Solution to slow data transfer of WD MyBook using Firewire 1394 with Windows 7

Earlier this year, I upgraded my AMD Gigabyte PC from Windows Vista to Windows 7, 64bit. Although I was pleased with the nicer to use W7 and the better memory management using base 64 rather than the 32 bit thereby using up the entire 4GB of RAM memory efficiently. I noticed while transferring large files as well as large number of files (>1 GB) between WD MyBook external storage drive via Firewire 1394, it took ages to get the job done.

Initially I thought my 640GB Western Digital external drive was showing signs of aging (I got it way back in Nov 2008) but after giving it some thought, it is not possible for the hardware to age that fast, so something else must be the matter. So I tried using the USB 2.0 connection instead and I get better data transfer speed but still not as good as when I was using the Windows Vista. Next I tried using Ubuntu Linux and I got very high explosive data transfer speed! SO it is definitely not a hardware issue.

Checking around the internet it took me a long while before I found the solution to the slow data transfer of files between the Western Digital MyBook and Windows 7 via Firewire 1394.

It seems the newer ‘1394 OHCI Compliant Host Controller’ driver was the culprit. By changing and reverting the driver to an older legacy version it would solve the problem. This is one of those things where old is gold. Seems like nobody tried to solve the Firewire 1394 driver issue and using an older legacy driver ended up better than the new driver. Oh, well. So I gave that a try and now I get quite a good file data transfer rate of about 22MB/seconds. I didn’t note down the snail pace data transfer so can’t give you the details of the slowness, but believe me, it was extremely damn slow before switching to the legacy driver! Some comments in the forum post also mentioned they get about 31.5MB/Sec sustained data transfer rate which was faster than Linux!

So here’s how to go about switching the Firewire driver to the legacy version:

  1. On your Computer icon, right click and select Manage
  2. Select Device Manager and find your Firewire device
  3. Which should be ‘1394 OHCI Compliant Host Controller’ or similar
  4. Right click on the Update Driver Software
  5. Then “Browse my computer for driver software” and choose “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”
  6. Select the version with (Legacy) at the end of the list item and click it to install it

Once done, you may need to reboot to reset and enable the updated driver. Try to transfer a large file and see if you can get a good data transfer rate. If yes, problem solved!

I also noticed by updating the 1394 Firewire drivers it also speeded up my USB file data transfer rate. I’m not sure how the drivers could be related to the USB drivers or whether it was my imagination, but I did find the overall PC system was somewhat speedier. Could be every time I wanted to access my files, Windows will do a quick scan through all the drive and when it hit the firewired WD MyBook external storage drive it gets into a grind and slowed down. Well that’s my personal theory anyway. If it speeded up my PC overall disk access speed all the better!



[update note Jan 2012]
I decided to revert back to Windows 7 32bit version during one of my spring cleaning exercise to clear the PC of software and registry gunk. Reinstalling was sure tedious but with Windows, it was necessary. Though I don’t have to do it as often as the earlier days of Windows. I think the 32 bit Windows 7 runs more efficiently than the 64 bit version. Don’t know why, the PC was speedier overall after switching back to 32 bit despite losing the ability to access all 4GB of SDRAM memory (now I get only 3.2GB losing the 0.8GB due to inability of 32 bit to access all the SDRAM DDR memory).

As for my old WD MyBook, the firewire still lags behind the USB portable drives data transfer speed. Hey, I thought firewire were suppose to be fast, but not so for Windows. I could of course revert to using USB connection then again, I didn’t want to waste the firewire connection plus I would want the extra USB connection for my other PC gadgets. Well waste not, want not, will just have to bear with the slower performance.

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