Splitting an underpowered PowerBook

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Reader Horacio Plotkin and I had an interesting email exchange this morning. His first message read:

I recently bought an 80GB IO Magic GigaBank Premier external hard drive. My PowerBook G4 will not recognize it. It does not even show in Disk Utility. It works well with my PC, but I would like to use it with the Mac.

After marching around the Web for awhile I discovered that there are other PowerBook G4 owners who have similar problems with USB 2.0 external drives. While these drives behave quite nicely when plugged into USB 2.0-compatible Macs other than PowerBook G4s, they refuse to join the party when plugged into one of these PowerBooks.

The consensus is that this is an issue where the PowerBook lacks the power to work with some external USB drives. Regrettably, plugging the drive into a power source doesn’t help—the drive still wants to see a certain amount of poop from the PowerBook’s USB ports and when it doesn’t, no joy.

I passed the word along to Dr. Plotkin (for he’s a medico) and he responded with the answer we sought:

You’ve got me thinking about the “juice.” The IO Mega comes with two extension cords, one with a double male USB connection to provide more “juice.” The PowerBook has a USB port on each side, so I used the second extension to connect the drive to both USB ports at the same time. And it worked! Just in case somebody else asks…

Who knew?

Now, if anyone has a source for such USB Y cables, I’d love to hear about it. I’ve searched far and wide and can’t find one.

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