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UltiFire FireWire IEEE 1394 Hard Drive FAQ and Information

This page contains information regarding Synchrotech's UltiFire FireWire IEEE 1394 Hard Drive product line.

Why do some companies list their IEEE 1394 drive's throughput at 400Mbps or 50MBps?
What does UltiFire Series I, W, M and Mini Mean?
Why are you beginning to list IBM/Hitachi instead of IBM?
Can I Share an UltiFire Drive between Operating Systems?
How to reformat a UltiFire Drive to its full capacity

General FireWire FAQ items are addressed on this separate page.

How to connect a device with a 6-pin connector to a computer an iLink or 4-pin connector?
How many IEEE 1394 devices can be on the bus?
Are there any performance hints for connecting multiple devices?
Why do certain computers achieve less than ideal interface speeds?

Why do some companies list their IEEE 1394 drive's throughput at 400Mbps or 50MBps?

The maximum theoretical throughput of the FireWire IEEE 1394 serial standard is 400 Megabits (Mbps) or 50 Megabytes (MBps) per second. However, it is misleading when vendors state their devices, particularly hard drives can achieve those speeds. First, IEEE 1394 is like any other serial bus in that there is an approximate 8 to 10% overhead in transmission. Furthermore, all current IEEE 1394 hard drives use ATA (EIDE) mechanisms. A bridge chip translates IEEE 1394 to IDE commands and there is more overhead associated in this translation. Newer bridge chip technologies like the OXFW911 are much faster than the previous generations, but they still have some overhead. Additionally, even if IEEE 1394 and the IDE bridge chips could provide 50MBps speeds, drive mechanisms within the various EIDE specifications (ie. Ultra ATA 100) don't sustain data rates saturating the bus. Only in burst mode do these drives approach their interface maximums, their sustained rates are considerably slower. All together, the various overhead insures that no vendor is really providing 400Mbps or 50MBps performance. Realistic figures in megabytes are typically in the mid to high thirties for sustained reads and high twenties to low thirties for sustained writes depending on the drive mechanism, rotational speed, and the host port's throughput.

What does UltiFire Series I, W, M and Mini Mean?

While Synchrotech utilizes its own external case and IEEE 1394 to EIDE bridge boards in the UltiFire line, ultimately the hard drive mechanisms themselves are from top hard drive manufacturers. Synchrotech believes it is important to disclose the vendor for the ATA hard drive mechanisms used in its UltiFire line. This has several advantages, first of which is that it allows the customer to choose the right drive based on their needs and preferences. Futhermore, it allows Synchrotech to accurately list a drive's full capabilities on each product page. The letters simply stand for the vendor that makes the internal drive mechanism. I for IBM, M for Maxtor, W for Western Digital. We also indicate the actual model used and separate the specifications when the models differ. The regular series line are based on desktop 3.5" drives, while the Mini line is based on notebook 2.5" devices. The Mini series is more portable, and will run as a bus powered device when the host provides it.

Why are you beginning to list IBM/Hitachi instead of IBM?

IBM sold its Storage Division to Hitachi in the Fall of 2002. The newly formed Hitachi group is called Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. It took nearly six months for the completion of the transfer, and we will continue using IBM/Hitachi until name recognition for HGST is well established.

Can I Share an UltiFire Drive between Operating Systems?

The short answer is yes, but not out of the box. A common file system such as FAT needs to be used. Until the status of Microsoft's appeal to their rejected US patent for FAT is known, Synchrotech only offers HFS+ or NTFS as the default shipping formats for the UltiFire line. That doesn't prevent customers from reformating drives as FAT or as multiple-partitions including FAT. The following third party article "Sharing External FireWire Drives Among Operating Systems" explains how to prepare UltiFire drives for use with multiple operating systems. Opinions and information expressed on third party sites does not reflect those of Synchrotech.

How to reformat a UltiFire Drive to its full capacity

Under Windows 2000

Click the Start menu, then click Settings, and then click Control Panel.

  1. Double-click on Administrative Tools.
  2. Then double-click on Computer Management.
  3. In the Storage sub-directory, click on Disk Management.

The Write Signature and Upgrade Disk Wizard will start.

  1. Click Next to start the Wizard.
  2. Select the drive from the list using the checkbox.
  3. Click Next to continue.
  4. Click Finish to write the signature to the drive.

The drive will be listed without a drive letter, and show as "unallocated". To create a partition, click once on the unallocated area of the drive. Under the Action menu, select All Tasks and click on Create Partition. The Create Partition Wizard will start.

  1. Click Next to start the Wizard.
  2. Choose Primary or Extended Partition, then click Next (Primary Partition is recommended).
  3. Enter the amount of disk space to be used (the partition size), then click Next. The default is the maximum available disk space.
  4. Assign a drive letter or path, then click Next.
  5. Select a file system to format the disk (FAT, FAT32, or NTFS), verify the settings, then click Next (The FAT file system is only available if the partition size is less than 2GB). Note: It is recommended that you select the Perform Quick Format checkbox. A standard format could take several hours.
  6. Verify the settings, then click Finish to begin formatting the drive. Click Back to make changes to settings.
  7. When formatting has finished, the drive will display the volume name, the drive letter, the size of the partition (in GB), the file system used (FAT, FAT32, or NTFS), and a Healthy status.

Under Windows 98/98SE

Download the PDF file 98 Format Instructions for full information.

Under Mac OS Classic

Mac OS Classic will reformat via the Finder any UltiFire drive that has been previously initialized under Mac OS. However, the standard utilities included with Mac OS Classic do not have the ability to initiz

  1. Download Disk Control 1.1
  2. Backup your data from the FireWire drive.
  3. Format the drive using Disk Control 1.1
  4. Go to the Special Menu, choose Erase Disk, and re-initialize the drive choosing Mac OS Extended.

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