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Get USB 3.0 in your PCI-express Mac, maybe?

Claims around the release of the new Buffalo drives suggest Mac Pro and some PowerMac users may already have an option to get USB 3.0 in their systems.

UPDATE: No USB 3.0 support for Mac OS X.

With the release of the original "Bondi Blue" iMac, Apple was one of the first to adopt USB technology, but was a little late on getting USB 2.0 implemented. USB 3.0 is just around the corner, and I've wondered whether we will see Apple jump on the bandwagon or wait for another technology. Regardless of what Apple decides to do, claims around the release of new external drives from Buffalo Technologies suggest Mac Pro and some PowerMac users may already have a USB 3.0 option available.

Buffalo Technology recently announced their latest hard drives with USB 3.0 support, beating speculation that these devices would not arrive until next year (see CNET editor Lance Whitney's article). As for what this means with regards to USB 3.0 in Macs, the drives apparently ship with a USB 3.0 PCI-express card that can be dropped in and used on any system, and according to the press release they are compatible with both PCs and Macs.

"The USB 3.0 PCI Express Interface Card allows users to upgrade their PC, notebook or Mac to take advantage of the next generation of external hard drives that offer faster data transfer speeds than ever before."

While this may be good news for Mac users, the press release is a bit confusing since it also mentions the card is compatible with notebook systems. This may be an error, but also puts into question their claim of Mac compatibility.

The card being supplied with the drive is Buffalo's IFC-PCIE2U3 card, and its inclusion with a drive that is advertised as being Mac compatible suggests (albeit indirectly) that the card is also compatible with Macs. Despite this, as with most USB 3.0 expansion cards that are already out on the market, this card's information page has no specific mention of Mac support, and only lists Windows XP and later as supported operating systems.

Overall, this card may be an option for adding USB 3.0 support to PowerMacs and Mac Pros with PCI-express slots, but there is the possibility that these cards do not support Macs and are only being included with the drives to provide USB 3.0 speeds for PCs.

To our US readers: Happy Thanksgiving!!!

UPDATE (11/30/09): I contacted Buffalo about the possibility of USB 3.0 support in Macs, and unfortunately the supplied PCI-e card will not work in OS X. An email response I received from Buffalo states the following:

Unfortunately we're only supporting Windows with our PCI Express Card as we're using an NEC based controller and there are no Mac drivers available for it at the moment. It might change in the future, but as it's out of our hands - as we don't create the drivers for this piece of hardware - we can't guarantee it.

Let's hope NEC and other manufacturers start supporting OS X soon, or at least have Apple supply a generic USB 3.0 driver. Meanwhile, people should still be able to use the PCI-e card by installing Boot Camp.

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