iTunes Speed Over an External Drive

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by fivepoint, Jun 13, 2008.

  1. fivepoint macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

    Joined:
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    IOWA
    #1
    I've determined that I need to move my iTunes Library to an external drive. I am running out of room on my HD because of movies in iTunes and home movies which I have been importing and cataloging in iMovie.

    I had originally decided to put all of my iMovie files on the external, but was told by some very intelligent people that editing would be anything but 'optimal' over an external drive. Even with a RAID 0 drive.

    Instead, I've determined that my best option would be to put my iTunes Library on an external drive since it takes considerably less bandwidth to do basic functions in iTunes than in iMovie. My question to you is regarding the potential lag with my iTunes connected through an external drive. I am specifically looking for input from those of you who are currently runnning your libraries from an external drive.

    There are a number of different ways I could go from here... and depending on what I hear in regards to the 'lag issue', I will pick the best one and go from there. P.S. I want the system to be backed up at least once, so I will have to buy two drives, or 1 RAID drive.

    • Purchase 2 Standard 750GB FW800 HDs: Probably the least expensive option. Backups done weekly by 'dragging and dropping' iTunes folder to secondary drive or setting up a software RAID through Disk Utility. Not upgradeable without replacing the drive. If my library goes over 750GB, the drives become obsolete.
    • Purchase 1 750GB RAID 0 FW800 Drive and 1 Standard Drive: The fastest option. RAID 0 and Firewire 800 would provide the fastest streaming of data from the HD, and be the least likely to produce 'lag'. I would back it up (speed not important) with the standard FW800 drive. Drives can be replaced for larger ones in RAID drive.
    • Purchase 1 1.5TB RAID 1 FW800 Drive: Built-In redundancy (save it once, it duplicates the file for you on the second HD) Roughly same speed as first option. Large bulky hardware I woudn't want near my desk. Not quite as safe as first two options? Drives can be replaced for larger ones.
    • Purchase a Drobo, add drives as necessary: Seems like the best long-term solution as far as I/O's go. More data for less money. Tied to a proprietary system which packages data in a way that can not be read by any other hardware. If the sytem goes bad, you have to buy another Drobo to recover data. Still, VERY slick interface, incredibly adjustability. Only has USB 2.0 which would mean slower file transfers. Additional drives can be purchased at any time.
    • Purchase a drobo, connect over network through AEBS: The slowest option, but the best as far as 'looks' are concerned. Nothing cluttering up my desk, no noisy fan in the room, etc. I am very concerned about lag with this one though... I wish I had some real-world advice on this one. Additional drives can be purchased at any time.


    If you have any experience with any of these, can attest to the 'lag' (or lack thereof) I would love to hear from you. If you have any input at all, it would be very helpful... as I am working a little 'over my head' here. If I am going to spend between $400 and $700, I need to make sure I'm buying something functional and a good quality long-term solution!
     
  2. friarbayliff macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN / IN
    #2
    I use my external FW400 drive for almost all of my media and have never had a real problem with it. It will lag for about a half-second every once in a while if the drive goes to sleep in-between reads and has to spin up again to access a new song or movie. This is however a power-saving feature that I believe you can turn off and/or aggressively regulate in settings.

    Any of the FW800 drives you've selected would be more than enough.
     
  3. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

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    #3
    I should also state that I stream lots of video to my AppleTV as well. Not sure how this relates to the question at hand, but I thought it might be relevant. Also, what percentage of you out there use an external drive for your iTunes Library?
     
  4. ddoonie macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2008
    #4
    Streaming itunes music doesnt require that much. I have my entire library on an external drive. Connected via USB, never any probs, nor with firewire 400/800... I have recently connected it to my airport extreme (airdisk). And again, no hiccups whatsoever (wireless g). The only time i have any stuttering was when I was on the main floor of my home, streaming my itunes, and playing it through my air tunes that was next to me. This says a lot, as i was streaming from airdisk to my computer, back to router, back to airport express... I am on the main floor, router on upper floor) across (5000sqft) home, and only getting the occasional stutter.

