Macintosh SCSI HD Formatter Benchmarks

There must be a reason for the plethora of formatter utilities on the market. There must be some hidden benefit in using a third-party formatter. On these pages you can find a patch for Apple's HD SC Setup that enables it to recognize almost all SCSI drives, so why should someone pay hundred dollar or more when a drive can be formatted for free?

Well, ofcourse all manufacturers of formatters will market their program for a number of reasons but the most commonly heard reason is performance. Most utilities will claim that their SCSI driver (click here for info about drivers) is faster than Apple's, resulting in better performance of your harddisk. Sounds fine.

One would expect that such a critical part of your Macintosh's operating environment gets a lot of attention from the reviewing press. In practice the number of tests done is fairly limited. A test that compares all formatters does not exist at all. I found the following tests: So, I performed my own tests. And the results are astonishing. Read on.

The drive used was a new IBM SCSI drive (OEM DFHSS4F 4.2 Gb. Ultrastar XP) connected to the external bus of a Quadra 900. All the following tests where done using System 7.5 (which contains SCSI Manager 4.3). I initialized the disk with various utilities and then did some benchmark tests.

Addendum: some people suggested that the internal bus of a Quadra 900 offers better performance. However, when I connected the drive to that bus there were no differences.

The following utilities where tested:

- HD SC Setup 3.01 (A/UX)
- HD SC Setup 7.3.5
- FWB HD Toolkit 1.8
- Silverlining 5.7
- MicroNet Utility v7.1.9j
- Lido 7.56
- APS PowerTools 4.0.7
- FormatterOne Pro 1.4.4
- Disk Manager Mac 2.42
- Mt. Everything 1.1b1
- SCSI Director 4.04
- Anubis v2.54o
- Drive7 version 4.1.8

I formatted the drive with the mentioned utilities which was a mixed blessing. Some utilities worked smooth, others took a while to get used to. (Why do some of these formatters perform a low-level format without asking - it takes almost an hour on a large drive!)

Here are the results : (If you want more detail, click here.)

Conclusion : In this setup the difference between a recent version of HD SC Setup and commercial utilities is nominal. The old HD SC Setup 3.01 (A/UX) is too slow.

The benchmarks were obtained with FWB HDT BenchTest 1.8
The sub-tests with their explanation:

Sustained Transfer Test
This test determines a drive's maximum sequential data transfer rate. Large amounts of data are transferred, so a drive's seek time and rotational latency have little effect on this test. This test simulates tasks that read or write large quantities of data, including copying files, opening large graphic files, and saving large data files. The program performs tenty 768K reads and writes and times each transaction to determine the drive's average, low and preak transfer rates. The reads and writes occur at different random starting locations on the disk. A seek to the random block is made before reading/writing to the disk.

Transactions per second
Calculates the number of sequential single block read transactions that can be performed in a second. This test is useful in finding drives that respond quickly to bursts of read requests that the Macintosh is known to perform. The write test is similar to the read test, except writes are performed. Data is read from the area to be overwritten before the sequential writes occur.

A couple of observations remain.
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