Check the obvious solutions first

Several years ago, I grabbed a Seagate Free Agent external drive for a song in some refurb sale. It came in at 1.5 TB, matching my internal drive in my G5 and the aluminum look of my setup. Great stuff.

Except… it would do weird things. During normal operation, though getting a bit hot from time to time, it was reliable enough to serve as a backup drive, but when I would turn my G5 off, the Free Agent would keep running. At first, I thought, maybe it just takes a bit to spin down and cool off, but it would stay on, hard drive spinning, for hours. Doing nothing.

Here’s a reason why I bought the drive – it had Firewire 800, making it a doubly great deal at the time. I wanted to maximum every ounce of speed from my G5, so why not use FW800 over USB 2.0? So, I did, stubbornly.

I got into the habit of physically unplugging the drive after use.

Ultimately, I decided, after a series of different kinds of troubleshooting, that my G5 probably had a less updated version of Firewire 800 that didn’t play quite nicely with this drive or its controller, failing to give it a “go to sleep” function or something or the other.

Fast forward to years of living with his annoying issue, I misplaced my Firewire 800 cable during a recent move to a new home, and so I plugged in the USB cable that came with the drive. Guess what? As soon as I shut the G5 off, the whole unit goes to sleep on command (and seems a whole lot less hot too).

In other words, after all these years of trying to maximize speed, I failed to give it even one test with a USB cable to compare performance and quirks. It wasn’t my G5 after all, likely a poorly designed controller board in the external drive that couldn’t play nicely. No wonder I got it for so cheap.

It just goes to show – don’t be stubborn. Check the most basic solutions first before making do with bugs and quirks. Next time, I’ll tell you about living with quirky RAM issues.

— Nathan

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