    In short i think ALL your options will be more than fast enough to stream your itunes.

    PS regarding software raid, i was recently looking into building a file server as well. Look into raid Z, it is similar to raid 5, but more efficient (striping and mirroring). There is a port to os x to allow you to read/write zfs file systems.
     
  5. Julien macrumors G3

    Julien

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    Location:
    Atlanta
    #5
    Just to give a speed idea:
    Lossless CD audio = about 1.5mbps
    ATSC HDTV = about 19mbps

    USB 2.0/Firewire 400 = 480mbps/400mbps
     
  6. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

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    May 16, 2008
    #6
    I use a 7200rpm external drive with Firewire 800... both music and movies... absolutely zero lag!
     
  7. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

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    Jun 27, 2007
    #7
    They might sound intelligent to you, but they have no idea what they are talking about.

    Firewire 800 has enough bandwidth for most single drive to operate at full speed (except for the highest speed server drives in a RAID).

    SATA internal or external raids, if set up properly, can allow editing of a few HD uncompressed streams at the same time if you have the processor power.

    Drobo are fairly useless at high capacity due to usb 2.0, which is slower than firewire 400 in actual usage, which has only about half the bandwidth of firewire 800.

    For music, even firewire 400 or usb 2.0 is fine, but backup will be faster with firewire 800.

    You want to get a UPS (battery) if you start getting external drives, because in my experience they are all sensitive to power surge and power outages / brownouts.
     
  8. kkat69 macrumors 68020

    kkat69

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    Atlanta, Ga
    #8
    I actually have all my ~2g movies (all in all totaling about 120g so far) on an external USB 2.0 Western Digital MyBook and they run just fine with no lag.

    When using 'Front Row' on another Mac, accessing my shared iTunes, they also run very very well.

    My music on same drive is also flawless no lag.

    Though none of your said hardware is close to mine, I'm just showing that it doesn't take big bucks to do this.
     
  9. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

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    #9
    Very good real-world input. Thank you. Have you tried streaming video over that same networked drive? I have several files I've done in Handbrake (AppleTV quality) that I'd like to know about as far as lagging.



    Ahhh... good! I know these are 'theoretical' but still, the numbers are SO much larger, that it doesn't seem like it would be aproblem to stream that kind of data. 'g' networks are 54mbps, correct?



    Very good information. Thank you. So, you're saying that with normal external drives, the speed of the drive is actually the bottleneck, and not the connection (fw, USB, etc.). Correct? I guess this puts the possiblity of iMove files being on the external back on my plate... if I were using a RAID 0 drive but would you still say that it is BETTER to have that on the internal drive? If you had to choose, I would assume that you would pick internal, and for me to put the iTunes on the external instead... correct?



    Great! Great news! I don't suppose you have an AEBS you could hook that up to and tell me how it works when streaming over the network, could you? :)
     
  10. Julien macrumors G3

    Julien

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    #10
    Yes, but wireless suffers from problems not (very) prevalent in a wired setup. With wireless the farther you are (less signal) from the transmitter the slower the speed. In order to get 54mbps you must be only a few feet from it. Also interference can case the signal to drop for micro seconds (or longer) and with streamed data (like CD audio) as opposed to packet data this can cause disruptions.
     
  11. ddoonie macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2008
    #11
    I dont have an appletv, but have streamed video to my computer from the airdisk. Did not have any lagging, but i would think it would not work very well i streamed from airdisk to mbp to airdisk to appletv. IF you had good signal strength for all components in a 'n' network, than i see it being possible. That or having either the MBP or ATV wired.
     
  12. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

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    #12
    Does anyone have any real-world experience regarding streaming content from an external drive (attached to an AEBS) to an AppleTV, through iTunes?
     
  13. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

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    #13
    Right now I am leaning towards the Drobo. Here is why:

    1) It is simple. There is no need to build my own server, there is no need to set up additional software, or drag and drop files every week.

    2) It is expandable. If I get a couple of 750 GB hard drives, they could last 3years, or they could last less than one. It all depends on how fast my iTunes library grows. With a Drobo, I can get 2 1TB HDs now, and add two more as I need them.

