7 Replies Latest reply: Dec 27, 2006 9:13 AM by motc
motc Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
I recently bought a Seagate USB portable external hard drive to backup the files on our old CRT iMac G3, OS 9.2.2. The package said the drive would work with PC or Mac.

But the Seagate manual says the drive is factory-formatted with a FAT32 file format, and before it can be used with Mac OS, it should be formatted/initialized with the Mac OS format, via Drive Setup.

The drive mounts fine, but when I open Drive setup, the dialog box says the drive is not supported, and when I try to initialize it, I get a message saying: "Cannot initialize a disk in an unsupported drive".

I also tried to format it with my iBook, with the same result.

Any thoughts?

iMac G3, iBook G3, Mac OS 9.2.x, iMacG3: 400 MHz; 64 MB; 10 GB. iBookG3: 900 MHz; 640 MB; 40 GB
  • Don Archibald Level 10 Level 10 (101,285 points)
    Hi, motc -

    OS 9's formatting utility, Drive Setup, is not able to format USB (nor firewire) drives. The OS itself can often erase such drives, but can not initialize them.

    There are two choices to initialize such a drive for a machine running OS 9 -

    • Obtain a third-party formatting utiity, such as the OS 9 versio of FWB's Hard Disk Toolkit.

    • Connect the drive to a Mac running OSX, and use OSX's Disk Utility to do it.

    In either case, select Mac OS Extended as the format. If you use OSX's Disk Utility, be sure to select the option to install OS 9 drivers - else the drive will not be mountable (will not appear on the desktop nor be accessible) by any machine running OS 9.
  • motc Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    Thank you, Don.

    My iBook has a dual boot configuration to OS 9 or OSX, so I was able to format the external drive according to your instructions in OSX. It worked like a champ!

    I'm having a slight issue dismounting the drive, though. When I drag its icon to the trash, the icon disappears from the desktop, but the drive continues to spin, and its LED stays lit. I thought it was supposed to automatically spin down when dismounted. According to the Seagate manual, the USB cable shouldn't be disconnected while the drive is spinning (which I kind of figured anyway). I have to shut down the computer to disconnect it.
  • eww Level 9 Level 9 (52,975 points)
    Hi, motc. If your external HD has a power switch on it, you can just turn that off as soon as the drive has been dismounted from the desktop. You will then be perfectly safe in disconnecting its cable from the Mac.

    My external drives don't spin down when they are dismounted either, and I'm not sure that any do.
  • motc Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    Thanks, eww. This particular drive has no power switch, getting what it needs from the USB hub.

    Am I right in assumming I shouldn't unplug the USB cable while the external drive is spinning? Do you know if there's another way to get it to spin down, without completely shutting down the computer?

    Thanks in advance.
  • Don Archibald Level 10 Level 10 (101,285 points)
    Hi, motc -

    In theory, once the drive has been dismounted you should be able to unplug it safely, since with it dismounted the OS can not be in the process of writing to it (nor really be aware of its existence any more).

    However, if the manual for it states it should not be spinning, there may be another issue. If the drive's manufacturer has a website, look for a tech support email link - if there is one, send them a message posing the problem.

    In the meantime, you might try a different means of dismounting it - select the drive's icon (click on it once) then select Put Away from the File menu (or press Command-Y); you can also hold down the control key when click-holding on the drive's icon to bring up a contextual menu from which you can select Put Away. Perhaps doing it that way will cause it to spin down.
  • eww Level 9 Level 9 (52,975 points)
    This particular drive has no power switch, getting what it needs from the USB hub.


    I have no experience using any drive that lacks a power switch, and didn't realize that such a drive would or should be expected to spin down on dismount. Your use of a USB hub may be the relevant fact in your drive's not spinning down, if it is meant to do so when unmounted. Have you tested to see whether the drive spins down on dismount if it's plugged directly into one of your computer's built-in USB ports, bypassing your hub?

    I'm thinking that a powered hub would keep supplying power to the drive (and thus keep it spinning) even if the Mac stopped supplying power through the built-in USB port when the device was dismounted. In this way, a hub could thwart the intended spin-down of the drive even if the computer was operating as the drive designers counted on it to do.
  • motc Level 1 Level 1 (5 points)
    Thank you Don and eww for your thoughts on this.

    The drive is plugged into the iMac's USB port on the computer, which the manual says to do. The manual also states that the drive will spin down when dismounted from the desktop, which it doesn't seem to be doing. Actually, occasionally it has, after sitting for awhile, though its LED never goes off. (Manual says: "You can safely disconnect the drive when the drive icon disappears from the desktop and the LED is not lit.") Will experiment, and contact the maufacturer.
    Off to AZ to visit the in-laws. Thanks again for your help.