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Hard Drive Tests with Apple's iPodReturn to News Page


Hard Drive Tests with Apple's iPod
By Roger Smith
Published: 11/27/2001
As a result of receiving my iPod recently, I was in immediate need for an USB/FireWire PCI card for an 8500 Mac, This short report covers the results of my findings and experimentation. First off I tried to find the CompUSA USB/Firewire card at two local CompUSA stores, however they were out of stock. Even the CompUSA web site lists the card as backordered. Incidentally their web site lists the card for $19.99 which is pretty amazing if you can find one at that price. The link is www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?product_code=280284

The next option was to check out the local Fry's where based purely on price * I decided to go with the SIIG USB 2.0/FireWire combo card, which I purchased for $99:
(*I'm somewhat of a hardware Junkie since my background is writing drivers for various communications/networking hardware, however the purchase of the SIIG card was a gamble since I was not able to determine the chipset vendor since all of the chips on the board have SIIG part numbers or have SIIG labels which are darn impossible to peel off. I had previously used SIIG USB PCI cards in several Macs without problems, and the SIIG packaging specifically stated that this combo card is an OHCI 1.0 Compliant device.)

After a quick installation of the SIIG card in my 8500, I downloaded the FireWire 2.8.1 SDK from: http://developer.apple.com/sdk/index.html and installed the appropriate extensions. I then proceeded to install iMovie 2.1.1 and iTunes 2.0.2. I am happy to report that iMovie recognized my Sony TRV7 DV camera and imported video. Also iTunes recognizes the iPod and I am able to sync music to the iPod, as well as use target firewire disk mode to mount the iPod as a hard drive. I did not have to set the iPod into forced target disk mode.

To top it off, the SIIG USB/FireWire card charges the iPod (The indicator on the iPod shows that it is charging). As a quick test of USB functionality I plugged in an Apple optical mouse and that worked fine.

The icing on the cake was when a PowerBook G4, started in target disk mode, appeared like magic on the desktop of my 8500. I copied across 30 MB of data without any problems.

To get a feel for overall performance, I ran some benchmarks on three machines (PowerBook G4 550, iBook 600 and 8500 with SIIG card) using FWB's hard disk toolkit version 4.5. The test results consist of benchmarking the internal hard drive of each computer then benchmarking the iPod connected to the same computer.

(I used Excel to graph all the results of Roger's individual FWB tests.-Mike)

Sustained R/W Results

I/Os per Second

avg access time

(Individual FWB Benchtest graphs follow)

Internal Hard drive of PowerBook G4 550
(Partitioned with Drive Setup)
PB G4 int HD

iPod connected to PowerBook G4 550
iPod conn. to PB G4/550

Internal Hard Drive iBook 600
iBook 600 int. HD

iPod connected to iBook 600
iPod conn. to iBook 600

8500 Internal 40GB Maxtor Hard Drive
(Sonnet ATA66 PCI/EIDE Card)
8500 internal drive

iPod connected to 8500's SIIG USB2.0/FireWire PCI Card

iPod conn. to 8500


  • PowerMacintosh 8500/180 Upgraded to G3 440
  • Sonnet ATA66 PCI Card & Maxtor 40 Gig Drive (Internal SCSI hard drive removed).
  • Voodoo 3 3000 PCI Graphics card
  • SIG USB 2.0/Fire Wire PCI card
  • 352 MB RAM.
  • MacOS 9.1
  • USB 1.4.6
  • FireWire 2.8.1
  • IMovie 2.1.1
  • ITunes 2.0.2

First off, I don't know what's up with the low Read/Write transactions per second for the iPod but they are pretty consistent across the three machines. In practice The iPod's drive performance is quite acceptable for a developer like myself who thrives on I/O performance.

To bad SIIG is clueless about marketing this card to Mac users, as it seems to be a solid performer and pretty much worked out the door.

(Note: I've used $29 Dlink, etc. PC FW Cards with Macs also. The Dlink was TI chip based and came with a 6/4 pin FW cable in the box. For reader reports on various brands of Combo FW/USB cards - see the Firewire articles page, controllers section.-Mike)

Previous iPod Owner Comments/Info/Tips: - see this page.

Apple's iPod Pages:
For more info, specs and QuickTime movies on the iPod, see Apple's product page.

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