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Do FireWire Drives Run Faster or Slower On OS X? And Do Third Party FireWire Drivers Help?

Posted April 29, 2001
by
rob ART morgan, Bare Feats Mad Scientist

 

At first I didn't notice it but now that I'm testing mostly in OS X, the FireWire drive speeds seem to have dropped compared to OS 9 testing. A closer study produced some interesting data including some insights on whether third party drivers help with either OS.

The last time I tested a Wiebetech Desktop GB 3.5 inch FireWire drive, it scored somewhere in the middle of the pack. Yet, Wiebetech was getting much faster times in their lab. I found out they were testing under OS 9 using Intech's HD Speed Tools. So Intech sent me the latest 3.5 version so I could try duplicating their results.

In the graphs below, "Apple" means I used Apple's FireWire Enablers included with the operating system. "Intech" means I used the HD Speed Tools enablers/extensions. I used the Wiebetech Desktop GB 60GB drive as the "guinea pig." The results are very revealing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

The Intech extensions made a significant difference in the FireWire drive transfer speed for large, sustained block transfers... but only in OS 9. (See graph #1, #2, and #3)

The advantage provided by Intech shrinks when doing smaller random read/writes. (See graph #4)

If you run OS X exclusively, you are at a disadvantage as you can see in graphs #1, #2, #3 and #4. There are no "speed up" drivers or "tuning" tools currently available for OS X. Yet when it comes to moving a large folder of smaller files, OS X doesn't need any "help." In my test, duplicating 6000 small files happened almost 4 times faster under OS X as it did under OS 9. (See graph #5)

 

WHAT ABOUT OTHER THIRD PARTY DRIVERS?

I tried the same "trick" using FWB's latest HDT 4.5.2 drivers under OS 9, but it didn't add any speed over the Apple drivers.

 

WHAT ABOUT OTHER FIREWIRE DRIVE ENCLOSURES?

I tried the Intech drivers on the Granite Digital case and OWC Mercury Elite case, both with an IBM 120GXP drive. I also tested the Maxtor 160GB drive. Just like with the Wiebetech drive unit, the Intech drivers did speed up large block transfers under OS 9. But again, there's no assistance for OS X.

 

BOTTOM LINE?

Running FireWire drives under OS 9? Use Intech's HD Speed Tools 3.5 for optimal performance. Though the Wiebetech Desktop GB FireWire drive scored mediocre times with generic Apple drivers, it scored the highest sustained large block transfer speeds of any drive tested to date using the Intech drivers under OS 9.

Running FireWire drives under OS X? Send email feedback to Apple, Intech, FWB, and anyone else who does disk utilities. Urge them to develop OS X FireWire drive "optimizers" or "tuners" like those available for OS 9.

 

TEST HARDWARE

Apple Power Mac G4/800MP running both OS 9.2.2 and OS 10.1.4.

FireWire drive tested: Wiebetech Desktop GB 60GB (IBM 60gxp).

 

TEST SOFTWARE & DOCUMENTS

Apple Disk Utility, Intech's HD Speed Tools, QuickTime Player

The "One Big Document" was a 177MB MPEG uncompressed movie file. That file used in the DUPLICATE and PLAYBACK tests.

The "6000 Very Small Files" was a folder was just that: 6000 small (28K) files totalling 164MB.

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"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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