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AcomData External Hard Drive

FireWire and USB ports make cross-platform work a breeze By Frank Moldstad

Acom Data External HD AcomData's external 3.5" HD hard drive kills two birds with one stone. First, it's an inexpensive and flexible way to add more storage to your computer. Second, it's a simple way of making the same data available to both Macs and PCs without worrying about networking, ethernet transfers or shuttling back and forth with a DVD.

The unit can be connected to either a Mac or a PC -- but not simultaneously. It is compatible with Mac OS 9.x or X and/or Windows 98 SE/ME/200/XP. The drive case has connectors for FireWire and USB 2.0 connectors; you can use one or the other, but not both at the same time.

The HD drive comes in configurations ranging from 40 to 250 GB (40, 60, 80, 120 180, 200 and 250). It is available with rotation speeds of 5400 rpm and 7200 rpm. Seek time is 8.8 ms for the 7200 rpm models and a surprisingly high 8.9 ms for the 5400 rpm models. The six-pound enclosure is constructed from a metal subchassis with a high-impact plastic exterior. The footprint measures 11"x8 5/8 x4 3/8, and the drive cases are stackable.

I chose an 80 GB 7200 rpm unit at CompUSA (model HD080U2FE-72, on sale for $120), and initially set it up for use on the Mac only, with a G4 running OS X 10.3. Although the drive is usable on OS X 10.1 and above, Acom recommends updating to 10.2.4 for OS 10.2 users.

With the power cord hooked up and the FireWire cable running to the Mac, I powered up first the computer and then the hard drive. After the computer booted up, a dialog came up saying, "Disk containing no volumes the MAC OS X can read." Here, with the AcomData manual in one hand, I clicked "Initialize." From "Disk Utility" I selected DMI, and went to the "Erase" tab to select "Mac OS Extended." Finally, I selected "Install OS 9 drivers" and clicked "Erase." 

Although this process seemed circuitous because of the OS 9/X runaround, it worked without a hitch. The drive appeared on my desktop, with a bright orange icon that made it easily distinguishable from other drives and partitions on the computer, and it was ready to use.

But I was still thirsting for action. So, I decided to set the drive up for cross-platform use. The manual specifies that if you're going to use the drive on both platforms, it needs to be set up first on the PC. My installation was backwards, so I wiped the drive and started fresh.

The PC was a Windows 2000 machine with a PCI-based USB 2.0 card. After waiting for the computer to boot up -- completely -- I turned on the HD drive. Windows 2000 automatically detected it and found USB drivers included with the OS. (Acom does supply a CD with the necessary drivers, but it's not necessary to install them.) After installing the drivers, I went to "My Computer," and right-clicked on the drive's icon to format it as an NTFS drive. After about half an hour, the drive was ready to use.

Next was the big moment. I unmounted the drive as a USB device on the PC, and disconnected the USB cable. Then I connnected it via FireWire to the Mac. Presto! The drive icon appeared on the desktop. I dragged some DV files, audio Wave files and some Photoshop files onto the icon, and disconnected it by dragging the icon into the trash. Next, I reconnected the drive to the PC -- all the files appeared and could be opened.

The unit is great as a secondary data drive. It had no trouble delivering 12 simultaneous audio tracks from a DAW, for instance, or a 300MB video file. One of its advantages, of course, is the 400 MB/second speed of FireWire, or 480 MB/second with USB 2.0.

Acom box I've only covered the Mac OS X and Windows 2000 combinations, but in fact this drive can be employed as an OS X/OS 9.x device, or an OS 9.x/Win XP device. You can mix and match the compatible options. Similarly, you can connect it via USB on a Mac and FireWire on a PC.

AcomData's external drive does its job well, and no doubt it will continue to be useful six months from now, when terabyte FireWire 800 external drives are released for $50 (just kidding). Even without the cross-platform capabilities, this drive is a handy way to increase a computer's storage capacity, or to add a content disk to keep data files separate from applications. But being able to switch it as needed from a Mac to a PC with fast FireWire or USB 2.0 transfer rates is the clincher. My only buyer's remorse is that I should have gotten the 160 GB model, which sells for a street price of around $209.


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Related Keywords:Acom Data, hard drive, OS X, Windows 2000, FireWire, USB 2.0

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