2012 Mac Mini: Is an external USB 3.0 drive any slower than stock internal?

dmk1974

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 16, 2008
2,175
111
For those of you with 2012 Mac Mini's, is an attached external USB 3.0 drive any slower than the internal stock drive? I know the connection speed of SATA3 is supposed to be faster than USB 3.0, but I'm guessing the 5400 RPM drives are the limiting factors.

Thanks!
 

Nov 28, 2010
22,684
27
located
2.5" S-ATA HDDs offer speeds of 75 to 100 MB/s, even S-ATA 1.5 Gbps (S-ATA I) is faster and if you use a good USB 3.0 enclosure, you can get those speeds easily with a USB 3.0 HDD.
 

dmk1974

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 16, 2008
2,175
111
2.5" S-ATA HDDs offer speeds of 75 to 100 MB/s, even S-ATA 1.5 Gbps (S-ATA I) is faster and if you use a good USB 3.0 enclosure, you can get those speeds easily with a USB 3.0 HDD.
Thanks! I was thinking of replacing the stock 1 TB hard drive in a Mac Mini with an SSD. Then, getting a decent USB 3.0 enclosure to pop the stock drive into. That way I'd have my programs and OS on the internal SSD and then all of my media files connected externally (shouldn't be a bad speed hit). And overall faster than just working from the internal stock HDD.
 

FreakinEurekan

macrumors 68040
Sep 8, 2011
3,395
333
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Thanks! I was thinking of replacing the stock 1 TB hard drive in a Mac Mini with an SSD. Then, getting a decent USB 3.0 enclosure to pop the stock drive into. That way I'd have my programs and OS on the internal SSD and then all of my media files connected externally (shouldn't be a bad speed hit). And overall faster than just working from the internal stock HDD.
You could even do the SSD externally via USB 3.0 and boot off it. The performance difference vs. internal SSD and data HDD external will be minimal, and you save the work involved & potential warranty issues if the Mini needs to be serviced later.
 

dapitts08

macrumors regular
Jul 1, 2009
155
0
Thanks! I was thinking of replacing the stock 1 TB hard drive in a Mac Mini with an SSD. Then, getting a decent USB 3.0 enclosure to pop the stock drive into. That way I'd have my programs and OS on the internal SSD and then all of my media files connected externally (shouldn't be a bad speed hit). And overall faster than just working from the internal stock HDD.
if you do make sure you get the bluetooth shielding and do both (add ssd and bluetooth shielding) at the same time. i made the mistake of not knowing about the issues with interference when using USB 3.0....my wifi speeds were crippled.....i had to open my mini back up and add it.....was not a happy camper
 

blanka

macrumors 68000
Jul 30, 2012
1,549
3
Mini's have 2 drive bays. Just ADD the SSD.
And SATA is more than throughput. Access times are still faster on SATA 1.5 than on USB 3, and it is easier on the CPU.
 

dmk1974

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 16, 2008
2,175
111
Mini's have 2 drive bays. Just ADD the SSD.
And SATA is more than throughput. Access times are still faster on SATA 1.5 than on USB 3, and it is easier on the CPU.
Thanks. I looked into that in the past, but isn't the additional SATA connector like another $40 or so? I've done the drive replacements in the Mac Mini so the minor surgery isn't an issue. Maybe worth it big picture, but I just bought a 1 TB USB 3 drive for $60 (can return to BB if needed though).
 

blanka

macrumors 68000
Jul 30, 2012
1,549
3
You said you wanted to put the internal drive in an external enclosure. That means you don't need a cable.
SSD should be put inside. USB3 is no match for the internal Sata 6 connector. With the good SSD's like Samsung 830/840 pro/Vector etc you will push the limit of Sata 6.
Oh, and with my SSD purchase, a simple USB->SATA connector was included, I use that to connect the old internal drive of my old Mini 2009.
 

