Review: Hard Disk Toolkit 2.0
Published by: FWB Software LLC
185 Constitution Drive, Suite A
Menlo Park, California 94025
Phone: (415) 463-3500
Fax: (415) 463-3558
Street Price: $125
Most recent Macs come with a 1 GB drive standard which is suitable for most users. Those of you who bought a Mac with a small 500 MB drive face the prospect of purchasing an external drive to hold Microsoft Office or the CD-ROM game that insists on installing a 50 MB directory.
Purchasing a mail order drive, including Apple branded external drives, could lead to an unpleasant surprise when it comes time to format that drive. If you’re lucky you’ll get a formatting program with the drive. If you don’t get a formatting program with the drive and try Apple’s formatting program you’ll likely find that it won’t see your new hard drive. The Apple drive setup program ignores hard drives that don’t contain Apple-installed firmware. Ever notice how Apple-brand internal drives have a little Apple sticker on the drive?
It’s understandable that Apple may want to keep it’s drive utility software as simple as possible by limiting it to work with only Apple firmware. However, such a restriction only creates problems when you have third party drives and removable media such as Magneto-Optical (MO) drives.
FWB Hard Disk ToolKit (HDT) is a drive utility program that will let you format almost any read-write storage device from almost any vendor. The good news is that many drive vendors include HDT Personal Edition with their drives. The formatting function will satisfy most users. The power user who wants more control over their drive hardware will want to upgrade to HDT version 2.0.6.
For this review I evaluated HDT with a 1GB Fujitsu M2694ES, a 160MB Apple-branded Conner drive, an 80MB Quantum ProDrive80S, a Pinnacle Micro OHD650 650MB MO, an 800MB Toshiba MK438FB, a Syquest 44 removable cartridge drive, a Syquest EZ135S, a 1GB Iomega Jaz, a 100MB Zip drive, a 150MB Iomega Bernoulli, a Quantum 540MB IDE, and finally an old 1988 Jasmine 20MB MegaFloppy. I used a Quadra800, Mac IIci, 6100, LC575, 8100/80, and a Performa 5200 to perform my tests. HDT supports over a half-dozen types of RAID arrays but I did not test that feature.
HDT comes on four floppy disks. The first two contains the Crisis Tool that will let you start up most Macs and reformat the drive. The Crisis Tool disks are meant to be used only if all other attempts at disk recovery have failed and you are resigned to reformatting your entire drive. The two other disks contains the utility programs that make up HDT.
The Hard Disk Toolkit program handles the basic formatting and partitioning functions. The Volume Selector screen displays all the SCSI devices on the Mac and lets you select any device for further configuration. Non-drive devices limit you to getting some SCSI information about the device such as the vendor and product name. My attempts to format an HP IIcx scanner resulted in a message telling me I could not perform the format operation on that device.
The Volume Selector screen can display IDE devices and SCSI devices on the internal and external SCSI bus. Fast and Wide SCSI-3 devices are displayed if you have an additional SCSI card in the Mac. Clicking the Auto Initialize icon on the Volume Selector screen starts an automated formatting process that formats the drive, installs the disk driver, and creates a partition consisting of all the free space on the drive.
The driver that HDT installs is compatible with SCSI Manager 4.3, which supports features such as asynchronous I/O, Power Mac native device drivers, and improved SCSI bus utilization for higher data throughput. The driver has a unique architecture which stores the driver in two partitions: Driver and Driver Objects. The two-part architecture allows multiple drivers to be installed. For example, on removable media, HDT will install SCSI and IDE drivers so that a cartridge can me used on a SCSI drive and then moved to an IDE drive.
The BenchTest feature will benchmark a drive using 8 different measurements. I used BenchTest to benchmark my drive to determine if my efforts to optimize the drive configuration had a positive effect. The benchmark results are presented in graphical format and can be saved for future comparisons.
The Test function will thoroughly test a drive by reading and writing every sector on the drive. The Best option can take hours to test a drive. Testing my Toshiba 800MB drive was an overnight process but it did confirm my suspicions that the drive was faulty.
The FWB Mounter utility will display all active drives and let mount or unmount them. Perhaps its greatest feature is the mount function. With the mount function you can leave a drive turned off until you need it. When you need it, turn the drive on, start FWB Mounter, and then mount the drive. In conjunction with a smart SCSI terminator I can hot plug/unplug SCSI drives and mount/unmount drives any time without any data loss.
The FWB SCSI Configure utility handles the more exotic SCSI device functions. The Configure utility is used to examine and modify the mode pages in a SCSI device. Mode pages contain the internal configuration parameters that control the operation of a SCSI device. Exotic functions such as Automatic Write Reallocation, Read Continuous, Disable Correction, and Force Sequential Write are some of the many dozens of functions that you can change should you wish to. The manual includes a fairly good description of the parameters you can view and change but it’s not material for the faint-of-heart. After changing any parameters I highly recommend the use of the BenchTest and Test functions to certify your drive.
The Diagnostic utility automatically performs a diagnostic test of your drives during startup. It’s designed to detect drive problems at an early stage before they become serious enough to damage data. After using it for a few days I decided that the extra time required at boot time was not worth the slight increase peace of mind. After all, all smart Mac users always backup their drives on a daily basis.
Real World Testing
Testing my drives on different Macs was an interesting experience. In most cases replacing the Apple driver with the FWB driver resulted in faster performance as reported by the BenchTest function. In one case the FWB driver actually resulted in lower performance. Modifying some drive parameters using SCSI Configure resulted in a small throughput increase with a few of the test drives. HDT was able to format and partition all of my drives except the Jasmine MegaFloppy. The MegaFloppy was one of the earliest removable cartridge drives from the now defunct Jasmine company. It was introduced in 1987 and featured a Qume drive mechanism that used 20MB floppy cartridges. HDT was able to low-level format the drive but every attempt to partition the MegaFloppy resulted in a crash. I gave up trying to partition after 7 hrs.
Unlike earlier versions of HDT, version 2.x removes support for 68000 Macs such as the Mac Plus and SE. Any Mac beginning with the Mac II and later is supported. System 7.0.1 or later and 3 MB of free RAM is required. Many SCSI and IDE drives are supported. A comprehensive list of supported devices is supplied on the install disk and is also available on FWB’s Web site.
I like this program and I highly recommend it. I have been trying various drive formatting programs since 1987 but I always go back to HDT. FWB is running a summer promotion that includes HDT, the CD-ROM Toolkit, Turbo Toolkit, and HSM Toolkit (also reviewed in this issue) for an incredible price of $99.