New External Hard Drive Question.


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jul 14, 2004
Hi all,

So I'm currently rocking a 12" rev. C powerbook with a paltry 60gig hard drive. I bought the book in December with the knowledge that I would eventually have to look into expansion, however I did not expect the transition to be so quick.

I'm in the market now for an external drive. I have a firewire bay already in my posession, but I don't want to get into a situation where i buy a standard 3.5" and get into compatibility issues. So, first question; if I buy a 3.5" drive am I going to encounter issues with compatibility? Should I be looking for any particular features?

I'm also looking for a lot of space. Around 250 gigs, to be exact. I need the drive primarily because of my ever-growing music collection. I'm at around 33gigs now, but am adding between 2 and 3 gigs a week. Based on this, and the knowledge that my primary focus on my powerbook will be music (Reason, Garageband) with the hope deep inside of me that I will get my **** together this summer and learn illustrator and photoshop, are there any further considerations I should be aware of regarding hard drives?

Finally, should I be surfing any particular websites to keep an eye on prices, and is eBay a good idea? Would it be stupid to abandon the existing bay in order to purchase some brand new drive plus enclosure?

right, this is kind of convoluted, but hopefully you catch my meaning, and can help me out. Thanks in advance for any response.



Moderator emeritus
Mar 10, 2004
Bergen, Norway
You have to know which type the 3.5" FW enclosure supports, i.e. if it's IDE/ATA or S-ATA.

Then it should be easy to find an appropiate HD. I generally recommend Seagate Barracudas. They are very high quality and extremely quiet in use. The biggest IDE/ATA disks (I know of) at the moment is 250 GB, and not too expencive... if the enclosure is S-ATA then you can get Barracudas at both 300 and 400 GB, but that's gonna cost you more... ;)


macrumors member
Mar 18, 2005
Actually there are 300 and 400 GB IDE hard drives available, for around $180 and $240, respectively. You definitely pay more per gigabyte once you get above 250 GB, though. I mean, it's $130 for a 250 GB, which is only 52 cents per GB. Those 300 and 400 GB drives are 60 cents per GB.

As for IDE vs. SATA, there's really no difference between them yet. Most hard drives can't go fast enough to saturate an ATA/100 bus anyway, so SATA's 50% higher bandwidth doesn't really help any. The prices are about the same and in fact, many SATA hard drives are just IDE drives with an IDE-SATA bridge built in.

The main advantage to SATA is that there are a few emerging technologies that are part of SATA and not part of IDE. The newest SATA drives have "Native Command Queueing," which is supposed to increase performance a bit. Also, SATA drives use a simpler, smaller connector and no jumper settings, and several companies are putting their latest tech advances into their SATA drives first.

There are very few options for using a SATA drive externally over Firewire. I looked around and could only find an extremely expensive solution (around $200) from WiebeTech to convert SATA to Firewire. Another option is a $50 SATA to IDE bridge board coupled with a $40 Firewire enclosure. But if you're planning on using the drive externally, you should just get an IDE.

Oh, another interesting thing I found was that there are several external SATA drive cases that simply provide an enclosure for the hard drive with a SATA connector on the back. The idea is that you get a SATA card for one of your PCI slots with an external connector, and then actually run the drive over the SATA bus externally. It's an interesting concept and given enough time it may even replace Firewire and USB 2.0 for external hard drives, but it's limited to computers with PCI slots.


macrumors 6502
Oct 21, 2004
Olde Englande
Assuming your current FW box is an IDE / ATA one (as the vast majority are), then any compatible HD will work fine.

Many of the all-in-one external drives are simply a box made by the manufacturer (ie Lacie) with a 3rd party HD in it anyway, so if you already have the box then why waste money on another?

My preference is also for Seagate drives. The 80GB one I use has been great for the year that I've had it. The Maxtor I initially bought died after about 2 months of use, but that could have been down to the early Panther builds and their documented FW problems.


macrumors 68030
Nov 7, 2003
It sounds like you want to build one vs buying a pre-made. quality varies between enclosurers. I find that metal gear box by ppa works well on both macs and pc imho. no one mention above about the LBA-48bit limit. You say what the hell is that? Well, just remember to find an enclosurer that support your size drive. some enclosurer only support 136 gb drives, the others with LBA-48 bit support larger drive sizes. please be sure you buy the right enclosurer to match you drive. if you goto the store that carries a lot of empty enclosurer be sure and read the side or ask what the limit is.
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