Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #31, Nov. ’97

This month’s column delves into the critical, but often overlooked world of hard disk drivers. We’ll cover what the driver is, why you would want to mess with it and how to update the drive on your drive. Also, if you have a PowerMacintosh 54xx, 64xx or 65xx (or Performa equivalent) please read this column!

Now, before the topic trails off into the technical world, let’s discuss why you should update (or not update) the driver on your hard drive. Newer versions of the operating system may require an updated driver, and the same principle applies to older drives that are connected to newer systems. Sometimes there are bugs found after shipping in the code used in the driver and it needs updating to prevent possible data loss – crashes – lost hair. An excellent example is the latest release of Apple’s Drive Setup (version 1.3.1), as many systems that were formatted or updated with version 1.3 had a potential serious problem with data integrity.

So, what is the “hard disk driver”? Essentially, the driver is code written to an invisible part of your hard drive that is used as an interpreter between the computer and the information stored on the drive. Without the driver code the computer could not effectively store or retrieve the information written on the drive. Think of an update to the driver as an update to any application program, such as the update of ClarisWorks from version 4.0 to 4.0v5, which may have added minor features and corrected some errors associated with the application. When the driver on the hard disk is updated, it usually adds new features (usually not noticeable to you) and corrects problems in certain configurations.

How do you update your computer’s driver and, just at importantly, should you? The answer to whether or not you should update depends on your system’s configuration, what type of drive (IDE or SCSI) is connected, and the situation you are in. If you intend to update to a newer version of the operating system, verify that the drivers are the latest available version. For Apple branded hard drives formatted with Apple’s own formatting software, this information can be found at
. If you have a non-Apple branded hard drive, or have formatted your Apple drive with a third party formatter, similar information can be found at that software company’s site (for example, if you used the popular FWB Hard Disk Toolkit you would start at
). If you have an older system, and don’t plan on making any dramatic changes to your configuration such as OS upgrades or critical application updates, than you shouldn’t be too concerned.

The method for updating your driver is rather basic, but does vary by application. Before you proceed, if you have any driver level compression programs, virus protection, or security applications installed you will have to disable them before proceeding (this includes At Ease, FileGuard, Disk Lock and others.)

If you use Apple’s Drive Setup, do the following:

  • Restart with the extensions off (shift key when the computer starts).
  • Launch Drive Setup.
  • When the name of your hard drive is displayed, click once on it.
  • Pull the Functions Menu down and select Update Driver.
  • Quit the program and restart the computer.Apple’s HDSC Setup is slightly different:
  • Perform the first 2 steps from above.
  • Click on the Update button.
  • Quit and restart your computer.Third party applications vary, but the following are steps for using version 2.0.6 of FWB’s HDT:
  • Boot the computer with extensions off.
  • Launch HDT.
  • Click once on your drive’s name.
  • Pull the Devices menu down and choose Update Driver.
  • Quit and restart.You may be wondering why I requested you read this column if you have one of the certain models of PowerMacs, and no, it wasn’t to improve my ratings. Certain models of recent Macs with IDE based internal hard disks have a potential data loss situation if you do not update the hard disk driver. Version 1.3.1 corrects the problem (version 1.3 which ships with Mac OS 8 does not). You can obtain Drive Setup 1.3.1 at:

    Real World Experience

    The system: PowerMac 6500/275.
    The problem: Flashing disk with the question mark.
    The solution: Updated disk driver.
    The explanation:
    This system definitely hit my “couldn’t do a darn thing to save it” list. The user was working on the unit normally, simply shut it down for the night and when they came back the next morning it wouldn’t boot. Third-party data recovery utilities could not recover 10% of the files, but luckily the user had most of the information backed up on Zip disks. Formatting the drive with version 1.3.1 of Drive Setup and reinstallation of everything (System/apps/data/prefs) has cured the unit.

    Jeramey R. Valley (

    Websites mentioned:

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