External SSD as primary drive?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by james*b, May 18, 2013.

  1. james*b macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2011
    #1
    Hi
    I am sure there are probably compelling reasons not to do this, but.. could I use an external SSD (or any other hdd) as a primary drive for a mac mini if attached by USB3? How much slower would this be than installing it internally?
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. dan1eln1el5en macrumors 6502

    dan1eln1el5en

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    #2
    It can be done.
    Fairly easily as well.

    why not ? hmm, the internal is connected to SATA speeds and an external would be attached by USB 3 speeds.

    Honestly I think you wouldn't notice too much, since those speeds are above 100 mb/s

    Is it because you are not too keen on opening the Mac ? because having the HDD inside have it's physical advantages, like now I'm miles away from home for a week, still need to work a bit, so I brought along my mini. nice and easy.
     
  3. justperry, May 18, 2013
    Last edited: May 18, 2013

    justperry macrumors 604

    justperry

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    #3
    USB 3 should be fast enough, it's 5 Gb which is more than enough for most if not all SSD's, not only that, it's not only about transfer speed, it is also about IOPS and/or the fast small file reads which speeds up the OS considerably.

    There are also USB 3 externals with a certain/newer protocol which is better than the standard USB 3, I forgot which this one is, I'll try to find it and get back here.

    Another thing to think about, not everybody is comfortable opening their Mini, you have to be careful, there are some crappy connectors inside.

    Edit: Found it ."Advanced Performance requires OS support for UASP"
    UASP is the protocol.
    Here's a drive supporting this, newer Macs also support it.

    http://www.firmtek.com/seritek/miniswap-u3/
     
  4. james*b thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 2, 2011
    #4
    Thanks so much!

    So I will probably now get something along the lines of a Lacie Rugged SSD with USB3 and use this as a boot drive.

    I would probably be just about comfortable installing extra RAM, but swapping drives makes me a bit more nervous, especially given the apparently ambiguous warranty issues.. It would be great if it was possible to order macs with no internal hard drive as I have so many old ones just lying around..
     
  5. opinio macrumors 65816

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    Mar 23, 2013
    #5
    yes if can be done. Not much slower, but you do have the umbilical cord issue remember.
     
  6. james*b, May 18, 2013
    Last edited: May 18, 2013

    james*b thread starter macrumors regular

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    #6
    Erm.. sorry, what is the "umbilical cord issue"!? Is that a mass of cables, or something worse? Thanks!
     
  7. opinio macrumors 65816

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    Mar 23, 2013
    #7
    It has always been an issue for me to run OSX from an external drive because it is always attached with a "cord". It seems so messy. I have kids so I am always concerned they will rip the drive away.

    I am sure I will upset all the 'external boaters".
     
  8. james*b thread starter macrumors regular

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    #8
    Thanks - I run similar risks around my flat - but I imagine that if the cord is "cut" it can simply be reattached with a reboot!?
     
  9. justperry macrumors 604

    justperry

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    #9
    If you get one with UASP it won't be slower than internal.

    ----------

    Yes/No, it can corrupt the drive when yanked while it is busy writing data.
     
  10. opinio macrumors 65816

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    Mar 23, 2013
    #10
    Yeah.

    But as I build a lot of minis I can install a drive in a few minutes so I have always gone the internal path.

    Also, I cannot prove this but I always had a feeling that sata (internal) is better in the multi read/write environment that a primary OS drive operates in while USB 3.0 is fast but not when it comes to that OS environment. You can do a straight read test or a straight write test on an external and the speed shows it is good, but running an OS is a little different because there is so much traffic.

    That is just my feeling.
     
  11. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #11
    "I am sure there are probably compelling reasons not to do this, but.. could I use an external SSD (or any other hdd) as a primary drive for a mac mini if attached by USB3? How much slower would this be than installing it internally?"

    In my opinion, this is the preferred way to go with the Mini -- you get "good as internal" performance, without any hassles of doing surgery on the Mini. And regardless of the number of folks who will reply "it's easy", there have been numerous reports in this forum from users who _thought_ they could do a drive replacement on the Mini, and ended up breaking something inside, usually a connector on the motherboard.

