External USB RAID storage recommendations

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Puckman, Aug 3, 2013.

  1. Puckman macrumors 6502

    Feb 5, 2008
    Yorba Linda, CA
    I am in the process of setting up a Mac Mini as my main desktop to replace a Hackintosh where all the storage is internal (A hodgepodge of a 7200 2TB data drive and an old 5400 1TB backup/TM drive, with the main OS being on a 128G SSD).

    I'm looking to repurpose as much as possible of my existing drives (Don't like waste).

    The plan is to fit the Mini with a 256G SSD (internal) for OS and main drive. But I would like to re-use my HDD in some sort of external enclosure (USB 3) to complement the Mini. I also have 2 7200 2TB WD greens in a NAS which I find to be rather slow (compared to USB 3 or internal speeds) and am not married to keeping the NAS as it doesn't get much use in its intended purpose (over the Network).

    My thinking is to use 2 or 3 of the 7200rpm 2TB drives in a RAID of some sort, on an external USB 3 enclosure that will be permanently attached to the Mini, and using the 2 5400 drives in the NAS (strictly for TM backups).

    I've looked at various USB 3 enclosures and am not entirely sure which way to go. I don't really need the enclosures to provide the hardware RAID as I am perfectly happy using the OS X RAID capabilities (nothing mission critical here). What concerns me is, reading the various reviews on the different enclosures has yielded a ton of doubts and questions. I see a lot of complaints about some enclosures not playing well with Macs: Anything from random disconnecting of the USB 3 drives to ones that never power down or go to sleep under OS X). I've also seen complaints about loud fan noise, unreliable hardware and so on.

    What's the consensus or what suggestions do you all have? Anyone else around here using somewhat similar setups? What do you use? What have you found?

    PS: I am not interested in a TB enclosure as they are too costly and do not provide much added benefit to me. Plus I intend to use the TB port from the Mini for my display (27" Dell monitor, via DP).
  2. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    I am assuming when you refer to RAID that you mean level 0?

    I've run RAID 0 and 1 in an OWC Mercury Elite Dual and a Newer Tech Guardian Maximums. The GMAX on USB3.0 gets about 230-240MB/s read/write on Black Magic using two 3 or 4TB 7200rpm drives inside on RAID-0.

    But I found the fastest USB 3.0 RAID-0 is to use Apple software RAID in the Disk Utility in OS X. Running two 4TB Seagate Barracudas in the GMAX got me about 240MB/s while running the same drives in their original Seagate Backup Plus USB3.0 enclosures in RAID-0 in Apple software RAID gave me about 260-280MB/s.

    Simply buy two of the same drive, plug them in and run RAID in Disk Utility. Take all of one minute to set it up.

    If you are concerned about using two USB ports on the Mac then get a hub. If I run the Apple Software RAID on two dedicated ports on the mini I get the results above. If I run them out of a Kanex USB3.0 hub I get about a 5-10MB/s reduction but it is still faster than the GMAX.

    I have also run the GMAX and OWC RAID enclosures on eSata through a T-bolt hub and get the same 230-240MB/s speeds. So for me, Apple software RAID is still faster even then.
  3. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    Since you are replacing a hackintosh, you can always use all the hardware there and run FreeNAS or something similar to make your RAID.
  4. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    do this with this hub


    this has the all aluminum case looks like an apple metal has a robust psu 12volts x 4amps has 7 ports.

    I use it with a pc but it works with my minis.

    it runs 6 usb asic miner sticks at .5 amps each

    Attached Files:

  5. Puckman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 5, 2008
    Yorba Linda, CA
    Maybe it wasn't clear in my original post, but I stated I intend to repurpose the existing drives from the Hackintosh and from my NAS. And I also stated that I intended to use OS X's software RAID setup.

    I'm looking more specifically for a USB 3 enclosure in which to place these drives.

    What I didn't realize (and I am learning this from Opinion's answer) is that the 2 RAID Drives need not be in the same enclosure and can be distributed over 2 different USB ports? Am I understanding this correctly?

