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Old January 23rd, 2009, 10:36 PM   #1
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eSATA Stability / Instability with MBP and Mac Pro

I've discovered (the hard way - see page 3 of the thread below for all the very specific details) that, although we all read eSATA is the fastest way to connect an external drive to a Mac Book Pro or a Mac Pro, it is not without stability issues for some. In my case this has made this route unuseable (frequent crashes in OS-X running FCS2 on a July 2008 MBP).

What type/speed of hard drive do you EDIT with? - Page 3 - The Digital Video Information Network

I'll be pushing the button on a new Mac Pro soon so I would like to know if it's worth while me trying to put an eSATA card in that (or not). My experiences with an eSATA expresscard 34 adapter and my MBP these last few days makes me wary to stray away from Firewire 800 right now for attaching external drives to any Mac.

So, please share your experiences (good or bad) and relevant details (e.g. makes of cards etc.) regarding eSATA on both MBPs and Mac Pros. Thank you.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 09:04 AM   #2
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My experience is the complete opposite Andy. I've had issues with firewire, and almost none with eSata. I trust eSata's stability a lot more than firewire ... take that with a grain of salt, since obviously our mileage does vary ...

[EDIT] My late 2008 15" MBP has seen heavy editing usage since I bought it in Oct 2008, it's always connected to a swappable eSata enclosure and has never given me any problems. This system has travelled quite aways around the world and back, so it's had to go through some dings and knocks along the way and is still performing perfectly.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 09:27 AM   #3
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i have no experience with eSATA on my Mac's but I do use FireWire 800 all the time and haven't experienced any problems at all. Seagate is having an issue right now with some of their Sata drives.

Seagate offers fix, free data recovery for disks affected by firmware bug - Engadget
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Old January 24th, 2009, 10:32 AM   #4
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Yes I was aware of the Seagate issue. Bad news for what was often regarded as a premium brand for sure. I'm using a G-RAID3 (2 x1TB in Raid 0) which, I believe (but I am not certain) may contain Hitachi drives, another well trusted name in HDDs.

Michael, it's helpful to hear that eSATA works well for some people as that is where I want to end up eventually - just wish my set-up worked right now. I've arranged to send my Sonnet Tempo eSATA Expresscard 34 Adapter back to amazon uk already but might try it out again later - just to give it one last chance to win my favour! Mind you I've been hard editing since 3.00AM this morning with FW800 between the MBP and the G-RAID3 and not one glitch at all.
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Old January 24th, 2009, 05:32 PM   #5
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Twice I have had a SATA drive fail while part of a RAID 0 (in a Windows machine) so I ended up loosing all the data on both drives. I now only use RAID 1 or 5
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Old January 24th, 2009, 05:49 PM   #6
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Yes don't worry Curt. I religiously back up my media files daily on not one but two other separate 1TB drives, i.e. I 'manually' mirror them... until I can afford a G-SAFE or similar RAID 1. The Raid 0 is only for big work in progress edits. I also back up everything I can on DVD DL.

Now, back to the main point of this thread. I've had the eSATA card back in my MBP all evening and have had no crashes. However, I'm in the middle of a 4 pass H.264 conversion in Squeeze of a big project on another drive so I have n't actually been accessing my G-RAID3 drive via eSATA at all during that time. At least I know seems to only crash OSX if I actively use this eSATA link!
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Old January 24th, 2009, 08:13 PM   #7
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MacPro with eSATA - mixed results

I have a MacPro 2 X 2.66 GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon with the NewerTech eSATA extender cable in it, and it used to have a SI PCIe eSATA four port cerd in it.

The card didn't have proper drivers available for OS X, which I found out after the fact. Suffered many kernel panics and lots of tech service time before Silicon Image said they didn't have the drivers to support the card under OS X, might've been 10.5.3 at the time. Removed it and haven't tried it since. I used the two ports from the extender cable for a while and had some crashes so I unplugged and went back to FW800. All my drives have Oxford 924 or 934 chipsets in them.

Maybe someday I'll try again, but for now I personally don't have the patience for the instability I experienced. I'm interested in a proven PCIe card and might give it another chance then.
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Old January 25th, 2009, 06:43 AM   #8
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My problems with eSATA reconfirmed

Thanks Paul. Interesting and valuable information.

This morning I fired up with the eSATA in place for the G-RAID3 and started a big 1920x1080p project render from files that are on the G-RAID3. Yep, you've guessed it, within minutes OS-X quit "unexpectedly" again. Well, I expected it really but I thought I'd give it one last try. I've checked the Sonnet website and searched for updated drivers etc. but I've wasted enough time on this for now. The Sonnet Tempo Expresscard 34 eSATA Adapter is definitely going back to amazon in tomorrow's post.

I'm sticking with FW800 on all my external drives until someone can tell me how to do this successfully. Yes it will be a bit slower but overall faster than dealing with an unstable system......

For the record, just to prevent others wasting their time and money I'm on OS X 10.5.6 (9G55), Kernel version 9.6.0 with a 15-inch 200GB/7200rpm MBP (version 4,1) of July 2008 with a 2.5Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM (Kensington I think).

