Often, you find that the hard drive capacity on your Mac just won’t cut it. As your collection of MP3′s, video and photographs begins to grow, you often find your diskspace running out at a fairly fast rate. There are two directions you can then take. If you own a machine such as a Power Mac, you can simply install an extra hard drive in there. If you use a Powerbook/iBook or a Mac Mini, you generally have to look for an external drive.
I found most of the external hard drives available to be very expensive – especially when I considered that I had two 160gb drives from my old Windows machine lying around. That’s when I discovered a hard drive caddy – an external case for your internal hard drive, which you can hook up to a Mac using Firewire/USB. These generally sell for around $50-$60 – much cheaper than buying a brand new external hard drive.
The model I am reviewing is the IB-350UE-BL. This features both USB 2.0 and Firewire connectivity, so is very flexible in how you link it to your Mac (or PC). It comes with all the necessary cables (both USB and Firewire), a stand to allow it to function on it’s side if desired, the required connections for the internal hard drive and a driver cd/instruction manual. As you can expect, you won’t need any drivers to operate it with OSX.
Setting up the drive should be a very easy process. In general, it is simply plug and play. However, I had a few problems with my installation in that my Mac recognised the hard drive, but wouldn’t write or edit any of the files on it. Even now, I don’t know why it was treated as a read only drive – possibly because it was formatted for Windows, and had a different file format to what OSX comes to expect. The problem was solved by formatting it using a Mac, but it did mean I had to transfer all my data off, then back on to it again.
One of the first things I noticed about the drive is that it is relatively noisy. I’m not sure why this is – maybe it’s just that I’m used to the near silence of a Mac Mini – but it was definitely a hinderance. So much so, there’s no way I would leave the drive on all of the time. However, once the drive was unmounted from my machine, everything went quiet – it was as if the Mac was constantly reading and writing data to/from it.
I was, however, very impressed with the drive’s speed and performance. It is fast, if not faster, than the internal drive in my Mac Mini. Reading and writing data is a snappy process, and it did not cause any noticable slow-down to my system. Another feature of the IcyBox is that the edges light up/flash with a blue light when data is being transferred. This is a novelty at first, but after a while does make you want to hide the drive away under a desk.
Connectivity was relatively good. USB2 and Firewire both worked after I’d discovered the aforementioned formatting problem. The drive also provides a firewire pass through – so you don’t really lose a port by plugging it in.
One recent problem I have being suffering is intermittent functionality with Tiger. When I plug it in, sometimes Spotlight starts to index it, sometimes it is mounted and sometimes I can only access it through the terminal. I don’t know whether this is a problem which will be fixed in a later patch to Tiger – I can only hope so.
If you want to buy one, they are available through several US retailers, as well as in the UK. It is generally priced at around the $50-$60 mark. Much cheaper than buying an new external hard drive. Bear in mind, however, that there are lots of other similar products available. This IcyBox does have several flaws, which mean I would recommend searching for alternatives before rushing out to buy this particular model.