Mac mini external SSD as boot drive

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by 2tallyAwesome, Aug 24, 2014.

  1. 2tallyAwesome macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2007
    Good morning everyone,

    Just a quick question.

    I have a Mac mini, and would like to add an external SSD. As my boot drive. How big of a difference will I see between a thunderbolt interface, and a FireWire or USB 3.0 interface? Will it be noticeable enough to spend the extra cash?

    Also opening it up and voiding the warranty is not an option for me.

    Thank you!
  2. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    I'm booting Yosemite from a 128 gb SSD via USB3. It's perfectly fine. Certainly not as fast as off the internal SATA bus or by TB, but much faster than FW800. For most things you won't notice any lagging.
  3. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP asks above:
    [[ I have a Mac mini, and would like to add an external SSD. As my boot drive. How big of a difference will I see between a thunderbolt interface, and a FireWire or USB 3.0 interface? Will it be noticeable enough to spend the extra cash? ]]

    There will be no perceivable speed difference between thunderbolt and USB3.
    In some cases, with the right enclosure or dock, USB3 will be FASTER.

    There are two DISadvantages to using USB3 that you should be aware of:
    1. You can't enable TRIM via USB3. BUT -- many new drives seem to run fine without Apple's TRIM command being enabled. Mine does.
    2. You probably won't be able to update the firmware (if ever required) via USB3.

    But having written that, I've been "external booting" my late 2012 Mac Mini for 20 months now, runs great and no problems. I've used two SSD's (first was an Intel 530 series, current one is a Crucial M500) and both have run fine without regard to the TRIM command. That's my experience only, others' may be different.

    Here's one external enclosure to consider:
    (no financial interest in above product)
  4. 2tallyAwesome thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2007
    Thanks for the replies..

    For context, I'm a composer and audio engineer and run Sibelius, logic, kontact player, and a variety of plugins on a daily basis.

    My plan was to have osx, apps, and associated instruments and sound files hosted on the SSD, and then projects and media not associated with the apps performance of the apps on the internal drives.

    Does this sound like something that will be successful?
  5. kaibob, Aug 24, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015

    kaibob macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2010
    Prescott, Arizona
    I've been running my 2012 Mac mini by way of an SSD in a USB 3 enclosure since December 2013, and it has worked great (see my original post below). I considered a Thunderbolt enclosure but after some research decided it would not be worth the extra money. The total cost of the SSD and enclosure was about $160, and for me the speed increase was certainly worth the money.

    Initially I had a Kingston SSD, and it was not much faster than the internal hard drive. I then purchased the Samsung 840 Pro, and the difference was really substantial. So, if you decide to do this, be sure to get a quality SSD.

    I'm not familiar with the apps you mention and can't comment on how they would work with an SSD. I do store large data and other files on the Mini's internal hard drive, and this works fine.
  6. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    If you are a pro and time is money, use Thunderbolt. There are no disadvantages as the drive looks like is just another SATA drive in the unit, supports a full command set, and its a reliable and robust solution. Otherwise just about anything will work well enough or better than nothing depending on your point of view.

    Many here buy something like a OWC Thunderbay IV, install a SSD in one bay and a couple large drives in other bays as RAID0 stripe for media files.... or as backup destinations.

    How are you intending the backup the mini.
  7. robertojorge macrumors regular


    May 6, 2014
    Hi, about a month ago i shared some results using an external SSD trough USB 3.0. If you have 46min free time :) here is the link

    What i can say so far is that there is no performance hit whatesoever.

    Recently i just added one of these setups on my wifes Imac 21,5 2.5ghz 2013 and is working great.

    In the video i have shared all the pros and cons that i could see.

    Hope it helps your decision.
    All the best
  8. DeltaMac macrumors G3


    Jul 30, 2003
    Opening your mini, and adding an SSD, does not automatically void your warranty - only if that work causes damage to your mini. Replacing or adding an SSD would not likely cause any harm, and your warranty should be fine.
    In fact, there's several sites that offer instructions for doing exactly that. It's not terribly challenging. There's even space to add a second drive internally, so you can have lots of options for what you want to add.
  9. Acronyc macrumors 6502a

    Jan 24, 2011
    This. As long as you don't break anything and put the stock drive back if you need service, to my understanding your warranty won't be void. With proper tools and some patience it's not that hard to install a new drive. I recently picked up a base refurb 2012 mini for work and thought about booting from an SSD via USB3, but in the end just decided to go ahead and install it internally. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish going very carefully, since this was the first time I've opened up a newer mini.

    Some guides out there make it harder than it should be. For the most part I followed the OWC guide as the iFixit guide requires you to remove things that aren't necessary, like the wifi antenna and the logic board (depending on your drive location you might have to remove the logic board, though). If you are careful you can even do it without removing the fan, though I did remove the fan without issue.

    Personally I like having the drive installed internally, but I did run the mini for a few days via USB and it worked perfectly. From my experience you won't really notice a huge speed difference with USB vs internal.
  10. Neodym macrumors 68000


    Jul 5, 2002
    If it'll be USB, make sure the housing (/ controller) supports UASP. For me the difference between a "normal" USB 3 housing and a UASP one was ~130MB/s (r/w) vs. ~430MB/s [measured with BlackMagic and a Samsung 840 pro SSD].
  11. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    Its only voided if you break something;)

    Seriously, it's not too hard. I'm no tech nerd, but with a few tools, a little patience and my friend 'YouTube' it is very do-able. [I have 2011 and 2012 minis and have done it to both.]

    Internal is the way to go!
  12. thedeske macrumors 6502a

    Feb 17, 2013
    Agree - while external works, there are so many on this board and the net that completed the procedure, it's almost a no-brainer. Then Again, some people should not be allowed to handle tools. You know who your are ;)
  13. 2tallyAwesome thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2007
    So I decided to go with the Crucial MX100 256GB SSD with the inateck USB 3.0 enclosure. Very happy with the results!

    Attached Files:

  14. DancyMunchkin macrumors member

    Mar 19, 2014
    This week, I replaced the internal hard drive in my late 2012 Mini with a 480 gig SSD from OWC. The hard drive had begun clicking, a sign of pending failure. It was the second time I had opened the Mini, the first time was to upgrade the memory. The entire replacement procedure took 30 minutes.
  15. Beliblis macrumors regular

    Dec 31, 2011
    Agree - fairly straight-forward procedure indeed! Just watch out for the temperature sensors attached to the drives. In a way, they're easy to break (though also easy to replace via eBay). On the other hand: as long as you KNOW the temperature seniors are there: they're easy to remove and put back on to any new drive (scotch tape does the trick).

    Basically: don't make any sudden moves when removing the drives. Easy job.
  16. Neodym macrumors 68000


    Jul 5, 2002
    Drives in the Mac mini don't have any temperature sensors attached to them. Probably mixed that up with iMac :)
  17. rrl macrumors 6502


    Jul 27, 2009
    They did until 2011. The 2010 unibody has two.

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