Mysterious Slow Drive Speed on Mac Mini (tricky one)

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by elliots11, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. elliots11, Sep 18, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017

    elliots11 macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #1
    I have a 2012 Mac Mini, it's been slow since I got it (second hand). I recently did a HDD drive swap (as in a few minutes ago) and it's still slow.

    Parts
    Computer -
    2012 Mac Mini Quad Core (non-server)
    8GB Ram
    1TB HDD (originally from Apple)
    I usually keep a drobo connected as well as a Newertek MiniMax hdd enclosure and optical disc reader. Go to the monitor through a Thunderbolt to DVI adapter, have a TV hooked up through HDMI. Ethernet cable. Battery Backup. Time Capsule sitting near it but not directly under it on a shelf below the Mini.

    I'm using a HDD toaster (2 disk bare drive enclosure) to do testing over USB3 and for cloning.
    SSHD - Seagate 1 TB SSHD Hybrid Drive

    Issues -
    Sometimes Mac Mini works fine but it often runs slow. It'll be fine, then slow, then fine, then slow again. It'll beachball as I type out words, open and close apps, etc. It's slow to reboot, and after I login there's a long progress bar to get into the Mac and start working.

    Troubleshooting -
    RAM - it's not the ram, even on a reboot it's not using anywhere near the full RAM and the swap is usually 0.
    OS - I've tried reinstalling the OS on top of itself in the past if I recall correctly, didn't fix anything.

    HDD - I ran Black Magic Disk Speed Test on the OEM Apple hard drive while it was in the mini. It varied but it was pretty slow, it'd stay at 11 MB/s write, then jump up to 40 or so, then drop back down to 11, read was similar. Ok, so swap the drive right? I tested the drive in a toaster outside of the mini and was getting good speeds for a few tests. Then I'd test it a day later and be back down to 11MB/s.

    SSHD - I had a Seagate 1 TB Hybrid drive that I'd been using for something else, it wasn't superfast but it was getting like 60-80 MB/s write and read consistently, sometimes higher, had no problems other than it wasn't right for a high performance setup, and it wasn't saving properly on DaVinci Resolve, which I don't think was the drive's fault based on other anecdotes I've heard.

    - I cloned the old drive to the new one using a HDD Toaster with a cloning function, so it should be a perfect 1:1 copy. I ran a speed test on the SSHD while it was in the toaster connected to my Macbook Pro after the clone completed, and I got around 44-60MB/s, not great but fine. I ran disk utility first aid which didn't seem to make a ton of difference.

    Currently -
    Now that the SSHD is back in the mini, the Seagate SSHD is exhibiting the same behavior as the previous HDD. It peaks out at 46 MB/s write with a similar read speed, but it spends a lot of time down at 11 MB/s. Then I test it again and it jumps up to 70-100+ MB/s read/write and behaves as expected, until it doesn't again.

    What could this be?
    Right now I'm thinking it's not actually the drive and potentially the adapter that converts the SATA plug on the hard drive to whatever little tiny plug is in the Mini's logic board. Or maybe it's a logic board issue? To me this reads as a hardware issue, but one that persists across hard drives so perhaps it's the connection?
    Thoughts?
     
  2. ZapNZs macrumors 68000

    ZapNZs

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2017
    #2
    Have you pulled SMART data to see if you are getting any errors suggestive of the SATA cable? (alternatively, have you tried booting from a USB 3 or Thunderbolt enclosure to see if bypassing the SATA cable results in normal performance?)

    Have you ran the Apple Diagnostics yet?
     
  3. Audit13 macrumors 6502a

    Audit13

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2017
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    #3
    I would look at changing the cable between the drive and motherboard. It a fairly cheap and easy swap.
     
  4. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #4
    Put an SSD into it. (NOT a hybrid drive).
    Or... connect an SSD via USB3 and set it up to be an "external booter" (as I do).

    It will become much faster.
    Trust me on this one.
     
  5. hobowankenobi macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2015
    Location:
    on the land line mr. smith.
    #5
    SSD if you can.

    And don't rule out OS/software issues. If it were me, I would format and do a clean install on the drive in it now (assuming you still have a full bootable OS + data safely on the previous drive or elsewhere).

    And then test.

    If it is still slow...you have a hardware problem; HD, sata cable, or something else. If no pauses or speed issues, you know there is an OS/software problem.
     
  6. campyguy macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2014
    Location:
    Portland / Seattle
    #6
    Which bay is the drive in - upper or lower? There's several posts on this in these forums, including mine:
    https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/mac-mini-2012-second-drive-gets-slow.2006158/#post-23723191 - which links to a thread in ifixit.

