Installing and running windows from a USB3 SSD on an iMac

masotime

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Jun 24, 2012
2,332
1,884
San Jose, CA
I just thought I'd share my experiences.

I initially looked into using Thunderbolt to run Windows off an external SSD on my retina iMac, but the prices were really expensive just for the enclosure, and sometimes it didn't come with a Thunderbolt cable making it a separate purchase.

Searching the forums brings up the DeLock enclosure. I considered it, but reviews on Amazon were mixed, and it was difficult to find (I tried MemoryDepot which was cheaper but after 10 weeks I got nothing and asked for a refund).

So I went back to considering USB3 which, with UASP provided really fast speeds. Tried out the Inateck UASP enclosure recommended here as well, and combined with the instructions at this site - http://www.michaeljjensen.com/tech/ (also somewhere from these forums) and I was able to successfully install and boot Windows on an old Samsung 830 Pro 256GB. Pretty nice, and it didn't cost me a bomb.

The only troublesome part was using Windows to run WinToUSB to "install" on my USB3 enclosure. I ended up creating a partition on my iMac just to install Windows (via a USB3 thumb drive) to run WinToUSB so that I could install Windows on the USB3 SSD enclosure :rolleyes:.

Here's a pic of Windows running off the Inateck on USB3. The only bad part is that TRIM is not enabled via USB3, which can be troublesome. fsutil reports otherwise, but running TRIMCHECK (I waited about 2 minutes) shows that TRIM is not enabled.



Bootcamp provides drivers in a folder in the USB3 thumb drive that you'll want to install after you follow the instructions in the site above to maximize your Windows experience.

Also recently snagged a M500 950GB for $329 on OWC (it's now $335, still a great deal with free shipping and no apparent sales tax). Grabbed a newer model Inateck FE2005 (http://www.amazon.com/Optimized-Tool-Free-Inateck-External-Enclosure/dp/B00KYF1LLI) and got some pretty good Black Magic Speed test results:

 
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UniDoubleU

macrumors regular
Aug 14, 2014
160
1
Thailand
Looks like a great performer! I probably won't be using this as I already have a spare LaCie Rugged TB lying around that I'm planning to put Samsung EVO 850 in. Did you have to plug in the power brick or was it working purely with bus power?
 

masotime

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Jun 24, 2012
2,332
1,884
San Jose, CA
Looks like a great performer! I probably won't be using this as I already have a spare LaCie Rugged TB lying around that I'm planning to put Samsung EVO 850 in. Did you have to plug in the power brick or was it working purely with bus power?
It was running purely from Bus Power. If you're not looking into running Windows, I've found that using the "Erase Free Space" option in OSX Disk Utility is equivalent to running TRIM manually. Googled a quick guide here: http://osxdaily.com/2013/08/21/erase-free-space-hard-drive-mac-os-x/
 

sjinsjca

macrumors 68020
Oct 30, 2008
2,170
501
Got a very nice SSD with Thunderbolt from Monoprice.com and installed a Boot Camp'd Windows 8.1 on it. (I need it sometimes for my work in certain USB-intensive situations in which running Windows in a virtual machine, as I do daily, won't do.)

Great price, and it works well.
 

yjchua95

macrumors 604
Apr 23, 2011
6,725
231
GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
I used another method of my own, which installs Windows in an UEFI environment on both USB or Thunderbolt.

Here's my steps:
Connect external drive to Windows VM. You must have a Windows VM in VMware/Parallels.

What you need:
install.wim file (obtain this from your Windows ISO)

Open elevated cmd.exe

Note: All commands aren't case sensitive, including pathway to files.

Type diskpart
Type list disk
Take note of the disk you want to select
Type select disk 1 (if your disk is Disk 1)
Type clean
Type convert gpt
Type create partition EFI size=100
Type format quick fs=fat32 label=EFI
Type assign letter=S
Type create partition primary
Type format fs=ntfs quick label=W2G (or any other name you wish for label)
Type assign letter=E
Type exit

Open up File Explorer. In your C drive, create a new folder named WIN2GO.
Put the install.wim file in this folder

Back in cmd.exe:
Type dism /apply-image /imagefile:C:\WIN2GO\install.wim /index:1 /applydir:E:\ (this process will take quite a while)
Type E:\Windows\System32\bcdboot E:\Windows /s S: /f UEFI

Restart your entire Mac. After the chime, hold down Option and when prompted to select your boot drive, select EFI Boot.

