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OS X 10.6 Tests w/Cheap eSATA PCIe and ExpressCards
Posted Sept. 4th, 2009
Updated Sept 5th, 2009: Notes on $20 Jmicron eSATA Expresscard (native support incl. 64Bit kernel)
Updated Sept. 11th, 2009: More tests with $20 Jmicron eSATA Expresscard (w/10.6.1)
Updated Oct. 12th, 2009 for FYI on Sil3132 beta drivers for OS X 10.6/10.6.1
Updated Nov. 13th, 2009 for OS X 10.6.2 tests w/JMB 360 card
Updated Feb 17th, 2010 for FYI on SI3132 beta driver update w/64Bit SL Support


SI3132 Driver update with 64bit Snow Leopard Support:
While answering an email on problems from a Griffin (3132 based) eSATA expresscard owner today I checked the Silicon Image 3132 drivers page (to send him a link on the previous driver update, which was also said to fix an issue with >2GB ram) and saw SI has posted v1.2.3.0 driver "SiI 3132 32 and 64 bit Mac OS X 10.6.x BASE (non-RAID) BETA" (dated 1/28/2010 but download file date is Feb 16th) as well as a 1.7.2.0 RAID beta driver. (In the past the RAID driver has caused some problems though.)
The description field still lists only 10.6.0/10.6.1 but I used the 1.1.11u driver with OS X 10.6.2 fine, but it was 32bit only. And IIRC the driver also worked with OS X 10.5.x but never used it with 10.5. (And SI's description also repeats the potential for issues with some ext. enclosures - as noted here many times over the years.)
I still have a low-cost (under $25) 3132 based expresscard (and PCIe eSATA card) but no longer use the PCIe card after buying the NewerTech 6G card. (recently reviewed here.)
I plan on updating my (early 2009) MacBook Pro 17in driver when I can get some free time but welcome reader feedback on the new driver from anyone that tries it. If you do, let me know the details (on your card/mac model/OS used, etc.) and if you see any pros or cons. Thanks!

(I've not checked any of the (many) vendors that sell 3132 based SATA cards to see if they've posted repackaged versions of this driver update. I never had a problem with SI's driver installs but in the past a couple readers had better luck with sonnet's installers although as I mentioned examining the pkg contents showed the same version/dated SI driver.)

(earlier posts/info follows)

OS X 10.6/10.6.1 BETA Sil3132 Drivers (v1.1.11u) (Oct. 12th, 2009) Silicon Image's SiI3132 drivers page now has (non-RAID) BETA drivers (v1.1.11) for OS X 10.6/10.6.1. (No details in the readme, but based on a quick test with a 3132 based PCIe card in a Mac Pro - they're still 32bit only drivers. The Oct. 13th news page has some Reader Feedback on SI3132 v1.1.11u Drivers with OS X 10.6.1)

"SiI 3132 Mac OS X 10.6 & 10.6.1 BASE (non-RAID) BETA v1.1.11 (10.8.2009)
Use this BASE (non-RAID) driver with Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.6.1 for Mac Pro and MacBook Pro. Please contact the external enclosure or hard disk drive manufacturer for problems specific to the device."

The top of the page also has a FYI ("Support policy & intended audience") about SI not supporting end-users directly, etc.
Firmtek already posted Snow Leopard drivers (w/64bit support) for their 3132 based PCIe and Expresscard, but they're tied to the Firmtek cards. There's tons of 3132 based cards sold under dozens of 'brands' and if any readers try the SI Beta 1.1.11 drivers with 10.6.1 (expresscard or PCIe card) let me know. (Include card "brand"/model, external case/drive used, etc in reports - thanks.)



Article from Early Sept. on using 1.1.9 drivers follows
(Since these posts of mine were very long I moved them from the front page. The v1.1.9 Sil3132 drivers are 32bit, so 10.6 was booted using the (default) 32bit Kernel. The Apple doc OS X v10.6: About incompatible software lists Silicon Image SiI3132 Drivers v1.5.16.0 (RAID driver? IIRC), but the 10.6 installer also removes v1.1.9 drivers. But reinstalling v1.1.9 seems to work, at least for some of us - although as with anything, YMMV. There could be problems in some conditions/configurations we have not tested yet. And reportedly there's a kernel bug in SL (not fixed as far as I know in 10.6.1) mentioned in a SoftRAID Beta release. I did not test RAID setups personally, only single drives with an eSATA HD dock.)

