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Ask Max: External Hard Drive Compatibility

Asked on 10/01/2008:

We have an approximately 4 year old eMac. We have recently been getting messages that our start-up disc is nearly full, etc., etc. Have dumped things we really didn't want to lose in order to keep this computer alive. We tried to purchase an external hard drive, but ended up with one that was compatible with Mac OS X 10.4.8+. Our Mac is 10.3.9.

We haven't taken it out of the package, and wonder if you think it might work anyway, and if not, does PowerMax carry an external hard drive that would be more compatible with our computer?


Most external hard drives will work with older versions of the Mac OS, as long as it can connect to the computer. Some drives are only USB 2.0 drives and about half the used eMacs are equipped with USB 1.1 ports. You often can use an external USB 2.0 drive with a 1.1 port but it is slower than what you probably want. Firewire 400 based external hard drives are best for PowerPC Macs like yours. You may have a drive with both. Any time you get a new external drive, you should erase it with the OS X Disk Utility on the computer you intend to use it with. This will make it compatible with whatever version of the Mac OS you are using.If it the drive has FireWire (AKA IEEE 1394) ports or your eMac has USB 2.0, then open that drive and erase it. After that you should be able to start moving your archived files to the drive.

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