Buying A Mac Pro, Questions About Setup!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by rossagrant, Aug 19, 2009.

  1. rossagrant macrumors member

    Mar 3, 2009
    Hi guys,
    You'll have to forgive me my ignorance, I'm new to Macs and Mac Pros and just need some advice suitable for a complete noob. (thanks for your pateince).

    I'm holding out til September 9th (coincidentally my birthday as well as Keynote), just incase of any free speedbumps, but I will be buying a Mac Pro that day regardless.

    Essentially I will be using it for audio editing. I am a Voiceover artist and have a studio set up at home. I've got Logic Studio 9 in anticipation and will be doing most of my work with that.

    I will also be using Final Cut Studio 3 to edit video, although I won't be doing too much of this.

    I basically want a 1tb drive as my boot drive and from there on I need advice.
    I don't know if it's best to install another seperate drive entirely for audio files and another for video (scratch disk), or whether I use the boot disk to store audio on and have just one extra for video.
    I would also like a completely seperate drive as a Windows 7 drive in bootcamp.

    Is it possible to have a completely seperate drive for Windows 7? I don't really want any windows things stored on a drive with mac files. I would prefer to keep them all apart.

    I hear people banter about RAID setups with their Mac Pros but I know so little about them and how they work I really don't know what my best options are.

    If it's just a case of fitting 3 or 4 seperate drives into the bays of the Mac Pro which will all play nicely togther then that would be great but I doubt it is as straight forward as that.
    Any advice wouild be great and once again so sorry for my limited knowledge. I'll soon pick it up I hope! :)
  2. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Audio needs really quick random access speed, and video needs fast sequential speeds.

    You'd really want to look into RAID, as it can do both. SSD's quicker at random access, but may not be feasible do to the cost and low capacity on audio. Not really viable at all on video work.

    Yes, you can install windows to a separate drive. :)

    Actually, it is that strait forward if you use software RAID built into OS X. :D

    Install the drives, then you set up the array in OS X (use a stripe = RAID0). As it will be a new machine, start up the system from the OEM drive, and create the array. Set it to boot from, and then shut down. Proceed to install off the disks to the newly created array. Then you can use the OEM drive (put in the empty optical bay) as a dedicated Windows disk. :) You won't even need to buy so much as a cable, beyond drives of course, if you DIY a drive mount for the Windows disk using an old CD/DVD drive enclosure plate (disassemble & drill some holes). :D

    Just get decent drives, preferably enterprise if possible, but if not, try to locate something with an Unrecoverable Bit Error (UBE) of 1E15 (most consumer drives are 1E14), but they do exist. WD's Caviar Blacks are such an example. ;)

    But whatever you do, make sure you have a backup. It's important to have anyway, but more so with RAID. So don't try to run without it. ;)
  3. rossagrant thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 3, 2009
    Wow Nanofrog, thatnks so much for such a comprehensive answer!
    What's the difference between a RAID Software setup and having a RAID card? Are there any disadvantages to just using software?
  4. RemarkabLee macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2007
    Your CPU/Memory are used for RAID whereas they are freed up if you are using dedicated hardware. Software will be slower than dedicated hardware as well.

    By the way, for some reason using XP on bay 4, Windows installs and runs very slow. I believe this is due to it being the equivalent to a secondary/slave hard drive. For this reason, I use Windows on bay 1 drive.
  5. rossagrant thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 3, 2009
    Interesting. I want to install Windwos 7 when it's released so looks like Drive bay 1 will be best then.
    I've heard a few people on here slagging off Apple's own RAID card. What would be the best hardware to buy if not the Apple one?

    Once again thanks for the help all!
  6. RemarkabLee macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2007
    I wouldn't be put off by naysayers. The Apple one would be my first choice unless I was looking for a particular feature not supported by an Apple supplied one.

    You may want to hold off on hardware RAID anyway, as I believe it is not compatible with BootCamp? Plus you may find the standard setup will suffice. I certainly don't have any problems and I throw a lot of audio and video about daily.
  7. rossagrant thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 3, 2009
    I think Software Raid might be the easiest setup then. The WD Caviar Blacks look like an affordable option.
    It's just a matter of working out which order the drives should go in, in each bay then?

