Icy Box IB-360 Review

A recent escapade in hard drive recovery made me realise that I wasn’t doing anywhere near enough to keep my system safe. Forget all about viruses and spyware and all the other computer-based threats; if your hard drive goes kaput then you are seriously screwed.

I looked into various backup software programs, but they all required me to spend considerable time burning DVDs. The best backup routine is one I don’t need to think about. My attention then moved on to a secondary, and larger, hard drive that could be used to make an exact copy of my primary drive. No hassle, no fuss, and painless recovery should anything go wrong. That’s the theory.

As I have a laptop my only option was to make this drive external. Most hard drive manufacturers make their own external drives, but they tend to be pricey. If you’re prepared to handle a few screws and bits of cable then you can get an identical device for a lot less money by purchasing a hard drive and hard drive casing, and putting it together yourself.

After some searching I chose the Icy Box IB-360 external casing, along with a beefy Maxtor hard drive:

The Icy Box is a very smart looking external casing. There are several models available providing USB, Firewire, and SATA, in silver or black. I chose the 360 specifically for the firewire. Although USB technically provides a slightly higher bandwidth, the difference is not really important in the real world. My experience with an external USB drive is that it sapped computer resources. If I tried to do much else, the performance would decrease dramatically. Not ideal. Some googling suggested that firewire didn’t suffer this problem as much.

The box itself is very well made. It’s solid and sturdy, and has no wobbly bits. The drive is screwed into a tray which slides into the casing. A set of small screws fasten everything together. A separate stand is provided that allows the drive to sit vertically. This stand has rubber feet and is the preferred method, although there is nothing stopping you laying it horizontally. However, no rubber feet are provided so something may get scratched.

Connections on the back provide DC power, an on/off switch, USB2, and 2 firewire connections. Firewire connections can be chained together, so the extra firewire allows other devices to be attached.

When switched on a blue light glows softly under the casing, and another blue light flashes to indicate drive activity. Both are nice, if unnecessary, features.

With the drive in place and all connections made the power was switched on. Within a few moments Windows XP detected the drive and it appeared in ‘My Computer’ just like any other drive. This was then partitioned and formatted as normal. No drivers are needed for recent operating system, although a CD is provided with drivers for older ones.

The Icy Box has no fan, and all cooling is passive. The case is basically a large heat-sink, as the name implies. This makes for a very quiet experience, with the noise level determined entirely by the drive being used. This seems to be very effective, and I’ve never managed to get it past the ‘luke-warm’ temperature, no matter how intensively the load.

Performance

Some basic speed tests were performed using SiSoft Sandra 2005:

Firewire: 33MB/s
USB2: 22MB/s
Internal 2.5″ 80GB: 22MB/s

So the Firewire connection is faster than my internal hard drive! This in itself is not surprising – 3.5″ drives are faster than 2.5″, but it is surprising that it holds true across an external connection.

Conclusion

The Icy Box has performed almost faultlessly. The only glitch occurred when I decided to plug both the USB and Firewire connectors into the computer at the same time… this foolishness was rewarded with a lost partition. A little tinkering later and this was restored. Idle hands make for a sick computer.

One point worth noting is that the firewire connection uses the Prolific PL3507 chipset. My Icy Box has a recent firmware and I’ve experienced no problems at all, but a search on the internet reveals a host of problems, particularly under Linux. I can only assume these have been fixed. Either way, the firmware is upgradeable (see this blog for more details).

Good
  • Very stylish
  • Sturdy
  • Great performance
  • Noiseless
Bad
  • A little heavy

The Icy Box was purchased from overclockers.co.uk – first time using them, and they gave a very fast service with no fuss.

11 thoughts on “Icy Box IB-360 Review”

  1. Out of curiosity, how are you actually making this replica of your hard drive?

    I recently went through a similar phase and decided to make my computer a little more safer. Although I went with an internal drive, I used the following to perform the backups:

    Norton Ghost my main partition. This will keep my windows running exactly the way I want it. Scheduled for nightly and stores the backup on the backup drive.

    cwrsync to backup my photographs, mp3s, and crap that has taken me forever to download and that is updated fairly regularily. I schedule a batch file to be run every night which throws the output into a log.