    3) It is safe. If one hard drive goes out, I just replace it with a new one. No data is lost unless you lose two hard drives at once, which is not very likely.



    The only reason I am concerned about the drobo, are the following reasons:

    1) It's only USB 2.0. I strongly prefer FW800, and it won't be all that fast. However, If I am connecting it up over my wireless network anyway, and all it will be doing is serving up iTunes files, it shouldn't have to be that fast anyway, right?

    2) Its proprietary hardware. I don't like the fact that if the drobo itself goes bad, the only way to get the data back off of the hd's, is through another drobo. The drives are incompatible (once used with the drobo) for other RAID systems.

    3) A new drobo might be around the corner. If I am not mistaken, the drobo has been out for over a year now. You would expect there to be another updated drobo released sometime soon. Perhaps with firewire? Perhaps for a few hundred less?

    4) It's expensive. I know it is cheaper in the long run, and it really isn't that much more than a RAID drive with far less capabilities... but still, $499 without any hard drives! Wow.



    I think the only questions I still need answered, without a doubt, are these... if you have ANY experience with either one of these, please help me out here:

    1) I know iTunes works fine with no lag over a USB hard drive, but what about a neworked USB hard drive through an AEBS?

    2) What about AppleTV? Does streaming it from the HD, to the computer, back to the AEBS, and then to the AppleTV slow things down even more?
     
  14. Woody970 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    #14

    Fivepoint, I'm researching the same thing as you at the moment and I have done some tests with a USB 2.0 WD external drive. I have the drive connected to an AEBSn via the usb port and my network is set up an N only network. I partitioned the hard drive into to equal parts for testing. One partition was set up for itunes and the second partition was set up for Time Machine backups. Using my MBP I created and iTunes library on the the first partition and added a few of my movies that I created with handbrake. I also setup my MBP to use the second partition for time machine. I started up itunes and connected my ATV to my shared MBP library. I then went to the my ATV and started watching one of the movies that I was sharing. I also started a first time run of time machine backup to the second partition at the same time. I did not experience any lag what so ever with with the ATV playing the movie and keep in mind that was over a USB2 connection.

    With all of the research that I have done I have come up with the following solution. I am going to purchase two external drives one drive will be 500GB that I will connect directly to my iMac which is my main computer and it will be used for my iTunes library and iPhoto library. The second drive will also be a 500GB which will be connected to my AEBSn and be used for wireless time machine back-ups of my iMac and MBP.

    Hope this helps.
     
  15. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

    Joined:
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    #15
    Thank you very much for your first-hand experience. I appreciate you sharing it. The network speed thing seems promising based on your results. This makes me feel better about the possibility.

    One question for you... with your planned setup, will you not be able to back up your external iTunes drive... or do you need to get a larger Time machine external to back up the computer AND the iTunes external?
     
  16. iMerlin macrumors 6502a

    iMerlin

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    May 13, 2008
    #16
    fivepoint, any updates? What did you end up going with?

    Im currently looking into a Drobo but have 2 PCs and a MBP on my network. I had intentions of hooking the Drobo right into the USB port on the AEBS but Ive heard that you have to format the Drobo to NFS+ in order to do that. If it is NFS+, doesnt that mean my PCs wont be able to RW to the Drobo?

    Anyway, glad I did a search and found this thread, lots of good info.
     
  17. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

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    #17
    iMerlin, thanks for asking. I was surprised to see this thread come back up again.

    Here is where I sit right now:
    About one month ago I was about a week away from making a purchase of a new Drobo... I didn't know where I was going to get the money, but that was another story. The new FW800 Drobos were just out, so that was good, and I knew it would be the best for the long-term expandability I was looking for. However, I ended up going down a VERY different path.

    Back to waht I was saying... about one month ago my 3 month old 750GB iomega Ultramax HD suffered a fatal error. The drive died. I contacted iomega and had about as bad of a time with customer support as you can imagine. To make a long story short, I ended up with 4 iomega drives at my house, and spend several weeks just dealing with that crap. Iomega ended up offering to let me keep one of the other drives for my trouble. So, I got a replacement for my original 750gb drive, and got to keep another one ($250 or so value) for free!

