New to Macbooks. Best SSD External drive for my Macbook. Photographer using to transfer and edit

Has78

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 28, 2011
9
6
Hi,

I've got a 2015 Macbook Pro retina 15inch. I want to purchase an ssd external drive. I'm a photographer and I transfer files often between my external hard drive and Macbook Pro. Disclaimer that I'm totally new to Macbooks (switched from pc). I hoping to maximize transfer times between my external drive to my Macbook.

With the terminology I'm not sure if I need to get an ssd external drive with thunderbolt or just an ssd drive without it. Is one faster than the other?

Forgive my ignorance on this and thank you for any advice.
 

New_Mac_Smell

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Oct 17, 2016
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Thunderbolt 2 SSD will be your fastest option. USB 3 SSD will be reasonably fast (probably just as fast for your use). USB 3 HDD will be good. Question is whether the peak sustained transfer speed can be maintained or not, which is where branding comes in. If you buy cheap expect slow. So don't get that off brand thing that's super cheap on eBay. Expect to pay a fair few hundred at least for a Thunderbolt SSD, and probably worthwhile grabbing a Thunderbolt 3 one if you're spending (Or get a cheaper used TB2).

Reviews like this are a good start https://www.cnet.com/topics/storage/best-hard-drives-and-storage/thunderbolt-drives/
 

Mr. Dee

macrumors 68020
Dec 4, 2003
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Samsungs new T5 2 TB SSD external using USB C and USB 3.1 Gen 2 interfaces. PC World recommends you buy two and keep your data backup because their testing experienced a couple failures. I would personally stick with a regular mechanical USB C support external though.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,123
6,562
USB3 is all you need.
Fast and cheap.
Either buy a "bare drive" and an enclosure (and build it yourself, easy), or get a "ready-to-go" drive.
 

Clix Pix

macrumors demi-goddess
I have used both Samsung's T1 and T3 external SSDs for some time now and am planning to purchase at least one T5 when they become more readily available. Very fast, very portable, and in my case, so far they have been very reliable as well. I use them with both a 2015 MBP with "legacy" USB-A ports and with a 12" MB with the USB-C port, and they are very convenient for travel as well as around home. I use them for transferring photo and document files from one machine to the other and also for backup and supplementary drives, and prefer them now to external drives with HDD although I still use those as well because of the larger capacities available for storage purposes.
 

ZapNZs

macrumors 68020
Jan 23, 2017
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I'm far from an expert so this is my personal opinion...

Depending on how much data you are transferring, a Thunderbolt 2 drive could be a wise investment or a completely unnecessary expense, IMO.

  • What size external SSD do you think you want? (500 GB, 1TB, 2TB?)
  • Are you transferring many smaller files or fewer larger files?
  • How much data would you estimate you transfer per-day? (in GB)
  • Is cost or longevity more important?

Thunderbolt 2 can support stupidly fast PCIe SSDs - but often at a prohibitively high price (think several hundred to a thousand dollars or more depending on the specifics.) This comes with the benefit of being TRIM-capable, but usually at the expense of being relatively large and often requiring an external power source (so it is not very portable.) Of the limited models that are bus powered, they are extremely limited in capacity and are still quite bulky because of heat dissipation requirements. Speeds approaching 1,500 MB/s are quite possible.

USB 3.1 gen 1 (what you have, which was formally called USB 3.0 SuperSpeed) can support fast SSDs that use the SATA interface. USB on the Mac does not support TRIM, although the necessity is somewhat debated (I'm a believer in it.) These SSDs are bus-powered and can be as small as the size of a business card - so they are highly portable. They are also much more affordable. Their transfer rates will be more in the ballpark of 250-450 MB/s.

If you go with a USB SSD, you have two options: purchase a completed external USB SSD (such as the Samsung T3, T5, or ADATA 700) or purchase an internal SATA SSD (such as the Crucial MX300, Samsung 850 EVO, Samsung 850 PRO, or Transcend 370) and a USB-C enclosure (such as Oyen Digital USB-C enclosure, this Orico USB-c, this Aukey USB-C [all of which you can use on your current system with a USB-A-->USB-C cable and I'd argue one should favor USB-C because it is a better connector than USB micro and more future proof]) separately and then put the internal SSD in the enclosure to make your own external SSD (the process is easy.) Sometimes you can piece together a SSD that uses 'better' NAND (the memory inside the drive) and comes with a longer warranty for not a whole lot more than the price of a pre-made model. For example, the fully completed 500 GB Samsung T5 is priced at $200 - it uses 3D TLC NAND and has a 3 year warranty (it will probably be a fantastic SSD.) The Samsung 850 PRO internal SSD is priced at $225-240 depending on the source - it uses the desirable 3D MLC NAND and has a 10 year warranty. For some, the relatively small price difference might be justifiable for what they get in return. Many pre-made SSDs are more physically compact in size than what you would get from piecing together an internal SATA SSD + a USB enclosure.

