Best External Drive for 2019 iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by jcwacky, Apr 2, 2019.

  1. jcwacky macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2008
    Plan to get the 512GB SSD in the iMac, but will require an external drive to store the bulk of my data (photos, web sites, Dropbox, videos, music, Parallels images etc).

    So looking for a fast 4TB to 6TB external drive. Slightly confused by the USB C, USB 3, Thunderbolt 3 scenario, so advice appreciated.

    Been looking at this LaCie: Any others I should be considering?
  2. adamjackson macrumors 68000

    Jul 9, 2008
    I've always been happy with my LaCie drives. 15 years ago there were some power supply issues on all of my D-series drives (back when they were firewire) and LaCie took care of me.

    As long as you're okay with spinning disk, these are fine and Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C won't matter since you're not going to be close to flooding the connection with a spinning drive anyway so whatever bus it chooses when you plugin will work.
  3. nutmac, Apr 2, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2019

    nutmac macrumors 601

    Mar 30, 2004
    For photos and VM images, I would use SSD, such as Samsung T5 ($400 for 2 TB) or WD My Passport ($350 for 2 TB). They use USB-C 3.1 with about 500 MB/sec throughput (vs. about 2 GB/sec for iMac).

    For media files and smaller data files, I would use powered HDD, such as WD My Book or Elements ($215-220 for 2 TB USB 3.0). Most HDD are USB-A 3.0 (Lacie and G-Technology make USB-C variants) and they are limited to about 125 MB/sec.

    As for the interface, unless you are using ultra fast SSD (e.g., Samsung X5, $1000 for 2 TB) or RAID-0 with SSD, I wouldn't worry about it. USB-A 3.0 far exceeds spinning hard disks in all but extreme RAID array setup.

    Even if you prefer all USB-C, you can always get USB-A to USB-C cable.
  4. jcwacky thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2008
    Ah, I see. And there was me thinking about a USB-C LaCie 2big too, so I could use one drive for my primary storage and one for Time Machine. But maybe that is overkill then.

    I already have these on my 2012 iMac:
    I was presuming that these would become a bottleneck if I started using them for primary storage on a 2019 iMac, but perhaps I'd be fine with them?
  5. MacRS4 macrumors regular

    Aug 18, 2010
    London, UK
    USB 3 spinning drives you'll get about 100-150MB/s typically, so 10-15 seconds per GB transferred.

    The T5 Samsung you'll get about 500MB/s so about 2s per GB transferred.

    Samsung X5 is just bonkers fast, but also bonkers expensive. 2.5GB/s. So 1GB in about .4 seconds.

  6. jcwacky thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2008
    Just tested my USB 3.0 Seagate in Blackmagic on my 2012 iMac, it's getting 150MB/s. But discovered it's only a 5400 RPM drive, does this mean a 7200 RPM will be faster than 150MB/s?

    A T5 is tempting, but I'd still need a spinning disk too for extra storage and don't really want to have to juggle 3 main drives! So would probably be more likely to go for the 1TB SSD internal and a single spinning external instead. Even more likely to just go for a big spinning external + internal 512 SSD, but want to make sure the external is one of the fastest available. I don't use Parallels or video editing that much.
  7. deltrotter71 macrumors newbie

    Apr 1, 2019
    Thanks for the heads up on the X5 - may get the 500gb one of that over the T5 for a superduper clone of my new iMac which has a 512gb SSD internal...

    Hmmm, choices, choices!!
  8. Ifti macrumors 68020


    Dec 14, 2010
    I'd say the X5 is a bit of a waste if just used as a backup/clone drive. I'd go with the T5 for that.

    I was disappointed at only 2 TB3 drives on the iMAC. I was expecting 4, like the iMAC Pro, and at least a 10GBe option :(

    I use a 500GB T5 for a SuperDuper Clone.
    4TB OWC ThunderBlade V4 as my editing drive.
    2TB Samsung X5 as my portable editing drive.
    2TB AtomRAID SSD as a 'spare' drive.

    Everything is backed up onto my NAS (8x6TB in RAID6).
    NAS then backups up onto external MyBook HDDs in rotation.
  9. MacRS4 macrumors regular

    Aug 18, 2010
    London, UK
    Agreed, it probably is a waste just for backups! I have the following setup on mine (I shift a lot of data):

    1Tb iMac Pro Drive
    1Tb X5 for 'fast' active work
    1Tb SandDisk Extreme as a scratch disk
    4Tb Lacie for local archive stuff
    2 x 48Tb Synology for slower stuff and long term archive.