    A move of the drive to the lower bay may be a fix. Alternatively, installing a SATA II drive (HHD or SSD) could fix the issue for your Mini - see that post and ifixit thread for more details. Also, the controller could be dying.
     
  7. elliots11, Sep 24, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017

    elliots11 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #7
    Well this is interesting. The mini had become basically unusable with the cloned SSHD in there, like I could get to the login page but I couldn't input the data to actually login because there was too much lag between the keyboard and the OS. So I'd put in my password and a minute (literally) later it'd show up. Once I finally got it in it just didn't do anything.

    So I rebooted, hit D, ran Apple Diagnostics test, it said everything looked fine, and I even rant the extended test.

    I created an external boot disk from a brand new 2TB HDD using my Macbook Pro and the drive toaster. It booted the Macbook Pro just fine, worked and everything. I put it in the toaster and tried to boot the mac mini and the behavior is odd.
    - It boots, I select the external boot drive, the mac logo with progress bar goes halfway (quite slowly, was also slow before on multiple drives) then disappears, screen goes black, stays that way, keyboard presses do nothing.
    - So I turn the computer off (I thought) by holding down the power button for a few seconds, then turn it back on, but instead of the boot up process the login screen for the external drive just comes up instantly. I mean I heard the hard drive power down, so ??? I don't know what is going on there.

    Anyway, Black Magic speed test seems to show this drive as responding well. Over 100MB/s Read and Write, pretty good for a standard HDD. But none of my software or docs are on it, so I want to test it internally and then I guess bring all of that over manually, I don't know. I have Time Machine backups but maybe I should start from scratch.

    I'm copying 200GB over right now and it's running between 80-105 MB/s off the SSHD clone (currently internal) which was effectively unresponsive when booted before. So right now it seems the most logical thing would be it's a software issue, but that doesn't explain the weird booting.

    Edit: Also to those suggesting an SSD, I feel you, but if there's something else wrong with the computer then that's a bit premature. One of the HDD's I already have should perform consistently at at least a constant 60MB/s or higher before I go throwing money at this problem. The last thing I want is an SSD that runs at 11 MB/s, that'd be infuriating.
     
  8. wbeasley macrumors regular

    wbeasley

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    #8
    Have similar issues. Seems worse running Sierra. Have tried earlier OS on external drive without as many slow downs. Get the beachball a lot when starting up a program. Then when loaded again, seems to run ok.

    It's my partner's Mac Mini. So I get the "why is this so slow?" and I can't see an issue. Have done clean installs. Have used external drive. Just seems to crawl.

    One thing that fixed the always on fan and locking up was installing AdBlocker for Safari. Seemed like a lot of forums where thrashing ads and locking up resources. Just something to consider if you have similar issues...
     
  9. elliots11 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #9
    If it's software it's probably something accessing the drive a lot. Like even though my Mini isn't the server model Mini it acts as one, I had a couple of programs on there like Plex, another video server application that I can't recall the name of, I had Photosync which worked right for a while and then didn't, so a couple of always on, always running programs. Also Decimus Synk which is supposed to keep folders in sync across multiple computers but is kind of meh. But they were all pointed at an external drive. I can't think of what software I would be using that would slow down my boot drive by 75% or more. Plus I'd think it'd show up in the activity monitor's disk graph and nothing ever did.
     
  10. BrianBaughn macrumors 601

    BrianBaughn

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Location:
    Baltimore, Maryland
    #10
    Did you ever try the HD cable replacement that Audit13 suggested?
     
  11. elliots11, Sep 25, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017

    elliots11 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #11
    Not yet, I think I probably should do it though just to cover all my bases, I figured it'd have a bunch of variables so I haven't dug in yet. Is that just called the Mac Mini hard drive cable? And is it different by model year?

    I've looked for a different replacement ribbon cable, but they're all in kits like OWC's Data Doubler, stuff like that. Is there any way to get ahold of an OEM Apple data ribbon cable? How would I do that? I don't know that I want to throw in a second hard drive based on the problems I'm having with just one, and I apparently already have the parts from the data doubler kit from when I ordered the bluetooth foil thing from OWC that didn't do much for me, well except the cables anyway.
     
  12. Beachguy macrumors 6502a

    Beachguy

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #12
    This likely won't make you feel better, but my 2011 Mini (8GB, 500 GB HD) is slow as hell also. That's always been the case. I'd love to speed it up as well. Granted, it shouldn't be a speed demon, but when I say slow, I mean relative to what other similarly spec'd machines I use do. When it was brand new and only had 2GB of RAM, it was impossible to use.
     
