Should I Buy a SCSI or IDE Hard Drive?

1999 – I have a Performa 6400 and am looking to upgrade my hard drive. I do not want to buy an external drive. Should I upgrade the IDE hard drive or add a SCSI drive to the bay above the CD-ROM?


There are two ways to go with this. The first is to replace the IDE hard drive with a new IDE drive, since the Performa only supports one IDE drive at a time. Replacing your IDE drive would allow you to get more storage space for your money. IDE drives are also very easy to find – places like Best Buy, CompUSA, and even Staples have IDE hard drives.

IDE drives tend to run cooler than SCSI drives; Performa 6400s do not have as much space in them as it looks from the outside. The IDE drive bay in the 6400 is much more accessible than the SCSI drive bay.

Problems with the IDE drive option:

  • You will have a difficult time transferring your files from your original IDE hard drive. The IDE interface on a Performa 6400 does not allow two IDE drives to be connected at the same time, so you either have to temporarily install a SCSI drive to transfer your files to or will have to do it with a removable device (do not even think about using your floppy drive).
  • IDE drives, traditionally, do not last as long as SCSI drives – but I think people can argue both ways on this.
  • IDE is not as fast as SCSI; however, in the case of the Performa 6400, as well as many other Macintosh models, the built-in SCSI is very slow (5 MB/sec peak on the 6400). Without a SCSI upgrade card, you will end up getting similar speeds with a SCSI hard drive – or possibly even slower speeds than an IDE hard drive.
  • Another problem people overlook is compatibility. Some IDE drives may require a third party hard disk driver. Apple’s latest Drive Setup supports quite a few hard drives, but there are some that may not work.

The second option is to purchase a new SCSI drive. If your Performa 6400 does not already have a drive in the top expansion bay, you can add a SCSI drive and use both your original IDE drive and your new SCSI drive at the same time. This will allow you to avoid transferring any files to make the new drive work. Virtually every SCSI hard drive is supported with Apple’s Drive Setup, which means you will probably not have to purchase a third party hard drive utility.

If you have a PCI SCSI card upgrade, I would definitely purchase a new SCSI hard drive over the IDE. You get much fast performance with the SCSI card upgrade.

Problems with the SCSI drive option:

  • SCSI drives do run hotter than IDE drives, and some run very hot (such as the original Quantum Viking). I am reluctant to recommend using hot drives because of the way the 6400 case is set up.
  • The internal SCSI may be a bit slower than the IDE interface on the 6400.
  • SCSI drives tend to be more expensive; you may be able to get a 20 GB IDE hard drive for the price of a 9 GB SCSI drive.

My suggestion: If you are low on cash, you should get the IDE drive. If you have a SCSI PCI card upgrade, then you should go with the SCSI drive. If you are not low on cash, and you do not have a SCSI card upgrade, then you’ll have to decide what is best for you. In that situation, I would personally pick the SCSI drive, because you add space to your existing setup and there is no need to transfer files.

Further Reading

Keywords: #scsi #ide

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