MacInTouch Reader Reports

Hard Drives: Enclosures

Jan. 3, 2009
Jan. 5, 2009
Apr. 27, 2009
Oct. 6, 2010
Oct. 7, 2010
Oct. 22, 2010
Oct. 23, 2010
Jan. 3, 2011
Jan. 4, 2011
Jan. 5, 2011
Jan. 6, 2011
Jan. 7, 2011

Newer entries...
Jan. 3, 2009

item.84531

Jerry W

A question regarding the NewerTech Ministack enclosures from Otherworldcomputing, which include a powered USB hub. Perhaps someone can test this.

(if you test, let me know what version of the enclosure you have).

With the V2, V2.5, and V3 enclosures, does the USB hub still function if the drive is turned off using its power switch (but with the drive still plugged in)?

Jan. 5, 2009

item.84596

Joe F

For Jerry - I performed the test you asked about, neither the USB or Firewire ports work when the power switch is turned off with the drive still plugged in. So the hubs are only active when the drive it turned on (not surprising). I believe I have a v2 drive, but it might be the v2.5 version. The ports are the same as the v2.5, but it has an ATA drive, not the SATA drive of the v2.5.

I assume your concern is with power consumption. I'm not sure how much power it uses, but the drive does spin down when not in use (at least when it's connected via Firewire, USB can be a little more finicky) and the fan runs only when needed.

item.84615

Andreas Szabados

In response to Jerry W's question regarding the NewerTech Ministack:

The answer is no (at least for the Ministack v3). Turning the 'stacks power off disables the built-in USB hub. I am fishing in my memory here but I think the same is true for the FW part of the hub.

This is more annoying than it seems. If you have a not-so silent HD installed in the 'stack (like I do), it's not really possible to dial down the decibels by turning it off and keep on using the hub part. I ended up getting the Belkin Mac Mini FW/USB hub for that purpose.

The HD bridge in the 'stack does seem to support drive sleep, however.

Apr. 27, 2009

item.91158

John P

Regarding the Ministack v.3, I can't seem to get the Ministack to sleep reliably when the Mini does, when I have the USB A-B cable connected, even if any of the USB devices fed from the Ministack are off.

When I don't use the Ministack as a USB hub, the drive sleeps perfectly when the Mini does. I shouldn't be surprised since the USB bus on the Mini is still powered in sleep.

Oct. 6, 2010

item.122258

Gary Sabo

There's an interesting dilemma between empty HD enclosures (e.g. Newer Tech, OWC, Macally etc) and the HDAs themselves (e.g. Seagate, WD, Hitachi, etc).

Early Newer Tech enclosures like the V1 and V2 spec'd their power supplies at "OUTPUT 12V+, 2A". This is the power supplied for startup or spin-up. All Hitachi drives are spec'd at 2.0A for startup and WD at 1.75A (e.g 500GB PATA) to 2.08A (the new Black Caviars at 1TB). All the Seagates and Maxtors I've purchased the last 5 years (from 250GB to 750GB) are all spec'd at 2.8A for startup. So it's possible that Seagates at 2.8A in a Newer Tech V2 at 12v+/2A will not spin up.

Lately I've noticed the Newer Tech V3 and OWC AL Elites/Quads enclosures are including 12V+/3.0A power supplies, sufficient for most bare drives sold today. QWC dual QUADs are now supplied with 12V+/4.2A supplies.

Startup current (amps) specs are hard to find. Hitachi always publishes theirs on its website. Seagate and WD specs are buried deep in the technical literature not normally supplied with the drive. So it pays to know the 12V+/xA of the empty enclosure power supply and the HDA requirement (12V+/xA) for startup before mating these two items together.

Oct. 7, 2010

item.122314

Stephen Clark

Gary Sabo's comments about power supplies is worthwhile for those who find they have issues mating supplies to drives.

I believe it's worth adding (for those not as electronically-savvy as many of us) that a power supply can be over-rated in amperage without fear of damage to a hard drive. In this case, more is better: a drive will only pull the amps it needs from an over-capacity PS, but if the amperage is not there to begin with you're out of luck.

Polarity and voltage however *must* be properly matched! To do otherwise will result in damage almost certainly.

Oct. 22, 2010

item.123195

John Etnier

Are there any FW800 multi-disk enclosures which directly support, say 4-8 SATA drives in JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks, or: *no* RAID)?

Oct. 23, 2010

item.123217

Grandy Pollo

[Re:]

Are there any FW800 multi-disk enclosures which directly support, say 4-8 SATA drives in JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks, or: *no* RAID)?

Check with OWC and Sonnet.

item.123227

David Anders

I would suggest reading this wiki
  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-RAID_drive_architectures
Other World Computing has this enclosure
  http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/hard-drives/RAID/Rack_Mount/

item.123257

Doug Weiner

Funny, there used to be hundreds of these on ebay, now, 0. They were actually 8 drive towers with two FW400 ports on them, and each port would give you access to 4 JBOD drives. I think the bridgeboard was from Addonics using an Oxford chipset. Now Addoncs doesn't carry any FW bridgeboards. Anyway, here is one I found but not sure it does JBOD.

http://oyendigital.com/hard-drives/store/RS-M4QO-8TB.html

Google search "Oxford Chipset 4 bay"

Good luck.

I have a whole bunch of 2bay enclosures from OWC I will be selling on ebay soon - PATA and SATA.

item.123264

MacInTouch Reader

Well, at least four, check this out:
  http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/hard-drives/RAID/Desktop/

item.123272

Chuck K

Off the top of my head, Sans Digital makes 4- and 5-bay jbod enclosures with FW800. I personally have had one of the two-bay ones for a little over a year and love it. Years ago I bought an 8-bay FW400 tower (to IDE, not SATA), so I'm sure newer kinds exist.

item.123275

James Prete

I have built several RAID towers using parts supplied by FWDepot which is now out of business.

