Mac Daniel's Advice

SCSI & FireWire Disk Mode

Korin Hasegawa-John - 2001.07.06

First of all, I'm new to Low End Mac, and this is my first column (apart from a My First Mac piece schedules for July 17). I live in Vermont, have used a lot of Macs, run a Mac troubleshooting business on the side, and play in a band.

If you have a PowerBook, you know there are several ways to transfer files from your mobile machine to a desk-bound computer. The main ones are floppies, ethernet, and Internet. All of these have their own problems, and none of them are particularly fast.

However, there is a very fast, efficient way to transfer files between a desktop and a laptop - SCSI disk mode (or target disk mode or FireWire target disk mode, etc.). Basically, this mode causes your PowerBook to behave as an external hard drive on your desktop Mac.

You need a special adapter for SCSI Disk Mode. It's called the SCSI Disk Mode Adapter, and it looks different from Apple's standard SCSI adapter because it's a dark gray color. You either need this cable or an adapter made by a third party that supports disk mode (sometimes marked "docking" on these adapters).

Before you connect any cables, open your PowerBook's SCSI Disk Mode control panel and select an ID that your desktop doesn't already use for a SCSI device. Then turn SCSI disk mode on and shut down your PowerBook.

If you have Apple's SCSI disk mode cable, it's very easy. Make sure that both computers are turned off. All you have to do is attach a cable that has the standard 25-pin to 50-pin connector to your desktop Mac. Apple recommends using a pass-through terminator, which you should do. Attach the pass-through terminator to the PowerBook's cable, and then attach the other end to the desktop's cable.

If you have a third-party adapter, you need two extra pieces. Another 25 pin to 50 pin cable, and a 50 pin gender changer, to allow the the two SCSI cables to connect to each other. Connect the cables as above, with one 25-50 cable from the PowerBook and one 25-50 cable from the desktop. Then connect the gender changer to one of the cables and the terminator to the other. Then connect the gender changer to the terminator.

Start up your PowerBook. There should be a SCSI icon bouncing about your screen with a SCSI ID number in the center. Then start up your desktop machine. If everything is connected properly and terminated (prayers and animal sacrifices optional), the PowerBook's hard drive will appear as an external hard drive on your other Mac's desktop. Then you can drag and drop files between the PowerBook's hard drive and the desktop's hard drive. This is a lot faster than ethernet - 5 Mbps!

FireWire Disk Mode is even easier. Just get a 6 pin to 6 pin data cable, plug it into a FireWire port on the desktop and a FireWire port on the PowerBook, and turn both machines off. Start up the PowerBook and hold down the 'T' key. The little FireWire logo should appear. Then start up the desktop and transfer files at 50 Mbps!

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