Booting off Thunderbolt vs. USB 3.0

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by shinji, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. shinji macrumors 65816


    Mar 18, 2007
    Is there a noticeable real-world drawback in booting a 2012 Mini with a USB 3.0 SSD vs. a Thunderbolt SSD?

    I've read some of the threads here on it, and it seems like most people booting off an external are emptying out a LaCie or the Buffalo Ministation and putting an SSD in there. But with USB 3.0, you can save a lot of money (and a Thunderbolt port if your drive only has one). And if your enclosure's chipset supports SATA III, it should still be plenty fast.

    Has anyone doing this with USB 3.0 noticed a finicky connection, too much CPU overhead, or anything else?

    I'm aware that there is slightly higher latency with USB 3.0, but is this really noticeable? I've also seen the thread with CPU throttling/crash, but that was a stress test.

    At the moment, I have an Intel 320 in one of the drive bays of a Mac Pro 1,1 which I use mostly for Photoshop work. I just don't want to take a step backwards in performance.
  2. pollaxe, Nov 9, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012

    pollaxe macrumors 6502


    Aug 13, 2010
    West of England
    I'm currently booting off a Crucial M4 128gb SSD via a Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter (I have a few spare SSDs lying around) and I've also tried booting from the same SSD in a USB 3 enclosure.

    I've not done any disk speed tests (I'm spending most of my time watching for the dreaded black/snowy screen problems!) but I didn't notice much difference in terms of general performance. I think a lot depends on the chipsets in each of the USB drives. I do recall, however, that one of our resident Mini gurus, Philipma1957, warned that, in certain circumstances, you can run into issues during high CPU use with external USB 3 and he recommends a Thunderbolt solution (the Lacie Little Big Disk 1 TB) over USB 3 for external booting, if possible.

    My intention is to try to get one of the above (refurb, preferably, though they seem to be like hen's teeth in the UK) or wait for something like the Belkin hub to finally materialise from the ether as I would like a spare TB port for other duties if I can.
  3. philipma1957, Nov 9, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012

    philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    your drive is sata II so the speed difference will be just about nothing.

    So far my usb3 testing has been with a samsung 830 ssd and an oyen mini pro plus a seagate usb3 cable. I have had some stability issues with both but it is not enough testing for me to say usb3 is no good.

    I need to break out my 2012 2 core i5 mini test it with the usb3 cases that I have. I have a second oyen case same as the first, I have a few different ssds to try.

    Living in Howell NJ USA the last 13 days have been hard. Phones out power out 12 inches of snow yesterday. Supermarkets have had only canned food for a week. Gas is hard to get. So testing has been slower then desired.

    Hey I can understand buying a laice refurb for 210 from macmall and sell off the 2 internal hods to get the price to about 100-120 is a hassle. So far is has been the best solution to a low cost case and has the benefit of 2 drives not one.

    right now if you read the temps for the 2x 512gb ssd in the lacie you can see they run cool and they allow no fan.

    but buy a 29 dollar usb3 case to run your intel ssd would be tempting to me. if I were you.

    I only have one intel 320 in my house and it is in an active system so using it for tests will take 2 or 3 hours to setup up the windows pc that is using it.

    Hey i still want to test a usb3 with this drive

    I have a few of these and I wonder if this would be a perfect setup for a base 2012 mini using a usb3. size and some speed at low cost. these drives on sale are about 75 bucks add a usb3 case you are at 105.

    Attached Files:

  4. shinji thread starter macrumors 65816


    Mar 18, 2007
    Thanks for all your testing on this. Besides the CPU stress test in that thread, have you noticed any other stability issues with USB3 in general use?

    And yeah, I'm planning to replace the drive with a Samsung 840 or Crucial M4. Sorry to hear about the snow...
  5. philipma1957, Nov 9, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012

    philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    Of the testing done so far the samsung 830 in the oyen case tends to beach ball once in a while I have a few guesses why.

    first guess is the ssd is a sata III and is faster then the usb3 controller in the case. gives a beachball to let the usb3 controller catch up. if so I am annoyed. but I can't say this is true yet.

    I have the second oyen case and put a 750gb scorpio black 7200rpm hdd inside it. I did a full restore via the internet and now have a new booter to test. if this has zero problems I will put it into the other oyen case . if the ssd works well in one case and not the other I got a defective case.

    There was a time when "just works " was true now meh "mostly works" is true.

    So lets see

    1) screens black out
    2) a cpu stress program which every mac I have ever tested passed up to this quad 2.3 which fails
    3) usb3 booter may have a quirk may not .

    Oh as for the foot of snow and the Hurricane Sandy last month.

    I am a lucky home owner ;

    4 blackouts for a total of 30 hours.
    All the local supermarkets lost all frozen and refrigerated food.
    I ate a lot of canned food the last 12 days.
    most restaurants were closed.
    A few hundred in storm damage.
    Phones failed most of the last 12 days. Both cell and home.
    cable failed for some of the time.
    The net was working the whole time.

    For my area the above is lucky.

    Most had more damage and longer power outages. I have never seen this my tree damage for miles and miles you drive a bit and see a tree or 2 or 3 or 4 or more snapped. Makes me not that worried about the mac.

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