My most recent 8-bay was built using this enclosure (search on the net for best price ~ 310.00USD

SANS DIGITAL TR8M-B 8 Bay SATA to eSATA (Port Multiplier) JBOD Enclosure

Coupled with the Highpoint Raid Card and it is by far the best Raid I've ever built.

HPTRR2314, $195.99 each
HighPoint RocketRaid 2314 PCI-Express eSATA 4 Port RAID Controller Card. Supports 4 drives direct, or 20 drives via port multiplication, RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD. 3 Year Warranty.

FW800 was great for many years, eSata is better.

item.123277

Lyman Taylor

Re:

Are there any FW800 multi-disk enclosures which directly support, say 4-8 SATA drives in JBOD?

Unfortnately, JBOD is an overloaded term that means two different things. One is concatenation/spanning of multiple drives (no RAID redundancy or striping, just "extend" the space of first drive with second, second with third, etc.).

The second is four independently-accessed drives that are not connected into a logical/virtual device.

The painful thing is many vendors make it hard to tell which one they are talking about.

This one is an example of the first though.
  http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/hard-drives/RAID/Desktop/

If you just ignore the RAID abilities of the Drobo box and set up 4 different volumes in a box with 4 disks you'll get 4 independent volumes. I suspect though looking for something with something like a de facto SATA port multiplier without any RAID abilities hoping it will be cheaper. I don't think [you're] going to find many of those.

There are several external boxes can get if just want a SATA port multiplier.
  http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Sans Digital/TR5MB/

However, a box with just an internal FW switch/hub won't have much market traction. The individual drives have SATA connectors. If have to spend embedded CPU cycles to convert to FW then it isn't a big jump to doing some low-level RAID too.


item.123278

Richard Day

I recently ordered a ProAvio EditBox 4 UF, which is a JBOD FireWire 800 enclosure. Have not received it yet, but it looks like a very nice unit. (I was cautioned that, although the unit is JBOD -- no RAID-- the controller chips handle the drives in pairs; the only practical effect of this is that you must unmount the second drive in that pair - i.e. the top two drives or the bottom two drives - in order to remove the other one in the pair. This would only be a hassle if you're frequently hot-swapping drives.)

I ordered my unit from DV Shop in Toronto, and they had to special order it in. They only ship within Canada.

item.123311

MacInTouch Reader

WiebeTech makes outstanding quality HD enclosures using Oxford chips.

Jan. 3, 2011

item.126987

John Kehoe

Hi Folks, and Happy New Year too!

I am looking for a reliable external FireWire enclosure for my Mac Mini (Intel and still running Tiger) after having miserable experience with my Buffalo brand setup. Long story made short, this 1TB drive sometimes won't mount, will cause the Mac to freeze if the Mac is allowed to sleep and at other times the Finder hangs when attempting to eject it. I learned that I'm not alone; here are some links to Buffalo Tech Forums:

  DriveStation Combo 4 1000GB, eSATA/USB 2.0/FireWire 400/800 HD-HS1.0TQ Macbook Pro not working-help!
  Drive Station Combo 4 1 tb - Mac freeze

I see some offerings from Other World Computing "OWC" and MacAlly that interest me. Does anyone out there have any experience with these drive enclosures?

Thank you for any feedback.

Jan. 4, 2011

item.127010

Jack Wenrick

I have two Macally G-S350SUA enclosures I purchased from OWC and I really like them. Built like tanks - similar in appearance to the Mac Pro computers. Each has a 1TB Hitachi SATA disk installed.

My only complaint is that they don't have Firewire 800 ports, only Firewire 400, USB 2 and eSATA.

Therein lies the rub. Neither my 2010 iMac 27" i7, nor my new MacBook Pro 13" have eSATA because Apple has not chosen to include eSATA ports on their computers. So I use a 400-800 cable for connections which does not provide optimal speed for backing up with SuperDuper.

MacAlly makes the G-S350SUAB enclosure that includes a Firewire 800 port that are more expensive.

item.127012

Ed Sikorski

Re: Enclosures for John Kehoe

I would recommend the OWC Mercury Elite products, Wiebetech toughtech, though priced higher than most, or the least expensive external I've found is the Micronet Fantom drive.

I've been happy recommending the OWC models without issue for a few years now. I've not seen any bridge (Firewire) with those mentioned models (I use all three brands).

item.127015

BiL Castine

OWC drives and enclosures are the best on the market. I have bought more than 50 of them for my clients and never had any trouble.

item.127017

Gregory Weston

John Kehoe is interested in feedback on external FireWire cases. I've used several different models from OWC and with the exception of one model that's now long out of production they've been stellar. I've used multiple generations of the miniStack, Mercury Elite-AL, Mercury Elite (plastic) and Neptune cases, as well as one Mercury On-The-Go and most recently a Guardian Maximus (which was delivered with a faulty heat sensor, quickly replaced). Would not hestitate to buy from them again.

item.127019

Samuel Herschbein

Check the chipset used in the enclosure. Some chipsets perform better than others on different Macs & different interfaces.

I've bought many OWC internal and external drives for myself and clients, all models except one worked perfectly.

A 2.5" drive Mercury Elite-AL Pro mini had some issues on an iMac 27" and my MacBook Pro 17" Late 2008. It uses the Oxford 934DSB chipset.

Many 3.5" drive Mercury Elite-AL Pro enclosures I've bought use the Oxford 924DS. I've used all four of the quad interfaces on these drives without a single glitch.

I highly recommend OWC, their support and business ethics are the best around.