    As for Phillipma's link to the hub, that looks interesting. Although your pic is kinda frightening with all those lights and fans. I can't quite tell what you have going on there! :)
  6. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    You are sort of right. What you are referring to is a software RAID setup run by OS X.

    If you want to run RAID-0 you can run the HDDs in either a hardware RAID or a software RAID.

    A hardware RAID has the two drives inside an enclosure and has a hardware controller doing the RAID work inside the enclosure. It is then attached via a single USB3.0 cable to the Mac. OS X sees it as a single drive.

    A software RAID uses OS X to do the RAID work. In that case you have two separate hard drives attached to the Mac (either directly or via a USB hub). These hard drives are plain old USB drives (not RAID). OS X sees them as two separate drive until you run them in Disk Utility and join them as a RAID array. Then OS X displays the two drives as one large drive.

    So hardware RAID uses a single cable to attach the RAID enclosure to the Mac, while software RAID uses a cable for each standard USB3.0 enclosure, which is two in my example.

    Because RAID-0 in its simplest definition doubles the read/write speeds by writing to two drives at once the question is whether it is faster to write via one cable to a hardware RAID controller which in turn writes to two drives through sata in a striped format, or is it faster for OS X to write via two USB cables to two standard USB drives in a striped format.

    Is it quicker to let the controller do it or let OS X do it? I find OS X is quicker.My theory is because you are giving it two USB3.0 bandwidths. This bandwidth is the same as T-bolt for a fraction of the cost.

    There are obviously other configurations with other RAID levels and more drives, but for simplicity I am referring to a standard RAID-0 striped array with two drives.

    If you want to recycle your old drives you will have to make sure the two drives you use are identical. If not the array may not run properly. The drives should be same size (TB) and rpm. Preferably they should be identical models.

    You may want to do a bit of googling on RAID first to make sure it is what you want. I.e. RAID-0 or RAID-1 etc.
  7. Puckman thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 5, 2008
    Yorba Linda, CA
    Yes. OS X Software RAID (RAID-1 actually), is what I'm after.
    But in my mind, I assumed those 2 drives still needed to be in a common enclosure (just a basic multi-drive enclosure, not hardware RAID) and that OS X would take of the software RAIDing of the drives.

    For the sake of decluttering my desk, I would still prefer to have the 2 drives sitting in one enclosure, as opposed to being 2 separate drives sitting on 2 different USB ports (with the extra cable that results from this configuration).

    The whole point of this exercise is to declutter my desk and simplify my setup, hence the Mac Mini. Ideally, I'd like a Mac Mini sitting on top of or next two one enclosure that holds all my drives, with one USB cable connecting the 2. But all the drive enclosures I've looked at have had very mixed reviews.
  8. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    I used this for a year or so on RAID-1:


    Good enclosure. Although there is a low level fan noise. It's still quiet though. I have changed the switch inside so now I run it on RAID-0.

    Just be careful planning to put your mini on top of or close to a USB3.0 hard drive. There have been many reported problems with USB3.0 and interference with wifi and Bluetooth. It's not a Mac mini thing; a lot of macs and PCs are having problems. The general fix is to keep the USB device away from the wifi/BT source.

    For example read the blog post on this:

  9. FireWire2, Aug 26, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2014

    FireWire2 macrumors 6502


    Oct 12, 2008
    I would use ANY Port Multiplier bridge
    DATOptic, Addonics, Amazon...
    I prefered DATOptic SPM3726 - it has the lastest FW xxxx.15.bin, where everyon has xxxx.14.bin - a bit faster.

    Then use this USB3.0 to eSATA support Port Multiplier

    You can re purpose your existing case even.

    Now you can have UP to FIVE drives with ONE USB3.0 connection
    and use DU's RAID function as you wish
  10. acer66 macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2006
    Link just gives me a blank page
  11. FireWire2 macrumors 6502


    Oct 12, 2008
    Correct link

    Just correct the link.

Share This Page