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Best external SCSI mass storage format?

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After several weeks and a lot of patience while searching for cables, I finally got my 68k setup starting. However, while the SCSI2SD is convenient, I kinda miss the sound of an actual hard disk.


I hoped to rectify this with a Jaz drive, as I’m (sadly) an Iomega fan and love my Zip100 for moving things between my Win98 machine and my PowerBook 180. The drive arrived along with a total of 7 cartridges. But out of very poor luck, the disk I chose to try first had an issue opening and closing the protective gate on the Jaz, and I think the heads crashed. I tried one other disk to make sure, but all I got was repetitive clicks and hung computers.


I was more successful with my beat up AppleCD 300e, and even though it looked damaged, I finally got it booting an installer CD, and was able to format the internal drive. Yet, I don’t feel like burning CDs every time I want to move something bigger than a Zip disk to it. The Jaz was meant to fix that as a nice way to store things I could bring in with Ethernet, or to mess with the photo library I wanted to build from my Mavica…


I mentioned sadly being an Iomega fan because I just bought another two drives and a new sealed set of cartridges. But is there anything else that can fill the hard disk need while still being external?

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This appears to be very much a matter of personal taste; multiple people here espouse multiple formats.  If you specifically want something that goes thunk and chunk and whirrrrrr, I suspect "what you can find cheap and working" is probably the most important criterion.  I don't know whether any one option is more reliable than the others now, though I hear good things about MO.


If you want "reliability and likely to stay working indefinitely", I would definitely look at networking, though.  LocalTalk is slow but bombproof.


Using both of these depending on what you feel like at the time is totally legit—also lessens the annoyance when one of the two isn't working.

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I have purchased many Jaz and Zip drives and I can say that you should look for boxed / sealed / or at least tested and working units. There are a lot of drives that are dead out there being resold as “untested”. 

I never use the used disks that come with the drives I’ve bought. There’s something to do with alignment of the heads between drives and the data written using one drive and accessing it on another where that data written is out of range from the head, causing clicking and damage. This isn’t evidence I can back with science, only anecdotal from experience. Disks I had work fine on the drive they came with, causing clicking in another brand new drive. Disks in that drive worked fine, but caused clicking in yet another drive. I’ve had the best results with new sealed drives and new sealed media. So far a year later no issues. 

I have a G4 with dual 533mhz CPU, running OS X 10.4.11 and OS 9. That Mac has an internal Fujitsu Magneto Optical (IDE/ATAPI), a USB Zip 100, and an Adaptec SCSI card with an Iomega Jaz 1GB drive. My test bench has a stack of each Zip 100, Jaz 1GB, and Fujitsu 1.3 GB MO drives. This setup has been instrumental in moving data around and getting Macs up and running. I also appreciate the ASMR that comes from the noise a drive like Jaz has, or the tactile and visual precision a magneto optical disk uses. It just looks and feels cool. 

Testing drive speeds on a variety of Macs, I have found Jaz to be faster than SCSI2SD. I don’t have much SCSI2SD experience, and I’m only comparing to the one that came inside a IIci I bought (already setup), so that may just be my experience with that one unit. I have benchmark data using Jaz on a large variety of machines so comparing it with SCSI2SD benchmark numbers others could provide on the same models would be beneficial. 

I have sourced a number of U160/320 drives for internals (need to use a SCA80/IDC50 adapter), and most are silent running, so no tick tick tick of drive access. 

I have had good success imaging vintage software CDs over to Magneto Optical disks and locking them and using them just like the original CDROM disc without the need to also have a CDROM drive hooked up and working (and burning a CD in 2021 using modern blanks makes for an interesting game of “will it work or will it not” in an Apple CD 300 or 600 drive). I also have CDRW 4x media but only newer drives read those so their usefulness is limited. 

I did pickup a Yamaha 4416 SCSI CD burner to read them on, and with the Toast CD extension I can even boot from it. The benefit is you can use Toast CD Pro to write a CD on a vintage Mac (for that full “watch an episode of a tv show while waiting” experience). The benefit seems to be slightly higher compatibility on older drives vs writing on a new drive under newer OS versions. 

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@MrFahrenheit Interesting to hear about the incompatibility of used disks in drives. Interesting theory to say the least. I did find a set of sealed disks I now have coming in, and a tested drive. I may end up just shelling out for a sealed drive if I can't get something working soon, haha.


I also noticed with my SCSI2SD that it isn't as blazing fast as I anticipated. I know its likely due to wanting to be universal or more reliable, but it is what it is. My Mac has a noisy fan, and I usually keep a ZIP in and moving, so that fulfills the sound requirements, LOL. 


