Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lacie 320 GB Quadra Hard Drive

Earlier this week a co-worker brought to my attention a good deal on Lacie 320 GB Quadra Hard Drives at I had prior, good experience with Lacie drives. He's previously bought from At $54 plus shipping and handling it was too good of a deal to pass up. I ordered the drive on Tuesday and received it Thursday via DHL Ground.

The Quadra series of external drives are fanless and have four interfaces for connecting to a PC or Mac:
  1. USB 2.0
  2. eSATA
  3. FireWire 400 (IEEE-1394a)
  4. FireWire 800 (IEEE-1394b)
The case is substantial with the aluminum acting as a heat sink. Cables for all four types of connections were included. The drive can be rack mounted in a little desktop rack sold by Lacie, or it can use the included stand to stand vertically on your desk, which is how mine is setup.

The power switch has three positions:
  1. On
  2. Off
  3. Auto, which automatically turns it on or off when the drive is connected or disconnected to a host, respectively. I left it on auto.
Also included in the box was an AC power adapter. Unlike 2.5" external FireWire drives, typically the 3.5" drives are not bus powered.

I connected the Quadra to Rohan, my MacBook Pro last night using the FireWire 800 port. Heretofore, that port has been unused, since my older backup drive has only USB and FW 400 ports. With 320 GB to work with, I decided to use the Quadra as a Time Machine backup disk.

As soon as I connected the Quadra to Rohan a box popped up, asking me if I want to use it as a Time Machine backup disk. After I clicked yes, it took about an hour or so to backup everything on Rohan's drive, except for my Entourage profile. (I've read that using Time Machine to back up Entourage profiles can lead to corruption, if it's attempted when the program is running. I therefore excluded it from Time Machine.) For the time being I will continue to backup the Entourage database using Chronosync.

FireWire 800 is fast. In my experience, FireWire 400 typically offers better sustained througput than USB 2.0, although the latter has a higher theoretical peak throughput (480 vs. 400 Mbps). FireWire 800 is noticeably fast than 400, but unfortunately never became as popular. It will be interesting to see how USB 3.0 does in the marketplace once it's released.

I haven't used eSATA. To do so would, Rohan would need an ExpressCard adapter. For machines which do support it, eSATA looks like it will be the connection of choice for external disks, with a raw throughput of 3000 Mbps.

As for Time Machine itself, it may be the best consumer level backup application I've seen. On Mac running Leopard, new disks are automatically recognized and the machine offers to setup Time Machine for you. It then performs a full backup, and automatically sets up hourly backups. Accessing your backed up files is virtually the same as accessing your working data in the Finder. By making it so simple Apple really encourages people to backup their data.

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