LaCie Releases USB 3.0 Driver For Mac OS X (But It Only Works With LaCie Drives)

LaCie has released a free driver that supports every current USB 3.0 host controller but will only talk to LaCie USB devices

Steve Jobs isn’t too keen on USB 3.0, apparently, but other vendors are stepping in to fill the void. CalDigit was first with a USB 3.o driver, but it was tied to the pricey PCI Express and ExpressCards they sell. Now LaCie is out with a free driver for just about any USB 3.0 card, but it’s locked to LaCie’s storage products. Let’s hope we get an unlocked driver soon!

Now You LaCie It

LaCie seems awfully proud to be bringing USB 3.0 to the Mac, and they expound about the virtues of this new bus. They claim on their USB 3.0 page that their 2big USB 3.0 drive could hit 220 MB/s in “burst transfer” using their cards and driver.

I’ve been testing USB 3.0 for the past week using a Seagate GoFlex drive and Keydex USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapter. But I could only work with the combo in Windows, since Mac OS X lacked a driver for it. Pleased that LaCie released their driver to the world, I was anxious to try it out for myself.

I downloaded the tiny driver package and installed the “MacOS106” package it included. I noted that the installer specifically claims that “this driver may work on USB 3.0 Host controllers base (sic) on the NEC 720200 chipset.” This is great news, since every current USB 3.0 host controller is based on this chipset!

There it is! USB 3.0 on Mac OS X!

I popped in my cheapie Keydex USB 3.0 ExpressCard adapter and sure enough, an entry for “USB Super-Speed Bus” appeared in System Profiler. Now we’re cooking!

Now You Don’t

My next step was plugging in the Seagate GoFlex drive with its USB 3.0 cable. Although the ExpressCard slot lacks full USB 3.0 power, and I was using a 7200 rpm “GoFlex Pro” drive, mine had plenty of juice. The drive spun up, the lights came on, but nothing else happened.

After refreshing System Profiler and Disk Utility a few times, I jumped over to the Terminal to see if there were any error messages. Then I spotted the error message: “Super Speed device other than LaCie is not supported – Vendor ID[bc2]”

Dmesg tells the tale: LaCie's driver won't work with a Seagate drive

That’s right: This free driver wouldn’t allow me to connect a device from Vendor “bc2”. This is Seagate’s USB Vendor ID, so the driver is presumably locked to LaCie’s ID (which I believe is “59f” for whatever that’s worth). Although it supports any USB 3.0 adapter card, it will only allow LaCie storage devices to be connected.

LaCie includes an uninstaller and instructions on how completely to remove their driver. Almost like they knew we wouldn't want to keep it installed...

I looked through the driver and plist files and couldn’t see any obvious way to change the driver to work with non-LaCie storage. So I’ll uninstall it and wait for someone else to release a real open driver.

Note: The LaCie driver doesn’t interfere with the ability of Mac OS X to access USB 2.0 devices through the NEC chip’s backwards-compatibility. But this works fine without the driver installed, too!

Stephen’s Stance

I can’t really be mad at LaCie. They built this driver for their own products, not so folks (like me) with other companies’ hardware can use it. They have every right to lock it down, but the way they did it is foolish.

See, LaCie sells USB 3.0 controller cards, too. And these controllers will presumably only work with LaCie USB 3.0 storage as well! They’re likely to have some seriously angry customers on their hands once the promise of device interoperability is broken. Sooner or later they’ll have to open the driver up for other devices.

Despite this setback, I consider it a good sign that there are now two USB 3.0 driver sets available for Mac OS X. No matter what Steve Jobs thinks of USB 3.0, it is coming to the Mac and soon. CalDigit and LaCie didn’t write these drivers, they’re just repackaging them. I imagine other companies (Belkin? Iomega?) will soon introduce Mac OS X drivers of their own and someone, sometime will leave them unlocked. Then we’ll all be able to enjoy “super speed” on our Macs!

Disclosure: Seagate provided the GoFlex drive and USB 3.0 interface for testing at no charge. I purchased everything else mentioned.

  • Abc

    What are your thoughts on lightpeak? I’m interested to see how the cabling is done as I can see dirty optics causing issues.

  • Tibbyme


    caldigits driver was made available to third party devices.

  • sfoskett

    This is true. From what I hear, the CalDigit driver works with any USB 3.0 device. I haven’t got one to try out myself, though.

  • Matreya

    I bought a USB 3.0 card direct from Caldigit – it works pretty well, a bit faster than eSATA

  • Ldenning

    I can’t get their driver to install under the new OSX update, 10.6.5. Their tech support says no support for it until late December or early 2011.

  • Ldenning

    Caldigit just released their updated driver for OSX 10.6.5. You have to request it at their website. Only honored if you bought their USB Expresscard.

  • Henry Larsen


  • sfoskett

    You’re right. That’s why I said “presumably”! I’d love to hear from others, and have been in contact with LaCie about this as well.

    Of course I don’t expect them to support folks who aren’t LaCie customers. But if their driver truly is locked from talking to non-LaCie drives, even with their controller, I contend it’s foolish. If not, well no harm no foul.

    We shall see!

  • Stephen

    I purchased the Expresscard/34 version and it does not work with 3rd party drives. I am seriously pissed off!
    If a company is going to do this then they should say that the usb card only works with their own products.
    I could understand if they locked the driver to their own usb 3 cards, but to rule 3rd party devices is misleading at the least

  • Ricardo Aquino

    Well this is what I did: I

  • Anonymous

    Unless LaCie fixes the driver within a week I’m issuing a chargeback, and contacting the BBB as I consider what LaCie is doing right now to be outright fraud – nowhere on the product page does it say a LaCie drive is required, just that it’s an ExpressCard/34 that supports USB 3.0 and is Mac compatible.

    If I can’t use a USB 3.0 drive I already had, then it’s not a USB 3.0 adaptor – it’s a proprietary LaCie adaptor. Just so I can get something working I’m going to order the CalDigit card which does work with any USB 3.0 drive (although they initially tried to pull the same stunt).

  • henry Larsen

    Well, if you’re going to call the BBB on LaCie, you might as well report all the ones who claim USB 3.0 ‘Super Speed’ through-put since (a) ExpressCard 34 is not rated as fast as USB 3.0, (b) the ExpressCard will thus be a chokepoint and (c) therefore any claims of USB 3.0 speed will be ‘outright fraud’.

  • Anonymous

    That’s a different issue, I know there’s a bottleneck at the Expresscard port. But it’s not about speed, it’s about the protocol – the card is advertised as USB 3.0 when it will not talk USB 3.0 to any USB 3.0 device, only LaCie equipment. Otherwise, you’d have to start to take issue with ANY equipment that did not run at maximum spec.

  • Guest

    I hacked the driver to bypass that check. Works great. Sorry I can’t distribute it !

  • Ste

    Please please please, I’m going crazy because this f. card doesn’t see my Lexar card reader. Any way you can help me after 2 years?

  • Seth Goldberg

    Private-message me :)

  • Ste

    Hi. Got my message?

  • Ste

    Sorry, I can’t find a way to do it here, what’s the right place?