    If Windows works only in drive bay 1, is there a certain way to order the others?
    I would have 3 or 4 drives in total.

    1.) Windows 7 Drive
    2.) Boot Drive with Apps
    3.) Audio and Video Drive

    OR 4.) Optionally split audio and video onto seperate drives.
  8. surflordca macrumors 6502a


    Nov 16, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Software raid is also the cheapest. You are not planning on ordering the extra hard drives through :apple: are you? Buy them else where as they are a lot cheaper...
  9. rossagrant thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 3, 2009
    No drives from :apple:
    I've had a look online and can get 1tB Black Caviars for about £85 so I'll probably get 3 of those. What you think?
  10. RemarkabLee macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2007
    I didn't say bootcamp only works on bay 1 generally, just in my circumstance. Bays 2 and 3 were using SW RAID 1 with no free space, so I couldn't use them.

    In my set up, I use MAC OS on the first partition on bay 1 and bootcamp on the second partition on bay 1 - as both partitions would not be used at the same time. Something you may consider yourself?

    Bay 2 and 3 could be used for audio and video as a RAID 1 set, leaving bay 4 as spare/time machine (to automatically backup MAC OS).

    Alternatively you could try MAC OS on bay 1, Windows on bay 2, leaving 3 & 4 as the media RAID set with no backup option for the OS.
  11. Igantius macrumors 65816

    Apr 29, 2007
    A very popular choice - btw do them for a shade under £69 at the moment.
  12. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    That will depend on the array type implemented and number of drives used. ;) In the case of 0/1/10, negligible, assuming you're comparing a quantity of drives both the logic board and hardware card can handle (same n drives for either).

    Have you installed the AHCI drivers?
    It should help. :)

    It will depend on what you need. But manufacturer wise, you'd want to go with Areca, Atto, or possibly Highpoint's 43xx series (members have had success with these, but the other models aren't so wonderful). Please note, the units that can boot OS X, are ALL SAS models, and are picky with SATA drives due to the recovery timings. As a result, consumer drives typically are unstable, and require enterprise drives (0,0 vs 7,0 timings respectively). To eliminate becoming a guinea pig, always check the Hardware Compatibility Lists for HDD's. ;)

  13. surflordca macrumors 6502a


    Nov 16, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Lots of people here use them and like them. I use the Samsung and am very, very happy with it. Also very quiet...
  14. rossagrant thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 3, 2009
    Guys that is absolutely brilliant. Thanks so much for all of your answers.

    Just been looking at RAID cards and had no idea they were quite so dear! It might have to be software RAID for now I think!

    @Igantius - Thanks for the heads up on the cheap drives, I'll check it out!

    So if I opt for SW RAID, I'm just sacrificing a little speed? I take it, going for the fastest CPU and the most memory I can afford will alleviate this somewhat?

    It might be time to sell that Macbook Pro I only bought 8 months ago! Haha! :)
  15. RemarkabLee macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2007
    I'm not sure specifically what AHCI drivers you refer to... Are they part of the BootCamp driver set from Apple? If so, yes they were installed.

    Hmm, from what you say, their RAID card is a bit poo then... Add me the the neysayers! ;)
  16. MikeDTyke macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2005
    Software raid only supports striping (RAID 0) or mirroring (RAID 1), the cards are primarily for RAID 5/6 or 10 which uses parity to rebuild a disk if it fails. The minimum number of drives to consider with a RAID card is 3 disks. 2 for data, 1 for parity.

    The overhead of 0 or 1 software raid is negligible in such a powerful machine.

    What i'd be careful of is your backup strategy. By using RAID 0 for performance you double the risk of losing that filesystem. For someone who's bread and butter depends on keeping their Intellectual property safe it's doubly important.

    If i was in your position, i'd pass on RAID 0, you don't really need the performance boost. If you want things to generally happen faster, buy a SSD as your boot drive, ie. were you install Mac OS. For your homedir and files i would configure 2 drives (Those caviars would do the trick) as a RAID 1 mirror, so that if you lose a drive due to disk failure, you don't lose any of your work. You can install macos on a mirrored filesystem, but you can't use bootcamp on it, has to go on a seperate disk.

    Couple this with an external Time Machine drive to maintain versions and if you are really paranoid an offsite copy of your files.