My experience has been that Hitachi hard drives are the most reliable, they're the only brand I buy right now. Of course, OWC sells the other brands.

item.127030

MacInTouch Reader

I have a couple of the "OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro" units (quad interface) units and I have been very happy with them.

item.127031

Tim Wojtyniak

To respond to John Kehoe's query about external drive enclosures, I have been a customer and fan of OWC's products for many many years, but have had some bad luck with their MiniStack enclosure as well as their Voyager Q. The two Ministack v.3s that I bought have each been back two times and one is due to go back a third time for problems I've heard mirrored here before - the drive spontaneously dismounts. The Voyager Q had a design problem allowing the drive to tip and disconnect itself. With both of my primary backup devices unreliable, I chose to fix the Voyager with a rubber pad to keep the drive oriented properly. The MiniStack now sits unused because I don't believe I can trust it.

The other offerings from OWC may be fantastic, but I am now skeptical because of all of the trouble, particularly because no cause was found (or acknowledged) despite others reporting similar problems. I wish John well in finding a solution he can trust his data with.

P.S. To preempt thoughts that the computer or cables might be at fault, the MiniStacks were connected to different machines and cables were swapped out to test.

item.127032

MacInTouch Reader

I use the Newer Technologies miniStack V2.5 & V3.0 enclosures with my Mac Minis. They're sold by Other World Computing and are usually highlighted in their garage sales. The V3 miniStack has the same external connections as your Buffalo unit. Here's Here's one on sale today.

If you don't mind the external enclosure not matching the Mini, OWC has numerous enclosures. I have several of the excellent Elite Al(uminum) Pro series with, again, the same external connections as the Buffalo unit. Here's one in their garage sale today.

I've also heard several people extol the BYTECC series of enclosures at Newegg. I don't own them, so YMMV.

item.127036

Sterett Prevost

Re: John Kehoe and external FW enclosure:

I've had nothing but good experiences with products from OWC. If it breaks, they replace it. I used to look "all over" for the lowest prices, but some of those purchases were disappointing in the long run. I trust OWC, as they've been doing Apple since the 80's. As to Macally, some of my clients have had failures. As to bare enclosures in general, I see more drives fail than the enclosures (except for LaCie enclosures, where enclosure failure is about 100% over the long run.) As to something that might match the Mac Mini's form factor, OWC's "ministack" line might work well, and they contain powered USB & FireWire hubs built in. I've done over 10 installs of the ministack, starting with empty enclosures and adding the client's hard drive of choice. None have failed in use, so far, to include my own sitting under the Intel mini that replaced my MDD G4 tower. I'm not a fan of Western Digital bare drives, preferring Hitachi, Toshiba, Maxtor and Seagate (except their 7200.11) Of course, YMMV, LSMFT, etc. Once inside the ministack case I found there's a tight fit for some of the wires, and it helps to remove the built-in fan and replace it at the end after coaxing the internals into a better fit. If that's not your "cup 'o tea" buy one of the ones with a drive already inside.

item.127037

Brian Shaw

To John Kehoe:

I have two OWC 3.5" Mercury Elite enclosures that have been completely problem free for years. I bought one for my nephew who, likewise, has had no issues.

item.127039

Stephen Hart

John Kehoe asked about OWC enclosures.

I have four OWC enclosures in my office at the moment, two new ones and the old ones I'm replacing. I have two more new ones stored off site.

I'd recommend them highly, with a drive installed or for DIY.

In many years as an OWC customer I've had to return three products: one bad RAM DIMM, one bad enclosure (bought on sale as an "open box" item), and a raw drive I ordered but then decided I didn't need.

item.127043

David Charlap

John Kehoe wrote:

"I am looking for a reliable external FireWire enclosure ... "

I don't have personal experience with OWC enclosures, but I've read good reports about them.

I have used Vantec NexStar 3 cases for my external hard drives. There are many varieties of the NexStar 3, with a variety of different interfaces - I have been buying the one that supports USB, FW400 and eSATA and have been quite satisfied. I use one with a 1TB drive as my Time Machine volume, and two with 2TB drives (which I keep powered off when not in use) to store my weekly Retrospect backups. All attached to my Power Mac G4 via FW400 (all sharing a single port via a FW hub.)

Before I started using the Vantec cases, I used cases from Ultra Products and was happy with them, but it appears that they no longer make drive cases with FW interfaces. Their web site only lists USB and eSATA cases.

A close friend of mine has used a variety of MacAlly cases and has had good luck with them as well. He's used the PHR-S100SUA case (3.5" SATA drive, USB, FW400 and eSATA interface), the PHR-S100A (3.5" PATA drive, FW400), the PHR-S250CC (2.5" SATA drive, USB and FW400) and the PHR-S250UAB (2.5" SATA drive, USB, FW400 and FW800.)

item.127046

Jay Pechek

Hi John,

I am sorry for the issue that you are experiencing with the DriveStation Combo4. If you can send an email to me at jayp at buffalotech, I will see if we can get your issue resolved.

Regards,
Jay Pechek
Public Relations Manager
Buffalo Technology
_________________________________
Office 512.349.1333 | Mobile 512.739.7275
11100 Metric Blvd Ste. 750 | Austin, TX 78758
jayp at buffalotech
www.buffalotech.com
_________________________________

item.127050

Steven MacDonald

I have four OWC Mercury drives in 1 or 2 TB capacities, some e-sata/FW800 and some FW400 and have yet to have a problem with any of them. They are fan-less and very quiet.

item.127052

Dave Howe

I have had good experiences with both OWC and MacAlly...half a dozen or so of each source.

item.127053

John Baltutis

John Kehoe wrote:

"I see some offerings from Other World Computing "OWC" and MacAlly that interest me. Does anyone out there have any experience with these drive enclosures?"

I'm using both of these w/o issues:

Macally GS350SUAB Hi-Speed eSATA/1394A/1394B/USB2.0 Storage Enclosure for 3.5inch SATA HDD and Macally GS350SUA Hi-Speed eSATA/1394A/USB2.0 Storage Enclosure for 3.5inch SATA HDD. Both work like a charm.

item.127065

Gary Kellogg

I think "crowd wisdom" is the way to go here. I visit Amazon, Newegg, and OWC and look at the reviews. I have never been led astray at any price point.

