Is running an SSD from Thunderbolt as boot drive identical to having an internal drive?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Lumonaut, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. Richdmoore macrumors 68000


    Jul 24, 2007
    Troutdale, OR
    Thunderbolt 1 is not usb, even with the adapter. The adapter will allow you to use a thunderbolt 3 native drive, but not a usb-c native drive.

    I used a delock thunderbolt 1 caddy with an Apple thunderbolt cable, and a ssd drive for years without issues. I purchased mine here:

    Caldiget and other thunderbolt docking stations I looked at the time had a faq that said thunderbolt to usb docks would not work as boot drives, unless you had a 2013 or greater model (in which case, you could do native usb 3 boot drive anyway for much cheaper prices....)
    Can I connect an external USB 3.0 storage device to the Thunderbolt Station in order to boot my OS?
    Yes, you can boot your OS from an external USB 3.0 drive connected directly to the Thunderbolt Station if you are using OS X 10.9.2 on a 2013 Mac or later.

    The real question for a 2011 owner (no native usb 3) is how viable it is spending money for a Mac that is no longer getting os updates.

    Cheapest (but most risk) is an internal ssd install (along with getting owc’s fan management hardware, read up about the run away fan issue if you are considering replacing the Apple installed hdd.) Owc fan control hardware is $40, plus the cost for the bracket to put the ssd where the hdd normally goes ($20?). If you install it and decide to keep the original hdd in place, owc has a kit for $18.

    The option I recommend is to buy the delock caddy, thunderbolt 1/2 cable, and a SATA ssd drive. It worked good for me, I still use the delock caddy & drive (with the Apple adapter) on my 2017 iMac as a non boot drive. (The internal ssd drive on a 2017 iMac is way faster than any sata drive.). The caddy and cable adds up to about $130, but no risk of breaking the computer during an internal install.

    The final option available is getting a thunderbolt 3 ssd, and necessary cables, and a thunderbolt 1/2 to thunderbolt 3 adapter. That option is expensive due to thunderbolt 3 device prices, and the limitations of having the thunderbolt 1 bottlenecks the improved performance over the delock caddy. Samsung x5 drive listed above is $700, and $50 for the Apple adapter.
  2. jeddouglas macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2012
    Inverness, UK
    Just to be clear I was looking at putting the SSD into this:

    and then using this

    to convert to the thunderbolt port on my iMac
  3. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    "Just to be clear I was looking at putting the SSD into this:"\

    That's a USB3 enclosure.
    It IS NOT "a thunderbolt enclosure".
    Yes, it plugs into the USB-c port.
    But, once plugged-in, it will be seen (to the Mac) as a USB3 enclosure.

    I'm going to offer another "solution" (well, it's more of a "kludge" than a "solution"):
    Get yourself a pre-packaged USB3 drive, such as this: SanDisk 1TB Extreme Portable SSD - SDSSDE60-1T00-G25- Electronics

    Then plug it into a USB port and set it up to boot and run the computer.

    NO, it WILL NOT run at USB3 speeds, because you're plugging it into a USB2 port.

    BUT... it will probably boot up as fast as the old internal drive (because it's an SSD), even if that's "not fast". AND... once it's up-and-running, it will feel much "snappier" than the old platter-based internal drive, again because it's an SSD.

    It will give you another year or two with the old iMac.
    And when it's time to replace the old iMac with something new, you can just unplug it and "take it along with you" to the new Mac, where it will run much faster (again, because it's USB3).

    At some point, you must face up to the reality that you've got an older iMac and there's only so much that can be done to "upgrade" it, and even if you do that, you STILL HAVE an aging computer...
  4. mikehalloran, Nov 5, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018

    mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley
    You're missing a few things.

    SATA III to usb c enclosure for SSD

    If the enclosure does not list Thunderbolt among its specs, it isn't. USB-C is only the plug. It doesn't have to be TB anything.

    If Thunderbolt, you are limited to the 6G theoretical limit, well below TB 1. If USB-C, you are limited to USB 2. 2011 iMacs do not support USB 3. Look at the listed specs, not the click-bait title:

    Interface: USB 3.1, SATA III, USB 3.0

    It does not matter how many ways you rephrase this on as many threads. The ideal solution is to open it up and replace the HDD. Or pay someone to do it for you.

    The least expensive TB dock I know is $140 without the drive. The sensor, bracket and labor to install it inside should cost you less. I charge $50 to do this in about a half hour.
  5. Bacci macrumors newbie

    Sep 11, 2012
    Once you experienced a nearly completely silent iMac with only SSD inside, you never want to go back. It's a big difference.
    Not a big fan of paraphernalia either, it ruins the clean look of an iMac desk.
    2 things worth considering imo.
  6. danielwsmithee, Nov 5, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018

    danielwsmithee macrumors 65816

    Mar 12, 2005
  7. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley
    His is 2011. TB1 but it doesn't matter. That housing will certainly work. This is the one I was referring to @ $150

    $140 – $179 is still more than one needs to pay to fix the problem. The bracket, sensor and labor should cost less. A lot less if he does the labor himself as the tools are inexpensive. Here is the sensor and tool kit for $49.95
    The OWC drivers have magnetic tips—you want that, especially when putting things back together.

