External SSD as Boot drive: USB 3 vs Thunderbolt?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by gdourado, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. macrumors 6502

    gdourado

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2010
    #1
    Hello,
    How are you?

    I am wondering...
    If I get a base 27 inch iMac with the standard 1tb HDD, can I use an external SSD as a boot and system drive?
    I can get a Samsung 256gb SSD for an excellent price.
    As for the enclosure, does going for a Thunderbolt enclosure guarantee better performance? Or will it be the same as a USB 3.0 Enclosure?

    Anyone done this? Are you happy with the results?

    Cheers!
     
  2. macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #2
    Even though I have the Late 2013 iMac with a 1TB Fusion Drive, I am about to do just what you mention.

    Refer here and here.
     
  3. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2011
    Location:
    New YAWK
    #3
    I dont really think you can boot off a USB drive. Maybe USB3 is different from USB2 but I thought you couldnt use a USB drive to boot from. However I may be wrong.

    I bought LaCie 128 gig SSD to boot off of and havent had a single problem. So I bought another one to put games and apps on. They ran me about $199 each, totally worth it.
     
  4. macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #4
    It depends on the USB controller. There are indeed some USB enclosures that do not support booting so you do need to confirm it prior to purchasing. The Inateck UASP USB3 enclosure I've ordered definitely supports booting though.
     
  5. macrumors P6

    Weaselboy

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2005
    #5
    That will work just fine.

    Read this test and also this test. USB3 and TB speeds were very close to each other.

    The big advantage to TB is you can run TRIM over TB and you cannot over USB.
     
  6. macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #6
    [[ I dont really think you can boot off a USB drive. Maybe USB3 is different from USB2 but I thought you couldnt use a USB drive to boot from. However I may be wrong. ]]

    The poster who wrote the above -is- wrong.

    I've been booting my 2007 iMac from a USB2 dock for years.
    For the past year, I boot and run my late-2012 Mac Mini from a USB3 dock.

    As stated above, the enclosure or dock that one uses "makes the difference".

    To the OP:
    Yes, you can boot and run the iMac just fine from either a thunderbolt or USB3 enclosure. Again, if you use USB3, you need to investigate and get the RIGHT enclosure or dock.

    Be aware that you will pay a premium to use thunderbolt, and most drive enclosures are not going to provide an extra "pass-thru" thunderbolt port, so if you connect a thunderbolt external drive you probably won't be able to use the Tbolt port to connect a second display.

    USB3 is much cheaper, will run just as fast.

    For my own setup, I use a plugable.com "lay-flat" USB3 docking station. Not elegant, but it sits out-of-the-way on my desk behind the phone.

    For an iMac, this might work:
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003VKTJGW...UTF8&colid=R75PP4I2A0BE&coliid=I3DOKZ31SP7539
    (might be available in silver as well, to match the iMac)

    I've heard of guys attaching these to the back of the iMac stand with velcro tape.

    IMPORTANT!
    When you shop for an enclosure, you want one with an "ASMedia" chipset (1053e preferred), and be sure that it states that the enclosure supports "UASP". This is "USB Attached SCSI Protocol" which is based on the old SCSI standard and relieves the computer's CPU from dealing with USB transfers. Thus, much higher speeds with negligible CPU loading.

    Also, Weaselboy is correct about not being able to enable TRIM via USB.
    Also, you probably won't be able to run a firmware updater for the drive, if one is released.
    I've found that recent versions of SMART Utility seem to be able to communicate with and report well enough.

    If you can "live with the two limitations" mentioned above, USB3 is a "good enough" choice. I have no problems with it.
     
  7. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2011
    Location:
    New YAWK
    #7
    Ahh yes, I figured it was a variable thing because ive tried booting from USB in the past.

    However I simply trust thunderbolt more than USB for booting.
     
  8. macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #8
    An excellent point. I had completely forgotten about it. I intend to use the SSD as the boot disk so this is a consideration. :confused:

    I checked my Amazon order and while the SSD has shipped, the Inateck had not so I cancelled it, bit the bullet and ordered the Delock 42490 2.5" Thunderbolt enclosure instead.

    I agree. :)
     
  9. macrumors G5

    gnasher729

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2005
    #9
    A Fusion drive is just as fast and a lot more practical. No need to have a separate "boot and system" drive. Fusion drive will automatically put just those parts of files that are used a lot on the SSD drive, and put everything that isn't needed much to the hard drive. That uses the space on the SSD drive much more efficiently than you could ever do by hand.
     
  10. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    #10
    Don't know how much you paid for your delock, but best buy has the seagate thunderbolt enclosed on clearance for around $80

    ----------

    Fusion Drive is still limiting. Don't get me wrong it's a great technology, but its still just a 128gb SSD, which is limiting, especially when you can pick up a 750gb Samsung SSD for around $350 right now.
     
  11. macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #11

    I paid about $110 here in Japan where everything is more expensive. I don't think Best Buy ships internationally and even if they did the shipping and import taxes would make it more expensive in the end.

    There is one thing I prefer about the Delock over the Seagate sleds: AC power. I know for a lot of the target audience looking for a portable option the bus power is an advantage of the Seagate but I am only looking it to use it right here in this room with my iMac.

    Since I am using a larger SSD (500GB), I prefer the external power.