For 3.5 inch drives, I recently bought a Macally G-S350SUA because it looks cool although it is bulky. Otherwise the Acomdata for 2.5 inch drives works great. (Wherever you happen to be when you find the one you want, go to Amazon for the buy from this site to support MacInTouch).

item.127079

Skot Nelson

I've been happy enough with MacAlly's G-S350SUA that I bought a second one to hold a Western Digital Caviar Black. It's not a RAID device, so if that's a priority you might want to look for something else.

The G-S350SUAB has FireWire 800 but I found the price in Canada disproportionate to my perceived advantage; your value equation may be different.

I generally find MacAlly enclosures to be very very good. I've owned two of their 2.5" ones; one is now my mother's Time Machine drive and the other is holding the 320GB drive I swapped out of my PowerBook for a 640GB one.

item.127087

Steve Major

While on topic of drive enclosures, if you're looking for "simple" hardware-based mirror storage (RAID1), I highly recommend Newer Tech's Guardian Maximus (also available from OWC):

http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/firewire/usb/raid_1/Gmax

It is available with drives or as an "add your own drives" option.

A few years ago I needed something a little better than Apple's software-based drive mirroring for my Mac mini Server. This fit the bill and works perfectly.

Being hardware based, the controller in the enclosure handles the RAID so the Mac just sees the drives as a single unit so no software configuration.

It's a solid, easy to work inside, enclosure with Firewire 400, 800, USB2, and eSATA ports.

Jan. 5, 2011

item.127095

MacInTouch Reader

I agree insofar as OWC products. They are always of excellent quaility.

I have been using enclosures from Rocstor, lately the Rocpro 850 enclosure. It is fanless and therefore quiet. The advantage is that they have a built in power supply thus requiring only a generic computer power cord for the electrical connection rather than having to use an external transformer.

I am currently using two of them into which I put 1TB WD Green drives. I have them set up as Time Machine backup drives. I leave them on all the time, with sufficient ventilation of course. The get only slightly warm to the touch and the combination is extremely quiet. You can barely hear them.

They have connections for USB 2, Firewire 800 and SATA.

Just Google "Rocpro 850 enclosure" for a list of vendors.

item.127096

Scott Citron

After years suffering the consequences of buying cheap-o drives and enclosures, my last two purchases have been from OWC. Not only is their staff very knowledgeable about what they sell, but all products are backed by a simple and efficient service dept. Once again, this appears to be another example of how you get what you pay for.

item.127097

Gregory Weston

Sterett Prevost responds to John Kehoe:

"As to something that might match the Mac Mini's form factor, OWC's "ministack" line might work well, and they contain powered USB & FireWire hubs built in."

I have a nit with this particular comment. Not sure about the USB side, but I can't consider the FW support in the miniStack to be a powered hub. It will pass power if it's getting power from the host but (if you're using a port isolator) will not provide power to downstream devices on its own.

item.127099

Jeffrey Tveraas

One additional thing to consider if your Firewire devices disengage from your Mac for no apparent reason: the plug-jack connection. Like any physical electrical connection, any bit of tarnish, dirt, dust, finger oils or whim of nature that facilitates the shortest blockage of current will do the same thing. My Macbook and ProTools software occasionally loses track of my Digi 002r firewire 400 interface and I have traced the issue back to wear on the jack causing a looser connection and, for lack of a better term, 'schmutz' on the plug and in the jack.

Cleaning the connection always results in a long lasting, more secure connection. This is nothing new in the world of plugs and jacks, I'm sure we all have had dirty connections make trouble for our stereos and other electrical components. I'm not saying this is the only, or even the biggest reason for Firewire disconnects; all I'm suggesting is that it's worth your attention along with all the other usual suspects.

item.127105

Michael Fussell

I have a number of the OWC clear plastic bus-powered Mercury On The Go cases for 2.5-inch hard disks. They have worked well for me over the years. I like having bus-powered so that you can dispense with the wall wart and cord. I always get Firewire so that there is plenty of power for the bus-powered hard disk. For backups the 2.5-inch hard disk is plenty fast enough.

On a slightly different subject, I just installed a clamp-on shelf that fits on the back of an iMac, clamping to the support stand. The OWC 2.5-inch hard disk fits on the shelf nicely and using a short Firewire cable, connects directly to the Firewire port on the iMac. It makes for an excellent out-of-sight, no-desk-clutter, Time Machine backup.

item.127115

Robert Mohns

Sterett Prevost writes:

"I've had nothing but good experiences with products from OWC. If it breaks, they replace it."

Ditto. I've purchased from them for years. Just before Christmas one of the FB-DIMM's in my 2006 Mac Pro failed; I bought it from them years ago. I sent them a message with the serial number, but couldn't find my purchase information. Within a day they replied with an RMA, and had found my original order information to reference.

I mailed off the failed module, and they sent a replacement right back. No fuss, no muss.

Although once in a while they may screw up, in my experience, they make good. Every company makes mistakes, or suffers faulty components. The true test is what happens when they do.

item.127118

David Tetzlaff

Users looking for external hard drives should understand the nature of the beast. There are four parts to an external drive: the hard drive mechanism itself, the bridgeboard handles the I/O and lets the computer 'talk' to the drive, the power supply, and the physical case itself. All these parts are generic to some degree. For example, a vendor like OWC or Buffalo will buy their drive mechanisms from different sources. One batch will have Samsung mechanisms, another WD, and so on. A box o' chocolates... you never know what you're gonna get. There are also only so many controller chips that can be used for the bridgeboards: mainly Oxford products.

So what separates the more reliable units from the less reliable ones are: the quality of the power supply, the design of the part of the bridgeboard that handles the power and passes it to chip and drive, and the real Achilles heal of most of these things, the connector where the power supply plugs into the back of the drive case.