Few years back, I did a ton of experiments with burning CD images for my collection of Macs (iMac G3, PowerMac G4, iBook G4, and some others...) and finally found a good set of CD media, and a rock solid burning process, even under Windows. Lately, anything that I don't feel confident with, I just throw on my PowerMac G5 and get it burning that way. So far, so good. To that end, for old school hard copies of media, CDs are great and don't require me firing up the space heater of a server that my G5 is.




@cheesestraws good shout on the networking. Currently my aforementioned G5 is my best and most versatile server that can still run the older network protocols, though setting up a LocalTalk setup would be a dream... I don't have a ton of space to set up an old school serial network though, and it would cost a lot to make it work with my existing devices though i spent more than i'm willing to admit on this Color Classic Mystic project to begin with

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On 5/24/2021 at 11:15 PM, Byrd said:

Check out the BlueSCSI (with external adapter), or for more speed, SCSI2SD V5.5 would suit.


At the end of the day, this (and networking) are jointly the single canonical correct answer to this question, at least from the reliability and performance standpoint.


Every other potential answer/technology is as old as these Macs are. There's better and worse technologies within that bunch -- e.g. Bernoulli is tough to deal with (and unreliable at this point), Zip is unreliable, Jaz is unreliable, Syquest is unreliable, MO is reliable but also all the mechanisms are 25-30 years old now, CDROM/CDRW is reliable but all the mechanisms are 25-30 years old, so-on and so-forth.


If you have nostalgia for something specific: go with it, but don't trust it.


If you have an existing ecosystem of some sort, expand it, but don't trust it.


If you don't have any existing ecosystem then my genuine recommendation is to save your money and your heartache and go with one of the modern solutions and also investigate networking and tools like vtools, macippi, netatalk, or whatever.


On 5/25/2021 at 7:06 AM, MrFahrenheit said:

Testing drive speeds on a variety of Macs, I have found Jaz to be faster than SCSI2SD


This would track, Jaz, like SyQuest cartridges, are hard disk platters and hard disk read heads spinning at nearly hard disk speeds.


Lots of high end contemporary hard disks will outgun a SCSI2SD, especially in flat out sequential read/write performance, which, incidentally, is among the least important (but easiest to understand) aspects of storage performance.


SCSI2SD is also more dependent on good SD cards than people give it credit for, but, to the point here: JAZ is fast enough that it really rivals SCSI2SD v6 in speed and Jaz is explicitly from the PCI PowerMac era, so if you're talking about "it's 1995" well most of those machines have PCI slots for SATA cards.


Anyway, most of my point here is that a SCSI2SD v5 variant will still do random access faster than a Jaz. Also, which SCSI2SD were you using? I don't remember why but the v5.5 is, specifically, known to be slower than the other v5.x versions, and, my thinking about that tends to be "that's fair because it's sized and shaped to hang right off the back of the machine which is pretty convenient."


I'm also in the "well most of these machines were slow when they were new" and "I'd rather something be reliable and convenient than fast" camp which is where SCSI2SD as a boot media and ethernet or localtalk networking for any storage needs beyond that come in handy.

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Has anybody here played with tape drives in the classic Mac OS?  I have an Exabyte Mammoth LT drive in a Sun SCSI enclosure, but I've never got around to trying it on one of my Macs.  I imagine an old version of Retrospect or similar would be the software of choice.

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Back in the day (late 1990's) I had a SUN SCSI add-on enclosure that was the size of a mini-fridge and had 6 very large, very heavy disk drives and an Exabyte drive.  it was hooked into a an HP 735 that ran HP-UX.  To back things up, I would ftp all my Mac's files up to the HP-attached drives then back the whole thing up to the Exabyte.  (there was an admin-based backup utility that handled the whole thing).


I never did get the Exabyte working directly with the Macs, but a few years later I had a couple of different setups, using DAT drives (one was installed in a Windows server and another was a SCSI standalone) and I used both of them at different times to backup my Macs, using Retrospect.  It was fantastic software, worked great with both (it was very adaptable) and I would be more than a little surprised if you were not able to get it to work with your drive.  If I remember correctly it handled compression correctly too.

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I too enjoy the hum and buzz of honest to goodness spinning rust, but certainly wouldn't put any data I care about on 25yr old Iomega media.


Grab a generic (or Apple branded if you don't mind paying 3x) external SCSI enclosure and a 36G Ultra160 68pin or SCA Seagate Cheetah drive from the auction site. The latter can be had for around $20, and since they're a) much newer, and b) were enterprise-grade kit, they're going to be faster than anything yet mentioned and more reliable than probably all but SD. You'll need a 68UW or SCA to 50-pin adapter, but those are cheap.


I have precisely such a setup (mine's full height with a SCSI cdrom in the upper bay) and it's incredibly convenient to move from system to system. 36GB partitioned into 9x 4GB volumes (or more smaller partitions if you're < 7.5) is effectively limitless capacity on a 68k.

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