Buyer's Guide: FireWire hard drives

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Years ago, when Apple shipped its first Macs with 1GB hard drives, I remember asking myself, “Who would ever need that much storage?” It didn’t take me long to figure out who, especially now that the 80GB drive in my PowerBook is bursting at the seams with pictures from my multimegapixel digital camera and my ever-expanding library of audio files and movies.

Files and applications aren’t the only things taking up precious storage space—OS X puts available disk space to work as virtual memory. My system, for example, uses 5GB as virtual memory with no applications running, and almost 9GB when running a lot of applications. This use of hard-drive space by the operating system means that your entire system can take a performance hit if you start running out of drive space.

If you’re beginning to count down the remaining free megabytes on your hard drive, or if you’re finally getting serious about backing up your data, you need more storage. You may choose to install a new drive inside your Mac. But for most Mac users, increasing storage means buying a new external hard drive that includes fast and convenient FireWire connections. Trying to consider all the factors when you’re choosing a hard drive can boggle the mind, so here are the questions you should ask yourself when choosing a new drive, as well as Macworld’ s ratings of some of the latest external FireWire hard drives.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have the condensed product summaries on the following pages, but you can also download the complete specifications for the desktop, portable and Mac mini FireWire drive reviews in PDF format.

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