Proceed installation normally.

After installation, install Boot Camp drivers.
 

UniDoubleU

macrumors regular
Aug 14, 2014
160
1
Thailand
A few weeks ago I've gotten the Transcend JetDrive 725 1TB for my rMBP '12 and has been putting off setting up the included enclosure with a fresh install of Windows 8.1 on the Apple's 512GB PCIE SSD. Until today, I was stubborn and tried using both Winclone and Win2Go to clone the Bootcamp partition from my iMac 5K which won't boot properly due to driver problems. Now, I've used Win2Go to fresh install Windows 8.1. Booting up was faster than I've remembered Bootcamping rMBP '12 must be faster processors.

What can I say, the setup works great so far with speeds exceeding 2.5" SSDs. Games load like a dream! Now booting Windows for gaming won't feel like a chore anymore. Tomorrow I'll figure out if BootChamp would work with this setup. This must be one of the most economical external PCIE SSD solutions available!
 

yjchua95

macrumors 604
Apr 23, 2011
6,725
231
GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
A few weeks ago I've gotten the Transcend JetDrive 725 1TB for my rMBP '12 and has been putting off setting up the included enclosure with a fresh install of Windows 8.1 on the Apple's 512GB PCIE SSD. Until today, I was stubborn and tried using both Winclone and Win2Go to clone the Bootcamp partition from my iMac 5K which won't boot properly due to driver problems. Now, I've used Win2Go to fresh install Windows 8.1. Booting up was faster than I've remembered Bootcamping rMBP '12 must be faster processors.

What can I say, the setup works great so far with speeds exceeding 2.5" SSDs. Games load like a dream! Now booting Windows for gaming won't feel like a chore anymore. Tomorrow I'll figure out if BootChamp would work with this setup. This must be one of the most economical external PCIE SSD solutions available!
Uh, it isn't PCIe. It's only mSATA.

PCIe SSDs in Apple Macs are only available in late-2013 and later rMBPs.

PCIe speeds are around 700 MB/s, far higher than the maximum 625 MB/s theoretically supported over USB 3.
 

UniDoubleU

macrumors regular
Aug 14, 2014
160
1
Thailand
Uh, it isn't PCIe. It's only mSATA.

PCIe SSDs in Apple Macs are only available in late-2013 and later rMBPs.

PCIe speeds are around 700 MB/s, far higher than the maximum 625 MB/s theoretically supported over USB 3.
My bad. Yep, Apple's SSD from 2013 onwards are really fast indeed.
 

daweeze02

macrumors newbie
Feb 26, 2015
9
0
masotime

I am trying the same thing with a 64gb USB 3.0 sandisk usb drive but mine never gets past the windows 8.1 screen with the spinning circle. I use dmy spare windows machine to dump the iso with wintousb. DId you do anything else? I am on a 2014 macbook air
 

daweeze02

macrumors newbie
Feb 26, 2015
9
0
I'm running windows on an external USB3 drive too, and I have used almost the same method that yjchua95 described. I followed these instructions, it worked perfectly:
http://bleeptobleep.blogspot.be/2013/02/mac-install-windows-7-or-8-on-external.html

The drive need to be directly attached to the machine, when it was connected to my USB3 hub, it didn't boot...
drive or flash drive? I got it to see my drives now under refit but they failed to load, so now I am very puzzled
 

Alesc

macrumors 6502
Nov 11, 2014
253
11
France
drive or flash drive? I got it to see my drives now under refit but they failed to load, so now I am very puzzled
A 500GB Seagate drive :)
I've failed twice: one time because the drive was attached to the USB3hub, and one time because I've tried with Windows 7. With Windows 8.1, it works perfectly.

And another piece of advice: when you prepare your key with a Windows installation or a virtual machine, it must be a 64bits version of Windows running, or your installation will fail...
 
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