iMac very slow - external disk boot

Discussion in 'iMac' started by patapple, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. patapple macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #1
    Hello everyone,

    My friend has a mid 2011 iMac and since a week, it's very slow. It's a random problem and after 2-3 minutes of use every operation is very slow (always the spinning colourful wheel). I have fresh installed and updated to Mavericks 2 times but always the same thing. Also when it was initialising the disk, there was the colourful wheel and everything was unresponsive.
    I suspected an hardware problem but the Apple hardware test doesn't finish so I am not 100% sure. Then I downloaded a small program to check the hard drive and the result was "failing" (SMART test).
    The mac is out of warranty so I don't know how much it costs to change the internal hard drive (any idea here?).
    I tried to install Mavericks on an external disk and boot from usb and everything looks fine. The internal disk is damaged.
    My question is: can I buy a 3.0 external disk, install mavericks on it, select it as startup disk and always work via usb with this disk? Any problem that I am not aware that this could cause?

    Thanks all! :)
     
  2. Bear macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2002
    Location:
    Sol III - Terra
    #2
    You could use a USB 3.0 disk if you decide to not get the internal disk replaced.

    As for what Apple charges, on a late 2009 last year, Apple listed the repair cost as $265 plus tax for a 1 TB drive. Fortunately my system was still covered by AppleCare. Apple's prices could be different for the 2011 iMac or they may have changed since mine was repaired.

    I hope you have a backup of your data.
     
  3. patapple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #3
    Yes, I have a backup.
    So I could just buy a 500 GB USB 3.0 Hard Disk, format and install Mavericks. Then set it as start up disk and everything should work fine? Will I see any difference in the speed?
     
  4. Bear macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2002
    Location:
    Sol III - Terra
    #4
    I just realized you said 2011, you only have USB 2.0. A FireWire disk will be faster than a USB attached disk on that system. And a Thunderbolt attached disk would be even faster. You would need a thunderbolt dock with USB 3.0 ports for USB 3.0 to be faster.

    A firewire attached disk will be slower than your internal disk was. A USB disk plugged in to your iMac's USB 2.0 ports will be noticeably slower.

    You would want to get an external drive with its own power supply as those tend to have faster drives in them.
     
  5. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #5
    [[ So I could just buy a 500 GB USB 3.0 Hard Disk, format and install Mavericks. Then set it as start up disk and everything should work fine? Will I see any difference in the speed? ]]

    A 2011 iMac has USB2 (not USB3), is that correct?

    If so, the iMac will boot at USB2 speeds, even if connected to a USB3 drive.

    The boot time will be slower, but once up-and-running, things will be fine.

    If your friend doesn't want to open the thing up to replace a failed internal drive, he could get an external Thunderbolt-based drive (2011 iMac supports T-Bolt, is that correct?), and have boot-and-run speeds that are equal to those of an internally-mounted drive...
     
  6. Bear macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2002
    Location:
    Sol III - Terra
    #6
    All disk operations will be slower, not just the boot time. a Fire800 disk will be twice the speed of a USB 2.0 attached disk and still slower than the internal disk was.
     
  7. patapple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #7
    So every operation like? I am now looking for a thunderbolt/firewire 800 cheap hard disk...
     
  8. excommie macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 12, 2009
    #8
    An SSD in a FW800 enclosure will be faster than the internal drive.
    The instant access time will make up for the lower bandwith of the FW interface.

    An SSD in TB enclosure would be optimal, if cost is not a factor
     
  9. patapple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #9
    I thought about this too, but unfortunately cost is a factor. Otherwise I would just get the internal hard drive fixed.
     
  10. RCAFBrat, Oct 31, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013

    RCAFBrat macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2013
    Location:
    Montreal, QC
    #10
    First and foremost, see if your friend is eligible for free replacement (probably not since if it is a mid 2011 as opposed to bought 2011):

    http://www.apple.com/support/imac-harddrive/

    If not, check out the HDD replacement tutorials online (eg ifixit) to see if it is a job you or someone you know can undertake - this will give you the best performance / cost solution.

    Otherwise, like previous posts.

    Good luck!

    Cheers,
     
  11. patapple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #11
    Already checked the replacement program and I don't want to take the risk to personally open the iMac (remove the whole screen and so on). I prefer to buy a $50 hard disk and connect it as usb 2.0. My last question is: will I see any BIG difference in daily use?
     
  12. Sandman1969 macrumors 6502a

    Sandman1969

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    #12
    If you are going with an external and don't want to spend for TB, definitely spend for a FW800 external. USB2 is considerably slower. You can get a External Chassis that isn't too much and it will typically support FW and USB.

    Another option is to find someone or someplace other than :apple: that would replace the internal. Also, it may look intimidating. But as long as you have the right tools and take your time it really isn't that difficult.
     
  13. patapple thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #13
    So, what do you precisely mean slow? Which operation in particular will be slow?
    I'll check tonight the cost of a forewire dock :)
     
  14. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #14
    [[ All disk operations will be slower, not just the boot time ]]

    I've been booting my 2007 white Intel iMac from an external USB2 "docking station" (with a bare drive in it) for quite some time, running OS Lion.

    It _does_ boot slowly, due to USB2. But once it's running, it's fine for most tasks. Not as fast as the internal drive, or an external connected via thunderbolt, but still pretty good.

    I agree that firewire 800 will be faster.

    Perhaps a good solution for the OP would be an SSD mounted in a firewire 800 enclosure. At some point in the future (if the OP moves up to a Mac with USB3), he could transfer the SSD into a USB3 enclosure (or dock) for even faster speeds, quite a boost, in fact...
     

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