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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Consumer Hardware & Components > Unstable firewire hard drives performance in 220 volts countries

Unstable firewire hard drives performance in 220 volts countries
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Oct 4, 2011, 08:25 PM
Over the years, I often travel back and forth to the US, Asia and Europe with my MacBook Pro and external firewire hard drives, which were purchased in the USA. While in Europe or Asia, which generally runs on ~220 volts, I've had several experiences whenever I daisy chained more than 1 external firewire hard drive to my laptop, either the connection was very unstable, resulting in drives randomly unmounting; or my current dilemma where the 2nd drive is not mounting at all. I never experience these issues at all while I'm in the US. My guess is that the difference in voltage (110 vs. 220) or cycles (60 Hz vs. 50 Hz) is affecting the drives somehow. I have experienced this with G-drives, and the Newertech Voyager Q and Wiebetech Traydock which are well built, reliable enclosures. I pair the enclosures with Seagate or Hitachi drives. All the enclosures' AC adapters specifically state that they're rated for 100-240 volts. I thought hooking all my drives to a 2000 watt voltage transformer would solve the problem but it didn't. Using 1 firewire drive is not a problem, but the daisy chaining seems problematic. The dilemma is I MUST daisy chain the drives for backup purposes and just for general data wrangling. Plus my MacBook Pro only has 1 firewire port. My laptop and firewire port is not the problem, as I've upgraded several times over the years.

My questions are:

1. Has anyone else ever experienced USA drives acting funky in 220 volts countries?
2. Anyone have an idea for a solution to this problem?

Thanks so much,

PS. On perhaps a related note, when I plug my MacBook Pro into a 220 volts outlet and lay my wrists below the keyboard, there is a current or vibration that I do not feel when I'm in the US.
Spheric Harlot
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Oct 4, 2011, 09:08 PM
The current or vibration is completely normal and affects every single Apple laptop with a metal case ever built.

If you use merely the "duck head" corner piece of the power supply, it is not grounded. This is generally not an issue, but I could imagine that it can do weird things to Firewire drives. (Externally powered drives and Firewire hardware can occasionally cause sparking when plugged into a FW port.)

Use the three-prong extension cable to ground the 'Book and see if that helps.

More info: http://forums.macnn.com/69/mac-noteb...lectric-shock/
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Oct 5, 2011, 12:21 AM
I'm guessing these are bus-powered drives? If so, the problem may well be the 50 Hz vs 60 Hz. Under load, the PS capacitors supplying the FW bus are having to hold current just a little longer between input peaks. This would be more pronounced under max load, with two drives being powered.

If grounding doesn't solve it, you could take a sinewave inverter along, plus a 220 VAC -> 12V DC power supply. That would give you US-spec power. Or you could pick up FW enclosures in a 50 Hz country - they should already be designed for the situation.
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Oct 5, 2011, 12:56 AM
I take it you've tried different power adapters for your enclosures over the years? How old are your current ones?
Most of the ones supplied now are cheap and nasty junk. Some are better than others. Might be worthwhile buying an external drive from somewhere in Europe and trying its power adapter on your drives.
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