Talk me out of this setup?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Febs, Feb 21, 2019.

  1. Febs macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #1
    Hi all,

    New poster but long time Mac fan (about 31 years...starting with a 128k!)

    I've been chugging along with a Late 2012 Mac Mini for a while now, and it's finally time to upgrade. I more or less do pretty basic home user stuff, but have a reasonably big (few hundred gb) photos library, and do a bit of Photoshop work. No video stuff, no gaming. The late 2012 Mini is OK, but it just get pretty slow with Photos and Photoshop from time to time, especially with 2 users logged in.

    I'm leaning towards the 3.0GHz 6-core i5, with 256gb storage (I'll buy 32gb RAM too, but not from Apple, and I plan to buy a 1Tb Samsung X5 Thunderbolt 3 external SSD too). But I just have a few concerns / thoughts before I spend the money, and would love some input from the community:

    - I have a 1Tb drive at the moment and I'm using 750gb. 520gb of that is in the user folders, about 30gb is taken up with OS and apps, and the remaining 200gb is....I don't know! Even checking hidden files, I can't really see anything which makes up the missing 200gb. I don't have a lot of iOS backups, iCloud Drive local storage is counted in the aforementioned 520gb...so not sure where the remainder is gone.

    My plan is to use the 256gb internal SSD for OS and apps, and the external 1Tb SSD for data - home folders, photos and so on. I know the 1Tb will be enough, but with my "system" seemingly taking up 230gb today, I'm a bit concerned about the 256gb SSD, even though I can't work out what 200gb of that is made up of!

    - As someone who mainly does home user tasks, a lot of Photos work and a little bit of Photoshop, would I be better with the faster clock speed (but 4-core) i3, or the slower clock speed (but 6-core) i5? Geekbench scores suggest the i5, but I'd love to hear any thoughts.

    Appreciate any thoughts...as unfortunately once these two options are set, they can't be changed!

    Many thanks in advance.

    Cheers,
    Febs.
     
  2. F-Train, Feb 21, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019

    F-Train macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2015
    Location:
    NYC & Newfoundland
    #2
    If the mystery 200GB shows as “System”, the size varies with how much spare disk space there is and it isn’t anything to worry about. However, I’m talking about recent Macs with an SSD internal drive. I don’t know about 2012 Macs, what version of macOS you are using or what your internal drive is.

    Given that the difference in price between i3 and i5 minis with a 256GB internal drive is $100, and that both are apparently now available refurbished, it seems to me that the i5 makes sense.
     
  3. rmdeluca macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2018
    #3
  4. pl1984 macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    #4
    Given the tasks you've outlined I suspect you're not going to see any earth shattering performance increases over your current Mini. At least not inline with what you will spend for the new one.

    What is the configuration of your current Mini? If you don't already have an SSD in your current Mini I would recommend getting one. RAM might be something to consider if you're not maxed out and Activity Monitor shows high memory pressure. If you feel you've "lost" 200GB then perhaps all you need do is back up all your information and reinstall the OS. See how it performs.
     
  5. Stephen.R macrumors 6502a

    Stephen.R

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2018
    Location:
    Thailand
    #5
    For the missing space issue, I'd suggest OmniDiskSweeper. It'll tell you exactly where space is used on the disk, if you find stuff you aren't sure what it means, post back with the path to the directories taking up all the space.

    Also keep in mind, if you want to use the bigger external disk for data that normally goes in your user Home folder (e.g. Photos library, iTunes library) you can just move them to the external disk and point the appropriate app at the new library location - no need to mess around changing user home folders.
     
  6. Febs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #6
    Many thanks everyone!

    Thanks, it shows up as “Documents” which is odd. I should have mentioned - it’s the standard HDD (not SSD) which came with the Mini back in 2012.

    Perhaps I need a third party disk analysis tool.

    Thanks!

    Did a reformat and reinstall just recently (with minimal restoration - mostly a new install and reinstallation of apps from scratch just to ensure its nice and clean). It’s still slow unfortunately, which I put down to being almost 7 years old now. RAM is maxed out and I have to admit, I thought the HDD wasn’t replaceable, but I see I’m wrong there.

