FireWire 800 Travel Drives

by James Duncan Davidson

A week and a half ago, Derrick mentioned that he was testing out a SmartDisk FireLite 120GB hard drive with Aperture. Since I do so much of my photography and processing with Aperture on-location at events, it's important to me to have lots of storage at hand, and to be able to carry that storage easily. This means that small, lightweight, bus powered hard drives are perfect for the job. I have a few of these drives, all FireWire 400, but I've lately been running a bit tight on space. So, Derrick's post prompted me to keep my eyes open for a new drive.

The other day, I ran across another drive that fits the bill perfectly. It's the LaCie Rugged All Terrain 100GB drive. It sports a 7200RPM disk and a FireWire 800 connection, both of which will be welcome features when working with Aperture and RAW images.

On MacBook Pros and PowerBooks that have both FireWire 800 and 400 connections, hooking the drive up to the FireWire 800 port will leave the FireWire 400 port free for a second drive without requiring a separate FireWire hub to carry around. Enticed by a portable 7200 RPM FireWire 800 drive, as well as the option of easily having two portable drives hooked up on-location so that I can make a duplicate backup of my images onto a separate drive after pulling them off of a CompactFlash card, I picked one up for use with Aperture.

With this new drive, I'm going to try a slight change to my mobile Aperture workflow. Instead of having a fully internalized library on my laptop's internal hard drive and using the external drive just a backup device, I'm going to start using Aperture's new ability to store master images outside of the main library and store them on the new FireWire 800 drive. This will accomplish two things: First, I'll be able to test drive this feature before possibly using the strategy on my main desktop library. Second, I'll be able to flip through pictures, rate, and keyword them without connecting up the external drive while sitting on an airplane or at a cafe. Of course, I'll make sure to back up my images to a second FireWire 400 drive and to roll them up to my home machine's master library.

As I work through this new, at least to me, style of working with my Aperture library, I'll report back on how it works over the next few weeks.


2006-11-27 06:35:27
The version of the LaCie drive you link to sports a 5400 RPM drive.
James Duncan Davidson
2006-11-27 08:26:55
Indeed, I did link to the wrong drive. Sorry about that. I've fixed the link.
2006-11-27 08:44:26
Just wanted to note that the FireLite is made by SmartDisk, not SanDisk. I have the 80GB model, and love it.
James Duncan Davidson
2006-11-27 09:10:55
Karen: Thanks for the catch.

Memo to self: writing blog entries at 1AM might not be a good way to ensure accuracy.

Ira Miller
2006-11-27 18:40:51
You might want to have a look at eSATA while you are at it... I picked up a 4 drive case from Cooldrives, an eSATA expresscard/34 and a pair of 320GB ($100ea from newegg) drives for my MBP C2D. The drives show up individually when the box is connected which lets me use the disk utilities RAID 1 feature for a little extra data protection.

Also worth noting is that if you want the best performance eSATA has it over firewire 800.

James Duncan Davidson
2006-11-28 12:57:08
Ira: Indeed, external SATA drives are the fastest possible option. The negatives, of course, are size and external power bricks. I think, however, that this whole area of external hard drives may be sort of like camera bags--there's not just one solution that works. There's a range of solutions that works depending on the situation and you end up taking the solution that fits a particular task the best.
Steve Robertson
2006-11-30 18:28:31
I used two of these drives with capacity of 120 MB with my Macbook Pro on a three month photo assignment in China was very satisfied with the results. My main Aperture library was on my laptop hard drive and I had two vaults - one on each drive. Even after a failed hard drive and having Apple Repair replacing it with a brand new one in Shanghai, I was able to recreate my Aperature library by restoring from one of these drives. I would highly recommend this drive. I may just reference the files stored on the external drives as you mentioned next time so am interested in your results.