After the fun I had with the last external hard drive I bought for the Mac Mini, I decided to get a different model rather than a replacement. While I could be persuaded that I’d just been unlucky and got a one-off dodgy drive with a tendency to sleep and never wake, I couldn’t really be bothered getting another one, trying it, and quite possibly having the same issue. So I did a bit more looking around, and decided to get this beast instead. Like the late unlamented WD drive, this one has both Firewire and USB2 interfaces, but lacks the eSATA connection. But as I don’t actually need an eSATA interface, that wasn’t really an issue. Unlike the WD model, this one also acts as either a USB hub or a Firewire hub, depending on which interface you decide to use. Most publicity material doesn’t make it clear that you can’t have both hubs at once, but the documentation does make it clear that you’re not supposed to connect the USB and Firewire ports at the same time. It would presumably either confuse the drive or create a rift in the space-time continuum, or something. But I digress.
The special selling point of this drive is that it’s specifically designed to sit under a Mac Mini. This is great if you’re short on desk space, or if you just like things to be tidy. It comes with the usual bits and bobs – power brick (with separate leads for UK and Furriner sockets), USB cable and two, yes two Firewire cables – one short one which is perfect if you’re stacking it under a Mac Mini and one more normal length one for other installations. It’s got a proper on/off rocker switch rather than the button found on the WD drive, which never gave any indication of whether it was taking any notice of being pressed. And as with lots of kit these days, it’s got a pretty blue light on the front, which shines through a slit, and onto the desk below. It comes formatted in Apple’s HFS+ format, so if you’re thinking of using it with a Windows PC, you will need to reformat.
I opted for the larger 750GB size this time – I don’t expect to need that much space, but I’d rather have room to grow. Smaller sizes are available, so it doesn’t have to be too expensive. Setting it up was the usual doddle – plug in, switch on, and see it appear on the Mac desktop. Once I’d done that, I moved my iTunes library from the spare USB hard drive I’d moved it to when the WD drive decided that working wasn’t what it wanted to do. The reason I didn’t just keep using that drive is that it’s loud. Really loud. I think it’s an over-enthusiastic fan that spins up and keeps going – when I was using it to back up the Windows box, I had to disconnect it when I wasn’t actually doing a backup to stop the humming making me go . And being USB, it was slower in operation than the Firewire drive, which meant that if I tried playing music while doing anything else, it tended to stutter a bit, which wasn’t nice. It might have been better if I’d got round to moving it from the USB hub to a direct port, but as it was only ever going to be a temporary measure, it wasn’t worth the effort. anyway, the music transferred easily enough.
Then it was time to move my photos. Again. I did this from Lightroom, where I created a new Catalog, set it as the default, then told it to import everything from the catalog on the other drive. As that was over 60GB of data, I went away and let it get on with it, which it did quite happily.
Once I’d confirmed that iTunes and Lightroom were happy, I ejected the USB drive and unplugged it. It’s now sitting away from the computer desk as a handy point in time backup, and an emergency disk should I ever need one. The final step was to reconnect the disk I use for Time Machine backups – it’s now happily connected to the Iomega’s Firewire hub, and everything is working as it should.
I left it a couple of days to make sure there were no major issues with this drive – the WD had created its first system hang sooner than this, though at the time I didn’t realise that was the cause. This one does spin down when it’s not in use, but it comes back to life promptly when needed, which is pretty much what I want from an external disk.
The Amazon link above is pretty much just to give an illustration – as it’s being sold through Marketplace sellers, the postage charge makes it rather more expensive than going to the Apple Store, who gave me free delivery – ordered on Saturday, received on Tuesday, which is about as good as you can generally expect.
Overall, I’m happy with my new external drive, and I’d suggest you consider it if you’re looking for a Mac-friendly external drive.
 Constantly. It could almost be a new subtitle for the site…
 I’d been using a screen saver that displays album artwork from the iTunes library. When it kicked in, it got stuck trying to find images to load from the unresponsive drive and nothing would persuade the Mac to stop trying to run it…