If you do need more hard drive space, it is recommended that you use an external drive! Get a USB or high-speed FireWire port to connect external hard drive quickly and easily. (MacBook Air owners may skip the stuff about FireWire as the Air does not have a FireWire port.)

Almost all of today’s USB and FireWire peripherals don’t even need specialized driver software that many Mac veterans remember with such hatred. Just plug in a USB or FireWire device and it works perfectly. You can move the external drive between different Macbooks with less fuss and bother.  Your external hard drive will do anything that an internal hard drive can do.  It is possible to boot from it or even install other versions of Mac OS X (very practical for many beta testers). External optical drive works just the same as internal one; Apple offers an external SuperDrive optical drive with USB port for the Air for approximately $90.

The Time Capsule unit is a unique external hard drive with a difference: It stores those huge Time Machine backup files made by the Macbooks running Leopard on your LAN, and it uses wireless connections to transfer data. (As a matter of fact, if you’re thinking of installing a wireless base station to the wired network, a Time Capsule unit actually acts as a fully functioning AirPort Extreme Base Station that supports USB printers.) At the time of this writing, a Time Capsule unit is available with either a 1TB ($299) or 2TB ($499) drive.  Here is one big problem with external drives: Data transfer is slower this way than common internal hard drive (even when you use FireWire 800 connection). That’s the reason why most Mac owners use their external hard drives only for storing little-used files and softwares. Their favorite softwares and often-used files are kept on the internal hard drive.

Your MacBook may have up to three types of hi-speed ports and any of which is a perfect match for connecting an external hard drive

·USB 2.0

USB is widely popular because it is just as common in the Mac world as in the PC world. Your Macbook carries at least a USB 2.0 port located on the side of the Macbook case. Hardware manufacturers can now make USB devices that work on both types Mac and PC.  It is recommended that you stop using a USB 1.1 device (except, maybe, a USB 1.1 mouse or keyboard). USB 1.1 has low performance compared with the latest USB 2.0 standard, and luckily you can connect an older USB 1.1 device to the USB 2.0 port, make sure that your external hard drive supports USB 2.0 standard.

· FireWire 400

The earlier FireWire 400 ports (also known as IEEE 1394) are great for many digital video camcorders. You can use your FireWire 400 port for connecting external hard drives to your MacBook Pro or MacBook.

Unfortunately, MacBook Air doesn’t have a FireWire port.

· FireWire 800

This port offers much higher performance than either a USB 2.0 drive or a FireWire 400, and current FireWire 800 drives are getting less expensive every day. MacBook Pro proudly sports a FireWire 800 port; MacBook Air and MacBook laptops don’t have a FireWire 800 port.  Physically, FireWire 400 connector is shaped differently compared to the FireWire 800 port, so you shouldn't try to force the wrong port into the wrong connector!

Connecting an external hard drive

With USB or FireWire, you can set up an external hard drive without dismantling the Macbook’s case. With the external hard drive disconnected from the wall socket and the MacBook turned on, follow these steps:

  1. Connect the USB or FireWire cable between the hard drive and your Macbook.
  2. Plug the external hard drive into a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) or surge protector.
  3. Switch on the external drive.
  4. If the hard drive is unformatted, you need to partition and format the external hard drive.

The external hard drive comes with software or instructions for you to do this. Partitioning will divide the new hard drive into a few volumes, each of which is shown as a separate hard drive.

Some external hard drives are preformatted with NTFS or FAT32 for use with Windows computers, you should reformat it for use with Mac OS X - it will result in better performance and more effective use of space.

After the hard drive is properly formatted and partitioned, it instantly appears on your Desktop.

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