View Full Version : FireWire cable length / hard drives and heat

10-14-2008, 01:12 PM
My office is located in a separate building about 15 ft from my house. I have duplicates for every hard drive that I own. While I'm protected against a equipment malfunction, this set up offers no protection from theft or fire. What I'd like to do is take my backup drives and relocate them to a closet in my house. I have two questions regarding this. How long can a firewire cable be (I need to go 50ft) and do I need to be concerned about the affect of heat on the hard drives that are stored in the closet? I have a two bay Burly enclosure with a fan and several Lacie and Western Digital drives that don't have fans. The room is the coolest in the house and even in the summer ( I live in Los Angeles) when the air isn't on it seldom gets above 80 degrees.

Thanks for any help

10-15-2008, 09:31 AM
Welcome to the forum. I am happy to help here.

First thing to clear up is how long a Firewire cable can be between host and a hard drive - 16 feet is it. Any more and the connection starts dropping out.

What you want to do is either in the CAT5 LAN route, which is how we do it, or in the Fiber Channel realm, which is the expensive 'enterprise' way to skin this cat. Personally I would choose ethernet over Fiber just cause of the cost.

The one way you can run long Firewire runs is by using repeaters or hubs. These devices spaced out along the way take in the signal, clean it up and re-power it and send it on down the line. Using them you can pretty much extend Firewire as far as you want.

On heat and drives. No airflow = hot drives - which = much higher failure rate on drives

Your closet must provide some airflow or it will just keep getting warmer inside. Even if that means cutting a hole in the door and putting a grill in it.

And any drives, like the LaCie, that have no cooling, should be expected to not survive long if they are left up and running all the time. Don't get me wrong, there are some decent stand alone Firewire devices out there that can take heavy use, however the LaCie drive ain't one of them. Neither are the Western Dig drives. In my opinion they are both produced at the cheapest cost possible as the primary goal from those two manufacturers (and a whole bunch of others share that goal!!). This means you can expect a pretty high failure rate from them. Leaving them powered up will produce significant higher failure rates.

The Burly is designed to run 24/7 and it will maintain stable drive temps as long as it gets some air.


10-15-2008, 03:46 PM
Hi Ricks,

Thanks for the help.

I've looked at using the repeater and hubs, but both, (to my knowledge) require a power supply. I'm running the line in the crawl space under my house. If I went this route I'd need to add power outlets to plug in the repeater/hub. Setting up a LAN seems like an easier way to accomplish this.

Do you know of a simple tutorial on setting up a LAN? Googling it brings up a lot of answers but leaves me with a lot more questions (I'm a computer neophyte). Does a simple how-to guide exist? Is setting up the LAN as simple as plugging the LAN cable into my mac (imac - g5) running the cable to a router and plugging my hard drives via firewire into the router?

The closet where I'd like to base the drives has louvered doors, so hopefully that will supply enough airflow. Anything of importance is kept on the Burly enclosures. The LaCie and Western digital drives serve as backups should my computer crash. They're not running 24/7 like the Burly.

Thanks again for your help

10-20-2008, 12:05 PM
I've researched setting up a LAN. It looks like I need either a second computer or a NAS box to put my hard drives into.
I also found this -


It's a repeater that uses CAT5 cable. This sounds like a simple solution. Does anyone have any experience using these?



10-20-2008, 04:10 PM
I've checked out setting up a LAN. I'd need either an additional computer or a NAS enclosure to run it.
Someone also recommended a Firewire repeater that uses CAT5 cable -


Does anyone have any experience with this? If it works, it seems like the easiest solution.