    In summary and an ideal world i would:

    Mac Pro
    Bay1 -------- Bay2 -------- Bay3 -------- Bay4
    60GB -------- 1TB --------- 1TB --------- 640GB
    SSD -------- Caviar ------ Caviar ------ Included HD
    ---------------[ RAID1 Mirror ]------------------
    Macos ------------- Home ------------- Windows 7

    The Mac Pro is a lovely machine, and i'm sure you'll enjoy it. My 2006 first edition is still going strong and pretty quick still with an SSD boot drive and snow leopard.

    M. :cool:
  17. gugucom macrumors 68020


    May 21, 2009
    Munich, Germany
    If a SW Raid is used on Mac Pro you cannot install Windows any more. For some funny reasons Windows interprets the free SATA ports as external when there is a SW Raid installed. So you have to install Windows first and then do the SW RAID. It is also possible to remove the RAID disks and then install Windows. The RAID wil work properly when you later re-install the disks.

    OS X uses AHCI drivers naturally. Windows on a Mac uses legacy SATA drivers. If you want full speed you have to install the Intel AHCI driver.
  18. MikeDTyke macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2005
    This only happens when you are running macos on a raid partition, bootcamp assistant borks and won't let you create a filesystem even on a seperate drive.

    However in my ideal scenario above, when you boot from a seperate boot drive like my SSD, you can create a partition or use an entire drive, just not one that is part of the RAID.

    Edit: reread the quote above, coffee musn't have fully kicked in. i didn't suffer this problem when i reinstalled windows from scratch on a separate drive in bay 4. This was post setup of a 3 disk stripe in bays 1-3 and i used a Windows XP SP2 install disk. YMMV.

  19. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    Definitely. The cost of Data Recovery Services are by no means inexpensive, so keeping a proper backup is critical. Certainly not an option for data that can't be lost, such as Intellectual Property. ;)

    RAID1 is no substitute for a backup system at all. It's meant to keep the system's availability higher than that of a single disk. (i.e a drive fails, the data's still available). Rather a waste of money if 24/7/365 availibility isn't needed, and a complete waste of time if the entire system isn't planned out that way if such availability is in fact needed (i.e. Server). ;)

    Definitely odd.

    The more I've thought about it, the more it seems like the offsets are different between a OS X and Windows GPT. That would explain the the results you saw in your experiments IMO. It shouldn't be the cause of the ports being seen as external though.
  20. MikeDTyke macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2005
    I disagree, the ability to continue to work and have access to your data whilst you source a replacement drive is a great advantage.

    There's little planning involved, build your raid mirror and put your homedir on it.

    The only advantage a more conventional backup system has is in timed versions of your files which is why i suggest an external time machine drive. Something that's easy to grab in an emergency.

    My first rule of backup, if its irreplaceable always have more than one backup. A mirror plus time machine fulfils that. Which for the thread starter is all the more important.

  21. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    As it's for audio work, the performance needs are for Random Access, not sequential throughput. RAID1's not the best way to do this. RAID0 helps improve random access times (parallelism of drives).

    There's a couple of other flaws with your thinking as well.
    The MP does NOT support Hot Swap or Hot Plugging of drives. Trying to swap out a drive on the machine while powered could actually damage it (hardware). The reason is, OS X's Client Edition is missing the hot swap support (code), and the PSU wasn't built for hot plugging. It's a really bad idea to try it on a system that's not designed for it. Of Apple's products, only the XServe supports this capability.

    As for drive replacement (in terms of down time), there's a really simple solution. Keep a spare drive. As it happens, this is usually standard practice for systems using RAID, particularly in a business setting. The IT staff are aware of this, and keep spares on hand. It's important for any form really, but critical in high availability systems. It's certainly cheap enough to keep a single spare ($100USD for a 1TB Caviar Black for example).

    As the system is built for audio production, RAID1 doesn't seem to be the best use of the resources.

    If a combination of speed and redundancy is required (my personal gravitation), another array type would be required. But other than a 4x drive RAID10, a card of some kind would be required to do it, and they can get expensive fast. The OP's not expressed any interest in this, nor even SSD, which would provide the best Random Access speed of any drive technology. So I've kept the replies within the scope of what's been posted. :p

    With any data, I certainly agree backups are needed, and multiples are never a bad idea. ;)

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