Backup Choice: SSD & USB 3.0 vs. HD & ThunderBolt 2?

Which would you choose for your main backup?

  • HD & ThunderBolt 2

    Votes: 8 40.0%
  • SSD & USB 3.0

    Votes: 12 60.0%

  • Total voters
    20

logicstudiouser

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Feb 4, 2010
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Which is the better choice?
I've always used USB backups, I have been curious to try ThunderBolt, but they are only within a reasonable price range with a regular HD.
 

kiwipeso1

Suspended
Sep 17, 2001
646
167
Wellington, New Zealand
Thunderbolt HDD will be faster than USB 3 SSD. You will find it worthwhile for very quick backups.
Don't forget that you will need a HDD more than double the size of your backup for time machine, so that if you leave a backup for a while, the main backup will remain on the drive while the new full backup is made.
In practice, you would want a 5 TB backup drive for 2 TB of drives to be backed up.
 

CoastalOR

macrumors 68030
Jan 19, 2015
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Oregon, USA
HD & ThunderBolt 2 will read/write about 65 MB/s (the bottleneck is the HDD).
SSD & USB 3.0 (supporting UASP protocol) read/write about 400 MB/s

I would choose the SSD & USB 3.0 since it is over 4 times faster.
 
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Bart Kela

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Is cost a concern?

Backing up to SSD may end up being terribly expensive, especially if you follow the guideline of having a backup drive that is 2-3x the size of what you are trying to back up.

I would probably use HD & USB 3.0 since it is the most cost effective backup. Pay very little for storage and USB 3.0 isn't going be the bottleneck anyhow. No sense in paying for an expensive Thunderbolt drive case when the rotational hard drive isn't going to put the envelope.

Buy big cheap hard drive, buy cheap external drive case. That's been my backup hardware strategy for, oh, let's say the past 15-20 years.
 

HDFan

macrumors 68020
Jun 30, 2007
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How much are you backing up? I'm assuming the amount is small since you are considering an SSD?
How much "churn" do you have (I.E., 25% of my files will have changed between backups)?
What hardware are you backing up?
Do you care how long it takes to do a backup?
How are you doing your backups. Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner, ....?
How much do you want to spend?

As said above, if you back up to a single disk then there is no need for thunderbolt. Some single disks can be driven as fast as possible by even USB2. USB3 is faster than any single disk.

Spending money for an SSD to hold backups normally would not make sense. You are paying for speed with an SSD. You get a fast initial backup, but then it just sits there doing nothing just wasting your money. If you have low churn, have done the initial backup, and do incremental backups you are measuring backup time in minutes even on a slow disk.

If you have a lot of data then speed does become important as it might take days to do a backup. In this case you might consider backing up to a RAID drive in which case USB3 or lightning would be important. I backup up ~7TB of RAID data (low churn) in just a few minutes to a RAID backup drive using thunderbolt.
 
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Weaselboy

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Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
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California
Which is the better choice?
I've always used USB backups, I have been curious to try ThunderBolt, but they are only within a reasonable price range with a regular HD.
TB is a big waste of money for a backup drive IMO. A bunch more money for little or no speed increase.

Are you talking about a Time Machine backup that will just be left running all the time? If so, I would not spend the money on an SSD for the speed since it just runs in the background anyway. For normal Time Machine backups I would just grab a USB3 hard drive in whatever size you need.
 

maflynn

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Staff member
May 3, 2009
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Isn't that chart for thunderbolt 1 though? I thought thunderbolt 2 is better?
I thought I saw some TB2 benchmarks but so far I've not found them again, here's what this article states:

Thunderbolt 2 vs USB 3.0 vs eSATA: Speed
All three standards are much, much faster than USB 2.0, which tops out at 480Mbps. eSATA can deliver 6Gbps (older versions deliver 1.5Gbps or 3Gbps), USB 3.0 runs at up to 5Gbps and the incoming USB 3.1 should do 10Gbps. Thunderbolt can do 20Gbps.