    As a quick side note, if you're OK with pulling stuff apart it would be cheaper to buy a 500Gb X5 and put a larger NVMe in it...then sell the older 500Gb NVMe. Blows your warranty though!
  10. Ifti macrumors 68020


    Dec 14, 2010
    Didn't realise it was easy enough to do this....interesting...……
  11. jcwacky thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2008
    Maybe it's time I stopped using Time Machine? Then I wouldn't have to factor it into my hard drive arrangement.

    I have SuperDuper, ChronoSync, Backblaze and a 4 bay Synology so could probably cover all bases that way.
  12. tomscott1988 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2009
    You would be far better off buying something like the Thunderbay 6 from OWC

    It has 6 bays you can choose to put HDDs or SSDs in either 2.5 or 3.5 because it has so many bays you can raid for better performance or for safety. Even in a raid 5 for safety you would see 680mb/s reads or if all SSD up to 1500mb/s.

    It also has an M2 port for fast storage, scratch, or even could be used as a boot drive if anyone bought the Fusion.

    Secondly and most importantly it has Display port and a daisychain TB3 port so you could plug a hub into it for more peripherals.

    The issue with the iMac is if you have an external display you need to use a TB3 port and you have any drive faster than USB 3.0 you have to use the other unless you buy a thunderbolt dock that will cost £300.

    The other nice thing is because it is TB3 rather than USB trim is supported so you could use a drive as a boot drive if you wanted.

    Essentially this will give you a hub you can daisychain from and attach a secondary display and free up one of the dedicated TB3 ports on the machine.

    Best solution I have found so far. Pricy but Cheaper than the 2TB X5 and you can grow as you need more rather than having 4-5 drives attached at once. In all honesty nobody needs 2500mb/s read write for storage even for boot drives its overkill. If you wanted to then add an X5 too you could plug it directly to this or to the spare port on the iMac.

    4k workflows wont saturate more than 550mb/s so standard SSDs do the job fine and are far cheaper. If you need the faster access storage it has the M2 portion and if you want more you could raid 2x sata SSDs in it for 800+mb/s.

    All in one box under the desk.
  13. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    There is no "best external drive" (above all others).
    There is (rather) "the best choice FOR YOU".

    What are your priorities?
    Do you want "speed"?
    Or... do you want "capacity"?

    Looks like (for 4tb or 6tb), you want "capacity".
    That means a platter-based HDD.

    I'd avoid anything with a Seagate drive inside, but that's just me. Too high a failure rate.

    You might consider one or two "bare" drives, and then use a USB3/SATA "docking station" to hold them. This makes it easy to pull one drive out and drop in another one.

    Also... remember that if you're going to keep a lot of stuff on an external drive, having only one drive IS NOT ENOUGH. You need a SECOND drive to serve as a backup, as well.
  14. jcwacky thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2008
    Yep, capacity is the priority.

    But largely interested in how significantly the speeds of platter-based external hard drives differ, as still looking for a decent speed for a decent price. USB 3 vs Thunderbolt 3, 5400 vs 7200, single vs two disk raid (e.g. LaCie 2big). Or are they all much of a muchness when it comes to speed? (Ignoring SSDs)
  15. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    "USB 3 vs Thunderbolt 3, 5400 vs 7200, single vs two disk raid (e.g. LaCie 2big). Or are they all much of a muchness when it comes to speed?"

    For platter-based drives, USB3 will be "all you ever need".
  16. TheyCallMeBT macrumors regular


    Jan 9, 2013
    Is the T5 the same speed plugged into a USB A port as it is a USB C port on the 2019 iMac?
  17. Chancha macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2014
    HDDs in RAID arrays provides extra speed and/or redundancy as well. Even just a dual-7200rpm RAID0 setup can reach 400MB/s, which is good enough for reading/writing 4k60p ProRes422. I would say for static data, HDDs are still viable unless your work really demands more, and then the total capacity you get from HDDs especially an array is exponentially more than SSDs at the same cost.
  18. Sir Ruben macrumors 68000

    Sir Ruben

    Jul 3, 2010
    I have a 2tb external hdd partitioned into two 1tb drives. One is storage and the other is Time Machine. Might be an option.
  19. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    TheyCall asked:
    "Is the T5 the same speed plugged into a USB A port as it is a USB C port on the 2019 iMac?"