    My original goal was to at least double my storage from my 750gb internal with 750gb time machine backup to 750gb internal w/ time machine backup and another two 750gb drives which would hold either my iTunes library or iMovie content. Since I got the FREE drive from iomega, I was only one drive away from making that happen, and the Drobo all of a sudden seemed like a very bad choice.

    Instead of getting the drobo, I simply ordered one more external drive (decided on a 1TB mybook for price reasons) and was done with it. My current setup is as follows: 750gb internal HD being backed up by a 1TB Mybook external over Airport Extreme. 2 750GB iomega ultramax drives setup through RAID 1 (mirroring).

    As of now, I have the iMovie content on the external RAID array and the iTunes content on the internal drive backed up via Time Machine. I am considering switching this around to house the iTunes content on the externals instead because it would provide a bit more room (due to the fact that it wouldn't be sharing space with iPhoto and other stuff like that.

    Any advice would be welcome. What are the benefits/drawbacks of housing iTunes content or iMovie content on the external RAID array (which could also backup via CCC I suppose).

    Thanks!
     
  18. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

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    #18
    Based on this... does anyone have any suggestions on whether I should choose to put my itunes library or iMovie content on the external vs. the other?
     
  19. iMerlin macrumors 6502a

    iMerlin

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    #19


    fivepoint, thats the question Ive been asking myself for like a month now. Ive been waiting to make a move on a solution for some time. I think everyone has a different opinion on this one.
    For a while I was thinking about getting the LaCie 2Big 1tb drive USB/FW, but then at the last minute decided against because of the formatting limitations. I have 3 PCs and Ill be getting the new MBP when it comes out next month. And from what I understand, I would have to format that LaCie as FAT32 if I want all machines to be able to RW to the LaCie.
    Then I see another LaCie 2big 1TB but this one is a network drive which seems appealing because then you dont need to worry about formatting (I think). And gigabit is nice (better than USB 2.0/FW I think).
    But then I see the Drobo which I think is the solution Ill be going with.
    Ive seen a lot of threads and people saying there is NO LAG when accessing iTunes libraries that are on a shared drive. So Im hoping that Ill be ok with the Drobo. I plan to get a couple of 500 or 750gb drives, as well as a 250 I have laying around the house here and throw them into the Drobo.
    It is a little more money than the LaCie but I think will be a better solution in the long run since the Drobo is so expandable. Whereas with the USB or other External, you just have to keep buying more drives. And I think the Drobo doesnt need any formatting changes. (still trying to get a straight answer on that. I found some info that suggest if you are hooking the Drobo up to an AEBS, which I am, you will have to format it NFS+ for the AEBS to see it. But wont that limit my PCs ability to RW to the Drobo?? Or is it ok since they are all going through the AEBS first?? Im so confused!!)

    Speaking of the AEBS, I just picked it up yesterday, which is excellent other than not getting my printer to work. http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=549971
    But I hope to hook up this Drobo up to the AEBS and have all machines, PCs and my future Mac, able to use the one library for our iTunes.

    Now I just have to figure out how to hide these reciepts from the wife! :eek:
     
  20. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

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    #20
    iMerlin... the only think I would warn you about (if you're setting up your iTunes library to be accessed from several machines on a single network) is that you don't open itunes with more than one machine at once. Doing so could damage/ruin the file structure rendering your iTunes library completely useless. Just something to think about.
     
  21. iMerlin macrumors 6502a

    iMerlin

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    #21

    I didnt realize that, is there any way around it? I thought I could just leave the XML files on the different PCs and all access the same music on the shared drive.
     
  22. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

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    #22
    The only way around it -- that I know of -- is to hook the external up to one computer, and access the content from the other machines via "shared libraries" in iTunes. It's far less graceful... but until Apple decides to make iTunes "server friendly" that is the sad state of things.

    Maybe in iTunes 8.0, coming in the next month or so!
     

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