  13. elliots11 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #13
    Mine sped up when I put it in a better ventilated area, previously I had it in an Ikea shelf that had openings in front and back of it but the temps got high. I don't know if yours is in a confined space, but it'll slow down the processor once it gets hot to keep the computer on (could be the OS, could be a feature of the proc). That said, in my case the hard drive did slow down again after that, perhaps it overheated or something, but I don't think so.
     
  14. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #14
    I'm going to repeat the advice I gave above.

    Recommendation #1:
    Put an SSD into it.

    Recommendation #2:
    Connect an SSD via USB and boot and run that way.
    (I've been doing this with my own late-2012 Mini for FIVE YEARS now, and it still runs great)
     
  15. campyguy macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2014
    Location:
    Portland / Seattle
    #15
    I'm surmising the OP didn't read my linked-to posts. Waste of my time, then…

    Installed HS on my Mini Server yesterday. Sammy 850 Pro in the lower bay. 480 write/520 read. What Fishrrman wrote, over and out.
     
  16. wbeasley macrumors regular

    wbeasley

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    #16
    Have similar issues. Seems worse running Sierra. Have tried earlier OS on external drive without as many slow downs. Get the beachball a lot when starting up a program. Then when loaded again, seems to run ok.

    It's my partner's Mac Mini. So I get the "why is this so slow?" and I can't see an issue. Have done clean installs. Have used external drive. Just seems to crawl.

    One thing that fixed the always on fan and locking up was installing AdBlocker for Safari. Seemed like a lot of forums where thrashing ads and locking up resources. Just something to consider if you have similar issues...

    We actually have two Minis. When the first started going super slow, I did a clean install of the other one and then reloaded everything from the first one. Seems to go slow... so I'm figuring it ISN'T a dodgy cable. They were bought months apart so not even the same batch.

    I have noticed putting AdBlocker Plus onto Safari makes a difference. My partner reads lots of forums and the amount of ads that come up really slow things down. Also, has lots of tabs open. I use Firefox with lots of tabs and haven't noticed slowness on my Air or iMac. (Yeah there is an advantage in having lots of different hardware around to compare differences). My 2007 iMac still soldiers on (DVD drive stuffed, internal hard drive stuffed and screen has vertical darker lines - but it keeps on working day in, day out). It gets slow at times but nothing like the Mini. The iMac can't run Sierra. The Mini can. If I had to point the finger, I'd say Sierra has some impact. I might try High Sierra on one Mini and see if that fixes things. Lot of tinkering so hopefully might stumble on a fix soon... :)
     
  17. Beachguy macrumors 6502a

    Beachguy

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #17
    As you can see in my sig below, I bought a bunch of Macs around the same time years ago. The only one which seems amazingly sluggish is the mini, and it has always been that way, which is why I never used it much. It was my first Mac. By its processor, it should be adequate in performance, but for some reason it has always felt bogged down. I need to put an SSD in it to try seeing the difference...
     
  18. elliots11 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #18
    Sorry Campyguy, I just read it, the way your post in this thread read it appeared to only pertain to the 2 disk server model, which is not what I have. But after reading it, it sheds some light on the one disk setup that I do have, and something with the logic board limits the SATA speed, unless you have a drive fixed at SATA II. But then I figure that the Apple supplied drive was SATA II locked and it's not working well, so now it appears that using an SSD in the single disk model would be a waste of time as SATA I speeds seem to be the peak, and even though SATA I peaks at 150 MB/s theoretically, it's much lower in this case.
    Additionally I did try booting from the OEM Apple drive in the USB 3 Hard drive toaster, and when running the OS it was very slow, same 11 MB/s problem. I've been trying to test it as just a data disk without booting but it's not wanting to show up, so on with the troubleshooting. I'm beginning to think this Mini isn't worth the trouble and I should get another computer.
     
  19. campyguy macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2014
    Location:
    Portland / Seattle
    #19
    No, it pertains to non-Server 2012 Minis as well, Minis without the CD slot. Several non-Server Minis that I purchased had that issue, installing a SATA II-only drive addressed the speed issue, replacing the SATA I/II/III drive that was installed in the Mini. Lots of stuff about this on the interwebs, don't take it solely from me - urban legends about grabbing leftover components from the "back room." Some of the Minis had drives in the upper bay, some in the lower bay - that's why I posed that point. Yes, it's a PITA. Since they were for my business, I returned the single-drive Minis and bought Servers, of which I exchanged 3 with that same issue. Note, AFAIK all of the stock SSDs installed in Minis - Server and non-Server units - that year were the SATA II-only Toshiba units, a passive admission by Apple at the time there were controller issues. Since I was buying 8 Minis at the time, Apple's rep bent over backwards to accommodate me. An issue to deal with now is finding SATA II-only drives - it was hard 3-5 years ago, even more so now…