I'd say the majority of problems with external drives are caused by these connectors going back. The second most common problem is the power supply failing. Problems with the bridgboard or the mechanism itself are probably tied for a distant third.

(The Buffalo problem sounds like a bridgeboard issue to me...)

In my experience, a good sturdy connector on the case is _usually_ a sign that the bridgeboard should be solid as well.

What I try to avoid are, first, any cases that have a simple coaxial power plug. This means that the power supply is delivering just 12v to the bridgboard, and the bridgeboard has a voltage regulator circuit to create a 5v output for the chip and the drive. I'd much rather have both 5v and 12v delivered from the power supply so the bridgeboard can be simpler. I've also had several experiences of the coaxial power jacks in the drive becoming worn to the point of intermittent connection or breaking outright.

The most common connection uses a mini-din plug that sort of resembles a PS2 connector. These deliver both 5v and 12v. Here again, the jacks in the drive case often wear out. There are tiny pins in these connectors, and they don't hold up that well to multiple connect disconnect cycles.

So I prefer the brands that use a four pin connector with somewhat thicker pins.

The sign of a bad connection of course is that a gentle wiggling of the connector will have some effect, like powering the drive on and off...

If you're having problems with an external drive, and the connection seems solid, it's probably the power supply (especially if the drive worked fine when new, and now is misbehaving). If you look at old school external drives, which had the power supplies in the case, you'll see they all had cooling fans. So it stresses the components in an external PS to shut them up in that airtight plastic case. Also, computer power supplies expect to have a load attached, and don't like running without one. So if you leave your PS plugged into the wall, but disconnected from the drive that stresses it even more.

Anyway, if your external drive 'goes bad' the odds are that the expensive components - the mechanism and the bridgeboard - are just fine, and the unit will work fine with a new/different power supply... So you should try a differnt PS before chucking your drive, but WARNING! DANGER WILL ROBINSON! Although the various manufacturers mostly use the same plugs, they wire them differently. So another PS that fits your drive physically may not be compatible. There are almost always pin-out diagrams on the supplies, so check to see if they're compatible.

None of this is to contradict the advice to shoppers for new drives in the other posts. OWC does a very good job of putting their packages together, and they have good service. User reviews are good indicators of overall reliability. I just want people to know that what we're talking about here are choices made at some of the simplest levels of design, and there's no magic or voodoo. There are off-brand cases with good power-supplies and solid connectors, and they'll work as well as an OWC.

For anyone who can use a screwdriver, I recommend buying an empty case, a separate drive mechanism, and putting the mechanism in the case yourself (5 minutes max.). This way you get to choose your brand of mechanism, but more importantly you'll almost crtainly get a better warranty. Pre-assembled external drives generally have a one year warranty on the whole unit. Drive mechanisms have 3 to 5 year warranties...

item.127120

James Poulakos

At work and at home, I've used OWC's drives (not enclosures, mind you, but complete drives) for many years, with maybe 1 problem out of far more than 10 drives... too many to remember. I recommend their products highly. I go straight to their site when I want more external storage.

I tend to prefer the drives with big cache and the most connection options (FW 800, FW 400, USB 2, and eSATA, even).

I've been using one of the first miniStack drives they offered for about 4 or 5 years now, with no problems. When we replace that old mini, I'll get a new miniStack to pair with it again.

They're my favorite company to shop with for drives, cables and accessories. Highly recommended.

item.127130

Adam Barisoff

I have used multiple Toughtech (Wiebetech), both 2.5" and 3.5", as well as MacAlly enclosures for years with nary an issue. The ToughTech are pricey, but have shock absorbers built in to help protect from bumps and thuds when moving your drive.

The only duds I've ever had were generic/no-name portable Firewire enclosures that died, though that was years ago.

item.127137

Barry Stebbins

I have purchased several enclosures from OWC and assembled external drives using either internal hard drives that I purchased separately or hard drives from older computers. The longest operating drive is about 10 years old, it is in an OWC enclosure, and if it weren't for the little LED, I would not know it was running. I also have two dual drive enclosures, one is an older IDE and my newest is SAT.
Both are absolutely quiet. Both are Mercury Elite Pro enclosures. I highly recommend OWC - they know Mac and offer excellent customer service.

item.127141

Michael Crutcher

Our house has a "number" (currently 7) of OWC enclosures, both 2.5" and 3.5", as well as two of the NewerTech MiniStack v3 enclosures. Three of the OWC cases are the 2.5 OWC Mercury On-The-Go Pro drives using FW800 or USB. These are used for Time Machine backups on three laptops used by family members. I also currently have two of the MiniStack v3 cases enclosing drives for iPhoto & iTunes libraries. Finally, I have two of the NewerTech Guardian Maximus cases for backups of the iPhoto & iTunes collections. In addition, I have used the OWC two-drive AL Elite Pro cases in FW800 and eSATA configurations in the past. Of about 10 of these enclosures, roughly half were purchased with drives (Seagate or Hitachi) and roughly half I added drives from either Seagate or Western Digital.

I experienced problems only with one of the NewerTech Guardian Maximus enclosures, and OWC promptly replaced it. OWC is among the best for customer service.

Depending on your needs, OWC probably has an enclosure to meet them. From one drive to four, they probably can meet your requirements.

Yes, they often cost a bit more, but their enclosures are of high quality, the "just work," and on the rare occasion one fails to work, OWC customer service fixes the problem. (I have no connection of any kind with OWC, other than being a regular customer.)

item.127146

Greg Rombach

I wanted to add my kudos for OWC's enclosures.

