Upgrade your Mini with an SSD for around $100

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by motrek, Dec 5, 2012.

  1. macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #1
    Just got my Mediasonic "ProBox" 2.5" USB3 hard drive enclosure ($15 on Amazon) today in the mail. I put in my Mushkin Chronos 120GB SSD ($84 on Newegg), copied my boot partition to it, rebooted it, and it worked like a charm on the first try. The difference in performance is unbelievable.

    According to the Blackmagic speed test app, I'm getting ~130 MB/s write speeds and ~180 MB/s read speeds. Basically it has twice the bandwidth of the standard internal hard drive, but of course the main selling point is the low latency. I would say apps launch up to 10 times faster and even just surfing to various web pages is about twice as fast.

    I'm very happy with this setup and will say that I don't see the point of ordering the SSD or Fusion upgrade from Apple considering the price, or installing an SSD internally, when you can buy whatever SSD you want, put it in this $15 enclosure and basically have the same performance, practically speaking.
     
  2. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2012
    #2
    I have a random question about enclosures: why do some of them have an AC adaptor and others don't? For the ones that don't, do they get their power through the USB connection or do they require a separate adaptor?
     
  3. thread starter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #3
    Basically there are two hard drive sizes: 3.5" is basically for desktop drives and requires too much power to be powered by USB. 2.5" is for laptops and can be powered by USB.

    Unless you need super high capacity there isn't much of a reason to buy a 3.5" drive and/or enclosure these days.
     
  4. macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Location:
    Folding space
    #4
    An enclosure that calls itself "self powered or bus powered" draws its current from either the usb or FireWire port on the computer. Some of these have a port for an external power adapter as well. For a platter HD, using some sort of external power is a good choice for better performance. I've had trouble with some bus powered enclosures that disappeared when I hooked up a power adapter to it. I'm not sure with ssd drives because they don't have moving parts and use less power. I guess...

    Dale
     
  5. macrumors 68000

    xlii

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Location:
    Millis, Massachusetts
    #5
    I've had the same issue. If you look at how much power your (laptop) supplies to the USB or Firewire bus and how much power your external drive needs... *some of them* will be right on the edge. So sometimes there is enough power to properly run the external drive and some kinds there isn't.
     
  6. thread starter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #6
    I haven't ever had a problem using a laptop drive in a bus-powered enclosure but some quick web searches do show that laptop drives can use up to ~3W under load and the standard amount of power supplied by a USB 2.0 port is 2.5W (although many supply more). Interesting.

    I wouldn't worry about it with a USB 3.0 Mac though because USB 3.0 supplies much more power. At least 4.5W I think.

    And in general SSDs should use less power than hard drives but they might need similar or higher peak amounts of power to flash (erase) blocks.
     
  7. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2012
    #7
    Why are your speeds that low? I'm using a Samsung 830 SSD internally on my 2012 Mini and I'm getting 330 mb/s writes and 430 mb/s reads.

    Even on the standard 5400 1tb drive I'm getting 104 mb/s writes and 105 mb/s reads.
     
  8. thread starter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #8
    I don't know if it's a limitation of the drive, or the enclosure, or USB 3.0, or some combination thereof.

    But regardless, the speeds are much faster than with USB 2.0 (~25 MB/s) and much faster than I need, since any large files that I copy to/from the SSD will almost certainly be from a slower hard drive.
     
  9. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2012
    #9
    Yeah, I was curious why the readings were so different between us especially when we spent roughly the same amount of money.
     
  10. thread starter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #10
    I think you must have missed it but I'm using a USB enclosure whereas you have your drive installed internally. I'm sure that makes a significant difference for the benchmarks.
     
  11. macrumors 601

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #11
    The point is much faster performance, freeing up a USB port, saving money by not buying an enclosure, and having a cleaner desk space with less cables and boxes floating around.

    The drawback of course is that you could break something inside if you aren't sufficiently careful or knowledgeable.
     
  12. thread starter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #12
    Well, I want a computer with an SSD *and* a hard drive, so that means either installing the SSD using a "dual drive kit" from e.g. iFixIt for $40-$50, or it means a $15 enclosure and clutter on my desk. So you can have one of your arguments--saving money, or less clutter--but not both.

    As for freeing up a USB port, I suppose I'm probably an unusual case, but I have a USB hub to give me more convenient access to ports, so I really only need 2 USB ports on the Mini (one for the SSD, one for the hub).

    Re: faster performance: maybe your situation is different but I've been keeping a pretty close eye on Activity Monitor and I rarely see disk activity peaks over 20 MB/s. Once in a while it'll go up to around 100 MB/s and I have seen one peak at 270 MB/s, but for the vast majority of the time I don't think I would benefit at all from the performance increase I'd get from installing the SSD internally vs. in the enclosure.
     
