Again a Mini question: Using an external harddisk as boot device?

Discussion in 'Macintosh Computers' started by manchurian, Jan 26, 2005.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2005
    So I read that the harddisk in the Mac Mini is pretty slow. Would it make sense to get an external Firewire Harddisk and install OS X onto the external harddisk? How high is the latency of the Firewire in general? Faster than IDE/SATA maybe?

    Thanks for any information :)
  2. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 10, 2003
    London, Ontario
    This is something im curious about too and im going to figure out by setting up a mini with some xbench lovin at my mac dealer when they get a unit in :)
  3. macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    Firewire (and even USB 2.0) is PLENTY fast enough for SATA drives. Firewire has a 400 MBps bandwidth and USB 2.0 has about 480 MBps. SATA has a bandwidth of 150 MBps.

    So yes, getting a WD Raptor 10,000 RPM SATA drive, putting it into a Firewire/USB 2.0 enclosure and making that a bootable drive WILL make your mini alot faster.
  4. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2005
    I'm not sure if there are such enclosures but I'm also wondering how fast those external Firewire harddisks are compared to SATA and IDE harddisks.
  5. macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    Yeah there are enclosures like that, I've seen them.

    But that's an interesting question about the external firewire drives. But that does raise a question, if a firewire-based external harddrive is faster than a SATA enclosure-based HD, why did they bother developing SATA, instead of just going for a USB 2.0 or Firewire external standard? (Essentially having Firewire or USB 2.0 replacing PATA)?
  6. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2005

    here's such an enclosure.
  7. macrumors 6502


    May 18, 2001
    I think the correct numbers are; FireWire 400 - 400 Mbps, USB 2.0 - 480 Mbps, SATA - 150 MBps or 1200 Mbps.

    In reality a good 7200 RPM external hard drive will produce speeds up to around 50 MBps, and the bandwidth for FireWire 400 is theoretically maximum 50 MBps (400 Mbps). So the hard drive could be limited by the speed of the FireWire bus, since it practically never reaches 50 MBps.

    On the other hand I'd guess that you'll see speeds around 40 MBps, and that should be plenty fast enough, and much faster than the Mini's internal drive.
  8. macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    Ah, damn the MB and the Mb, they get me every time. :)
  9. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2005
    Here are my HDTach stats from Maxtor One Touch 200GB Firewire Harddisk and my Barracuda V 120GB Harddisk:

    Maxtor One Touch 200GB:
    Random Access: 19.0ms
    CPU Utilization: 2%
    Average Read: 36.5MB/s

    Barracuda V 120GB:
    Random Access: 13.3ms
    CPU Utilization: 4%
    Average Read: 42.5MB/s
  10. macrumors 68040


    Jun 15, 2004

    SATA has 150 MBytes/sec =1200Mbit/sec
    Firewire400 has 50MBytes/sec = 400Mbit/sec
    USB2.0 has 60MBytes/sec = 480 Mbit/sec

    A raptor is a overkill for a firewire enclosure.
    A firewire400 drive will due to overhead and brigding max out at ~40MBytes/ sec. Any never ATA133 or SATA HD will go well beyond it.
    USB 2.0 is a horrible chapter on Macs, it will likely max out on ~20MBytes/sec and it will be a lot slower than the internal mini mac harddrive

    My two year old Maxtor 740DX 80GB ATA/100 is faster than my LaCie Extreme 250GB when connected to firewire 400....
  11. macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2004
    Maybe this interests you.

    Here some xbench results of a test I did a while ago. It compares the internal 30GB 4200RPM drive of the most recent iBook to an external FW/USB2.0 enclosure with "Oxford" bridge chip and Western Digital WD800 (80GB, 7200rpm, 2MB cache).

    Note that I suspect the iBook internal drive results to be similar to the Mac Mini's, cause they seem to be very built out of almost the same hardware.


    Disk Test       71.95   
            Sequential      61.28   
                    Uncached Write  64.62   26.94 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Write  64.31   26.34 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   47.67   7.55 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   75.33   30.44 MB/sec [256K blocks]
            Random  87.12   
                    Uncached Write  90.18   1.35 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Write  92.19   20.79 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   82.58   0.55 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   84.26   17.34 MB/sec [256K blocks]

    Disk Test       29.42   
            Sequential      18.82   
                    Uncached Write  35.88   14.96 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Write  34.65   14.19 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   7.87    1.25 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   34.79   14.05 MB/sec [256K blocks]
            Random  67.37   
                    Uncached Write  80.72   1.21 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Write  64.92   14.64 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   69.51   0.46 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   58.15   11.97 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Internal iBook drive (4200rpm, 30GB)

    Disk Test       49.17   
            Sequential      50.99   
                    Uncached Write  47.69   19.88 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Write  40.58   16.62 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   103.12  16.32 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   43.21   17.46 MB/sec [256K blocks]
            Random  47.47   
                    Uncached Write  44.66   0.67 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Write  43.82   9.88 MB/sec [256K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   54.49   0.36 MB/sec [4K blocks]
                    Uncached Read   48.30   9.94 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Firewire is way faster than internal!
  12. macrumors 65816


    Nov 5, 2004
    I tested my Hitachi 7K250 7200rpm 160GB HD in an external enclosure connected to my iMac G5 via firewire 400 with Xbench's disk test. The drive continually scored in the low 70's, barely higher than the mini's stock 4200rpm 2.5" drive. I had nearly identical results when I connected it to my 3rd generation eMac via firewire however the drive scored around 130 when connected to the eMac's internal IDE bus.

    Bandwidth is only one variable that needs to be considered here. While firewire is capable of supporting a fast IDE drive with little bottle neck at around 40MBps, you still have to consider latency and processor load. Both of these will be considerably higher when using a drive in an external enclosure. However, considering that the Mac mini already has very low disk scores (mid 60's according to most reports on Xbench's results comparison site), you would not be taking a performance hit by using an external drive and might actually be a bit faster. It would be nice if you just wanted more space but it would likely cause some hassles down the road.

    To increase disk access and read times, you have two options as I see it. One, replace the 4200rpm interal drive with a 7200rpm drive. You can find these in 40, 60 & 80GB versions from $100-$200 dollars. According to the one Mac mini on Xbench's results comparison site with a 7200rpm drive, this would give you a disk score in the low 90's. The second option would be to use a 44-pin to 40-pin adapter to connect a standard 40-pin 80-conductor IDE cable internally to your Mac mini and route the ribbon cable into your external enclosure. Power the drive via the enclosures power supply. Of course you will lose some (ok all) of the mini's "sleekness" but your disk score should be in the upper 120's.
  13. macrumors G3


    Apr 30, 2004
    the mac mini comes with either a 4200rpm or 5400rpm drive. replace this with a 7200rpm drive and you're sorted.

    screw messing around with firewire drives. and if you're going to go external get a firewire drive, not USB2.0. the usb standard just can't handle large amounts of data over it. ever wonder why all videocameras etc use firewire?
  14. macrumors 68000


    Jan 28, 2004
    The major problem I see with this setup is that the Mini has only one Firewire port. I know that most Firewire drive offer daisy chaining, but how well does that work? Can I boot off my 7200 RPM External and plug my camcorder into the extra port on the drive and capture without dropped frames? I honestly don't know, but when I get my Mini (waiting for my tax return) I will try it out, but if anyone has any experience with this I would appreciate it.

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