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Q. What's the best kind of hard drive for me?

A back‑electret mic such as the AKG C1000s will offer better sensitivity than a dynamic for serious sample recording, but won't need a phantom power supplyA back‑electret mic such as the AKG C1000s will offer better sensitivity than a dynamic for serious sample recording, but won't need a phantom power supply

I have been getting conflicting advice regarding this issue from my local music stores and am turning to you in desperation.

I have a beige G3/233 Mac with 192Mb RAM, which I would like to set up to record to HD. I've chosen the soundcard (MOTU 2408), but need to install an AV‑compatible drive that is fast enough to play back video and record at least eight tracks at the same time. I've been told that it is no longer possible to get a SCSI card and drive for this model of Mac and that I have one of two options: purchase an IDE card and mount internal IDE drives in the Mac; or purchase a Firewire card and mount internal IDE drives inside external Firewire enclosures.

What is my best option? Are there any others? I would prefer an external solution.

Aaron Symonds

Assistant Editor Sam Inglis replies: If your beige G3 is anything like mine, you shouldn't need to add an extra IDE card in order to fit an additional IDE hard drive. Like most PCs, the beige G3 Macs have two IDE busses, each of which supports two devices (Master and Slave). You'll probably find that the built‑in hard drive, built‑in CD‑ROM and built‑in Zip drive (if you have one) are connected to the IDE busses, which leaves one device slot spare for an additional hard drive. I installed an additional 20Gb hard drive in the extra IDE slot on my Mac, and it works fine, although it was a bit of a pain to install. The two hard drives should be on different IDE busses, and should both be the Master devices on their buss.

I had two main difficulties in installing the new drive. The first was the physical problem of mounting the drive and cabling it up. Standard IDE cables have three connectors — one at each end, and one in the middle. One end connects to the motherboard, the other two to your two IDE devices. However, I couldn't find a standard IDE cable that had the middle connector in the right place, and eventually had to add another middle connector to it (you can buy these from Maplin et al — they sort of clip through the cable itself). You also need to get a plastic mounting bracket to fit the drive in the drive bay. Apple's recommended price for these is exorbitant, so try to scrounge one from a dead Mac.

The second problem I came across was that Apple's own drive‑formatting and management software wouldn't recognise the drive. I had to use a different program and driver (SilverLining Pro), which worked. This will probably change depending on the drive you choose. I was also told that if you're installing a large drive, you should partition it, so my 20Gb drive appears on the desktop as two 10Gb volumes.

Of course, the problem with this approach is that it's not an external solution. I doubt it's practical to use IDE drives externally, so if you're committed to having an external drive, you will need to go down another route. I'd steer clear of FireWire drives at present, unless you have definite confirmation that they will work for streaming audio. I'd be very surprised if you really can't get a compatible SCSI card, though — if nothing else there must be millions of second‑hand ones around!