dmk1974

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 16, 2008
2,175
111
You said you wanted to put the internal drive in an external enclosure. That means you don't need a cable.
SSD should be put inside. USB3 is no match for the internal Sata 6 connector. With the good SSD's like Samsung 830/840 pro/Vector etc you will push the limit of Sata 6.
Oh, and with my SSD purchase, a simple USB->SATA connector was included, I use that to connect the old internal drive of my old Mini 2009.
I'm confused. Yes, for best speed, I'd put the SSD inside (I would not boot from it externally...I prefer any boot drive to be internal). I looked at USB enclosures as well, but then found a 1 TB external USB 3 drive at BB for cheap and just picked it up (can still return of course). The cleanest method would be to mount both the SSD drive and the stock drive internally if I can find the internal cable for a reasonable price.
 

dmk1974

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 16, 2008
2,175
111
Here's some BlackMagic DiskSpeedTest results comparing the stock internal 5400 RPM drive (first) to a Toshiba Canvio Basics 1 TB USB 3.0 external drive (second). Pretty close in speed!

Other than having the drive tethered externally, is there really any other disadvantage to having it external vs getting a data doubler to use the internal drive? I am planning to install the SSD drive internally today or tomorrow and replace the stock drive.
 

Attachments

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,688
5,792
"I'm confused….."

Let's end the confusion right now.

Get an SSD of your choice.

Put it into an external enclosure or a USB/SATA docking station.

Initialize it and "clone over" the contents of the 5400rpm internal drive.

You will become a very, VERY happy user….
 

dmk1974

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 16, 2008
2,175
111
"I'm confused….."

Let's end the confusion right now.

Get an SSD of your choice.

Put it into an external enclosure or a USB/SATA docking station.

Initialize it and "clone over" the contents of the 5400rpm internal drive.

You will become a very, VERY happy user….
Why wouldn't I want to put the SSD drive internal to realize the max speed when in the OS?
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,688
5,792
"Why wouldn't I want to put the SSD drive internal to realize the max speed when in the OS?"

You were the one who originated this thread, with the question, "Is an external USB 3.0 drive any slower than stock internal?"

The answer is, "it depends".

The "stock internal" drive on a Mini is a 5400rpm 2.5" hard disk drive. If you were to add an external USB3 enclosure, with a 5400rpm drive inside, yes, it would be slower to boot. Once up-and-running, speeds would be equal (insofar as any "differences" would be imperceptible to the user).

If you add an external USB3 enclosure, with an SSD drive inside, it will be far FAR faster. Orders of magnitude faster than the "stock" internal drive. Boot times will be much quicker (about 15 seconds to the login screen). Up-and-running speeds will be indistinguishable from an internally-mounted SSD.

The advantage of adding an external SSD are that it is "plug and go" -- you don't have to disassemble the Mini and pull the guts out, and you don't have to buy another SATA cable (which can be more expensive than an external USB3/SATA dock). And you don't run the risk of accidentally breaking connectors on the motherboard -- there have been numerous posts here in the Mini forum about that.

The DISadvantages are (at least right now) that you probably can't update the SSD's firmware via a USB connection, and I don't believe there are any TRIM enablers yet that can access the SSD while mounted in a USB configuration.

When I first connected an Intel 520 series SSD to my 2012 Mini (using a plugable.com "lay-flat" dock), the speeds measured 410mbps for reads and 247mbps for writes.
 

dmk1974

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Sep 16, 2008
2,175
111
Sorry for some of the confusion.

My first question was to compare the speed difference of the stock internal HDD to an external USB 3.0 drive. I then got an external drive, speed tested each of them, and to me they are basically the same speed (which is good).

My second question revolves around adding an SSD drive. The 3 options as I see it are:

1.) Replace the stock HDD with an SSD drive, put the stock HDD on the shelf, and connect the USB 3.0 1 TB drive I bought.

2.) Buy a data doubler cable, add the SSD drive internally as the OS drive and make the stock HDD the secondary drive internal to the Mac Mini. No USB external drive would be used.

3.) Per Fishrrman suggestion, leave the stock HDD internal for my media, but get a USB 3.0 enclosure for my SSD drive and put the OS on the external SSD/USB 3.0 drive.

I guess since the speeds are about the same for whichever 1 TB media drive I choose (internal or external), I assumed that installing the SSD internally would be the faster compared to putting the SSD in an external enclosure.