Sounds simple enough, and I knew Windows 7 didn't yet support USB 3.0 natively, and devices couldn't boot from USB 3.0 devices at the faster speeds.  But those weren't deterrents.

    I started with a reasonably priced:
    StarTech 2 Port PCI Express SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Card Adapter Model PEXUSB3S2
    and after a lot of months of wrangling with disconnects (external drive would disappear after several minutes of heavy I/O), I finally got it to work reliably.  It required a firmware flash of the NEC Renesas USB 3.0 controller AND using just the right driver, outlined here.  Not surprising really, just really really hard to find good instructions on versions that actually worked reliably, resorting to trial and error and experimentation, the price I paid for being an early and adopter.

    Flash forward to this month, November 2011, when I heard a podcast with John C. Dvorak complaining that his USB 3.0 device didn't work.  Flashback to the nightmares I had.  Soon I also stumbled across reviewers complaining of similar issues with their new USB 3.0 enclosures on their 3TB drives purchased at Costco (with by far the lowest prices of anybody, while stock still exists). Finally, ran into comments about early version of the USB3 XFast utility that does speed up USB 3.0 speed, but can also cause BSODs (something I witnessed first-hand while testing speeds).

    It all boils down to this: I look forward to the day where Windows 7 and/or Windows 8 truly support USB 3.0 with any brand of controller/chipset, with Microsoft testing the compatibility and reliability, as apparently trusting third parties isn't working out very well. Image how handy it could be to boot Windows 8 from a USB 3.0 memory stick? It's apparently possible with the Windows 8 Developer Preview and USB 2.0 already.

    Don't get me wrong: I will never go back to USB 2.0 enclosures for any drive types or cloning jobs (USB 3.0 is so much faster), it's just a shame it apparently still takes so much work to get it to work right, as it should have from day one, had proper QA testing been done.