LaCie DataBank 20GB Portable Hard Drive

LaCie DataBank 20GB FireWire/USB Combo Portable Hard Drive
Company: LaCie

Price: $299.00

LaCie’s stylish DataBank arrives in a simple, elegant black box with no accompanying literature. The silver drive enclosure is protected within an unusual foam brick. Accessories are one each of the shortest FireWire and USB cables ever produced, plus a “User’s Manual” with “Storage Utilities” installer CD.

Letters and numbers are stamped into the cover, meant to replicate a silver ingot, with “DESIGN BY F.A.PORSCHE.” Top is flat, sides are gently tapered outward, and bottom is cushioned with four rounded plastic corner supports. Too bad the bottom of the case has such sharp edges, because a gently rounded base would add additional classiness and safety to the overall form factor.

When first attached to a FireWire G3 iMac running OS 9.2.2, DataBank mounts quickly on the desktop. My file transfers were crippled until LaCie’s included Silverlining Pro v6.4.6 was installed. Some users of OS 9 will object to needing Silverlining, which has a reputation for causing more operational problems than it solves.

After installing Silverlining and its drivers onto an iMac in OS 9.2.2, my entire system did not perform well until I ran Disk FirstAid, Norton DiskDoctor, rebuilt the desktop, reset the PRAM, and restarted. Whew! Minor annoyances for me, but potential severe headaches for typical users.

After that diagnostic routine, all file transfers were snappy and accurate, as expected. You can read all the specs on this product and download a data sheet. Hey! I just located the “velvet carrying pouch,” rolled up within the bottom of the foam brick. I didn’t notice this cute but impractical accessory until I saw it mentioned at DataBank’s website, from the URL above.

David Weeks’s Titanium PowerBook G4 was used to test DataBank’s performance in OS X/Jaguar. Our first attempt stalled midway through, exhibiting a -50 error, whatever that means.

Mike Mihalik from LaCie tells us:
This is caused by different character sets being valid for file/folder names:

– when drive is used with FAT32 formatting, files/folders must conform to PC naming conventions

– when drive is used with Mac formatting, files/folders must conform to Mac naming conventions. Bottom line, there are some characters that are non-kosher.

This same problem can crop up when you copy drive contents to/from an external server that is not a Mac server. Bottom line, not a defect in the drive, but rather how the drive is being used.

Subsequent large and small quantity file transfers to and from DataBank were successful and uneventful. David noticed that DataBank becomes very warm with prolonged use.

David was shocked to learn that LaCie requires special drivers for DataBank to run in earlier operating systems than OS X. This “feature” alone would make DataBank ineligible for David to purchase or recommend. Not so for Nemo.

I admit to being hesitant to use DataBank for mission-critical file storage and transfer, due to concerns regarding the sharp-edged bottom and problems with Silverlining. Other users, running either or both OS 9 and X, may consider these “features” to be either positive or insignificant.

As for size and style, DataBank makes a definite statement, if that sort of thing matters to you. I remain neutral on its trendy chic, because form still follows function out here in the Arizona desert where Nemo and Weeks reside and work.

Mike Mihalik from LaCie also tells that our:

Problem is due to simple misunderstanding and how the product is preformatted at the factory. Drive is ready to work with PC and Macintosh computers, so is formatted as FAT32.

Users (and reviewers) do not have to use Silverlining to use the drive under OS 9 or OS X. Users can use Apple’s Disk Utility to reformat drive with Mac file system, if there is no need to use with PC compatible computers. If formatting under OS X and using Apple’s Disk Utility, recommend that user select “Install OS 9 Drivers” options so drive is usable under OS 9 and OS X. If using Apple’s Disk Utility under OS 9, this is done by default.

So why use Silverlining under OS 9? Silverlining driver provides password protection capability as well as more flexible formatting and partitioning capabilities.

So why not just format with Mac File System in the first place? Drive is available from Mac/PC resellers; having a SKU for Mac and separate SKU for PC adds cost. Reformatting takes only a few extra minutes.

As for missing some of the accessories – avid users, when they get a new toy, typically rummage thru the packaging to find everything. Sorry you missed the pouch.

Why the short cables? Typically will be used with a notebook, and people have been known to kill to get these very short cables. Longer cables can of course be used, but will weigh much more than the drive.

Why HTML instead of PDF? Convenience – Both Mac and PC OS come preinstalled with HTML capable Internet Browsers; PDF Reader must be installed separately, as it is not always installed by users.

The Data Bank is a classy piece of hardware for design conscious consumers; there are of course more practical solutions available.


We thank them for providing us with DataBank to review. Our recommendation varies, depending upon specific needs of users, between:

MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5
Shows promise! Could be better, but a product worth watching.

– and –

MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5
A very decent product. Worth the time and investment, but look for competing products.

John Nemerovski

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