In my opinion, as Mac retailer and IT pro of 20 years experience, OWC's enclosures are currently the best available for a reasonable price. The equipment is top-notch and, just as important, the customer service is excellent.

item.127148

John Kehoe

To our MacInTouch Community: thank you very much for so much outstanding information. I really appreciate it and all that MacInTouch offers us. Have a great 2011; now I'm off shopping =)

item.127149

Eric Dubiel

I really like the MiniStack V3 Hub/Quad Interface enclosure from Other World Computing, but having one such device with all those interfaces seems to suffice for many current needs. For other bare 2.5"/3.5" drives, OWC's Voyager S3 makes a lot of sense as Apple is likely to implement USB 3.0 in 2011 and this interface is ~1/2 the price of the Quad interface version plus a much simpler design. On top of that, it works with USB 2.0/1.1 as well. For a simplistic design 2.5" ext. enclosure, I went with the slim OWC Express USB 3.0 unit that also works with USB 2.0/1.1 and is also ~ 1/2 price from a Quad interface.

At this point, it seems foolish to keep buying a long list of other interfaces on most enclosures, given USB 3.0's speed advantage, especially for SSDs & RAIDs, and a strong likelihood of USB 3.0 showing on Macs shortly.

If some of the Quad interface enclosures had USB 3.0 -- then I may have considered them more seriously...

item.127155

Jen Cluse

... Thanks, David Tetzlaff, for your excellent summary, and warning on wiring variations. I used to think that I had really messed up, when I cooked an external power supply years ago. Instead it was just my ignorance of the non-standardization between power supplies. Ta!

item.127162

Ken Carolus

I have to agree with everyone else, OWC drives and enclosures are the best on the market. And the customer service is great, too.

item.127167

Matt Sullivan

Regarding John Kehoe's query about reliable firewire enclosures, I've been using an enclosure from MacGurus (FW 800, 400 USB2.0 Oxford chips) and have never had a problem with it. MacGuru seems to be responsive to my questions and well-informed about firewire as a technology. This particular drive has a removable single drive bay which I prefer since I rotate my backup drives like 8-track tapes. Another enclosure which I plan to buy is the Oyen Digital DataTale http://oyendigital.com/external-hard-drive.html . Also removable single, 2-bay and quad-bay enclosures, Oyen uses Oxford 934chips and has a clever transport mechanism for removing the drive from the enclosure. I have not owned one of these so I have no direct experience (nor am I affiliated with Oyen). FWIW, they appear to be well-designed products and I plan to get one eventually. My 2 cents.

item.127171

Jim Weisbin

On the subject of external enclosures, I too have had very good experience with OWC's "Mercury" enclosures and have furnished my company with many of them over the years. In my experience, LaCie products have a high failure rate and poor support.

Recently I purchased a 3 TB Hitachi (single 3.5") drive from OWC. I thought I could put it in one of their latest ("quad interface" single drive) enclosures, but I was wrong. They confirmed that the interface in those enclosures can only address up to 2 TB. They suggested a dual drive enclosure in which the single drive could be formatted as a JBOD single 3 TB drive, but that would defeat the whole purpose - in other words, in that case, why not just get two 2 TB drives and stripe them as one big 4 TB?

So, does anyone know of a single drive external enclosure that will support these 3 TB drives?

item.127174

Paul Specter

Okay, after seeing a ton of people recommending OWC products in this string of responses, one more probably is not needed, but here it is anyway. I've used numerous OWC products (RAM, drives, and drive enclosures. I have had nothing but good experiences with them. They are well built, thoughtfully designed, and have proven to be reliable. Because of the reliability, I have never had to test their exchange or repair process, but based on the way they have dealt with me so far, my assumption is that they would maintain the high standard when dealing with a problem.

Jan. 6, 2011

item.127182

MacInTouch Reader

Expanding a bit on David Tetzlaff's report, and perhaps to help Jim Weisbin's dilemma with 3TB drives:

The firmware being used inside the bridgeboard makes a big difference in the way things work with one-another. (Nearly *everything* uses firmware these days; that's how things get upgraded and/or fixed in many situations.)

For example, [in my educated opinion], this is the crux of the problem with 3TB drives: The Oxford (whatever chipset) firmware must recognize the "Advanced Format" inherent in any drive bigger than 2TB these days. Presently we are usually never told about this in particular in any advertising (even OWC's, as far as I can tell, unless one 'infers' somehow). MacInTouch had a recent onslaught of this very topic -- these huge drives use a 4096 sector size, well over the usual 512, and many interfaces & BIOS etc are not ready for this change.

Oxford has seemingly never released their firmware to the public -- one must always go thru the 'OEM'. In my case, my 'OEM' OWC never would do homework to let me have the latest & greatest firmware for their kits -- they only say "there's nothing available for your situation". What about *other* situations, mainly the kind that act to prevent any other known situations I have not seen personally yet? In old computer terminology, we call this preventative maintenance -- directly akin to why we all change the oil in our cars!

There _are_ companies who _do_ release firmware to the public, but caution that the update might not work in all brands. A most notable here was the Prolific.com.tw site (it works, just checked it), complete with "ChangeLogs" describing what they've done (including some very Mac specific details at times). CompUSA at least used-to use these chipsets in their external FW/USB kits.

BTW I myself have begun to use the IcyDock enclosures, based on Oxford though. IcyDocks come in quite a variety. Here, I love their "mountable" casings that do not need any extra contraptions such as a tray or dock or key ("screwless"), but rather the drive is securely sandwiched directly inside the case, and the surrounding metal acts like big heatsinks for the drive to keep cool without fans. OWC carries IcyDock, as does NewEgg and Amazon and many other places, but perhaps not their entire model line.

FWIW I am expecting a Seagate 3TB GoFlex drive to come in, with a FW800/USB2 interface. I am curious as to its innards. And we will see how well it works with my iMac and NitroAV hub here. ;)

item.127187

Bill Palmer

Another OWC fan here. A couple of amendments to David Tetzlaff's piece, at least so far as OWC drives and enclosures are concerned:

You get the longer warranty (3 years) if you buy the enclosure with a drive in it vs. buying an empty enclosure (1 year). You also get some software, and there's not much of a bump in the price ($10 for the one I checked).

