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motes of reality
to live a sweet lie or accept the bitter truth that is reality
3TB hard drives, USB cases, and OS X 
2012-05-19 18:00
rebel
Considering picking up a Seagate 3TB 3.5" SATA-600 7200rpm 64MB. I was going to install it in the G4 fileserver, but then wondered if using an external case for it with my MacBook Pro and only hooking it up to the G4 for backups would be a better (faster & quieter) option. I have a few enclosures already but there's a catch...

Just like a few years back when 160GB drives caused problems with controllers that did not support 48-bit LBA, 3TB drives break another limit (32-bit addresses with 512-byte blocks). Many old/cheap chipsets won't handle drives over 2.2TB (2^32*512). So I borrowed Cot's 3TB Seagate and did some testing...

ICY BOX HDD Docking Station for 2.5" and 3.5" SATA HDDs
Model: ICY BOX IB-110StUS2-B
Result: FAIL
Note: I actually emailed the manufacturer on this one before ordering Cot's drive, as this was her dock. They said it would work, but the drive shows up as 800GB in Disk Utility.

ALL IN 1 HDD Docking
Model: 879U2
Result: PASS
Note: This is a cheap (~€10) USB dock that I got from ebay. I was quite surprised that it worked when my branded cases didn't.

ST Lab 3.5" Hard Drive Enclosure
Model: u2-j01-d921-11-00011
Result: FAIL
Note: This case is pretty old and I didn't expect it to work. As with the Icy Box, the drive showed up as 800GB in Disk Utility.

All the above are under OS X 10.6.8 on my MBP. I didn't test Win7 on my PC but might update this post when I get my own drive (before formatting it journaled HFS+). Cot uses the 3TB drive in the unbranded dock with her iMac (also running Snow Leopard), nabnerd has the same model in his 4-5 year old Mac Pro running Lion, and I previously verified that the 13-year-old G4 Yikes handles it correctly under Tiger (10.4.11 I think) as an internal drive (connected via SIIG Serial ATA PCI-M). All the enclosures also have eSATA, which I didn't test either as I don't have a machine set up with it atm.

That the drive appears as 800GB in Disk Utility when using either outdated enclosure is odd, and I'm sure I've seen other people mention that figure online when I was reading up on 3TB drives. 3TB-2.2TB=800GB, so perhaps the controller is somehow imposing it's 32-bit limit by splitting the drive into chunks, ignoring that first one, and then presenting the second 800GB chunk to the OS. Curious to see what would happen with a drive over 4.4TB, but I don't think they're available just yet ;)

**UPDATE**
When I tried formatting the new 3TB Seagate in the G4, Disk Utility gave me an 'operation not permitted' error. I could probably have searched for a fix on this, but instead chose to format it using the external dock on the mbp. Works perfectly after dropping it back into the G4.
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