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Cheapest External ThunderBolt Drive that I could replace the HDD with SSD on?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by shenan1982, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. macrumors 68040

    Anyone know of the best thunderbolt portable drive to do this with? I have a 512GB SSD drive (Samsung), and I want to get a thunderbolt enclosure and put the drive in and have my OS boot off of it, so when I'm home I boot my iMac off it and have my OS on it at home, and then when I'm on the road I unplug it and plug it into my MacBook Air and have the same OS setup on the road.

    My only concern is there are seemingly no external thunderbolt enclosures on the market, but I've heard several people have taken external TB drives, and opened them up, replaced the hard drive with a SSD then closed em back up and had wicked-fast boot experiences with the drive. Since I already have the 512GB SSD, the biggest cost is out of the way.

    Any advice would be appreciated!
  2. macrumors 6502

    It's not an enclosure per se but you can plug it into a Seagate Thunderbolt adapter. They only run $99. I am actually not aware of any thunderbolt enclosures but I imagine you could open up a Buffalo Ministation and replace the drive ($174).
  3. macrumors G4

    I use the Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter with a "regular" SSD (an OCZ Agility 3 and an Intel 320) as a backup drive. It gets nearly native speeds, and slightly better than using those same drives in a USB 3.0 enclosure.

    Note that the adapter is intended primarily for use with Seagate GoFlex drives, but the connector is standard SATA III. If you use a bare drive, there will be a little bit of a gap between the bottom of the drive and the base of the adapter (it's about 4" long and 1" thick), so you might want to consider using something (such as double-sided foam tape) to "mount" the drive onto the enclosure. The new 0.5 meter Thunderbolt cable is perfect for it.
  4. macrumors 68040

    Oye that seems really primitive (no offense). I want something that at least looks decent if it's going to be sitting on my desktop, even if it means waiting.
  5. hfg
    macrumors 68030


    I use the Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter (2.5") and it works great in OS X and Windows with a SSD. Yes, it does allow any SATA drive to be attached "bare", but I bought a couple of new "GoFlex enclosures" on eBay which allow you to insert your SSD and snap it closed to complete the package. Alternately, you could buy the GoFlex with a hard disk kit, then open the enclosure and swap the hard disk for your SSD and snap it back together. The hard disk you removed can be sold, put in another laptop, or installed in a cheap USB-3.0 enclosure for a backup drive. The GoFlex seems to power the larger 512GB SSDs without problems.

    The Buffalo has been reported here to be very difficult to open due to strong double-stick tape holding it closed causing damage to the case. The LaCie rugged looks to be easier to open without damage to replace the HD with SSD. Both of these have been reported to have power issues with larger 512GB SSDs.

    You can also get "refurb" LaCie "Little Big Disk" Thunderbolt at MacMall which hold 2 drives that can be used individually or as a RAID-0 for very fast transfer rates. It is not bus powered so requires a power supply connection. There are several threads which discuss this further here.

  6. shenan1982, Jan 16, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013

    macrumors 68040

    OK, so I'm looking on Amazon, my preferred vendor, and don't see which Seagates you're referring to, could you link me to the two parts (the drive\enclosure that I could easily replace the drive on, and the thunderbolt that's powered and would go along with said drive)? Thanks

    And the seagate enclosure is openable to swap drives easily?

    The one I see is:


    And that's not powered so won't work.
  7. hfg, Jan 16, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2013

    macrumors 68030


    Thunderbolt adapter only (no TB cable):

    Here is a 1TB drive with the Thunderbolt adapter with TB cable:

    The enclosure is the typical "snap together" construction which can be carefully opened with a plastic credit card so as not to break too many of the snap points.


    EDIT: I actually had the Mac Backup kit shown above, and even though I have the eBay enclosures which are the same as my other GoFLex interchangeable drives, I elected to open that case and swap drives because it is just a little slimmer and is better looking with a metal silver stripe around the perimeter than the other case.
  8. macrumors 68040

    Yeah I saw these, but they aren't powered externally, so don't want to run into issues.
  9. hfg
    macrumors 68030


    That one will work and is bus powered. It is an older model, but I have not noticed a speed difference in testing between that and the one I linked above (I have both). Note that the bare TB interface does not come with a TB cable, which can cost $50 separately.

    Product Features
    Take advantage of the revolutionary, high performance speed of Thunderbolt connectivity
    Tranfers occur at 10Gbps, which is up to 20x faster than USB 2.0 and 12x faster than FireWire 800
    Transfer HD movies and other large files in seconds with Thunderbolt's ultra-fast performance
    The STAE128 turns any Backup Plus Portable Drive into a blazing-fast Thunderbolt device for your compatible computer
    Completely bus powered, no external power supply needed
    Connect to the end of a daisy chain of Thunderbolt devices, or directly to the Thunderbolt port on your computer
  10. macrumors G4

    If you are just going to plug in a 2.5" SSD it works fine. The GoFlex draw all the power it needs from the Thunderbolt port. All the enclosure does is wrap around the drive so that it plugs in.
  11. macrumors 6502

    I know what you mean. If I go this route, I'm just going to get a Twelvesouth backpack for my iMac so it's not sitting on my desk. Out of sight. Out of mind.
  12. macrumors 68040

    Yeah, but at 512gb as a primary boot drive (to fully avail of the SSD speed) won't it bomb when processor is going nuts?