As we've already explained above Thunderbolt 2 isn't actually faster than the original 10Gbps Thunderbolt standard, but if you wanted to get 20Gbps out of that you needed to combine two 10Gbps channels. You don't need to do that with Thunderbolt 2.

As with all maximum throughput figures, quoted speeds are theoretical maximums and don't take data overheads into account. The performance you actually get in the real world will also depend on your devices and their configurations.
I'm not sold that that a TB2 is a better price, given the high price for the item.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,604
6,823
RE reply 2:
"Thunderbolt HDD will be faster than USB 3 SSD."

This is nonsense.

An SSD in a USB3 enclosure that supports UASP should yield read speeds of 400-432mbps, and writes of at least 250mbps and up (depending on the drive and its capacity).

My suggestion:
Get a USB3 SSD of sufficient capacity. It can be either a "ready-to-plug-in" drive, or you could buy a "bare" SSD and the enclosure of your choice. Just MAKE SURE the enclosure is SPECIFICALLY STATED to support UASP. Don't assume one does UNLESS you see it advertised as such.

Also download either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper.
BOTH are FREE to download. Try them both if you wish.
CCC is FREE to use for the first 30 days.
SD will do a "full clone" FOREVER without registering (but you have to register in order to do incremental backups).

I tend to like CCC because it will clone over the recovery partition, as well.

Use either CCC or SD to create a fully bootable cloned backup.
Update it (incrementally) once a day, or even once every few days.

You will be AMAZED at how quickly an incremental backup goes using USB3 and an SSD target drive.

Don't take my word for it -- try it yourself and see!
 

logicstudiouser

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Feb 4, 2010
525
1,065
TB is a big waste of money for a backup drive IMO. A bunch more money for little or no speed increase.

Are you talking about a Time Machine backup that will just be left running all the time? If so, I would not spend the money on an SSD for the speed since it just runs in the background anyway. For normal Time Machine backups I would just grab a USB3 hard drive in whatever size you need.
I saw you comment on a similar thread about using SSD with usb 3.0 and the lack of TRIM (didn't think about that). Besides slowing the read/write speed, would that also shorten the life span of the SSD? Is it better to just stick with USB 3 & HD? Thanks
 

maflynn

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Staff member
May 3, 2009
66,775
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Boston
I saw you comment on a similar thread about using SSD with usb 3.0 and the lack of TRIM (didn't think about that). Besides slowing the read/write speed, would that also shorten the life span of the SSD? Is it better to just stick with USB 3 & HD? Thanks
For backups sure, why do you need SSD speeds for backups?

I have an external SSD that runs OS X for my iMac (internal drive has Windows installed), and so far I've not noticed any performance degradation. I think most SSDs have some form of garbage collection that helps with the performance and decreases the need for TRIM.

I think in many situations, external SSDs make a lot of sense, but personally, I don't think using them as backups is one of them.
 

theluggage

macrumors 601
Jul 29, 2011
4,664
3,502
Is it better to just stick with USB 3 & HD? Thanks
Why are you so determined to use SSD for a backup? Speed is not an issue, and if you're using Time Machine, then your backup could grow huge over time and you need a backup drive at least twice the size of your computer's main drive. Also, one backup drive is no good - if you want to do it properly I'd suggest one drive with a Time Machine backup and a second with periodic whole-drive images using SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner. Or, at least, alternate between two Time Machine drives.

Paying over the odds for that capacity in SSDs is just a gratuitous waste of cash. You can probably get several USB3 HDs for the price of a SSD, and you probably should.

Also, there's no dramatic advantage of Thunderbolt over USB 3 for a single, SATA drive of any type. If you're going RAID or paying even more for a PCIe SSD then, maybe, go thunderbolt - otherwise, the drive is going to be the limiting factor.
 