They disclose (in the Specs tab) which mechanism they put in the various pre-assembled packages. It appears that they prefer Hitachi mechanisms at the moment, although I saw some Seagate solutions where Hitachi doesn't make that size or rotational speed. They also sell WD and Samsung mechanisms, but I haven't noticed them in any of the pre-assembled packages.

item.127191

J Land

David Tetzlaff said:

"Users looking for external hard drives should understand the nature of the beast. There are four parts to an external drive: the hard drive mechanism itself, the bridgeboard handles the I/O and lets the computer 'talk' to the drive, the power supply, and the physical case itself. All these parts are generic to some degree. For example, a vendor like OWC or Buffalo will buy their drive mechanisms from different sources. One batch will have Samsung mechanisms, another WD, and so on. A box o' chocolates... you never know what you're gonna get. There are also only so many controller chips that can be used for the bridgeboards: mainly Oxford products."

This is incorrect. Actually, this is what sets OWC apart from the rest. With their enclosures you know EXACTLY what will be inside. They may get drives of several manufacturers and an enclosure's mechanism may change over the year, but it is never a surprise. They list exactly whose and which mechanism it will be. Want to make sure it's not just an 8 meg cache? They'll say. Same as with bridge chips. Want to make sure you don't get an enclosure with an older chip? Just check the spec sheet. I've tried to do this with many other external drive vendors and there simply no information on any of these on their sites. But you will not be playing the random innards game with OWC.

No connection. Just a longtime happy customer.

item.127194

Fred Katz

Like Tim Wojtyniak, I have had nothing but trouble with the Ministack 3.0's (one drive and one enclosure) that I ordered from OWC. They both have been back at least three times and will probably go back once more. The symptoms are spontaneously dismounting and not waking from sleep. As one of these drives is for Time Machine backup, this kind of errant behavior is doubling frustrating. I should say that OWC have always honored their warranty on the drives, no questions asked. On the other hand, the first two times the drives were merely "repaired," with no indication given on the packing slip of what had been fixed; the third time I specifically requested a replacement, which to their credit, they honored. Still, though, the dismounts keep occurring.

By the way, in response to Jeffrey Tveraas who suggests that "schmutz" might be at fault, the failures I observed occurred using the USB connections as well as by using the Firewire 800 bus. My suspicion is that it's the design of the enclosure not the computer which is at fault, especially as I also own a Ministack 2.5 (also from OWC) drive that has performed flawlessly for two and half years.

item.127207

Albert Boss

Several years ago I purchased a 120GB external FireWire/USB drive from OWC. After almost a year of service I started having intermittent mounting problems. Along with normal trouble shooting I talked with OWC Tech Support. Eventually the drive seemed to have died. It would come on and normal drive noises could be heard but would not mount. Following OWC advice I tried repair using Disk Warrior (after purchasing it). That saved the day as the drive re-mounted and seemed fine ... until it wasn't. This time there seemed to be nothing that worked. OWC suggested there was nothing to do either as the drive was now out of warranty. Although, they were willing to issue RMA and have me return it to so they could check it out. I was thinking about it and all that I had learned during trouble shooting, while I was walking around inside CompUSA (back when they still had brick & mortar stores) when I noticed their brand of external cases ... and they were on sale. On speculation, I purchased one, took it home, opened up the OWC external drive case and switched the HDD to the CompUSA case. Great, it worked. The drive mounted and is still in use now inside the CompUSA case. The OWC drive internal board had become intermittent and eventually died. The OWC case had no fan. Over the years I have had failures of several external Firewire/USB drives (WD, Seagate, LaCie) of virtually every brand. In all cases but one the failure has been a case problem (power supply, interface board etc.). Most failures were in cases without fans. The only failure I've experienced in an external case with a fan was failure of the fan itself, which I replaced. Seems to me that most of the case failures have been heat related.

item.127219

Robert Rodriguez Jr

Many OWC enclosures over the years for A/V work and general storage. Never had a serious problem, and if there was one, tech support took care of it right away. Highly recommended.

item.127225

Mike Buettner

Gotta weigh in here. I really like the Icy Dock's enclosures:
http://www.icydock.com/goods.php?id=84

Very nicely constructed and trouble free for me.

item.127232

MacInTouch Reader

[Re:] the virtues of power suppliers with multi-pin (usually mini-DIN) connectors over those with a simple coaxial barrel connector.

Given the probability that the power supply is likelier to fail than the drive or the bridge board, why would one want to pigeonhole themselves in a proprietary power supply with a special connector and unique pinouts?

Look through any electronics supply catalog and one will find myriad options for power supplies using barrel connectors. Match three variables (voltage, current, and polarity) and it's an easy replacement. Pay a little more and one can even have a regulated, medical-grade unit.

Additionally, read the real world reviews on enclosures that use the mini-DIN style connectors and note the complaints about the poor reliability of their physical connections.

There are reasons why barrel connectors are used in applications far and wide--they're simple and they're reliable.

I refuse to buy an enclosure with any type of propriety connector.

Jan. 7, 2011

item.127273

MacInTouch Reader

I took my 10-year old LaCie D2 firewire drive apart last night to see what it is made of. It still works fine but is "only" 120 GB, which was equal to the hard drive size limit on the G4 Sawtooth Mac it was originally hooked to.

I was surprised to see that all these years I had been storing my valuable bytes on a Western Digital " Caviar" bare drive. After all the dissing everyone here does about LaCie power supplies going ga-ga and Western Digital drives being dubious.... although to be fair I only used this drive infrequently, like weekly backups. It never was on 24/7

I actually wanted to see how hard it would be to swap out the 120 GB base drive for a 750 GB or 1 TB replacement. Any reason why I can't do that? The LaCie D2 enclosure is built solid and is still attractive after all these years, but I do wonder about any extra power consumption demands by going up to a larger capacity drive.