    Realise an SSD would probably make a big difference, but then how much longer do I stick with a machine that’s already 7 years old? I think it’s had a pretty good run (the last machine that lasted that long for me was a Mac Pro), so I’m happy to upgrade and get new everything.

    Thanks for the app recommendation.

    RE: External disk storage, wouldn’t it be better to “officially” have the home folders on the ext drive, so it becomes the default storage location for everything? Seems pretty easy to change the location of the home
    Folder in system prefs? Or are there some hidden potential issues in doing that?

    Thanks!

    Cheers
    Febs.
     
  7. Stephen.R macrumors 6502a

    Stephen.R

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2018
    Location:
    Thailand
    #7
    It's a long time since I bothered to move my home folder (you had to edit the value using directory utility when I did it) but I have this memory (or fear?) that some apps are hardcoded to use what equates to
    Code:
    /Users/$(whoami)/<blah>
    as a save path (rather than
    Code:
    $HOME/<blah>
    or
    Code:
    ~/<blah>
    , which won't work in your scenario.

    I guess it depends where your data is going - run the disk analysis and see how much of that 200GB is actual data.

    Maybe I misunderstood, I thought the majority of your data is in a Photos library (i.e. a library "file" used by Photos.app) - if that is the case you can just move it somewhere else, double click on it and Photos will open it up. Once it's open, go to Photos > Preferences > General and click "Use as System Photo Library" so it works as the 'default' for your account.

    If you have heaps of other stuff (i.e. iCloud Drive/docs&desktop would be in this category) that isn't easy to move out of your home folder then it may make sense to move your home folder (or use the "optimise iCloud storage" option if you have fast/reliable internet access)
     
  8. Febs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #8
    Thanks Stephen, really appreciate your thoughts. My Photos library file is definitely the single biggest “thing” I have, but I have another few hundred gb of other user data too - old dvd projects (was an avid iDVD user back in the day!), videos, photoshop work etc...so my philosophy was to (try to) keep things simple by having system and apps on the internal drive, and all user data (ie home directories) on an external drive. OS X now makes it easy to set the location (path) of a hone directory in system preferences.

    Cheers
    Febs.
     
  9. Stephen.R macrumors 6502a

    Stephen.R

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2018
    Location:
    Thailand
    #9
    It's definitely possible it's improved since I last tried, let us know how well it works!
     
  10. pl1984 macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    #10
    Nothing wrong with buying a new Mini, the 2018 is a definite upgrade over the 2012. I just upgraded a 2007 Windows desktop to a new Z440 and despite the Z440 being considerably faster I don't feel the extra speed of the Z440 has made much of a difference in my day to day tasks. For certain tasks, such a video transcoding, the Z440 is noticeably faster. But for most other things it could be replaced by my 2007 and it wouldn't be an issue.
     
  11. Febs, Feb 22, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019

    Febs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #11
    Yeah, fair enough, I do hear what you're saying. I do think it's my HDD restricting me, but then every now and then I try to do something in Photoshop, and I think "..this should be quicker" and then I remember my Mac, and it's CPU are almost 7 years old haha.

    Cheers
    Febs.
     
  12. pl1984 macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    #12
    What is the configuration of your current Mini?
     
  13. Fishrrman macrumors P6

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #13
    OP:

    For your use case, I see no need for 32gb.
    I'd get 16gb "from the factory" and let it go at that.

    Re the "mystery space"....
    Do you use Time Machine?
    If so, STOP using it and move to a "cloned backup" scenario instead. If you do this, I predict that the "mystery space" will magically re-appear.

    I don't use iCloud at all, I want ALL "my stuff" stored "right down here" on my drives.

    My opinion only.
     
  14. Febs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #14
    Late 2012 with 2.3GHz i7 (4 core) with 6mb L3 cache, 1Tb HDD, 16gb RAM.

    ..and you're entitled to it! I like Cloud services for convenience and backups, but am not yet ready to trust them as a single source of storage for my personal stuff.

    Fair point on the 16gb...though the cost of 16gb from the factory would probably be about the same as 32gb purchased separately and installed myself.

    I do use Time Machine (and I've read other reports that suggest missing HDD space can be due to TM), but it's odd as the TM backup is obviously a completely seperate, external drive. Oh well, the missing space doesn't worry me so much at the moment, I just don't want to get a 256gb SSD (for OS and apps only) and find I run out of space.