EDIT: 1 other thing. When I spec out my Mac Pro should I go for the Apple Raid card (pricey) and INTERNALLY Raid 0 on 2 drives (say 500GB each), maybe with the OS and FCS2 on a third 500GB drive separate from the Raid pair? (and either another 500GB drive in the 4th bay for back-ups or the drive bay empty for now???). I would then back up my projects on external 1TB drives as now.

Will this "All Apple Raid System" be stable and a good idea? Is this the way to go to get the speed WITH stability I need for editing EX3 clips????
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Last edited by Andy Wilkinson; January 25th, 2009 at 08:04 AM. Reason: Adding question about Apple Raid card stability
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Old January 25th, 2009, 10:10 AM   #9
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Andy,

There are other possibilities not mentioned that could be causing your problem:

1. Both the HDD enclosure and the ExpressCard adapter use communication protocols via their internal chipsets to manage the data I/O. It could very well be that the G-Raid enclosure and the Sonnet card you're using simply don't like each other. Keep in mind with your setup you've got 3 data I/O controllers in the data stream: There's the one in the G-Raid, the Sonnet Card and the ExpressCard controller in the Macbook Pro.

2. Another potential issue is that it appears the G-Raid box is doing an internal hardware-RAID setup thereby in essence making the single eSATA port a port-multiplier connector in a sense. The Sonnet card you're using is expecting to see single-drive JBOD or a true port multiplier communication, not an internal RAID ported down to a single lane. This *could be* the heart of the issue with your stability problems. The reason it's not happening when connected via FW is because the communication type is actually quite a different animal using different parameters and you're down to only 2 I/O controllers, the G-Raid and the internal FW bus in the MacBook Pro.

3. Your ExpressCard bus may have an internal hardware controller issue, something the Genius Bar at the Apple Store would have to suss out.

My guess is that #2 is the heart of the problem. I've been using the very same Firmtek 2-bay eSATA enclosure (JBOD to software RAID) that was in the AMUG test you referenced with a Seritek ExpressCard adapter using FCP6 for nearly 4 months now with nary a hiccup.

I don't think it's a HDD firmware issue and I'm also betting that if you migrated your data to a hot-swap eSATA enclosure with JBOD drives (i.e. that Firmtek enclosure or something similar) you'll find your ExpressCard will astound with stability and reliability.
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Old January 25th, 2009, 01:39 PM   #10
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I use a Sonnet 2 port eSATA adapter (Tempo Sata Express 34) going into a Firmtek hot swappable 2 unit SATA drive. No problems at all. I don't Raid the 2 drives though , just back them up often. It seems pretty fast but my editing needs have not been heavy.
I like the Hot swap feature , but its a pain figuring out how to store the bare drives. That's a problem that someone ought to address.
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Old January 25th, 2009, 06:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
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I like the Hot swap feature , but its a pain figuring out how to store the bare drives. That's a problem that someone ought to address.
WiebeTech Micro Storage Solutions - Protective Hard Drive Cases

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Old January 25th, 2009, 11:04 PM   #12
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Just a quick thank you to all for the great inputs so far. These post are very helpful to me (and I suspect/am sure to the wider DVinfo Community). In particular, after reading Robert's post I feel I now have a better understanding of the complexity that was causing my particular glitches with eSATA and a RAID 0 set-up! (A definite step forward for me after the frustrations of the last few days).

Please keep these eSATA experiences coming in!
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Old January 26th, 2009, 11:38 PM   #13
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This is a timely post.

I've had two crashes recently: MBP+Sonnet eSATA Express 34 card+dual JBOD enclosure from Startech. The first crash introduced me to DiskWarrior and OnyX...

I also run a Sonnet dual eSATA card in the MacPro, and have no obvious problems with it while running the same external box, but FCP seems buggy and error prone and I've been suspecting the enclosure since it's more designed for backups than rendering, and it was only 55 bucks, so possibly too good to be true.

With two favorable experiences using Firmtek would you guys mind adding the model number to the conversation so we could check out exactly what you're using? What other external boxes have you had good luck with?


PS
To what extent does FCS run more efficiently with RAW files on one drive, RENDERED on another?
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Old January 27th, 2009, 12:23 AM   #14
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I was having numerous problems with my eSATA setup on my Mac Pro (freezes, kernel panics, etc). On the advice of the fellows over at Burly Storage, I disabled Time Machine. I have not had a problem since (that was a few months ago).

I suspect Time Machine was being too clever about something. Oh well.
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Old January 27th, 2009, 03:25 AM   #15
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I'm using Firmtek-based systems.

I have 20 pairs of HDDs on the shelves and the only problem I ever had was for a brief time when I was using Soft RAID-formatted mirrored RAIDs with OS 10 (Tiger).

Upgraded to Leopard and the problem that I experienced with mirrored RAIDs occasionally going out of sync disappeared.

The drives are all IBM/Hitachi SATAs. Some are enterprise-type drives. Most aren't. None have failed.

I also occasionally use a Firmtek Express 34 card with my MacBook Pro, along with a hot-swap Firmtek enclosure. I since replaced the Express 34 card with a Spyder Hub which is also able to work with the Firmtek enclosure. The Spyder Hub operates through the Firewire port of the MacBook Pro, allowing me to read Sony SxS cards in the Express 34 slot.
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