Apple has issued a statement to clarify the problems that have affected early Panther adopters and caused data-loss on some external hard drives..

The company says: "Apple has identified an issue with external FireWire hard drives using the Oxford 922 bridge chip-set with firmware version 1.02 that can result in the loss of data stored on the disk drive. Apple is working with Oxford Semiconductor and affected drive manufacturers to resolve this issue which resides in the Oxford 922 chip-set."

As Macworld reported yesterday, the problem means that some users have seen extensive data-loss from connected external FireWire hard drives when Panther was installed, or when the OS is started up and a FireWire drive is affected. Early reports suggested the problem afflicted both FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 drives. Apple's report indicates that only FireWire 800 drives are affected – so iPods should be safe.

Apple's advice for users follows: "In the interim, Apple recommends that you do not use these drives. To stop using the drive, you should unmount or eject the disk drive before doing anything else. Please check this Web page for further updates."

WiebeTech patch

In related news, WiebeTech has released a firmware update for its FireWire 800 drives. This is "designed to run under OS X and resolves compatibility issues discovered with Apple's recent release of Panther". This is available now for download.

Wiebetech CEO James Wiebe said: "It has been determined that this problem between Panther and FireWire 800 drives usually occurs in circumstances involving older, slower Macintosh computers where the FireWire 800 drive is attached to a FireWire 400 port on the computer, and the firmware level of the FireWire drive is 1.02." The company recommends that users of its products install the patch.

LaCie issues warning

LaCie has also issued a statement on the matter. It waarns: "A compatibility issue exists with FireWire 800 drives and Apple's new operating system release. We believe this problem affects all manufacturers of FireWire 800 drives. LaCie has been actively investigating these reports to identify the cause of the problems, and to provide our customers with a solution."

The company has also released an update to protect against the problem.

Other World Computing responds

Other World Computing (OWC) has issued a firmware update for its Mercury Elite line of FireWire 800 drives. The updater fixes the problem between FireWire 800 hard drives and Panther.

"Please make note that this issue has only affected a small number of customers but we take this issue very seriously and highly recommend that all customers either update their drive's firmware revision or cease using OWC Mercury Elite FireWire 800 drives with Mac OS X 10.3 until the update can be performed," the company said.