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Questions about external firewire hard drive / enclosure for Mac (1 Viewer)


Supporting Actor
Aug 8, 2002
Hi everyone,

I'm looking for a good external hard drive storage solution for my Mac G4. I want at least 120 GB and a firewire connection. I've been looking at complete external hard drives like the Maxtor one-touch series, but after checking the prices, it seems like it would be more affordable to get a good hard drive and an external enclosure. But I'm not entirely certain how to look for the best combination of drive and enclosure.

Here's what I'm thinking - I'd like the drive to be at least 7,200 RPM with an 8 MB buffer. I'm not sure exactly how necessary this is or how much of a difference it would make - I intend to use the drive for backup, not as a primary drive with the OS on it. Should I still consider 5,400 RPM drives or 7,200 RPM drives with only a 2 MB buffer? Are Maxtor and Western Digital still good choices, or are there other brands I should consider as well?

And I'm not quite sure about what specifics I should look for in an enclosure. I've been reading that I should get one with the Oxford 911 chipset. Is this still the best? And should I consider trying to find an enclosure with a fan? My last internal hard drive burnt out and I'm a little concerned about heat issues. Finally, what are some good brands for enclosures? All the ones I'm seeing are stuff I've never heard of.

Oh, and are there any other compatibility issues with Mac that I should be aware of?

Thanks for your help,

Max Leung

Senior HTF Member
Sep 6, 2000
Well, the Oxford 911 chipset seems to be the most common. Almost all the enclosures I've seen use it. I have no idea what Maxtor is using with their One Touch drives.

I have a 200Gb Maxtor One Touch, which is firewire/usb2. 7200 RPM drive with 8mb buffer I believe. The 250gb one is 5400 rpm I think. I mainly use it for DVD ripping and as a backup drive. I chose the One Touch because it supports hard drive power down when not in use. As far as I can tell, none of the other enclosures I've seen support that feature, which I think is very important for extending drive life (especially at 7200 rpm, which gets pretty darn hot).

The only issue with the One Touch is that you need to install a driver to use the button (and the power down feature too), although I think (I hope!) you can forego installing it if you want to simply use it as an external hard drive on a computer that doesn't have the drivers.

There are many hard drive enclosure brands out there, many of which use the same chipset (possibly with different revisions or firmware), with the resultant quality differences. I have a cheap-ass (Welland?) firewire/usb2 enclosure for my DVD burner, and the fan noise is just terrible. But the One Touch is whisper quiet. I also had major issues daisy-chaining the One Touch with my DVD burner, causing one or the other drive to drop out or hang the computer!

Don't rely on daisy-chaining drives with the cheaper enclosures...get a good firewire hub instead. I got a Belkin 5 port firewire hub for $90 Canuckbucks. Well worth it.

5400 RPM hard drives: Run cooler. Slower, cheaper, and quieter, but not really noticeable unless you intend to do a lot of DV work. These drives should last longer, in theory. Higher capacities available.

7200 RPM: Run hotter, sometimes very hot. Louder. More expensive, especially at larger sizes.

Cache size is fairly important. A 5400 RPM drive with 8mb cache can outperform a 7200 RPM 2mb drive, depending on the application. Since you're just using the drive as backup, it shouldn't matter in your case.

Ken Chan

Senior HTF Member
Apr 11, 1999
If you're thinking of future-proofing, you might consider an enclosure with FireWire 800 that uses Oxford 922.

You can get empty enclosures or ones with drives at Wiebetech.

Joseph S

Senior HTF Member
Dec 23, 1999
If you don't need external, I'm very happy with the Firmtek SerialATA card (which supports deep sleep) and two internal SATA drives in my G4. So much quieter than the noisy old 120GBs and my system is flying with over 400GB internal storage. Finally, no longer held up by the old ATA 66 built-in and its speed and size limitations.

That said I've had great success with the Granite Digital hotswap FW enclosures for my HDTV PVR storage.

Len Cheong

Second Unit
Mar 18, 2000
Lacie makes many hard drives - up to 1 terabyte. I have a 250gb fw800 drive and it keeps both pc and mac files. Small footprint as well - 6x2x6 I think.

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