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bladerunner616

macrumors member
Original poster
May 17, 2014
50
8
I have a 1TB Intel Mac Mini and want to upgrade to a newer M1 or M2 system.

I see good prices on the 256GB models.

There is only 324GB left available on my current system so I have a lot more data than a 256GB can hold.

I am totally okay with getting an external drive for the new computer but can I transfer everything to the new system since the base configuration is only 256GB?

Thanks.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Penryn
Feb 20, 2009
28,643
12,760
"can I transfer everything to the new system since the base configuration is only 256GB?"

Ummm....

You have at least 600gb of space used up on your Mini now.

You're not going to "transfer everything" to a new Mini with 256gb.
256gb translates into about 210gb in "real space" when you consider you must leave SOME of that drive free for vm and temp files, etc. Some of the "256" gb will also be lost to formatting.

Get the new Mini with a 1tb drive.
If you do not do this, I predict you're going to become quite unhappy very quickly.
 

russell_314

macrumors 603
Feb 10, 2019
6,086
9,055
USA
Get the new Mini with a 1tb drive.
If you do not do this, I predict you're going to become quite unhappy very quickly.
I second this. Also even if you do manage to run it close to capacity an SSD with no free space runs like a snail.


If you think you can do this then by an external SSD and do it with your current Mac mini. Move whatever files and pretend your internal drive is capped at about 200 GB. If you can keep it up for an extended period of time then maybe it would work.
 
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bladerunner616

macrumors member
Original poster
May 17, 2014
50
8
So you guys are saying even if I buy an external drive for the new system I can’t make it work as-is?
 

russell_314

macrumors 603
Feb 10, 2019
6,086
9,055
USA
So you guys are saying even if I buy an external drive for the new system I can’t make it work as-is?
You can't fit almost 1 TB of data on a 256 GB drive. The question is how much of it can be stored on an external drive. This is why I said try it with your existing Mac mini. If you can do it with that then you can do it with the new one. Why risk buying something then finding out it's not going to work

I don't what is taking up your space. If you have a massive video collection that could easily be put on an external SSD then no problem but if it's a bunch of apps that need to be on the system driven then you have a problem
 
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okkibs

macrumors 6502a
Sep 17, 2022
975
919
You can move all the files from your user's home directory onto the external drive. Applications and some app data must remain on the internal drive. That means the data stored in the Library folder inside your user's home directory must also stay on the internal SSD.

In effect that means you can absolutely buy a 250GB Mini and use it with an external SSD that you keep plugged in all the time - I would do it that way myself if I wanted to save money. The downside is you really must make sure not to store any user data on the internal drive on purpose.

For a 250GB drive about 200GB will be usable, then 50-150GB will be used up by the apps and for best performance everything that remains should be left unused.

You can check this on your current Mini right now, click on your user folder in Finder and press CMD+i to get the total size. Then do the same on the (by default hidden) Library folder inside. Finally, check the size of the applications folder.

Library folder size + application folder size is the amount of space you cannot move to the external SSD. As long as that is 150GB or less, it will work.

User folder size minus the Library folder that is inside is what you can move to the external SSD.

Again, it's not an issue to do it this way, but you will have a couple of drawbacks. You can't use the Desktop anymore to store files, as that will always go to the internal SSD. You can't use any of the pre-defined storage paths, so whenever you save a file and the save dialogue pops up and suggests a default location, you'll have to browse to the external SSD.

Just don't let the internal SSD run anywhere close to full. MacOS and the apps go into undefined behaviour territory when that happens, for example e-mail sync has messed up my IMAP synced mailboxes before when I ran out of space. You need to leave at the very least 50GB unused. Some of it will be used by MacOS for temporary swap space sometimes, that can be anywhere from 2-20GB.
 

August West

macrumors 6502
Aug 23, 2009
346
395
Land of Enchantment
My soon to be replaced 2012 has a 256GB SSD I added right after I bought it. When that started to get filled up I used the OEM HDD that I had removed as an external drive in an enclosure and moved all my media to it. Later, I replace that with a 2TB HDD which still has about 1TB unused. That freed up a lot of space on my internal SSD so today I have about 100GB free without even trying to keep the size down. The external drives aren't very fast but for media storage they are fine, at least for me.