    Of course you can use an external boot drive as your primary drive. You can do so on any Mac.

    With the right USB3 enclosure or USB3/SATA docking station, you can obtain boot/running speeds that are the equal, or near-equal of an internally-mounted drive, or a drive in a thunderbolt enclosure.

    I run my Mini using this dock:
    http://plugable.com/products/USB3-SATA-UASP1

    I realize this particular one would not be for everybody, since it's a "lay-flat" style dock. I have it sitting in an out-of-the-way location.

    I use an Intel 520 series SSD with it. Freshly intialized with a fresh copy of the system software, it delivered read speeds of 410mbps and write speeds of 247mbps. They've slowed down a little with usage (as SSDs tend to do), but I'm still seeing read speeds around 369mbps (measured with the BlackMagic tester).

    Again, I would emphasize that you use the RIGHT enclosure or dock. SOME USB3 peripherals have problems with sleep and/or the drive "disappearing from" the bus now and then. I will guess that this has much to do with the internal controller chip in the enclosure or dock. Lucent-brand chips in particular seem to have this problem with Macs and USB3. The enclosure I bought above uses an ASMedia 1053 controller chip, and I have had _NO_ problems with the drive at all, runs as fast and solid as an internally-mounted drive.

    It's worth noting that certain USB3 controller chips support UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol). I haven't read up on it, but I will guess that this is designed to free the USB bus from being "processor intensive" as were earlier iterations of USB.
    The ASMedia 1053 (and I believe 1051e as well) controller chips have this capability.

    Boot times are very fast -- perhaps a few seconds slower than as if the drive were mounted internally, but hardly noticeable. Of course, I don't have an internally-mounted SSD by which to compare, but I'll claim that once up-and-running, a user would not be able to discern a speed difference between an externally-mounted SSD and an internal one….
     
  12. philipma1957, May 18, 2013
    Last edited: May 18, 2013

    philipma1957 macrumors 603

    philipma1957

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Howell, New Jersey
    #12
    If you use external thunderbolt like lacie's

    http://www.amazon.com/LaCie-Rugged-...0438&sr=1-4&keywords=lacie+rugged+thunderbolt


    you will get good results.


    I use the little big disk it is flawless.. I have a long thread on it.


    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1280118

    it has been flawless for more then 1 year.

    note the screen shot of my 2 toshiba ssd temps under 100 f



    refurbished price

    http://www.macmall.com/p/LaCie-External-Hard-Drives/product~dpno~9105214~pdp.hcjeaji



    pull the drives and sell them on ebay.

    pull the fan


    put in any ssd . if you want more info contact me via pm
     

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  13. james*b thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2011
    #13
    Have mac and ssd, now what..

    Ok just bought a 2012 mac mini (quad core) and a 256gb lacie rugged ssd drive to use as a boot disc.

    Do I set the mac mini up first, and then setup the boot disc, or is it possible to do this during the start up procedure?

    Sorry - never set one up before from scratch - this is my first "new" new mac!
     
  14. philipma1957 macrumors 603

    philipma1957

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    Howell, New Jersey
    #14
    okay boot the mini leave the external unattached. fully set up the internal as your boot drive once it works go to shirt-pocket and load superduper

    http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html

    do the free version..

    now attach the external format it name it lacie booter

    (whatever just not macintosh hd)


    Now use super duper to clone the internal to the external.

    Once it is done then go to preferences and startup drive pick your clone of the internal as your booter.

    boot and the external will be the booter.

    there are other ways but this way you have a backup on the internal
     

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  15. james*b, May 28, 2013
    Last edited: May 28, 2013

    james*b thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2011
    #15
    Thanks - tried this but at the penultimate stage I cannot see the boot disc/external SSD in "Startup Disk" - it only shows Macintosh HD OS X, 10.8.2.

    Any idea what I might have missed?
     
