MBA + iPhone + external HD - powered hub needed?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Ringu, Mar 1, 2008.

  1. Ringu macrumors member

    Mar 20, 2005
    I'm planning on storing my photos, movies and movies on an external HD (or my ipod classic). Does the MBA need to use a powered USB hub in order to have an external HD and an iPhone/iPod connected at the same time?

    Or will they run on a non-powered hub?

  2. rgbyhkr macrumors member

    Jul 1, 2007
    In my tests, I found that a non-powered hub would not pass through power to the external HDD. I was doing the exact same thing you were using an external HDD (WD Passport Essential 320GB) and iPhone or iPod (tested both) connected to a hub then to the MBA. I also happened to test a Flash drive at the same time (Corsair 8GB GT). The Flash Drive could be accessed as could the iPhone or iPod, but not the HDD. My hub is a 4-port IOGEAR MicroHub. It has the option to attach a power supply. Without the power supply connected, the HDD couldn't pull power. With the power supply connected, the drive worked just fine.

    One interesting item I tested was to use a USB battery pack to power the drive. I have a macally JBox that I use to recharge my iPod or iPhone when on the go. I also have a y-adapter USB cable for the WD HDD. That's a cable that has one connection to the drive and 2 USB connections. Older Powerbooks don't provide enough juice through one USB port to power some external drives, so the y-cable does data+power on one USB connection and extra power on the other connection so the drive can be used. Using this cable, I can connect one USB connection to the non-powered hub and the other to the JBox. The drive pulls power from the JBox and can then be used. It's an interesting portable power solution with one major caveat. I'd be a little worried that, as the battery drains, you could have insufficient power provided to teh drive during a read/write and thus risk damage to it.

  3. bjdraw macrumors 6502a

    Jan 24, 2008
    Tampa FL
    I had the same problem. I have to copy files to the MBA first and then sync.

    I keep all my photos and music on the MBA, but copy the videos I want to sync over.

    Both the external HDD and the iPhone work fine when connected to a power usb hub.
  4. Ringu thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 20, 2005
    Thanks for the replies.

    I wonder if a Y-USB cable will work to power an external HDD + iPod?
  5. bjdraw macrumors 6502a

    Jan 24, 2008
    Tampa FL
    A Y-USB didn't work when I tried it.

    Actually I have to use the Y-USB cable with the non-powered hub, or the drive doesn't work at all. But as soon as I plug in the iPhone the drive stops working.
  6. Ringu thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 20, 2005
    Thanks for the info.

    So it appears that a powered hub appears to be the answer. Another power brick to carry around :(

    Apple please add another USB port in the MBA2.
  7. ViperrepiV macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2008
    Bringing this thread back....

    I ran into my first problem with the Air's one USB port. I will be working abroad for 3 months, so i will be using my MBA as my primary computer. As such, I want to sycn my iPhone with my MBA.

    I have some music on my MBA, but I have the majority on an external WD passport that I recently purchased. Both the music on the air and the music on the extenral HD are in the iTunes library, but i have created a playlist with the music that is only actually on the air, so when I am away from the HD, I don't have to worry about not being able to play some of the music.

    I created an iPhone playlist, most of the music on that is actually stored on the MBA, and about 1/5th is on the external.

    So I restored my phone, and I go to sync the iPhone, and wow, the realization hits me that I only have one USB port. I tried an unpowered USB hub, was able to get both the HD and the iphone connected, but the transfer didn't go so well.

    So now I have two options:

    1) transfer all the songs on the iphone playlist that are on the external to the air's hard drive. I have about 30GB free, which is good, but I'd rather not do this...
    2) go out and buy a powered USB hub for like $35 and pray that it works.

    Not sure which to have people's success been with powered hubs? has anyone run into any issues? I'm thinking that I will probably need the hub eventually - where i am going, they don't have wireless internet, so I will need the USB ethernet adapter, the HDD, and from time to time, the iPhone.

  8. Ringu thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 20, 2005
    I have all my photos & music on a portable HDD and use a powered hub to sync my ipod & iphone. It works well enough, although not ideal only because of the extra power brick for the USB hub.

    I'm about to try the Dr Bott hub, which I think will be able to power my external HHD as well as an ipod/iphone without needing an extra external power supply for the hub. Fingers crossed.

    I don't know if the USB Ethernet adapter will work through the DrBott hub though. Probably it will (it worked through my powered hub).
  9. ViperrepiV macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2008
    cool, thanks for the info. at least i know it will work with the powered USB hub that i just ordered
  10. born2win413 macrumors member


    May 17, 2008
    I am facing the same situation now that I got an iPhone...again.

    My MacBook Air and my new WD Passport Elite 320gb belongs together yet I want to store songs on the external hard drive and sync with my iPhone and iPod Video.. so I am thinking of using my Xbox 360 Hd-dvd drive with it since it has extra usb port on it.. hehe, hope this works...
  11. EspressoLove macrumors 6502


    Jun 29, 2007
    Bay Area
    Buddy over here has found wiring for 3 more USBs inside of MBA.
    And as Air uses standard Intel's chipset, it's no wonder it's [electrically] capable of total 7/14 USB connections.

    My thinking is : collect power from those unused pins, and route it to sole USB connector MBA has.
    That way MBA would be capable of handling multiple devices sitting on the USB hub ("unpowered", so no powerbrick/etc hassle).

    Sure it's for those willing to hack (no risk if you know what you doing), yet SJ'RDF'ed enough to lust after MBA (me for example :p)
    So please no bashing for unholy thoughts ;)
    I just want my rev.B MBA to be even better :):apple::D
  12. conradmaya macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2008
    usb hubs

    what hubs do work with external 320 drives and the HDD macbook external drive? I have had no luck with these two
  13. born2win413 macrumors member


    May 17, 2008

    UPDATED: It didn't work...
  14. born2win413 macrumors member


    May 17, 2008

    How do i store my musics on an external portable usb hard drive and sync my iphone with it?? what kind of usb extension do i need to buy in order for it to work in addition to a superdrive i might get in the future??
  15. ViperrepiV macrumors regular

    Jan 25, 2008
    you need a powered USB hub. but FYI, the only way the superdrive will work is if it is plugged in directly to the port.
  16. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Yeah that's the unfortunate part; if you wand a DVD-burner than works on all USB ports then you need to buy one from say Lenovo and it will cost like $250; so $99 for a SuperDrive that only works on the Air is not bad.
  17. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    Back in June I took my MBA, a powered USB hub and a couple of external HDs with me on a trip. I had my memory card reader because I knew I'd be wanting to upload photos each day. The plan was to be able to plug the powered hub into the MBA's USB port and then plug the memory card reader and one of the external drives into that so that I could upload directly into the external drive, bypassing the MBA altogether. Well....things didn't work that way. I wound up plugging the memory card reader directly into the MBA, uploading images from the memory card into the MBA, then unplugging the card reader and plugging in the external drive and transferring all the images from the MBA's SSD drive to the external HD. This took MUCH more time than I'd planned and I was rather irritated.

    I have not set up iTunes in the MBA so there is no way I could sync my iPhone with it, and instead I had the dock with me so that I could simply plug the thing into the wall charger and into a wall power source and recharge my iPhone that way. No connecting with the computer at all.

    So I was not exactly pleased when I realized that the powered hub was still not going to allow me to do what I wanted.... Fortunately, most of the time this is not an issue and much of the time when the MBA leaves the house and goes somewhere with me it's not a big deal. However, yes, on those occasions when I'm on a trip where I'm doing a lot of photography I really, REALLY would appreciate having either a firewire port or at least another USB port on my MBA!!!

Share This Page