     
  12. SaSaSushi, Feb 26, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014

    macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #12
    Just a quick follow-up post here. I took delivery of the Delock 42490 Thunderbolt enclosure yesterday and popped in a Samsung 840EVO 500GB SSD. The enclosure is very nice and light, aluminum housing with a plastic end cap. It actually comes with a screwdriver. :) There are just two screws to remove and then you slide out the internal housing, attach the SSD and slide it back in.

    Edit: Actually I forgot to mention that there are 4 screws to mount the SSD to the internal housing as well.

    As mentioned, the enclosure is AC-powered.

    I did a quick Blackmagic test and the results look fairly good to me for Thunderbolt.

    [​IMG]

    I am actually going to be getting a Firmtek UASP USB 3 enclosure for testing as well and I will compare results between the two.

    First impressions with this Delock are very positive though! For around $100 I don't think you can go wrong with it as a Thunderbolt SSD option.
     
  13. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    #13
    Back Up in General for iMac

    Hi. I like this thread and don't want to go off point -- but I do wonder about another External HD for my late 2013 iMac (1TB Fusion).

    I have relied on 'GMax' (Mirrored) by Newer Technology. I like the redundancy. I even do an online backup, too -- talk about redundant.

    But, it is filling up, and I want a designated drive for the iMac. (I currently have my old Macbook on there, too, both via Time Machine)

    I would like to free up the iMac for the media. I have tons of photos and music. I would like to either get a new GMax (or maybe something else) -- especially to take advantage of either USB 3 or Thunderbolt.

    I've read about the enclosures here, and the bootable drive method. Not sure if that's what I need. But I would like to advance and update my backup/storage methods.
     
  14. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2011
    #14
    Does anyone know if full system encryption with File Vault 2 will work if booting from Thunderbolt?
     
  15. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2013
    #15
    I'm considering external SSD solution. I want to get an external SSD, partition into two. Use one partition for Carbon Copy Clone with my internal boot drive SSD, so that I have immediate boot drive in case of catastrophic event. I want to use the second partition for Bootcamp. I see above that someone metioned USB3 does not support TRIM where as Thunderbolt does. Is this true? What about the Bootcamp using Windows 8.1?
     
  16. macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #16
    Unfortunately, it is true that BootCamp cannot boot to a USB3 SSD. See my review of the Inateck UASP USB3 enclosure.

    I am doing exactly what you are talking about with a 500GB SSD split in half for OSX and BootCamp. It works fine on the Thunderbolt enclosure but when I put it in the Inateck it BSODs on startup of Windows. This is apparently because SSDs are properly identified as SATA devices on Thunderbolt but not via USB.

    If you want to run BootCamp off an external SSD, get the Delock 42490 or a Seagate STAE128 sled. I am really happy with the Delock.
     
  17. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2013
    #17
    With TH solution, do you have proper TRIM support for both OS X (by using third-party software such as TRIM Enabler) and Windows?
     
  18. macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #18
    Yes to both. :)

    [​IMG]
     
  19. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2013
    #19
    Great! Thanks for the confirmation. I think I may end up going almost same solution as you are using. Samsung 840 Evo 500GB and TB enclosure (haven't decided which yet).
     
  20. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2008
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    #20
    This is a bit complicated. Can anyone tell if I can use the USB3 enclosure Zalman ZM-VE300 with a SSD inside, to boot to Windows on a Macbook Retina?
     
  21. macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #21
    With a USB 3 enclosure:
    OS X: Bootable, depending on enclosure controller. TRIM not supported, which is a big no-no for SSDs.
    Boot Camp/Windows: Completely unsupported. Windows will not boot if it detects that the drive is USB.

    With a Thunderbolt enclosure:
    OS X: Bootable. TRIM supported.
    Boot Camp/Windows: Supported. Downside is that you need to create a Boot Camp partition in the internal drive first, then use WinClone Pro to clone the internal BC partition to the Thunderbolt SSD, before removing the internal BC partition.
     
  22. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2008
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    #22
    Thanks!

    Easy to understand. I'm out of luck it seems.
     
  23. macrumors demi-god

    Truefan31

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2012
    #23

    Is there a tutorial for running/moving osx/windows bootcamp on an external ssd?
     
  24. macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2011
    Location:
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    #24
    This forum itself :D

    Actually it's simple. All you need is WinClone Pro.

    1. Install a 20GB Boot Camp partition in your internal drive. Install Windows like normal. Install drivers as well.
    2. Create a larger (maybe 128GB) partition in your external Thunderbolt (TB) drive. Format it as FAT32.
    3. Use gdisk (a command line utility, free) to convert the hybrid MBR table of the TB drive into GPT. When Disk Utility formats as FAT32, it will create a hybrid MBR partition table. This isn't good if you intend to run Windows 8, as Windows 8 runs better in UEFI mode (which requires GPT and no MBR). Skip this step if you're installing Windows 7 (which is hell to get it work in UEFI)
    4. After removing the hybrid MBR, use WinClone Pro to re-image the internal BC partition into the larger FAT32 partition in the TB drive. WinClone will format it as NTFS for you.
     
  25. Truefan31, Jun 11, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014

    macrumors demi-god

    Truefan31

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2012
    #25
    External SSD as Boot drive: USB 3 vs Thunderbolt?


    This moves osx to the ssd drive as well? I figure since I have a 512 gb ssd id partition 256 to each osx and windows.
     

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