    With what I charge an hour, I wouldn't do this again for what I need in a Mini. I think I would pass on this task even if I wasn't busy billing to something else. System Information will list what that drive is, and what "speed" it's running at. Do that right now, otherwise you're wasting time. Mine show SATA 3, QED. The slower units I tried a few years ago showed SATA 2, and the drives were SATA 3 and from some reason slowed to SATA 1. I read in your OP that you have non-Server Mini, I wouldn't have wasted your time. Over and out. Good luck.
     
  20. elliots11 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #20
    Well the link speed shows 6 Gigabit, but it's dragging ass in spite of that. Earlier today it was humming and I did some web surfing and started a bluray rip (for a creative project, not anything shady), but then when I came back a little later to find out the system information it started dragging again worse than ever before, completely unusable, so I had to put off accessing system profile until now. I canceled the rip (which said it was going to take 34 days, highly unusual) to get the system info to work and it didn't change anything speedwise.
    Prior to that I tested the original Apple Hard drive in the toaster and new development there: it's showing up as completely blank, and I know I didn't erase it, so I'm glad I've got a clone, because it's dead.

    So right now the SSHD clone, inside the mini, is showing as having a 6 gigabit connection in system profile, but is super slow to respond to any input, and beachballing all the time. I don't think buying an SSD for this situation would be a wise use of resources as it'll probably still fail because it's not the disk's fault. I guess I could primarily use a USB3 external as suggested, but I don't know if I trust the computer with all my stuff.
     
  21. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #21
    OP wrote:
    "I guess I could primarily use a USB3 external as suggested, but I don't know if I trust the computer with all my stuff."

    For the THIRD time in this thread, I'm going to repeat my previous advice:

    Get a USB3 external SSD, connect that, set it up to be your external booter.

    This will SOLVE your problems.

    If you continue doing as you are now, so will the problems.

    that is all...
     
  22. elliots11 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #22
    Wanted to thank you guys for your help on this one. Yesterday I removed the hard drive entirely from the mini and put it in the ministack max that I already had (using a 2.5 to 3.5 drive adapter). The computer has run smoothly since, whereas before I could expect it to work fine, then mac mini would slow down for no apparent reason, either while I was working on it or after leaving it to sit while on for a while. I don't know 100% that it won't act up again in the next few days, but based on this level of improvement and the information you've shared I feel pretty confident that the root of this frustrating problem has been identified and solved.

    I'm sure it runs cooler too without that hard drive in there, so bonus. Also I checked the OEM HDD again and it's working again, not sure why it wasn't before but it's getting retired after this.

    I plan to get an SSD when I see a good deal on one, right now it's the SSHD clone, but it's running pretty smoothly like I'd expect a quad core machine with a spinning disk and 8GB of RAM to run, rather than beach balling on every click and becoming unusable, like it was doing before the hard drive removal surgery. I ran First Aid on the SSHD just in case that SATA controller did anything to it. It's all I ever wanted, I don't need this one to be a screamer, I have another machine for that, and not having to buy another computer is nice.

    I plan on giving this setup a shot, I don't expect any further problems, and hopefully that's the case. It doesn't look like a frankenstein machine since the enclosure matches the Mini, it basically looks like it did before and performs like it's supposed to, so I feel good about it. Thanks again for your help.
     
  23. wlossw macrumors 6502a

    wlossw

    Joined:
    May 9, 2012
    Location:
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    #23
    I have a 2012 non server i7 Mac mini. It has a 840pro ssd inside. It still runs flawlessly.
     
  24. elliots11 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2011
    #24
    I wonder if you maybe have a different SATA controller than I do, or if there's something about an SSD that the SATA Controller likes better, like a different protocol or something? It's a SATA III drive, so I guess it's possible it's just brute force SSD speed, but both my SSHD and HDD were having periods where they were running at 11 MB/s when inside the Mini, and the SSHD tests much faster than the original HDD when in an external enclosure, HDD 40 MB/s write/60 read, SSHD 66 MB/s Write, 120 Read.
     
  25. wlossw macrumors 6502a

    wlossw

    Joined:
    May 9, 2012
    Location:
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    #25
    I tried to boot Sierra from a spinning drive laste week (long story) it was so terrible that I bought a Samsung t5 external usb 3 ssd. Night and day.
     

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