    Yeah I have one, I swear by them, hopefully the back connection works with the iMac 2012 ... my new iMac is being delivered on Monday, so I hope this works.
  13. macrumors 6502a


    Why do you want them externally powered? It's unnecessary and would add clutter. You may be confusing 2.5" with 3.5" clunkers, which do need external power to function. All laptop drives, and especially SSDs, which draw even less power, are powered on bus-only and you will not have issues.

    In fact, there is not a single 2.5" drive that I know of that is (or needs to be) externally powered.
  14. macrumors 68040

    As many have stated here, a 512 GB ssd doesn't get enough power from the system to reliably run the os off of.
  15. macrumors 6502a


    This is demonstrably untrue, I actually just picked up the Seagate earlier this week and am running a Crucial M4 512GB on it right now, and I run protein libraries from it without a hiccup, so not quite OS, but during simulations, it needs sustained power for hours at a time.

    Unfortunately, though, like I said, I can't think of nor am I aware of any 2.5" enclosures that have any sort of external power. I just don't think they're made that way. It's possible they exist, but if so, there are very, very few, and it seems, none that can do Thunderbolt. It's kind of the weakness of Thunderbolt right now -- there's just not enough of anything available on it, and it seems we're limited right now to the handful of enclosures, none of which have external power.

    If you get an external SATA power supply, you could maybe use that, but that's even less elegant than the "ghetto" Seagate dock.
  16. macrumors G4

    I don't believe this is the case. These are intended to power traditional hard drives, which draw a lot more power than even the largest SSDs.
  17. hfg
    macrumors 68030


    From the Wiki ... Thunderbolt can supply 10 watts of power.

    Power capabilities versus other interfaces

    Thunderbolt was clearly intended as, and functions as, a unifying interface for mobile, laptop and desktop devices to prevent more proliferation of cables and connectors for displays and storage. Its power characteristics reflect this. The power, at 10 Watts, improves on USB 3.0's 4.5 watts, but is not beyond the ability of a laptop or tablet to power.


  18. macrumors 68040

    I'm not sure why the general consensus here seems to be that the non-powered solution won't work then. In several forums on here as well as other sites, people are saying that powering a drive off the system's BUS is prone to failure when using processor intensive tasks and using the external as the primary boot drive. I just can't have that kinda failure. I'd like to see someone who's actually got that setup successfully. Most people, like you, don't fully use it as an external boot drive as their primary day to day OS disk.


    So here's what I ordered:


    Do you think the Seagate TB solution would perform as well if not better than this drive? One concern I do have is the sleep\wake functionality of a non-powered unit. If the computer shuts the power off to the external drive, I'm afraid of issues when sleep waking when using the external TB unpowered Seagate as my boot drive
  19. hfg
    macrumors 68030


    I posted some speed tests results over on your other thread about this same subject.

    That drive dock that you linked to on Amazon is huge, certainly not something you want to carry around with your Macbook Air. And it doesn't have Thunderbolt interface.
  20. macrumors G4


    To clarify, why do you want to run the external drive as the primary drive? Running the system off an external drive (USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt) generally does tax the processor a bit more and the fans will run hotter.

    If it will be sitting on a desk, there is a Seagate Thunderbolt enclosure intended for desktop use (the other one is technically portable) that can accept up to 3.5" drives. I haven't looked into it, but it may have a separate power source.

    Anyway, I have tested hard drives and SSDs in both a USB 3.0 enclosure and the Seagate. I've gotten slightly better SSD scores with the Thunderbolt adapter, and slightly better HDD scores in the USB 3.0 enclosure, although the differences are negligible. Specifically, the large sustained read and write tests tend to be faster on the SSD with the Thunderbolt adapter.
  21. macrumors 68040

    I want to be able to install OSX onto the SSD, so it boots in 8 seconds like it does installed internally on my iMac (2010) or as close to it as possible. I know I'm going to be disappointed with Fusion after being in a 100% SSD environment for the last 6 months. Having the TB portable drive would allow me to boot to it when at home on the iMac, then take it with me and have my iMac "on my MB Air" by plugging it in and booting off it on the road.
  22. macrumors G4

    Are you sure that it will boot both the iMac and the MacBook Air? Sometimes specific models have their own builds. I know that Lion builds for the MacBook Air wouldn't boot on other Macs and vice versa. Also, how are you connecting the drive to the iMac? The 2010 model didn't have Thunderbolt, and Firewire is noticeably slower than USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt.
  23. macrumors 68040

    I think it would be fine. I think the build numbers are for installation purposes, no reason it wouldn't boot I don't think. It's the 2012 iMac so TB port on board! :)
  24. hfg
    macrumors 68030


    Your 2012 iMac has a slightly newer build of OS X, but should boot fine on the Macbook Air. The other way around won't work. The next public release of OS X will resolve this. You shouldn't have any problems doing what you desire.
  25. macrumors 6502a


    Hmm, it could be possible there are issues with USB, but I haven't had any with Thunderbolt yet. Not saying they don't exist, you have documented some yourself from other forums, but afaik, Thunderbolt has its own controller chips, like Firewire, whereas USB is the one that necessarily leverages the CPU for everything.

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