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Weaselboy

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Jan 23, 2005
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I saw you comment on a similar thread about using SSD with usb 3.0 and the lack of TRIM (didn't think about that). Besides slowing the read/write speed, would that also shorten the life span of the SSD? Is it better to just stick with USB 3 & HD? Thanks
A little bit in theory, but not by enough for that to even be a factor in this decision IMO. Where you see write slowdowns more due to lack of TRIM is where people are doing a lot of work on the drive that results in sustained and large writes to the drive. But for just backups, it would not really be much of an issue.
 
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Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
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OP asked:
"I saw you comment on a similar thread about using SSD with usb 3.0 and the lack of TRIM (didn't think about that). Besides slowing the read/write speed, would that also shorten the life span of the SSD? Is it better to just stick with USB 3 & HD? Thanks"

Fearless prediction (based on personal experience):
The "lack of TRIM" on a USB3 SSD will MAKE NO DISCERNIBLE PERFORMANCE DIFFERENCE AT ALL over the life of the drive (shouting intentional).
None.
Nada.
Zero.
Zilch.


Don't even think about it.
"TRIM" is the "McGuffin" of SSD technology.
(If you don't know what a "McGuffin" is, google Alfred Hitchcock)
 

kiwipeso1

Suspended
Sep 17, 2001
646
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Wellington, New Zealand
Actually no, benchmarks have shown no speed difference, I'd opt for the least expensive option because performance is the same

Link
View attachment 692201
Have you forgotten that a direct TB connection (of any version of TB) will be faster than a USB 3 over shared ports ?
Unless the OP is seriously proposing to remove all other drives while doing a TM backup, then the difference in speed will be noticeable simply from having an unimpeded direct connection at least twice the speed of a USB 3 port.
Additional speed will be gained from faster drives used in TB connected drives, and the notion that the drive in use wouldn't be faster than regular implies that the OP would rather do penny-pinching for the sake of an argument.
(This would technically be called a fallacy based on equality of choice).
 

MRxROBOT

macrumors 6502
Apr 14, 2016
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Have you forgotten that a direct TB connection (of any version of TB) will be faster than a USB 3 over shared ports ?
Unless the OP is seriously proposing to remove all other drives while doing a TM backup, then the difference in speed will be noticeable simply from having an unimpeded direct connection at least twice the speed of a USB 3 port.
Additional speed will be gained from faster drives used in TB connected drives, and the notion that the drive in use wouldn't be faster than regular implies that the OP would rather do penny-pinching for the sake of an argument.
(This would technically be called a fallacy based on equality of choice).
Yes we all understand that thunderbolt supports a higher throughput. What you're failing to realize is that the OP is considering the SSD with USB 3.0 or HDD with Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt drive they are considering will be slower because the drive inside is slower. It's not rocket science and you appear to be only arguing the benefits of Thunderbolt and failing to understand that that is only half of the question.
 

kiwipeso1

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Sep 17, 2001
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Yes we all understand that thunderbolt supports a higher throughput. What you're failing to realize is that the OP is considering the SSD with USB 3.0 or HDD with Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt drive they are considering will be slower because the drive inside is slower. It's not rocket science and you appear to be only arguing the benefits of Thunderbolt and failing to understand that that is only half of the question.
Well, I am used to people who don't understand computers well enough to consider how they work, after all most people haven't been using computers since 1980, or programming since 1983, even among senior comp sci lecturers.
It is not mere rocket science, it is simple statistics maths which is taught to 8 year olds and should not be difficult for anyone over 13.
 

MRxROBOT

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Apr 14, 2016
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Well, I am used to people who don't understand computers well enough to consider how they work, after all most people haven't been using computers since 1980, or programming since 1983, even among senior comp sci lecturers.
It is not mere rocket science, it is simple statistics maths which is taught to 8 year olds and should not be difficult for anyone over 13.
And yet you failed to understand that the drive inside was the limiting factor. Perhaps take a refresher on your primary level statistics course.

Hardrive in TB enclosure ~100 MB/s
SSD in USB 3.0 enclosure ~400 MB/s
 

kiwipeso1

Suspended
Sep 17, 2001
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Wellington, New Zealand
And yet you failed to understand that the drive inside was the limiting factor. Perhaps take a refresher on your primary level statistics course.