Just a FYI on what I've seen today (9/4/2009) after finally getting some time to test the $19.99 (retail) Dynex Sil3132 2-port eSATA PCIe card in a 2009 Mac Pro (Dual 2.66GHz/12GB RAM, GTX285) running OS X 10.6 and using an eSATA Hard Drive Dock (an eSATA + USB 2.0 port only model). As mentioned in the news on Aug. 28th (the day SL arrived to end users), I installed the "Sonnet" v1.1.9v2B driver - but as I mentioned earlier, the actual kext in the pkg still seems to be the Dec. 2006 SI3132 one. (And of course these drivers are only 32bit, so they will not load when booted using the 64bit kernel. No KP's seen with 64bit boot, but the card was not usable of course - ASP confirms no driver loaded for it.)
I had originally bought this card at a local store on impulse (at the price, plus w/10.4/10.5 drivers on CD), to use in a PC downstairs, but the EVGA nForce 780i motherboard's 1x PCIe slot was blocked by a GTX-285 card (BB in-store $179 blowout I mentioned here earlier this year). I didn't return it for a refund as I planned on testing it later in the Mac Pro.

Anyway, after seeing good results so far (with sleep/wake/file copy, etc) in tests of their eSATA Expresscard in a MacBook Pro running 10.6 earlier today (see post below), I decided to finally try the PCIe card in a Mac Pro.

I installed the driver in OS X 10.6, shut down, installed the PCIe (1x) card (in the top slot) and rebooted with the card connected to an eSATA Hard Drive Dock (w/a spare SATA HD inserted). It mounted the eSATA drive OK and I copied over 80GB of files to it without a problem. I then put the Mac Pro to sleep (for more than 1/2 hour) with the eSATA HD mounted and it woke and mounted the eSATA HD just fine. I then played back a H.264 QT movie (over 1GB) from the eSATA HD - no problems seen. I also verified the eSATA HD in Disk Utility (10.6). As I noted earlier today in tests with the Expresscard, I also did a "Repair Disk" in DU and no problems reported but again it noted "Updating Boot Support Partitions for the Volume as Required".

And since the SI3132 installed drivers are 32bit only, the card is not usable when booted with 64bit kernel. (Apple system profiler shows no driver loaded for it when booted using 64bit kernel, naturally.)
I didn't try Firmtek's new 5.4.0 drivers (for their 3132 based cards) on the Mac Pro after I had already tried their driver on a MBP here and saw instant kernel panics when inserting a Dynex 3132 chip eSATA Expresscard.

BTW: I'm not suggesting this 'cheap' card/driver option as a 'solution' for everyone. (Some users need higher performance cards, have higher end eSATA drive cases, etc. and for some time there's been reports of problems with 4GB or more of ram but I didn't see that problem here so far with a 12GB Ram Mac Pro nor a 4GB ram MacBook Pro when using the expresscard with these drivers and an eSATA HD dock.) For my light needs - so far it seems to work fine for me with this eSATA HD dock. (But I do not have any multi-drive cases nor any PM cases however.) There could be some issue later on that I have not seen yet and as always YMMV. (The external case/bridge board used can also be a factor in problems, not just the card/driver.) But for what I'm using it for (occasional use with single HD), I just can't justify a 'better' (more ports, higher performance) eSATA controller card that costs many times more than this one. (Although there's also some "mac" (rebranded) 2-port 3132 cards that sell for much more than this one.)

And as a FYI to anyone that sees this PCIe card in stores (see pix) - I did not use (nor could I use) the external drive "power plugs" in the card bracket (it has a Molex connector on the card, but the 2009 Mac Pro has no PATA Optical drives/no Molex power connectors like the earlier Mac Pros do - but then my eSATA drives already have their own Power Supplies anyway.)

Although I really like the look/features of the Quad-Interface QX2 4 drive case - I really don't need that kind of capacity/performance right now. (I already have a Ministack V3 and Dual-HD EliteAL Pro from years ago and currently my priority is using bare SATA drives in single HD Drive Docks - the Voyager Q has FW800/400/USB2/eSATA but another Dock I have is only eSATA/USB 2.0 - and USB 2.0 is a slug compared to even FW400.) And with the Quad-Interface Voyager Q having FW800 ports, (which the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro have already) - for single drive use with my current HDs I use in the Docks really don't justify even the low-cost eSATA cards (and driver installs). But both these exercises today (PCIe and expresscard) were in part done because I wanted to see for myself if these low-cost cards worked in 10.6 with those drivers (w/32bit kernel/default 10.6 boots).