    Cheers
    Febs.
     
  15. pl1984 macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    #15
    I'll have to reiterate my initial comment about noticeable performance gains. Unless the tasks you perform are processor intensive and take significant time replacing your current system with a new one is unlikely to result in impressive performance gains. I base this on my experience with replacing the aforementioned 2007 Windows system. Over the years I looked to replace it with newer technology and in the end I ended up returning those systems as I wasn't impressed with the performance increase. It wasn't until I scored a great deal on the Z440 that I decided to replace it (otherwise I'd probably still be using it). My recommendation is to take advantage of Apple's 14 day trial and test for yourself. You might find it significantly outperforms your current Mini. Or you may discover that, while faster, it may not be worth $800 - $1000 faster.

    I say this because you asked us to talk you out of it. :)
     
  16. Febs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #16
    ..and I appreciate it! You are making me think twice.

    Whilst i do use Photoshop regularly, I wouldn't say what I do is terribly processor intensive, and I don't do any video, but I do have a 200+gb Photos library and Photos, even after a completely fresh OS install and repaired library, is horrendously slow. Opening the app itself can take seconds, but it can also take minutes (Activity Monitor doesn't show anything unusual chewing the CPU, HDD or memory, and Photoshop is usually closed). Loading an album can take ages, and flicking through photos in an album (even one with only 100 photos) can incur a 3-4 second delay between hitting "next" and actually seeing the next photo.

    I appreciate this might be more storage related than CPU, but do you think a new Mini would significantly improve the situation above? (Again, noting that the system has recently been completely wiped, reformatted, reinstalled and the Photos library shows no signs of corruption)?

    Thanks!

    Cheers
    Febs.
     
  17. oneMadRssn macrumors 601

    oneMadRssn

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Location:
    New England
    #17
    Which 2012 Mini do you have? Have you already upgraded it to run off SSD? I suspect the slowdowns you are getting are caused by file access slowness, not CPU/RAM.

    The 2012 models support dual 2.5" drivers. What about getting 2x 1TB good SSDs and setting them up in RAID0 for speed. In theory, you can get 12Gbps file access speed that way, which is really freakin fast. Obviously RAID0 is risky in terms of reliability, so have a good backup solution too.

    Then while you're in there, max out the RAM (16GB) and redo the thermal paste if you're up for it - it's probably dry and not working so well anymore.

    I think that would be cheaper than getting a new Mini and solve your issues. Plus, imo, it would be more fun. Put those savings towards a kickass monitor instead.
     
  18. Febs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #18
    Mentioned above - Late 2012 with 2.3GHz i7 (4 core) with 6mb L3 cache, 1Tb HDD, 16gb RAM (and yeah, I also suspect my problems are mostly storage / IO related. I also wonder if APFS formatting is part of the issue?).

    Already got the 16gb RAM, and thermal paste is something I've done before but wouldn't really be keen to do on a factory Mac, but the dual drive setup is definitely something to consider - not RAID0 (never been a fan of doubling the chance of failure ;)) but individual drives as separate volumes.

    Lots to consider, thanks all!

    Cheers,
    Febs.
     
  19. oneMadRssn macrumors 601

    oneMadRssn

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Location:
    New England
    #19
    No reason to be scared of RAID0 if you have good backups, which you should have anyway. From your use, I would attach a USB drive and have a backup app such as Arq sync your most important files (photos) whenever the Mac is idle. Besides, yes you're doubling the change of failure - but I'd bet even a RAID0 setup with two new good SSDs would have a lower chance of failure than a 6-year-old spinner at this point. And, the speed is totally worth it (provided you have backups).

    With regard to the thermal paste, it's not too hard but deff a tad risky on the Mac Mini. I used to have the exact same Mini as you and I did the thermal paste with Tuniq TX-4 (because it's more viscous, and thus better for not exactly flat surfaces like the heatsinks in the Mini). The plus side is that once you've disassembled the Mini to the point of adding dual drives, you're 80% of the way there to doing the thermal paste so might as well (if you are confident in your skills handling tiny screws and cleaning CPUs). There are a few good forum posts about it, and most people see a reduction in 2-4 degrees as compared to the stock paste when it was new. I would bet it's worth doing even more on a 6-year-old machine where the stock paste is probably dry as dust by now.