    I don't have a definitive answer, but I'm going to guess that it is "yes".

    The "qualifier" is:
    Are the USB3 "a" ports on the iMac USB3.1 gen1, or are they USB3.1 gen2 ??

    If gen2, should be capable of the same speeds over USB as are the USBc ports.

    Perhaps someone with a 2019 iMac AND a Samsung t5 (or Sandisk Extreme) drive could run some benchmarks and post the results?
  20. macduke macrumors G4


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    One of the best and easy to tuck away is a Samsung T5. Still kinda pricey but has come down by like half since I bought my first one which was the 2TB. But what I use for more of a "cold storage" that I don't use as much is a 6TB WD MyBook and a 4TB WD MyBook. They're nothing fancy but they're inexpensive and seem to be reliable. Just make sure you always keep backups because it's not a matter of if you'll ever have a drive failure, but when. The 6TB one is partitioned into a 2TB and 4TB drive. The 2TB partition handles Time Machine for my 2TB internal SSD on my 2019 5K iMac. The 4TB one is cold storage and a backup of my 2TB external SSD. That 4TB gets mirrored to my dedicated 4TB drive for redundancy using CCC. I have even older files stored away on some 2TB drives. My most important documents and photos are backed up on Dropbox as well in case my house burns down I won't lose wedding and baby photos, even though most of my kid's baby photos are in iCloud taken on my iPhone.

    The only annoying thing is when I'm sitting quietly at my desk and my iMac isn't making a sound but the drives are vibrating on the desk. I used to build PCs back in the day so I'm used to a certain amount of noise but they like start to resonate with each other and the vibration sound can start to annoy me in a way that fans normally don't. In the future I might look into getting a networked solution now that I have a desktop that is always on ethernet and stick them in a closet. The problem with that is my 1Gbps connection would cut their speed a little. Maybe I could just run a long USB to a bottom drawer in my desk and put foam around them so they don't resonate.
  21. miqui macrumors newbie


    Sep 11, 2018
    Interestingly it turns out to be some difference. I've just checked with my T5 2TB.

    It's formatted in HFS+ since in APFS it was slower.

    Generally, my Samsung T5 SSD, 2TB:
    HFS+: R: ~519 MB/s | W: ~480MB/s (USB-C to USB-C)
    HFS+ encrypted: R: ~499 MB/s | W: ~430 MB/s (USB-C to USB-C)
    HFS+ encrypted: R: ~410 MB/s | W: ~396 MB/s (USB-C to USB-A 3.1)
    APFS encrypted: R: ~420 MB/s | W: ~380 MB/s (USB-C to USB-C)
  22. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley

    For files where speed isn't important such as streaming VIs, your iTunes library etc, a T5 or a 2TB SATA III SSD such as the $236 Crucial MX500 in a $24 USB dock works great — $260 from Amazon. A SATA III SSD will be no faster in a USB 3.1/C dock than over USB 3. I tested this and posted the results 8 days ago. Although you will be reading from this a lot, you will rarely be writing so TRIM is not an issue—and can't be enabled over USB anyway (TB or eSATA only). It will be more than fast enough. Same performance as the T5.

    If you need a blazingly fast external, the X5 is the one to get. It works at the same speed as the internal NVMe 3 x4 SSD (6x that of the T5) and TRIM will be extended automatically.

    HDDs should be used for backup and archival only. Mine are connected via wireless and ethernet only. I really like the WD My Cloud as Time Machine is one of the default settings.
  23. miqui macrumors newbie


    Sep 11, 2018
    I believe you've mistaken T5 with X5... T5 is around SATAIII speeds, X5 is NVMe disk with Thunderbolt connection.
  24. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley
    Yes and???

    Read my post again. Although I edited it for greater clarity, you’ll see that what you quoted is correct.
  25. miqui macrumors newbie


    Sep 11, 2018

    Well, I just pointed out your mistake, to not mislead others. I don't need to read it again, I even remember what it said. You've changed completely your post (my quotation changed along with your post, as it's just linking to it) and try to implicate that it was just "not that clear", but same meaning...

    Don't get it so serious, relax man

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25 April 2, 2019