    For the first time in my life, after many serious hard drive crashes, I now get to sit back and watch my computer back itself up for me every night.

  2. I’m using Acronis Trueimage – I think almost identical software to Norton Ghost. Using the incremental backup option I make several backups that represent a weeks-worth of activity. This is just in case I want to restore something I deleted several nights ago.

    As my internal drive is much smaller than the external then the image covers everything, including photos and mp3s.

    I’m certainly not going through the pain of trying to recover a lost drive again!

  3. John, if you value your data, use only the USB chipset on this drive. I lost (count them) three drives, I had put into IcyBoxes. They didn’t die completely on the spot (sometimes they would mount, sometimes not) – but within a month all were dead, even when put back into reliable cases.

    I am using OS X, but OS X is built from the ground up for firewire so I wouldn’t take the chance. Look for firewire cases with the Oxford chipes (911 for firewire 400 or 912 or 922 for firewire 800), they are far more reliable. Data backup is not the place to cut corners.

  4. Hey,

    i got an Icy Box IB 351StUS but i cant get my laptop to reconise it. Just comes up with the drive for a matter of seconds then an unknown USB device. Any ideas how to get it working?

  5. Try removing the USB device from your system settings, and then refreshing and letting your system re-install the driver. Also, take a look in System Administration/Computer Management from the Control Panel and see if the drive exists in the Drive Management section

  6. Hello everyone. (lots of text in this reply)

    I recently bought an icybox, Link to official website, to use with a western digital 320GB drive. I actually bought 2 drives, one to put inside my computer for storing all my pictures, and one for backing them all up externally.

    I first installed one of the drives into the icy box to test it and see those nice blue leds ligthing up. All went well installation wise and the drive was performing very well. Until I tried dropping some large files onto it, that’s when I got the “delayed write error” wich freaked me out. Thinking that it was a faulty drive, I then plugged the other disk into the icybox. Tested it by importing massive amounts of video footage and it remained stable. I was satisfied and started planning on sending the “faulty” drive back to the retailer. Well, the healty drive is now dead, it wo’nt spin up even when installed internally in the computer, just giving me an awful clicking sound. The “faulty” drive is undergoing a full sector scan as I’m writing this. All I can say is, Icy Box is nice looking but other than that a pile of ****. Do NOT consider buying it unless you can find proof that the issue with “delayed writing” has been fixed. (there are probably other issues as well)

    I will never use it again even if there is a supposedly “fixed” firmware or whatyamacallit. I’ve setup a file-server in my basement wich I’ve connected with gigabit lan.

    I might consider using an external hdd-case in the future but I will make sure it’s in no way related to the Prolific PL-3507 chipset.

    Over and out.

  7. Actually, since updating Windows XP with the latest patches I’ve not been able to use the Firewire connection on the Icybox – the dreaded ‘Delayed write’ error occured far too frequently. I’ve swapped to the USB connection and it seems fine, but I no longer trust it.

  8. Hi John, I’m having the same trouble with the icybox as Tom had, the disk is recognised in sytem administration via control panel but I cannot see it through ‘my computer.’ The device does the same for firewire as it does with usb. I have tried uninstalling it and letting windows reinstall it but this does not work either. If you know what else might be the reason for this I would love to hear it.

    Best wishes,
    Peter

  9. Peter, it sounds like you need to partition and format the drive. You can do that from the ‘Drive management’ section of the ‘Computer Management’ icon in the ‘Administrative Tools’ section of the control panel. Once formatted you then assign the drive a letter, and it will appear in My Computer

  10. I NEED HELP! i have just bought an icybox ib360 to put my maxtor 200gb into it but i cant acces my documents my brothers and dads are fine but i cant get into mine where i have loads of songs and film it says myfolder is empty can you help me find them. i went onto properties and itsays there is 120gb used so they are clearly there somewhere but i cant find them. mine was the onli account with a password does this have anything to do with it by any chance?

    Lee

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