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Summary:

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. […]

The IcyBox Hard Drive CaddyOften, 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.

Inside the IcyBoxSetting 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.

By David Appleyard

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  1. NTFS (that is, all Windows 2000-or-later-formatted volumes whose size is > 20 gb) drives cannot be written to by Mac OS X. Volumes formatted using FAT (the default for old versions of Windows and for newer versions for drives

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  2. with less than 20 gb of disk space) can be read and written to by OS X without problems.

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  3. Just wondering if anyone knows a US website that sells them. I can only find UK websites?

    Thanks.

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  4. tigerdirect.com and newegg.com both sell hard drive enclosures for about half this price which work fine. I’ve just purchases a Masscool enclosure for $29.

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  5. I would be careful about ones that “work fine”. At my work we bought some ADS ones that were supposed to be really good according to NewEgg reviews (don’t get me wrong I Like NewEgg), but they were horrible. We didn’t notice at first, we put some 300Gig hard drives in those bad boys and withing 4 weeks 2 overheated and are near death. We found the the manufacturing process didn’t always make the airholes in the case. In some cases the holes for the exhaust fan were still closed so we had to physically use a blad and cut the wholes ourselves.

    What makes the ICYBox so much better? Well since you asked it has an alluminum cage all the way around which allows better heat dissipation. On top of that the “pins” on the inside are made of (copper or aluminum) which will transfer the heat from the hard drive to the enclosure to give you one large heat sink for your drive. Lastly they positioned the drive on it’s side which allows for the heat leaving through the Icybox to have more air surface to dissipate the heat.

    Heat won’t be an issue for you if you run, say a 40 or even 80 Gig drive, but it’s very important on these larger drive 300G+.

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  6. I had the same problem – Re:
    “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.”
    Unfortunately in my case it killed a brand new 200GB Maxtor HD completely, stopped the drive spinning altogether.
    Does anyone know anything about this problem? (and also if the drive can be resurrected) – Also if firmware updates for the Icybox are available for Macs (OS X 10.4) and where to get them from if they are?

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  7. I have the same problem with my External being write protected on MACS… If I do format it again using a MAC, will it run the same on a PC?
    Cheers.

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  8. Hi
    My icy Box 351 won’t mount on my Intel iMac :((( it works fine on my G4 Powerbook? Anyone?

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  9. Very nice. You’re site is very helpful. right TV will create table without any questions

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