My OS X 10.6 tests w/$19.99 JMB360 eSATA Expresscard (w/native support) (but see notes on later OS X 10.6.2 tests for data corruption - I no longer use this card now. I'll re-test it again when OS X 10.6.3 is released.)


Saturday morning (9/5/2009) I received my Jmicron 360 chip eSATA Expresscard ($19.99/single port) from OWC and tested it in the MacBook Pro (early 2009 17in/2.66GHz/4GB ram) with OS X 10.6. (If it matters, MBP was on AC power, Energy Saver set to not allow auto-sleep/no HD sleep.) Glad to see it still has native support (no driver install required) - plus it works when booted w/64-Bit Kernel also. It mounted the HD in the connected ThermalTake (bought in Dec 2008) eSATA HD Dock (eSATA/USB2 only model) fine (and fast) - mounted a large DMG file w/o checksum errors (6 straight times). (I was not so lucky with other ext eSATA drives/Docks I had - which had major problems (BBOD, system freezes, etc.) I also tested sleep/wake with the card on/eSATA HD dock drive mounted - it slept and woke fine. (A previous report on the Expresscards page here from a JMB362 based (2-port) eSATA expresscard said he had to turn off the expresscard before sleeping.) The mounted eSATA HD is listed in Apple System Profiler's SATA section (under "Unknown AHCI Standard Controller" 3Gbit Speed (although the expresscard slot is limited to 2.5 IIRC) and AHCI v1.00 Supported.
Since I don't need more than 1 port and prefer the native support (mtd drive shows as SATA, no SCSI as seen with driver-based card) I like it better than the Dynex 3132 eSATA expresscard I'd used previously.
After verifying it passed repeated checksum tests on file copies, I setup the eSATA hard drive (in HD dock) as a Time Machine drive and did a full (TM) backup of the internal notebook drive (appx 150GB) to a 3.5in HD (500GB/7200rpm) and was very pleased with the performance. (Later I may do some timed tests of large files to the eSATA drive, although of course the source drive (in this case, a 5400rpm/320GB Fujitsu 2.5in drive) is also a factor. So I'll also try duplicating large file on the eSATA drive.)
BTW: As mentioned on the product page, this card does not support Port Multiplier cases under OS X (does with Windows). (I assume 10.6 does not change that but don't have a PM case to try.)
OS X 10.6.1/More Tests: (9/11/2009)
After updating to 10.6.1 (on Sept. 10th) I used the eSATA HD dock/expresscard to update the TM backup on the external drive OK. (As I do on all my Macs, I have TM turned off (don't want hourly backups) and just use the TM menu bar "backup now" option as needed.
Also after getting a problem report from a mid-2009 17in MBP owner using this card in Snow Leopard with a Lacie D2 Quadra 1TB drive (60+GB of file copies from the eSATA connected D2 to the notebook HD failed, copies to the D2 completed OK he said, but he later noted other problems (drive disappearing, read only, etc.) even in Windows with that setup. (BTW - The D2 Quadra user's mail reminded me of a summer 2008 eSATA problem report from a D2 Quadra owner in the article here on using (pre-2009 model) Mac Pro spare SATA ports with ext. cases.)
Anyway, after getting that problem report from the D2 Quadra user, I copied my 80.3GB iTunes folder (2,833 files) on the MBP internal hard drive to the eSATA (HD Dock'd) 3.5in/500GB/7200rpm drive (took 23min, 5 seconds - but the OEM 320GB/5400rpm notebook Fujitsu source drive isn't the fastest and was appx 1/2 full) and then (after renaming the folder "iTunesBackup_Sept11"), copied it back to the internal notebook drive. (Took 28min, 4 seconds for the copy back to the notebook HD.)
I then used the iTunes folder (w/Lib) that I'd copied back from the eSATA Dock HD with iTunes 9.0 on the MacBook Pro (running 10.6.1). I played back several songs, a Movie ("There's Something About Mary"), etc. - no problems seen. (No file corruption, etc.) I also copied over a large .dmg file (from an OS X update) and mounted it (which verifies the checksum). You can also use MD5 from the terminal to compare checksums of files (compare source file checksum to the same file copied to the external drive. Type MD5 (space) and then drag the file to the terminal window and hit enter).
So far in 10.6/10.6.1 all my tests have completed OK with this setup (eSATA/USB 2.0 only HD Dock, drive formatted in the HD Dock/verify/repair done, etc. originally). However as with everything (including the external case/bridge board used) - YMMV. (Historically as mentioned here many times, eSATA only cases are the safest bet (and often cheapest), although some have used Quad Interface cases OK. Although I'm using an eSATA/USB 2.0 HD Dock OK, over the years I've had good and bad reports from most any mix of cards/cases, etc.)

