capsule review

Rocbit 3B

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If someone broke into your office and stole your computer, would you be more concerned about the cost of replacing your hardware or the complications arising from the loss of sensitive data? If you choose the latter, Rocsecure’s Rocbit 3B desktop hard drives may be just what you need.

Holding the solidly built Rocbit 3’s 2.6-pound aluminum enclosure imparts confidence. The Rocbit 3 is available in several different configurations, offering you a choice of encryption levels (40-, 64-, 128-, or 192-bit), capacity (80 to 750GB), cache size, and number and type of ports on the back. We reviewed the 40-bit, 500GB, 16MB cache Rocbit 3B with two FireWire 800 ports and one USB 2.0 port. The drive comes with an AC adapter and USB and FireWire cables.

To use the drive, you insert the small Secure Key into a special port on the back of the drive, then format using Apple’s Disk Utility (you do this only once). After the volume mounts, you can remove the key and use the drive until you turn the power off, at which point you must reinsert the Secure Key before Mac OS X can recognize the drive. This approach to security is much better than having to memorize passwords, but it would be more convenient if the Secure Key port were on the front of the unit, near the row of LED indicators, which, incidentally, are difficult to read at an angle.

Rocbit 3 delivers encryption via a chip on the controller that intercepts IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) data commands to the drive and encrypts the data using DES (Data Encryption Standard) algorithms in real time, with no performance penalty. And you won’t compromise security by moving the mechanism to a different enclosure, as is possible with hard drives that store data in unencrypted cleartext. But, if you lose your keys, you lose your data—and you must order a set of replacement keys to reformat your drive.

Once mounted, the Rocbit behaves like any other Mac volume, and it is virtually silent, even during disk activity. In Macworld’s standard hard drive tests, the Rocbit 3B was anywhere from 10 percent slower to 10 percent faster than the average of five traditional large-capacity drives from other vendors. The speed differences aren’t something you’ll notice without a stopwatch and shouldn’t weigh heavily in your buying decision.

timed trials

Copy 1GB to Drive 0:42
Duplicate 1GB on Drive 1:10
Low Memory Photoshop CS Suite 1:43

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

How We Tested: We ran all tests with the FireWire drives connected to a dual-2.5GHz Power Mac G5 with Mac OS X 10.3.9 installed and 512MB of RAM. We tested the drive using FireWire 800. (In cases where a drive does not have FireWire 800, we use FireWire 400.) We copied a folder containing 1GB of data from our Mac’s hard drive to the external hard drive to test the drive’s write speed. We then duplicated that file on the external drive to test both read and write speeds. We also used the drive as a scratch disk when running our low-memory Adobe Photoshop CS Suite test. This test is a set of four tasks performed on a 150MB file, with Photoshop’s memory set to 50 percent.—Macworld Lab Testing by James Galbraith and Jerry Jung


Price per gigabyte $0.92
Connectors FireWire 800 (2), USB 2.0 (1)
Other capacities 250GB ($185), 400GB ($315), 750GB ($690)

Macworld’s buying advice

If security is important to you, the Rocbit 3B with 40-bit encryption is easily worth the price over comparable desktop drives (the 192-bit model costs almost $200 more than similar models). If you need encryption on the go, then consider the portable Rocbit 2 instead (   ; August 2006 ).

[ Owen W. Linzmayer is the author of Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World’s Most Colorful Company (No Starch Press, 2 ed., 2004). ]

Rocbit 3B
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