Hardrive in TB enclosure ~100 MB/s
SSD in USB 3.0 enclosure ~400 MB/s
False limitations on false economies for a fallacious argument does not say much about your ability to consider basic logic. ;)
You won't get decent performance out of an enclosure, and frankly all the people who talk about it above in this thread have as little knowledge of computers as the average comp sci lecturer. :p

Ok, so ignoring the fairly bad advice about enclosures, what is the best way to get performance from a drive ?
A powered desktop drive will be fastest, but a portable drive maybe acceptable for a laptop backup while the laptop is being charged or has sufficient battery life.
If you want no delay from a shared bus, then thunderbolt is the way to connect, otherwise if you don't mind wasting several hours on a backup, then USB 3 is the way to go. (Not a good option if you have a laptop, but USB 3 is fine if you have a desktop.)
Given that the OP clearly wants a fast backup for the entire system, a thunderbolt powered desktop drive would be best, followed closely by a thunderbolt portable drive if connected to a laptop that shifts location frequently.
And given that the OP is considering a SSD, then it is around the same price for a dedicated thunderbolt HDD which will significantly outperform the SSD on USB 3, along with a larger capacity drive.

It is just a question of how much patience you have to wait to backup.
 

MRxROBOT

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Apr 14, 2016
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False limitations on false economies for a fallacious argument does not say much about your ability to consider basic logic. ;)
You won't get decent performance out of an enclosure, and frankly all the people who talk about it above in this thread have as little knowledge of computers as the average comp sci lecturer. :p

Ok, so ignoring the fairly bad advice about enclosures, what is the best way to get performance from a drive ?
A powered desktop drive will be fastest, but a portable drive maybe acceptable for a laptop backup while the laptop is being charged or has sufficient battery life.
If you want no delay from a shared bus, then thunderbolt is the way to connect, otherwise if you don't mind wasting several hours on a backup, then USB 3 is the way to go. (Not a good option if you have a laptop, but USB 3 is fine if you have a desktop.)
Given that the OP clearly wants a fast backup for the entire system, a thunderbolt powered desktop drive would be best, followed closely by a thunderbolt portable drive if connected to a laptop that shifts location frequently.
And given that the OP is considering a SSD, then it is around the same price for a dedicated thunderbolt HDD which will significantly outperform the SSD on USB 3, along with a larger capacity drive.

It is just a question of how much patience you have to wait to backup.
How are you not able to comprehend such a simple question? Thunderbolt with HDD or SSD with USB 3.0? The SSD via USB 3.0 will be faster for all intents and purposes. If both cost the same, the SSD via USB 3.0 is a better value with better performance.

The tangent your going off on has no place in this thread.
 
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Fishrrman

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Feb 20, 2009
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kiwipeso wrote:
"You won't get decent performance out of an enclosure, and frankly all the people who talk about it above in this thread have as little knowledge of computers as the average comp sci lecturer."

This is nonsense.
Absolute nonsense.

What MRxROBOT wrote is true.

I'm running a late-2012 Mac Mini i7, that I got in January 2013.
From the day I first booted it up, I've been booting and running from a "bare" SSD sitting in a USB3/SATA docking station that supports UASP.

It benchmarks (using BlackMagic) at:
Reads: 431mbps
Writes: 273mbps

The read speeds represent "the max" you can get from a SATA SSD in a USB enclosure that supports UASP.
The write speeds will vary, depending on the drive manufacturer and drive capacity. I have another SSD (this one sitting on a USB3 adapter dongle) that will write in the 330mbps range.

The Mini has a 5400rpm 1tb drive in it on the internal SATA bus.
That benchmarks at 100mbps for both writes and reads.

So... effectively... I'm getting about 4.3x faster read speeds from the EXTERNAL USB3 SSD, than from the internal HDD.

What about the above remains difficult for you to understand?
 
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