  13. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2007
    #13
    But why not install the SSD internally and place the 1TB HDD into the external enclosure? that would make more sence in terms of speed, or am I missing something here?
     
  14. shanmugam, Dec 6, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012

    macrumors 68020

    shanmugam

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2008
    Location:
    Blazer town!
    #14
    guys it is not the limitation of the USB 3.0 but the enclosure itself. most of the enclosures are SATA I/II even though they support SATA III (just compatibility not really SATA III Speeds) but the speed is limited to SATA II 3Gbps.

    i am using one of the CoolMax enclosure with Intel 330 240GB i got about 170MB/170MB Read and write

    http://www.buy.com/pr/product.aspx?sku=220173626

    SATA III 6Gbps compatible enclosure are hard to come by. we need to wait till thunderbolt enclosures go cheap.

    ----------

    but you have to fry open the Mac mini - which requires too many steps and tools ... check out ifixit.com
     
  15. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2007
    #15
    That's one reason, but still, puting the SSD inside along with the HDD is more painfull than swaping one for the other, that's what I'm planing to do to take advantage of my soon to be bought SSD.
     
  16. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2012
    #16
    It's a simple process to install the SSD. It took me about 30 minutes from opening up the case to turning it back on. The only pain was getting the wireless antenna socket pushed back on.
     
  17. macrumors 68020

    shanmugam

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2008
    Location:
    Blazer town!
    #17
    but you need to buy the tool for $50 right? with thunderbolt enclosure - hopefully it will get cheaper... we might use that instead of opening mac mini and going through all the trouble.
     
  18. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2012
    #18
    you don't have to buy the tool kit but you do need the extra SATA cable unless you are just removing/replacing the internal HDD then you don't need the cable.

    The tool kit just makes it nice as it comes with the torx drivers and all which I didn't have.
     
  19. thread starter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #19
    I don't know if you guys are even reading what I'm writing about speed.

    Yes, no doubt an internal SSD is faster than external. You will get higher benchmark numbers.

    Does this translate to any real-world performance gains? I don't think so, or if it does, it's extremely rare. Just open Activity Monitor, go to Disk Activity, and see what your peak bandwidth numbers are. I'm willing to bet that for most people, they see peak numbers way below what their SSDs are capable of, meaning their performance is not constrained by how their SSD is connected. I know mine certainly isn't.

    Of course, if you're constantly moving huge files around, then being able to read/write them at 450 MB/s is going to be very important, except in most of those cases I bet you are reading them from, or writing them to, a hard drive that maxes out at maybe 130 MB/s, or another SSD in a USB 3.0 enclosure, and you are STILL not constrained by how your SSD is connected.

    If you frequently copy huge files between your Mac Mini and an SSD connected via Thunderbolt then by all means, install your SSD internally and enjoy the performance gains!
     
  20. macrumors 601

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #20
    Personally, I dislike having an external drive as a boot drive. I'd install the SSD and HDD internally even if it had no benefits whatsoever.

    But you don't have to defend your method. We all have different needs and preferences. Do whatever you want.
     
  21. macrumors 6502a

    Gizmotoy

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2003
    #21
    What did you use to copy over your boot partition? I'm planning on doing something similar myself (though I think I may go internal), and copying data over is probably faster than doing an Internet Recovery.
     
  22. thread starter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #22
    SuperDuper!

    I've been using it for years. Highly recommended. If you register, it can do incremental copies. I have a partition on my hard drive that's the same size as my SSD and I copy the contents of the SSD to the hard drive occasionally to back it up. Plus that way if I need to travel anywhere with my Mini and I don't want the hassle of carrying around my external SSD I can still use the computer and it's exactly the same, just slower.
     
  23. macrumors 6502a

    Gizmotoy

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2003
    #23
    Hmm, I suspect that won't work for me since my HDD is larger than my SSD, but I didn't know there was any free program that could duplicate a drive like this. Thanks for the tip!
     
  24. thread starter macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2012
    #24
    Do you have an extra external hard drive that you can copy your music/photos/videos/etc. to until your hard drive has less stuff than your SSD would hold?

    I have several 2.5" external drives that I use for backups. They're pretty cheap and convenient for a few different uses, like this.
     
  25. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2007
    #25
    ActionableMango hit the spot, you don't have to defend the method you choose, I posted that question because I am getting a SSD and would like to understand why you chose to have it in the enclosure.

    I will be using the SSD for the OS, and I prefer to have it internally, and I suppose the speed gain is best when inside. The HDD is going to an external USB3 enclosure.
     

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