    Oh my man - it is deff IO related and you should deff upgrade to an SSD if you decide to keep this Mac.

    I doubt its related to APFS, but macOS has been hitting the drive more than older versions. So the APFS is probably just a coincidence with other changes in the OS. The engineers probably presume that most folks have an SSD by now.
     
  20. Sarpanch macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Location:
    SoCal
    #20
    I had the same 2012 Mac Mini as yours (with a 500gb SSD) and it worked really well with Lightroom and Photoshop for personal use.

    As you are still using a spinner HDD, I would recommend getting an external SSD and boot from it. It can be a Samsung T5 or any SATA SSD in a USB3 enclosure. You will notice a huge improvement with this switch, and the system will be a lot more snappier. Also, when you eventually make up your mind to upgrade to a 2018 Mac Mini, you can reuse the external SSD for storage (I don’t think your use case will benefit from PCIe nvme storage)

    I upgraded to a 2018 Mac Mini as I was getting a good price on my 2012 Mini, a good deal on the 2018 Mini, and mainly as I wanted to upgrade to a 4k monitor soon. 2012 Mini’s inability to drive 4k Display is probably it’s only weakness, otherwise it’s still a very capable machine (quad core models)

    Hope this helps
     
  21. pl1984 macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2017
    #21
    200GB is a lot of photos. I suspect the problem is more the Photos application than the hardware.

    No, I don't feel it'll be a big improvement. I think there will be some improvement but nothing that will be earth shattering. I make this statement based on observing a reduction (Z440 compared to my 2007 Q6600 system) in batch processing time for my RAW photos (in Canon Digital Photo Professional) but nothing that made me go say "Wow! I should have done this sooner".

    My recommendation, since you can pinpoint the areas of poor performance, would be to either replace the existing HD with an SSD or try the new Mini (since you have 14 days in which you can return it). The older Mini's, especially the quad core version, still have strong resale and therefore you might just move forward with the new one just for the sake of having new technology. The resale of the 2012 Mini would go a long ways towards offsetting the cost of a 2018.
     
  22. Jellyenzo macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2018
    #22
    Wait for recertified models from Apple for an i5

    Otherwise, get the 13inch mbp quad core. Those are nice (aside from tbar) and have same amount of usb c ports + portability.
     
  23. mrex macrumors 68040

    mrex

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2014
    Location:
    europe
    #23
    i wouldnt touch any mbp (2016-2018) until apple is saying that they fix flexgate issue if it happens in your mbp. but im quessing they silently fix the flex cable issue and say nothing about it leaving customers to pay 600 to fix the issue in their current mbp when happening.
     
  24. Febs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #24
    Thanks. I do have a decent backup regime at the moment, so I know ultimately there'd be no real risk of data loss...I dunno, RAID0 just always makes me nervous (fair point about a 6 year old spinner probably being a higher chance of failure though!)

    ..and yeah I have noticed a lot more disk access (audibly so!) since Mojave, so your point about more frequent disk access definitely resonates!

    It does, thanks. I actually do have a 500gb T3 SSD I guess I could use to try booting from (or even running my Photos library from!) to see how it goes. Also didn't realise the 2012's were actually worth anything, so that's good to know too if I still do decide to upgrade!

    It's only 50,000 photos (about 20 years worth) and a handful of iPhone videos, so I would've thought a lot of people would have larger libraries...disappointing if Photos itself is the problem!

    I might have to look into the trial thing (if I do decide to upgrade) - not sure if Apple offer that here in HK, thanks.

    All the refurb options here in HK seem to be pretty limited at the moment - no 2018 models at all so it could be a whilte before any appear.

    Cheers,
    Febs.
     
  25. Febs thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    #25
    Thanks everyone! Interestingly, only in the last day, performance has gotten noticeably better. I think Photos has finally stopped indexing / “doing its thing” after a reformat and reinstall about a month ago!

    Still, for relatively minimal outlay and hopefully not too much risk, I think I’ll install an internal SSD. Sounds like fantastic bang for my buck!

    Appreciate all the help. See, you did talk me out of it!

    Cheers
    Febs.
     

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