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I just took the hard drive out of my old beige Mac G4 (don’t know if it still works). I haven’t used this computer for the longest time and I’m interested to see what is on the drive. Is there an adapter that will allow me to plug the drive externally into a five year old MacBook Pro? The drive is a 6 GB Quantum Fireball SE 3.5 series, the computer’s original drive.

  • There are loads of SCSI to USB adapters out there. I just did a Google search for "SCSI USB adapter" and found lots, so it should be just a case of finding one that fits the plug on your drive. Note that the protocol used to talk to external USB drives is the SCSI protocol so you should be able to get the adapter, plug it in and see it like any other external USB drive. – JeremyP Nov 26 '19 at 9:41
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There’s a related question, How can I take an image of a 50-pin SCSI hard-drive, which covers most approaches available to connect a 50-pin SCSI drive to a recent-ish computer.

Limiting options to a laptop means the only option to connect the drive to your computer is to use a USB-to-SCSI adapter. These aren’t manufactured any more, as far as I’m aware; but they are readily available second-hand, for rather large amounts of money. If you go down this route, there are a number of points to consider:

  • USB-to-SCSI adapters provide external SCSI connectors, so you’ll need something else to connect the external SCSI connector to the internal SCSI connector on your drive — options include full-blown SCSI enclosures (which also provide power), or an adapter cable;
  • you’ll need to provide power to the drive, unless you use an enclosure;
  • you might also need to provide termination for the drive (see the linked question).

Another potential problem is the availability of drivers for your operating system; SCSI should mostly “just work”, but I’m not sure what the level of support for USB-to-SCSI adapters is on macOS. (While USB mass storage is pretty much SCSI over USB, that doesn’t mean USB-to-SCSI adapters are supported in the same way.)

Also, watch out for USB-to-SATA adapters marketed as SCSI adapters; they won’t fit the bill.

In the end it might be simpler to buy an older SCSI-equipped Mac (or resurrect your G4), or even an older PC for which an internal SCSI host-bus adapter can be purchased cheaply. In my neck of the woods, ten-year-old PCs can be found for free, and an appropriate SCSI HBA with cable would cost around ten times less than a USB-to-SCSI adapter (without all the other paraphernalia required in the latter case), with no driver uncertainty.

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  • How is an older PC going to read his mac formatted drive? – Glen Yates Nov 26 '19 at 15:13
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    A PC running Linux can read the contents Mac drives of that vintage. Any PC, running Linux or Windows or many other OSs, can image the drive, and the image can then be transferred to a Mac for analysis. – Stephen Kitt Nov 26 '19 at 15:17
  • Good info, when you mentioned PC, I was only thinking Windows for which you would need additional software to allow reading a Mac drive. – Glen Yates Nov 26 '19 at 15:21
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    There's a difference between reading the drive and reading the file system on the drive. – davidbak Nov 26 '19 at 15:52
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    @davidbak yes, and I thought I’d made the distinction in my comment. A Linux system can read the file system; any other system can at least read the drive, and copy the raw contents to an image which the Macbook could read. – Stephen Kitt Nov 26 '19 at 15:57

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