As I said before, I'm not recommending this low-cost card as a solution for others/higher end SATA case use, etc. - but personally I couldn't be happier with this setup from what I've seen so far (in over 200GB of files copied, sleep/wake, etc. tests) with 10.6/10.6.1 using this Expresscard/eSATA HD Dock combo (total card/HD Dock cost appx $60) with an early 2009 17in MacBook Pro. But as I said last week, I do not own (or have a need currently) for higher end drive cases. (And as mentioned earlier and on the product page - this card does not have OS X Port Multiplier support (does in windows they say) - not sure if OS X 10.6 changed that, but it's not an issue for me anyway. But I'd assume not until proven otherwise.)
Update (Nov. 2009) - Later testing with OS X 10.6.2 and Apple's Performance Update 1.0 (IOAHCIFamily.kext update) installed if that matters - it's included in 10.6.2 I hear. Using another Dock (a Quad interface) that had previously been unusable with this card in my MBP (BBOD, system freezes, etc.) actually now allowed file copies to complete, BUT showed frequent failures of copied DMG test files to verify (checksum failed/won't mount). I'd also seen a BBOD/freeze with another dock (eSATA/USB 2.0 port model) - and although it also now allowed file copies to complete, it FAILED the copied file (DMG mount) Checksum test literally every time. (And even one failure out dozens is too many.) Then hooked up the old TT eSATA Dock again - it passed the checksum/verify test 6 times. (As it had earlier.) This is why I've been frustrated in the past (many eSATA problem reports with various ext cases/bridge boards. Maybe this is why apple still hasn't added eSATA ports to macs - they want to avoid the potential support headaches/costs. Even chipset mfrs warn about compatibility with ext. drives/bridges. I then installed the Sil 3132 v1.1.11u beta drivers for Snow Leopard (noted here earlier - from Oct. 2009) and that setup passed the checksum test repeatedly with the same eSATA Docks that failed with the JMB360 card. As of Jan 2010 (OS X 10.6.2), personally I'm going to switch back to the ($20) Sil3132 card I have (w/1.1.11u drivers, 32bit only). I hope some future update will address the JMB360 card issues I've seen but I'm not holding my breath. (Even though the TT dock -seems- OK still, I don't trust the card anymore with the current setup.)
(My original posts from on the 3132 Expresscard from Sept 4th, 2009 follows)


My OS X 10.6 tests w/$24.99 Sil3132 eSATA Expresscard using 1.1.9V2B drivers [FYI - later tests w/1.1.11u drivers (see top of page for D/L link) work fine for me w/OS X 10.6.2)


Although I had posted tips on this (and some initial feedback) in last Friday's (Aug 28th) news (Notes/Tips on Sil3132 SATA card drivers (SI's and Sonnet's) and OS X 10.6) - I had put off installing any Sil3132 drivers in Snow Leopard on a MacBook Pro, as I had a (natively supported) JMicron chip-based eSATA Expresscard (single port $19.99 model) coming from OWC and for my needs, I didn't really need 2 ports anyway. The Dynex card came with a CD w/Sil3132 1.1.9U drivers that worked in 10.5.8, but as noted in the Apple doc I posted last Thursday (Aug 27th news page - Apple doc OS X v10.6: About incompatible software which lists the Silicon Image SiI3132 Drivers v1.5.16.0, which is the RAID driver version IIRC) - the 1.1.9u drivers where removed during the 10.6 install. I did not try reinstalling them later as I wanted to wait for the natively supported Jmicron card. However after trying the new Firmtek (v5.4.0) OS X 10.6 drivers this morning (and seeing only KP's with them and this card) - I decided to install the "Sonnet" 1.1.9V2B drivers to see how they worked. So far that's worked better than I expected.
BTW: In the Dec. 2008 news post here I mentioned I had dug into the Sonnet 1.1.9v2 download pkg and saw the real driver (3132 kext) appeared to be the same as Silicon Image's 1.1.9u (Dec 2006 dated). But I had not done that for the later Sonnet "1.1.9V2B" driver (to see if it's really anything more than a repackaged 1.1.9 SI driver). But today did, and the 1.1.9v2B pkg still had a "SilconImage3132.kext" (driver) dated Dec 6, 2006 - the same date of 1.1.9u OS X (non-raid) driver from SI's site.
And as mentioned last Friday (when 10.6 first arrived to users), some readers just reinstalled the SI 1.1.9u driver in 10.6 and reported it seemed OK. (Despite the 10.6 installer check removing it originally.) Many vendors of these cards as I've mentioned for years just re-package (w/their readme, company name/text, etc) the reference drivers from the OEM mfr. But regardless I used the Sonnet d/l just in case they had some installer fix.

