I was recently asked by one of my clients to fix the kernel panics that his 5-year-old iMac G5 was exhibiting on a regular basis. Unable to resolve the problem using any of the standard methods, I convinced the client that the eSATA drive used to boot up the iMac was failing and needed to be replaced.
Prior to taking on the work assignment, the only docking station I owned was a FW400 device that I bought years ago from WiebeTech that only worked with EIDE/PATA drives. As a result, I bought an eSATA docking station (brand: Thermaltake) to complete the data backup and installation process.
Once the client job was done, I was left with an empty docking station. To make continued use of the unit, I ordered a 1 TB Seagate Barracuda drive and an eSATA card adapter for my laptop from Other World Computing. Read on to learn a few tricks about using an eSATA storage device on a Mac, including setup in Windows using Parallels and VMware Fusion.
eSATA drives are designed to transfer data at a maximum rate of 3 gigabits per second – almost four times faster than Firewire 800 and seven times faster than Firewire 400. While I could format the Seagate drive immediately after inserting it into the docking station, the Finder would invariably freeze whenever I tried to copy files. The only remedy I had was to Force Quit the Finder. Perplexed, I searched for a solution until I decided to take the unit out of the dock connector to look at the diagram imprinted on the storage device:
Limit to 1.5Gb/s Operation, place jumper shunt on last two pins.
3 Gb/s Operation, leave all pins uncovered.
Although the Seagate drive didn’t come with a jumper shunt, I was undaunted because I had several in my inventory. Once I installed the jumper shunt, I was able to use the eSATA drive without any difficulties.
Even though my computer wasn’t capable of handling eSATA data transfers at the maximum rate of 3 gb/s, I noticed that even at half-speed that I was able to complete disk intensive tasks like audio rendering much faster than I could using a Firewire 800 drive.
The big unknown was whether I could use the eSATA drive on my Mac using Windows. I have Windows XP Pro running under Parallels 4, and Windows 7 installed under VMware Fusion 3. What I learned is that I didn’t need Windows drivers to use the eSATA drive under either virtual machine environment.
What surprised me was that once the drive was mounted on my Mac desktop, I could simultaneously access it in Parallels/Windows XP as a network drive that appeared in My Computer.
I didn’t have to set up a new shared folder in the Parallels configuration window. Moreover, I could copy files from Windows XP to the eSATA drive, even though the drive was formatted as Mac OS X Extended (Journaled).
On the other hand, I did have to configure the eSATA drive as a share folder in order to use it under my Windows 7/VMware setup. The task required me to add the storage device as a share folder in the VMware Settings window.
Once the share folder was set up, then the eSATA drive became accessible under Windows 7. Once again, no Windows drivers were needed.