FireFly Hard Drive

FireFly Hard Drive
SmartDisk Corporation
Price: $300 MSRP, $250 street (approximate)
Requires Mac OS 8.6 or higher, including OS X 10.x, plus FireWire capability

It seems like years ago we reviewed the first 10 GB VST/SmartDisk FireWire/USB pocket drive. Wait! It was a long time ago. Since then my precious 10 GB VST/SmartDisk drive has become indispensable for personal and professional archiving and backing up data from my 400 MHz 10 GB slot loading iMac DV.

SmartDisk Corporation acquired VST. had difficulty during 2001 obtaining additional review units from the company, but something really good happened at last month’s Macworld conference. SmartDisk’s director of marketing communications handed me a FireFly Hard Drive to carry home and evaluate. Here is our report.

Unpacking the small, lightweight box, I encountered:

  • Installer CD plus SmartDisk promo CD
  • FireWire cable, only 3 feet (93 cm) long, but constructed of heavy-duty rubberized material
  • QuickStart installation card
  • Attractive black neoprene and Velcro padded carrying case
  • Tiny hard drive, measuring 2.5 x 4 inches, or 62 x 102 mm, weighing 3 ounces, or 85 grams, encased in brushed metal with plastic accents. 

    Without hesitation I inserted the installation CD. No CD install is required under OS X, but I’m still happy running OS 9.2.1. Double clicking the SmartDisk Tools icon, I ran Easy Install to place four items (tools, FireWire support, contextual menus, and Control Strip module) on my iMac’s drive, for a total of roughly 6 MB. Two seconds later I was asked to restart. SmartDisk tells that if users have any concerns or questions regarding installation to contact their Tech Support department.

    Norton Disk Doctor fixed some incorrect SmartDisk bundle bits (whatever that means). No updaters were posted on SmartDisk’s web site, so I decided it was safe to proceed after studying the thorough product info on the company site. SmartDisk Tools’ folder contains three helpful PDF user guide documents in addition to the tools themselves (which I have not yet needed to use).

    CopyAgent from Connectix is included on the installer CD. This OS 9 utility is something I already use dozens of times every day. Thanks, SmartDisk, for the bonus software.

    Plugging teeny-weeny FireFly into iMac via FireWire cable mounted the “FireFly 5 GB” drive on my desktop, activating a subtle gold and blue light show from the top of this cute little gizmo.

    With no effort whatsoever I archived (click-hold-drag-and-release) all my major folders from iMac to FireFly: Applications, Installers, Documents, and System Folder. I keep a lean hard disk, so the whole shebang required less than 5 GB, which really pleased me.

    How long does the transfer take? Not bad at all. For example, my 355 MB “Active Archive” folder copied in two minutes, to give you an idea of FireFly’s speed. Mileage will vary. Disk to disk transfers can work in the background, but they consume quite a bit of processing muscle in the line of duty. (Not true with OS X, in which background copying is just as fast as foreground copy)

    FireFly will be able to serve as your startup disk or your Retrospect Backup volume. I have tried the former, and it works perfectly. Apple officially supports FireWire startup in OS 9.x but not yet in 10.x, although both should work.

    In a phone interview with Brandon Goldsmith, Marketing Director for SmartDisk, learned that FireFly, like all hard disks, is vulnerable to damage while its disk is active. When not attached to your Macintosh, FireFly is a robust little piece of hardware. Its “egg architecture” outer casing is constructed of magnesium alloy, and foam shock absorbers protect the inner workings.

    Toshiba manufactures the miniaturized 1.8″ mechanism, quiet-running 4200-rpm disk. It’s the same one used in Apple’s iPod.


    I just pulled thin form factor FireFly out of my pants pocket. It weighs about the same as my set of car keys, and a third less than my slim nylon wallet. This gadget is about to change my computing life. Each hour I come up with several more ways to use it.

    If you stand very still you will be able to watch prices drop and capacities increase for this and similar products. Meanwhile, at $50 per GB, the initial FireFly is a wonderful ultra-portable drive. Every new computer now has FireWire, so you should give serious consideration to FireFly as permanent replacement for all your Zip and other small capacity removable storage. You heard it first here: FireFly is going to be a tremendous success. Bravo, SmartDisk. Keep ’em coming!

    Taking into consideration Nemo’s “Q/D/S/V Standard” for all product reviews:

    Q = QUALITY, including ease of installation, performance, stability, and general happy relationship with everything on my system;

    D = DOCUMENTATION, both printed and electronic, plus appropriate website material;

    S = SUPPORT, in the form of email, phone, and web updates;

    V = VALUE, which includes both original cost and subsequent expenses;

    it is a pleasure to award the FireFly Hard Drive a MacMice Rating of: 5, meaning fantastic product! Well worth your money and investment. The best of its kind, especially when it is one of a kind.

    MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5

    John Nemerovski

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