For reference, I would estimate that a standard 5400 RPM 2.5-inch (laptop-sized + bus-powered) HDD (spinning disk drive) can transfer data around 70-100 MB/s (plus it has latency, which SSDs do not.) Some 7500 RPM 2.5-inch HDDs are closer to 90-135 MB/s. Some 3.5-inch desktop-class HDDs (which require their own dedicated power source) are much faster. Some enterprise class 7500 RPM HDDs can transfer data upwards of 270 MB/s. This might help give you an idea of whether or not a USB-SATA SSD will meet your needs, or if a TB2 SSD might be a better match?

====================
If your current external hard drive is older or smaller (which I assume is an external HDD, or spinning disk drive), then I would recommend purchasing two different physical drives: an external SSD and external HDD. (If your current drive is large enough and young/healthy enough, you could use it as well.)

The first drive would be the external SSD where you would store your files on that you may not keep a redundant copy of on your MBP's local drive (and vice versa.) As the external SSD and internal SSD would both have unique data on them, on their own this is not a backup solution given, if one fails, you could lose important data and you might have a rough time getting set back up once the failed drive/system is replaced.

Enter the second drive. This other drive would be an external HDD that would be configured to back up both your external SSD as well as the local SSD inside the MBP (either using something like TimeMachine, Carbon Copy, Cloner, etc.) This way you would have at least two copies of your important files.

However, even that isn't ideal if you have files you really cherish, given both mediums would be prone to environmental damage (e.g., flood, fire, power surge, theft) since they are usually stored essentially in the same location, plus HDDs and SSDs fail all the time, and while a simultaneous failure is not common, it's also not unheard of. If you also use cloud storage, this third offsite backup gives you even better data integrity by accounting for many causes of data loss that the above external SSD and external HDD cannot on their own.

(If you already have a backup plan in place, I apologize for the redundancy.)
 
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HaddockW

macrumors member
Aug 4, 2017
41
22
San Francisco
I'm personally going to get this one:

https://www.amazon.com/Inateck-Alum...=1502914799&sr=8-4&keywords=inateck+enclosure

It's aluminum, and the company has several products on Amazon so I think I can trust them.
I'd get this one. In fact, I have. Better future proof USB 3.1 gen vs USB 3.0. I popped in a Sandisk Extreme SSD and I get around 480 reads /440 writes on a 2016 MB Pro using the USB-C cable.

https://www.amazon.com/Inateck-Encl...=1502980951&sr=1-4&keywords=USB+3.1+enclosure
 

jerryk

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Nov 3, 2011
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What about a personal network drive? Has anyone have any experience or considered that as an option?
What do you mean by a personal network drive?

I have a NAS that at one time was network accessible for remote backup. I turned that off since I did not like the idea of drilling holes in my router's firewall. There are enough security exploits out there without me adding others.
 

zone23

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May 10, 2012
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What about a personal network drive? Has anyone have any experience or considered that as an option?
I personally backup to both a Western Digital MyCloud (3GB) and a SSD (OCZ 480GB) external drive. I actually have a lot of backups because the MyCloud backs to another external drive (WD 2GB) that I just leave plugged in and then I have another external drive that I leave at the office (500GB Toshiba disk) all the time just in case the house burns down or gets robbed. So I have the MyCloud network drive (it uses Time Capsule) and 3 external drives. Confusing..
 

MDMachiavelli

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Mar 14, 2015
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Just to clarify, I wasn't insinuating that was an option but asking.

If NAS stands for network attached storage then I guess that is what I was talking about. I have always heard them called personal clouds.

.
 

zone23

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May 10, 2012
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Just to clarify, I wasn't insinuating that was an option but asking.

If NAS stands for network attached storage then I guess that is what I was talking about. I have always heard them called personal clouds.