    Worst case: has to pay someone to put it back together.
  8. jeddouglas macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2012
    Inverness, UK
    I hadn't appreciated the difference between usb c and thunderbolt 3 - I thought they were the same thing so thanks for putting me right.

    You are right about opening up and installing an SSD being the ideal solution I am more than likely going to give it a go. I just wanted to make sure I exhausted the options.
    --- Post Merged, Nov 6, 2018 ---
    You guys in the US are lucky as everything is so much cheaper. The dual drive dock is £181 here and the OWC sensor and tool kit is £59.99.
  9. dabeenk, Apr 14, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019

    dabeenk macrumors newbie


    Apr 14, 2019
    Minnetonka, MN
  10. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley
  11. kblake macrumors newbie

    Mar 18, 2012

    Here are my results on 27" 2017 base model iMac

    Attached Files:

  12. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    kblake wrote:
    "Here are my results on 27" 2017 base model iMac"

    Those results are pretty good -- slightly better than what you'd see with an external USB3 SSD.

    How long have you been using it, and how much of the fusion drive is currently "used"?

    As it stands now, there's nothing to be gained by moving to a USB3 SSD.

    What WOULD provide a BIG jump in speed would be to move to an external thunderbolt3 SSD (like the Samsung X5), but those are on the expensive side.
  13. EugW macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2017
    Samsung SSD? That would be USB 3, not Thunderbolt, right?
  14. bplein macrumors 6502a


    Jul 21, 2007
    Austin, TX USA
    Samsung T5 is USB-3.1 on a modern mac (connects with USB-C style connector), and Samsung X5 is PCIe/TB3 over that same connector.

    So the T5 operates at no better than SATA speeds (a few hundred MB/s writes, a bit more reads) while the X5 operates at PCIe speeds similar to the internal Apple SSDs sold on new systems today (2-3GB/s)
  15. EugW macrumors 603


    Jun 18, 2017
    Ok thx. I didn’t know that the X5 existed.
  16. Ledgem macrumors 68000


    Jan 18, 2008
    Hawaii, USA
    So just to be clear, the general consensus is that an external Thunderbolt 3-connected NVME-based SSD is only slightly worse or about equal (depending on use case and storage sizes) to the internal drives from Apple's systems, right? That could certainly be good cause to go with the lowest storage option when updating systems, and put the money into an enclosure with a larger storage size instead.
  17. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley
    A Samsung X5 or any other bus powered TB3 drive is not possible on a 2011–2015 model iMac.

    The TB2–3 adapter is incapable of passing bus power.

    A 2011 27" iMac has 2 SATA buses, one is unused. The optical drive uses a 3rd SATA II bus.
  18. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

    Oct 14, 2018
    The Sillie Con Valley
    2017–19 iMac excluding the iMac Pro
    Not quite but you're on the right track. You are not factoring another possibility.

    A Samsung X5 2TB costs just under $1,000. It houses the OE equivalent of the Samsung 970 EVO. The blade by itself is just under $500 plus the $14 Sintech adapter. Labor runs around $75 here in the Silicon Valley plus whatever is charged for the tape kit. If you do it yourself, you'll need a few inexpensive tools and a USB OS installer in lieu of the labor charge.

    Apple uses a different Samsung blade with a proprietary pin-out that does not require the Sintech adapter. The only other difference is that the 970 EVO does not support Internet Recovery. Having the OS installer on a USB stick is a good thing to keep in a drawer.
  19. nemoryoliver macrumors member


    Apr 9, 2013
    I hope this is true. If it makes a small difference I would go the SATA SSD instead of external TB3 SSD. I wish someone can make a detailed comparison for a SATA SSD and Thundebolt SSD
  20. h9826790 macrumors G5


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    This is not the exact comparison you are looking for, quite old now, but it can gives you some idea .
    Boot time.png
    For boot drive, SATA 2, SATA 3, PCIe 2.0 all provide the same speed for booting.

    The reason is because the 4K random read QD1 speed is way below the SATA 2 limit (250MB/s). So, the bottleneck isn't at the connection type, but on the SSD itself.
    4K random read.png

    Even the high end 970 Pro, it's 4K random read QD1 speed still just average at 55MB/s. SATA or PCIe or TB3 won't make any difference (as boot drive)
    Screenshot 2019-07-11 at 1.22.35 PM.png
  21. faraway52 macrumors newbie


    Mar 3, 2019
    The speed improvement of TB3 over USB is in the real world much smaller than the best case transfer speed measured with black magic.
    e.g. there happens a lot more than SSD read/write when you open/save a complex word document.

    I suggest you should get a nice e.g. Samsung SATA SSD and attach it to a state of the art USB 3 or 3.1 port. You will have a great improvement over HD.
    The expensive TB3 SSDs come into play when you are tired of waiting for large file transfers/copy jobs to complete. e.g. VMware virtual machines or collections of ?000 GB movies.

    macOS has a nasty USB caused boot delay since HS but how frequent do you reboot ;-) ? Does that justify the extra cost of a TB3 SSD?

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