P.S. I have to echo what others are saying here about the quality and support of drives recieved from Other World Computing . All my Macs are loaded with drives purchased at OWC (Hitachi) , and I have two Mini-Stacks and a Neptune doing the grunt work . They've been splendid.

Hitachi ATA bare drives are the make to go with if you have the option of choosing, IMHO

item.127291

David Tetzlaff

A reader wrote:

"Given the probability that the power supply is likelier to fail than the drive or the bridge board, why would one want to pigeonhole themselves in a proprietary power supply with a special connector and unique pinouts? Look through any electronics supply catalog and one will find myriad options for power supplies using barrel connectors."

What fails most often is not the power supply, but the connector, and the part of the connector that fails is the jack in the case, not the plug on the end of the power cable. Yes, you can get a replacement coaxial jack at Radio Shack, but believe me, you don't want to try to diassasemble a WD, Seagate etc. case, desolder and remove the funky jack and solder in the new one. Once you get the case open, rescue the mechanism and buy a new case for it. Or not. If you can live with a USB connection, the 'universal drive adaters' work perfectly fine. OWC sells one by Newer for $30, but you can get more generic ones at Fry's MicroCenter or Computer Geeks for half that.

Albert Boss mentions heat problems... I like fans, too. I have my external drives in old school cases with built in power supplys and exhaust fans -- the way SCSI externals used to come, and some of the early FW400 cases -- which I've hacked/refitted with new bridgeboards...

item.127306

Rory Bolzer

I have used and installed a large variety of hard drive enclosures over the years. Currently I prefer single disk enclosures by MacAlly from Amazon (like the MFC-9560CDW, or the NSA-S350U3 for USB3). They have standard 12v wall warts that are easy and cheap to replace if there is a problem and the metal case is both simple to use, dissipates heat very well, and looks great.

For RAID I like the OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Qx2. OWC is great to work with and the RAID boxes are quiet when running and very fast (now if they will only add USB3... )

I agree with some of the previous posters who dislike proprietary external power supplies. I have had many more issues with them over time and they are much more expensive (and harder to find) than standard 12v wall warts.

The above RAID boxes do have internal power supplies, I have yet to have any issues with them though.

For 2.5" drives I really like the look of the OWC Mercury On-The-Go Pro cases; but the OWC Express cases are much cheaper if you only need USB2 or USB3.

The Voyage drive toaster seems to work fine so far and has a standard 12v external wall wart... But I only have experience with the one so far.

item.127328

MacInTouch Reader

David Tetzlaff wrote:

"What fails most often is not the power supply, but the connector, and the part of the connector that fails is the jack in the case, not the plug on the end of the power cable."

[I think it's] clear that a simple barrel connector, with one pin, and a contact for the outer barrel, is going to be simpler and more reliable than a mini-DIN connector housing a common shell and four separate pins for separate voltages.

Even if both were to be subject to the same conditions under torture testing, which do you think would fail first?

Any connector that is subject to abnormal abuse is going to fail, but one with four times the complexity is going to be more likely to fail.

Under normal circumstances and proper handling, I've never seen one fail, and again, it's a tried-and-true connector type used far and wide....

The original poster asked for recommendations for enclosures for self-assembled external drive solutions, the majority of which, if not all, are supplied by ODMs from the Far East.

Survey the landscape of this market, and one will find that the majority are crudely conceived, slapdash products with cost as the primary design factor.

Unlike the days of SCSI, when enclosures were purposely engineered with integrated power supplies and cooling provisions, the modern cases mostly consist of a metal/plastic shell, a small bridgeboard, and an external power brick.

The more costly enclosures from outfits like OWC and Wiebetech still originate from the same suppliers. They may be better supported, more highly customized, and subject to more stringent QC, but they still won't hold a candle to the units sold by outfits such as APS in the past, in terms of design and pure quality.

One of the chief complaints of the enclosures that use the mini-DIN style connectors is the poor reliability of the power connection, often due to inadequate retention force that allows to cord to become disconnected even under normal conditions.

A properly made mini-DIN connector with the correct tolerances, like one would find in the days of ADB, might be able less susceptible to such mishaps, but the ones utilized by the current ODMs in their enclosures aren't the same beasts.

And even if Radio Shack was sufficient for my electronic component needs, I'd still rather solder a two-pole jack than a five pole-jack.

Overall, a simpler, more reliable connector and readily available universal power supply replacements trumps any small advantage that might be found in a simpler bridgeboard, at least in my book.

item.127329

MacInTouch Reader

MacInTouch Reader wrote:

I took my 10-year old LaCie D2 firewire drive apart last night to see what it is made of. It still works fine but is "only" 120 GB, which was equal to the hard drive size limit on the G4 Sawtooth Mac it was originally hooked to.

I was surprised to see that all these years I had been storing my valuable bytes on a Western Digital " Caviar" bare drive. After all the dissing everyone here does about LaCie power supplies going ga-ga and Western Digital drives being dubious.... although to be fair I only used this drive infrequently, like weekly backups. It never was on 24/7

I actually wanted to see how hard it would be to swap out the 120 GB base drive for a 750 GB or 1 TB replacement. Any reason why I can't do that? The LaCie D2 enclosure is built solid and is still attractive after all these years, but I do wonder about any extra power consumption demands by going up to a larger capacity drive.

Glad your 10-year-old drive still works. I would buy everything new rather than just put a new drive in there.

You don't say what your new Mac is but perhaps it supports FireWire 800. A multi-interface case would be the most compatible going forward.

Don't know about power supply needs of a larger drive vs. what is in that case but if it is 10 years old, the odds are the internal drive is ATA/IDE. Most new drives are SATA so they won't work in an old ATA case.

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