.
The WD MyCloud is a NAS I think most NAS are personal clouds too. The only issue with a NAS or personal cloud is portability they are generally larger in size mine for example has a mechanical disk in it. The upside is you can connect to it as long as internet is available for example I could use mine to backup photos on my iPhone just like iCloud does.
 

MDMachiavelli

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Mar 14, 2015
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The WD MyCloud is a NAS I think most NAS are personal clouds too. The only issue with a NAS or personal cloud is portability they are generally larger in size mine for example has a mechanical disk in it. The upside is you can connect to it as long as internet is available for example I could use mine to backup photos on my iPhone just like iCloud does.

What about security?
 

zone23

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May 10, 2012
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I'm like you I didn't see it as that big of an issue. The reason I asked is because of post #15.
Yeah well if someone wants in your network they are going to get in not much you can do. I don't think a couple extra open ports is going to make or break it. Most modern printers are probably more vulnerable.
 

jerryk

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Nov 3, 2011
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Yeah well if someone wants in your network they are going to get in not much you can do. I don't think a couple extra open ports is going to make or break it. Most modern printers are probably more vulnerable.
I disagree. Home network security is based on some basic principals, including:
  • Buy your own routers, don't use the ones from your ISP (ex. Comcast, AT&T). Don't buy Comcast cable modems. These may have default "maintenance" accounts whose passwords are well known. Also Comcast charges $5/mo for a cable modem forever. Better to buy you own for $80.
  • Change password on routers from defaults
  • Disable WPS for Wifi
  • Disable/delete any device default accounts, define your own for things like guests, etc.
  • Do not open up ports in firewalls by enabling services you "might" need.
  • Update the router firmware often
  • use complex passwords and change them regularly
  • Use HTTPS for all connections.
 
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zone23

macrumors 68000
May 10, 2012
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I disagree. Network security is based on some basic principals, including:
  • Buy your own routers, don't use the ones from you ISP (ex. Comcast, AT&T). Don't buy Comcast cable modems.
  • Change password on routers from defaults
  • Disable WPS
  • Disable/delete any default accounts, define your own for things like guests, etc.
  • Do not open up ports in firewalls by enabling services you "might" needs.
  • Update the router firmware often
  • use complex passwords and change them regularly
  • Use HTTPS for all connections.
You make all valid points but we both know that routers are based on Linux (or UNIX) and unless updated regularly all have vulnerabilities (like Android) with zero day vulnerabilities too so its not all "that" secure ask Hillary. Your devices need to be updated and secured as well which most manufactures don't do (baby monitors).
 

jerryk

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Nov 3, 2011
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You make all valid points but we both know that routers are based on Linux (or UNIX) and unless updated regularly all have vulnerabilities (like Android) with zero day vulnerabilities too so its not all "that" secure ask Hillary. Your devices need to be updated and secured as well which most manufactures don't do (baby monitors).
Agreed. That is why I listed these as basic steps. Securing devices like cameras and such are also part of the game and need to be done in addition to the basic steps.
 

New_Mac_Smell

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Oct 17, 2016
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Just to clarify, I wasn't insinuating that was an option but asking.

If NAS stands for network attached storage then I guess that is what I was talking about. I have always heard them called personal clouds.

.
A NAS and personal cloud are different. A NAS is simply network attached storage, it's a hard drive connected to the network (Intranet), for the average consumer it'll be relatively slow however a good backup/archive solution. A personal cloud on the other hand is connected outwards to the internet, and is accessible outside the network. I never use a personal cloud because I have dropbox etc. which provide a much faster and more stable/secure connection.

Unless it's a high end server grade computer with SSDs and a 10gig ethernet connection, it'll be relatively slow. A fixed HDD is always a much faster way of transferring data. But, I love NASs for the simplicity and always connected behaviour, they make fantastic backup options as it negates the need to find it and plug it in (Which causes you to not backup).

OP: Things depend on how 'fast' you want it vs. how 'fast' you need it vs. how much you're happy to pay. A TB3 SSD will be lightning fast, cost a fortune, and arguably provide little actual benefit as I'm assuming you're transferring hundreds of smaller individual raw files? A USB3 SSD will probably be your best all round option. I'm personally still using an older WD USB3 HDD and find the transfer speed absolutely fine, I can wait a few extra minutes and grab a coffee when backing up images, and this thing was closer to £40 than the £400 it'd cost to gain those extra minutes (Plus I like coffee).

Basically, work out your budget and what you're happy to spend, and then seek the fastest within that, but again stick with branded to get somewhere near advertised speeds.
 
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