That being said my new M2 mini which will be here this week has a 512GB drive. More than I need but since it can't be replaced like the 2012 (boo Apple) I figured I get the extra space since I keep my machines a long time.

As somebody suggested I'd try it out on your current machine before committing to the smaller drive on the new mini.
 

fuchsdh

macrumors 68020
Jun 19, 2014
2,021
1,820
So you guys are saying even if I buy an external drive for the new system I can’t make it work as-is?
You can, it just depends if you're willing to live with the compromises. For me, I have a 1TB Intel mini, but I could fit on a 256 GB if I needed because I have a Samsung T SSD hanging off the back. It's cheap, reasonably fast, and doesn't really take up a ton of room (bus powered.) But with just 256GB you're going to need to be much more proactive about managing your storage. Some people hate that.
 

BaggieBoy

macrumors 6502a
May 29, 2012
654
348
UK
I have a 256GB M1 Mac mini but my Music and TV libraries are now on 2 external USB 3.x connected 1TB SSD drives. Thunderbolt 3 would be a bit quicker but USB 3.x seems good enough. This was an upgrade from a 2011 Mac mini that had all internal storage (system SSD + 2TB hybrid drive).
 

Whyy

macrumors regular
Sep 20, 2022
102
108
One thing to keep in mind is that if you have a lot of files stored in iCloud Drive, (over 256GB) that can pose a problem also.

I was able to successfully store my music library on external storage but I still ran into issues with low space on my M1 Mac Mini 256GB. The problem is iCloud. With OneDrive it’s a lot easier to offload files and keep them offloaded. With iCloud, you can go through your files and manually offload them, only to find that the system has turned around and downloaded too many GB worth of files and once again you’re running out of storage on the Mini. And the cycle just repeats itself over and over.

It gets tiresome, fast.

At this point I wouldn’t recommend anyone purchase a 256GB Mac unless you have very low storage usage in iCloud and keep almost next to nothing on your computer.
 

FFabian

macrumors regular
Aug 26, 2010
157
172
Bochum, Germany
It’ll work. Many people do it that way but it is not for everyone. It highly depends on the kind of data you have and how it is used. If the data are media files (picture, videos, music) it is safe to assume you can put them on an external drive.
 

hajime

macrumors 604
Jul 23, 2007
7,856
1,290
Again, it's not an issue to do it this way, but you will have a couple of drawbacks. You can't use the Desktop anymore to store files, as that will always go to the internal SSD. You can't use any of the pre-defined storage paths, so whenever you save a file and the save dialogue pops up and suggests a default location, you'll have to browse to the external SSD.

Just don't let the internal SSD run anywhere close to full. MacOS and the apps go into undefined behaviour territory when that happens, for example e-mail sync has messed up my IMAP synced mailboxes before when I ran out of space. You need to leave at the very least 50GB unused. Some of it will be used by MacOS for temporary swap space sometimes, that can be anywhere from 2-20GB.

Do you mean no saving of files on Desktop?

From what you described, it looks like getting the 256GB SSD version is like creating troubles for oneself. I got a base model Mac but on the 3rd day when I tried to copy some backup files to it, I already got an out of storage error.
 

hajime

macrumors 604
Jul 23, 2007
7,856
1,290
It’ll work. Many people do it that way but it is not for everyone. It highly depends on the kind of data you have and how it is used. If the data are media files (picture, videos, music) it is safe to assume you can put them on an external drive.

What kind of data and usage method will have problem?
 

bobcomer

macrumors 601
May 18, 2015
4,949
3,694
What kind of data and usage method will have problem?
Anything that needs high performance. Externals are SLOW compared to internals unless you spend way more money on the external as you did on the internal and it probably still wont be as fast. TB/USB ports are a big limiting factor...
 
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