NAS or AirPort Extreme options for external drives w/ MacBook

marekkurlmann

macrumors regular
Original poster
Mar 6, 2007
108
1
I use four external drives with my MacBook Pro for my iTunes library, backup, and large file storage. Right now, the drives are in external enclosures and are connected via USB. This situation is getting difficult to manage: The drives are sometimes accidentally disconnected (by a loose connection), and I often want to unteather myself from cables. This has led me to explore ditching the cable altogether.

Here are my goals:

1. Avoid mounting/unmounting the drives when I move the MacBook from my office to another location in the house.

2. Not sacrifice too much speed.

Would an NAS setup work for my purposes? If so, can you recommend a product? What kinds of speeds can I expect? This is for casual home use. I don't need a professional-grade system and don't want to spend professional amounts of money.

What about hooking up the drives to an AirPort Extreme router? If this is an option, would I be able to use a hub to use four drives at once? And what kind of speeds can I expect here? I have a 2007-vintage Airport Extreme that I can get my hands on (http://amzn.com/B000UZCR56) but won't be too disappointed if I'd need to buy a newer model.

If there are any other options you'd suggest, I'm open to them.

Thanks!
 

ColdCase

macrumors 68030
Feb 10, 2008
2,960
142
NH
Until recently Airport Extremes were not that stable with multiple drives. If you go this route I'd get the most recent generation, or a Time Capsule.

You can run multiple drives into a powered hub and then into a time capsule or airport extreme. Spinning up sleeping drives tends to work better with a single drive, attached, however.

The synology SYDS212JK2 is a nice NAS for home use. You can install two drives internally and it has two USB ports. If I had it to do over again, however, I would pick up a refurbbed mac mini and hang drives off of it. A little more money but more solid for backing up via time machine.

There is no inexpensive solution. There is an app that will dismount all you drives when asleep, so that you can close the lid, unplug and go mobile.

Any of these will stream video from the central drives. Editing photos or video may be slower than you like, however.
 
Last edited:

danny_w

macrumors 601
Mar 8, 2005
4,383
120
Austin, TX
Until recently Airport Extremes were not that stable with multiple drives. If you go this route I'd get the most recent generation, or a Time Capsule.

You can run multiple drives into a powered hub and then into a time capsule or airport extreme. Spinning up sleeping drives tends to work better with a single drive, attached, however.

The synology SYDS212JK2 is a nice NAS for home use. You can install two drives internally and it has two USB ports. If I had it to do over again, however, I would pick up a refurbbed mac mini and hang drives off of it. A little more money but more solid for backing up via time machine.

There is no inexpensive solution. There is an app that will dismount all you drives when asleep, so that you can close the lid, unplug and go mobile.

Any of these will stream video from the central drives. Editing photos or video may be slower than you like, however.
The mac mini would also provide MUCH faster transfer speeds unless NAS vendors have managed to vastly increase their speeds since I last was in the market. The biggest problem to me with most home NAS units (and especially with the Airport Extreme/Time Capsule) is that they are very slow. Perhaps fast enough for your needs (certainly fast enough for streaming movies) but editing anything is going to seem slow compared to your directly-connected drives, even if they are USB2. I have a Time Capsule for Time Machine and an external drive hanging off of it for ChronoSync backups, but not for live editing. Just my 2 cents, YMMV.
 

IlikeMacsSoMuch

macrumors 6502
Dec 30, 2009
346
2
Blainville, Province of Quebec
I have never used a NAS since I'm on mac because it doesn't work natively with Time Machine. Like other said before, buy a refurbed Mac mini and plug your external HDD in it. This is what I did and having a fully functional mac as a server is awesome! It serves all my media files through iTunes, serves as a Time Capsule and handles all my family's IOS libraries in one place. And it is plugged into an HDTV so it is used as an HTPC as well.

And I did not even install OSX server on it yet. So, you can't go wrong with a Mac Mini. It is a more expensive solution but you get what you pay for.
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,089
444
Elkton, Maryland
I use four external drives with my MacBook Pro for my iTunes library, backup, and large file storage. Right now, the drives are in external enclosures and are connected via USB. This situation is getting difficult to manage: The drives are sometimes accidentally disconnected (by a loose connection), and I often want to unteather myself from cables. This has led me to explore ditching the cable altogether.

Here are my goals:

1. Avoid mounting/unmounting the drives when I move the MacBook from my office to another location in the house.

2. Not sacrifice too much speed.

Would an NAS setup work for my purposes? If so, can you recommend a product? What kinds of speeds can I expect? This is for casual home use. I don't need a professional-grade system and don't want to spend professional amounts of money.

What about hooking up the drives to an AirPort Extreme router? If this is an option, would I be able to use a hub to use four drives at once? And what kind of speeds can I expect here? I have a 2007-vintage Airport Extreme that I can get my hands on (http://amzn.com/B000UZCR56) but won't be too disappointed if I'd need to buy a newer model.

If there are any other options you'd suggest, I'm open to them.

Thanks!
I would not even consider using the USB port on any router for that matter. Any router is already carrying a load on the CPU of network traffic and attached drives are generally slowed by the USB controller in the router. If you get a NAS with a gigabit ethernet port, then you are good to go. Unless you are getting a smoking deal on the 2007 AirPort Extreme, I highly recommend the new models.
 

crazyxzer0

macrumors 6502
Oct 28, 2008
369
4
I currently have 2x 1TB external western digitals connected to a 7port usb2.0 hub that is connected to the Airport Extreme (previous generation). It works and I get about 10-12MB/sec over the Wireless N WiFi.


However I believe the better solution would be a Synology 412. It's not cheap so this will have to do for now. I'm looking into a NAS solution when I upgrade to AC WiFi.
 

ColdCase

macrumors 68030
Feb 10, 2008
2,960
142
NH
Synology NAS's work natively with Time Machine.
They seem to work fine until you need to recover from the backup :) The isues seem to start when your backup gets so large TimeMachine has to start pruning. But there are some here that swear by the synology time machine function. Personally I wouldn't depend on it, however.
 

blueroom

macrumors 603
Feb 15, 2009
6,374
25
Toronto, Canada
They seem to work fine until you need to recover from the backup :) The isues seem to start when your backup gets so large TimeMachine has to start pruning. But there are some here that swear by the synology time machine function. Personally I wouldn't depend on it, however.
I've restored several Macs from my Synology's time machine backup. No problem.
 

ColdCase

macrumors 68030
Feb 10, 2008
2,960
142
NH
I've restored several Macs from my Synology's time machine backup. No problem.
Count your blessings, the net is full of those not so lucky :)

Were any of them pruned (maxed out on disk space to the point timemachine was throwing away older files) ?

Or where 4 or 5 Macs were backing up to the same drive?