What is eSATA and how is it different that SATA?

eSATA (external Serial ATA) is an extension to the SATA (Serial ATA) standard, which enables SATA drives to be attached to a host computer externally. Although eSATA uses identical protocol signaling as SATA, the physical connector is different. The most obvious difference is that the eSATA connector is straight instead of the "L" shaped SATA connector. eSATA cables also contain an extra layer of shielding and the connectors have metal contact points to reduce EMI. The plug is also deeper to help protect against ESD (Electrostatic Discharge).

Is eSATA a hot-pluggable connection type?

Although eSATA is designed to be a hot-pluggable connection type, this feature requires proper support at the host, device, and controller level. Unfortunately, not all eSATA controller manufacturers properly support hot-plugging.

It is recommended that before disconnecting an eSATA device from your host, you safely eject the device, just as with unmounting a FireWire or USB device. If the eSATA controller does not offer this capability, it may be necessary to power down your machine before an eSATA device can be safely removed.

As with all forensic tools in your arsenal, please test your equipment before attempting to perform an acquisition of an evidence drive.

Is eSATA faster than FireWire 800?

Yes, eSATA is faster than FireWire 800.  The maximum *theoretical* transfer rate of an eSATA 150 connection is 1.5Gb/s (or 150MB/s), and an eSATA 300 connection is 3.0Gb/s (or 300MB/s). Whereas FireWire 800 has a maximum *theoretical* transfer rate of 800Mb/s (or 100MB/s).

Keep in mind that these transfer rates are *theoretical*.  Actual transfer rates are dependant on many factors.