Soundproofing external hard drive?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by badlydrawnboy, Oct 31, 2014.

  1. badlydrawnboy macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    I just ordered a retina iMac, upgrading from a 2013 i7 iMac. On the 2013 I had a 3 TB Fusion Drive. I do a lot of photography, so I decided to upgrade my storage as well with the new machine. I got a 512 GB internal flash, and then I got a Thunderbay IV external enclosure and put 2x 1 TB SSDs in a RAID-0 in it along with two 4 TB HDDs for backup.

    What I didn't account for in all of this is how LOUD the external enclosure is. I read reviews and they all praised the Thunderbay for being quiet, so maybe I'm just spoiled from having the iMac only before. Even with the Fusion drive (not flash), it was still far, far quieter than the external enclosure. And that's with the enclosure sitting on the ground under my desk. I was even (naively, as it turns out) looking forward to the new setup being quieter because of the flash drive in the retina iMac I ordered.

    I'm super noise sensitive, so I'm even considering returning everything (or selling what I can't return) and going back to a Fusion iMac without external 4-bay enclosure.

    I'm also thinking of getting a longer TB cable and putting the enclosure on the other side of the room, but those cables aren't cheap!

    Is there any way I can dampen the sound of the enclosure with some kind of insulation/foam without obstructing the fan and melting the drives?
  2. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    Get an all-SSD external solution such as the LaCie little big disk, which is near-silent, and then have backups on a NAS which can be located in another room. All my server gear, switches, modems, printers, NAS, UPS, and so on is in a cupboard behind the chimney breast in the centre of the house.
  3. seasurfer macrumors 6502a

    Dec 12, 2007
    Gotta be really expensive.
  4. Andune macrumors member

    Jun 8, 2009
    Is it the fan or vibrations from the drives making the noise? If it's the drives (try lifting up the enclosure of the surface its standing on and see if it improves) you might be able to improve it by placing it on another surface.
  5. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    Not massively, considering the OP was talking about twin 1Tb SSDs, 4Tb drives, and a ThunderbayIV.
  6. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    Yes, the twin 1TB SSDs plus Thunderbay IV were about $1k. I already had two 4 TB drives. The LaCie is $1,300 but that is only for 1 TB (although it's blazing fast).

    I'm not that familiar with NAS. What would you recommend for something simple that is just used for back up? Is it possible to get a NAS that I can use my two 4 TB drives in?


    Unfortunately it seems like it's mostly the fan. Most people probably wouldn't complain about the noise; it's not THAT bad. But I'm really sensitive to noise, and after using the iMac with only the fusion Drive, this seems loud.
  7. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    I read a little about using NAS for backup. Seems downside is you can't make a bootable clone of the startup drive. That's something that has saved me a lot of time once or twice in the past.
  8. adww12321 macrumors member

    Dec 24, 2012
  9. Scott6666 macrumors 65816


    Feb 2, 2008
    Long cord under the desk hides the vibrations for me. I have a lacie and a western digital. The LaCie is much louder for some reason. And it's the drive that's louder not the fan. Never know when you're gonna lose the loud drive lottery. Test during your return period and don't be afraid to swap out if you get a vibrating one.
  10. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    It's the newer one. I checked the link and it says all units shipped after March 2014 have the quieter fan.

    I tried putting the Thunderbay on the other side of the room and it's still pretty darn loud. I think I may need to get a LaCie Big or something like that and an NAS that I put in the closet of my office or something. I don't think I will be able to easily run an Ethernet cable into another room from my office.

    But what do I do for a bootable clone of the internal drive? Maybe an SSD external drive attached by USB 3?
  11. adww12321 macrumors member

    Dec 24, 2012
    That's what they say, but i'm not sure they are right -- mine was a week old, the fan wasn't a Zalmann (or at least wasn't labeled as such -- it was a generic fan.)

    They sent me a new Zalmann fan at no cost because the issue was driving me nuts.

    I just purchased that Noctua as well, i'm going to install it next week just as a test; it pushes as much air as the Zalmann, but is much quieter, and is speed-adjustable.
  12. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    Here's what I'm thinking, would appreciate your feedback.

    Return the Thunderbay 4, 2x Samsung EVO 1 TB drives. That would put about $1,500 in my pocket.

    Get the LaCie Big, use this for photos/media. $1,400

    Use my existing 2x 4 TB HDDs along with a couple of OWC Mercury Elite Pro USB 3.0 enclosures. I've been using one of these to back up my current iMac, but forgot I have another in the closet. They are pretty quiet, so I think if I use a 15 foot USB cable and put the drives on the other side of the room I will not hear them at all. I can use one 4 TB drive partitioned to clone the boot drive and media/photos, and the other for TM backup. The only additional cost here would be for the USB cables, which would be less than $100.

    I think this would be near silent operation, with the fantastic read/write speed of the LaCie big as a bonus--and at no additional cost than what I've already spent. I don't really need a 4-bay Thunderbolt external enclosure; don't know why I didn't think of this before.
  13. adww12321 macrumors member

    Dec 24, 2012
    It looks like it would work, i would only worry about the stability of USB 3.0 vs. Thunderbolt (my experience with USB 3.0 hasn't been great.)

    Later in the week, i'm replacing the 92mm fan on the thunder bay with a 120mm, ultra-slowmoving fan; the adapter is like $10, the silent fan another $20. It may be the best $30 mod for anyone who is worried about noise pollution...
  14. Chippy99 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 28, 2012
    What a bizarre comment. Why would anyone worry about the "stability" of USB3? Is it very wobbly or something?

    Seriously, there's nothing wrong with USB3, it is 100% rock solid and certainly not anything to be concerned about.
  15. nrubenstein macrumors 6502

    Aug 5, 2008
    Washington, DC
    Aside from the annoyance of constant drive disconnects. Admittedly, this is probably because of how ****** almost all USB enclosures are, but...
  16. adww12321 macrumors member

    Dec 24, 2012
    I beg to differ. I've gotten disconnects numerous times from USB enclosures, particularly when under load. This is about as unstable as you can get.

    Whether this is due to the interface specification, or the dubious implementation of the standard by enclosure manufacturers makes no difference practically -- if you are doing real work with mass storage and use a mac, get a thunderbolt enclosure.
  17. Chippy99, Nov 3, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014

    Chippy99 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 28, 2012
    That's tripe. Get a USB3 enclosure that works properly. Or a Thunderbolt one that works properly.

    I do not recommend USB3 enclosures that don't work properly. Neither do I recommend Thunderbolt enclosures that don't work properly. They are no better.

    I've been running ALL my data off external USB3 drives for about 2 years now without so much as a glitch. Like most other folks who do the same.

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