  16. philipma1957 macrumors 603

    philipma1957

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    Apr 13, 2010
    Location:
    Howell, New Jersey
    #16
    at that stage boot with the internal.

    and the external plugged in.


    once it comes up on a full restart

    look at the preferences again under startup disk to see if the external shows.
     
  17. Che Castro macrumors 603

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    #17
    So what is the cheapest external enclosure & the cheapest SDD to get ?
    I will only be using the ssd for apps I keep all my files in an external drive , a time machine backup of my OS is like 60gb so I don't need a lot of space on the ssd

    Can somebody post links

    I have the base 2012 mini
     
  18. james*b, May 29, 2013
    Last edited: May 29, 2013

    james*b thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2011
    #18
    Thanks, but I restarted several times, and the external boot disk is still not showing up in "Startup Disk". Tried USB and Thunderbolt.

    Is there a specific clone setting I should select in SuperDuper?
    Or a preset or share setting on the Lacie SSD?
    The disk itself seems to be mounting fine, and has five cloned folders showing: Applications, Library, System, User Information and Users.
     
  19. opinio macrumors 65816

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    Mar 23, 2013
    #19
    Maybe try cloning it through disk restore in the OS disk utility. I am a real fan of SuperDuper and use it for backup every day for many of my disks, but I usually use the OSX disk utility in the recovery partition when I clone the OS disk because it brings across the recovery parition as well (although the current version SD may now do that?).

    Just hit CMD R on boot to get into the recovery partition and go to disk utility and go to the restore tab and drag the relevant drives across and begin the restore/clone.

    Then while you are still in disk util (after the restore) in the recovery partition you can set the new cloned disk as the start-up disk.

    Done... all in one go.
     
  20. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #20
    I don't believe that SuperDuper will include in a full backup the hidden startup/install volume on the drive. You might want to investigate this and also check Carbon Copy Cloner which some say does copy everything on your original disk.

    If I am incorrect - by all means someone jump in to correct.
     
  21. james*b thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 2, 2011
    #21
    Holding "alt" at boot, the external SSD was recognised and I successfully booted from it.

    However, afterwards "Startup Disk" still can't see it, even though "About This Mac" shows it as being the Startup Disk. When I reboot without "alt", the mac reverts to Macintosh HD as the startup disk.

    Any suggestions!?
     
  22. opinio, May 29, 2013
    Last edited: May 29, 2013

    opinio macrumors 65816

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    #22
    Try setting it as the boot drive from the recovery drive. Just click the apple icon in the top left of the screen and click 'startup'.

    You need to boot into the recovery drive to set that.

    Hit Command and R the same way you hit 'alt' before (which is the 'Option' key) to get to the recovery drive. Hold down on Command and R until you see the recovery screen. Then click the apple icon in the top left and click 'startup'. If you can recognise the drive after clicking 'Option' as you did before you should be able to recognise it in the recovery drive startup disk option.

    Just as a matter of interest... are you using a Apple or Windows keyboard?
     
  23. james*b thread starter macrumors regular

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    Jan 2, 2011
    #23
    Thanks! I am using an Apple bluetooth keyboard - I think it is configured as GB.
    I tried command-R but it didn't work.
    I booted the recovery disk using "alt" and tried setting up the "Startup Disk" as the external - but it wouldn't recognise the drive.
     
  24. opinio macrumors 65816

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    Mar 23, 2013
    #24
    Well now that you know how to get into the recovery disk try doing a clone using the disk utility in recovery. It is in the Restore Tab which becomes active when you click the primary drive.

    Just 'restore' the primary OS disk to the external boot disk. If you can't boot from it then... well you have a drive controller issue I think.
     
  25. james*b thread starter macrumors regular

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    #25
    Tried this - first of all I got an error message:
    "Recovery partition restores can only be done on GPT partition maps."
    So I quit recovery, reformatted the external disc, went back into recovery, tried again and it worked.. thanks! And it is really quite fast..
    So I suppose I can now run applications like Lightroom off the external SSD drive, save what I am currently working on there, and then use the internal HDD as a backup and to archive old material as well, as retaining the boot partition for a rainy day..
     

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