Anyway - after trying the new Firmtek 10.6 drivers this morning and getting an instant Kernel Panic with the Dynex card, I decided to try the sonnet drivers that readers said worked in 10.6 last week. After removing the Firmtek driver and restarting, I installed the 1.1.9v2B 3132 drivers, restarted and inserted the Dynex Expresscard which was connected to an eSATA HD dock w/Notebook HD inserted (a clone of the MBP's original HD w/10.5.8 done via FW800) and it mounted fine in 10.6. I then ran Disk Utility in 10.6 and did a verify on the eSATA drive - reported as OK.
The Expresscard Menu bar item with options like turn off card, etc. was also functional. I also copied 70+GB of files to the eSATA HD without any errors, copied back about 1/2GB of files, deleted a file on it, etc. - no problems seen.

BTW - Although the notebook SATA HD in the dock (a clone of the MacBook Pro's 10.5.8 internal HD before the 10.6 upgrade, done via FW800 using the Voyager Q HD dock) passed a "verify" disk in disk utility, I later did a "Repair" Disk on it and below the "Volume Repair Complete" message in the DU window is a note:

    "Updating Boot Support Partitions for the Volume as Required"

It shows that same message every time I "repair" the external drive - maybe it's just a standard message now. (Running a "Verify disk" again (all OK) and then "Repair disk" again shows the same "Updating Boot Support ... as Required" message.) I had formatted that 2.5in HD in the Dock from 10.5.8's Disk Utility. That "boot support" message reminded me of a report on Monday from an OS X 10.6 user on his install (finally, after repairs) to a FileMate 48GB SSD Expresscard. (Where he had problems installing to the SSD even after a reformat, but a 'repair' (with boot support fix) solved it.

After the report from a Jmicron (no drivers required) eSATA expresscard yesterday (Sept. 3rd post) noting he had to turn off the card before putting the MBP to sleep, I tested that with this 3132 chip expresscard in 10.6. I turned Off the Expresscard (via Finder Menu item, after unmounting the eSATA drive first) and the MBP went to sleep and woke fine, but requires removing/reinserting the Expresscard again (as Expresscard menu item disappears after turning off the card). After inserting the card again, the eSATA drive mounted after a few seconds. (The first time I tried turning off the card/sleep/wake/reinsert the card it didn't seem to work - but perhaps I didn't wait long enough - as repeated attempts later worked.)

So then I tried sleeping the MacBook Pro without turning off the Expresscard (and eSATA HD still mounted) - the system went into sleep OK (system LED pulsing, although it took about 20 seconds or so for the LED to show that). I waited a minute to two and then woke the MBP up - the eSATA HD was still on the desktop (and no noticeable delay on wake). I then copied 300MB of files to the eSATA HD - completed OK. After that I ran Disk Utility and did a verify disk on the eSATA HD, which passed.

I then unmounted the eSATA HD in the Finder and turned off power on the (eSATA) HD dock. Turning the HD dock on again remounted the eSATA HD in the Finder. Turning off the Expresscard (via Menu bar) and then removing/reinserting the Expresscard would also re-mount the eSATA HD.

Although I have a Voyager Q (Quad Interface, which I like as no Macs have native eSATA, and the FW800, FW400 ports (as well as USB 2 and eSATA) are handy. It also has a better PS (3A rated) than my first HD dock (Thermaltake USB2/eSATA only). The thermaltake box listed 3A PS, but inside the box was a (small/very cheap looking) 2A rated wall-wort. (It's been ok so far, although I'd prefer a 3A supply as many drives have spinup draw well over 2A - seagate 7200's are spec'd at 2.8A (max/spinup) for instance). Operating draw is much less than spinup however but I'd still prefer a 3A supply for it. (I haven't checked if they've changed the box rating or upped the PS in later boxes - I bought that one in Nov. 2008.)




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