To Symlink Or Not Symlink & Other External SSD Ponderings

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Plynth222, Feb 3, 2015.

  1. Plynth222 macrumors newbie

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    Jun 15, 2008
    #1
    Hi, I apologize in advance if this has been answered in totality already, but much of this is new territory for me and maybe I'm just a bit dense. Despite reading a few dozen postings here and elsewhere, I'm still trying to put the whole thing together in my head conceptually. :confused:

    Backstory is that I was finally able to get a 2012 2.3ghz i7 refurb off the Apple site. I'll be upgrading to 16gb of memory and adding a 256gb SSD to run externally via a USB3/SATA dock. So far so good. What I'm unclear about are the steps in setting up the drives (i.e. splitting, and maintaining the OS / Systems Files; Library; Apps on the SSD and Data such as movies; photos; music on the HDD.

    I have CarbonCopyCloner and understand what I need to do in order to clone Yosemite onto the SSD from the HDD. As the equipment is new, I won't be migrating any Apps from the HDD that don't actually come with the OS. However, I want to immediately start loading in other programs from my Macbook Pro. I presume I'm connecting the Macbook through Firewire or Thunderbolt to the Mini and then opening up the Finder on the Mini. This may be an obvious question, but will I will be seeing the Mini SSD and HDD drives, along with the MBP, on the Mini Finder and need to simply select which drive I want to copy the programs over to?

    With regards to accessing Data on the HDD and Apps on the SSD. Will I need to continually switch back and forth between finders for each drive?

    If I open a Photoshop file (for example) on the HDD is it automatically linked to the Photoshop App on the SDD or do I need to establish Symlinks first. If I do, there seems to be appropriate information here: https://gigaom.com/2011/04/27/how-to-create-and-use-symlinks-on-a-mac/

    Final question; My workflow has been to work with many files and (alias) folders on my Desktop. Would I put the Desktop on the SSD or HDD and does it even matter?

    Many thanks!
     
  2. marclondon macrumors regular

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    #2
    You're thinking this is complicated. It isn't. Just install your system on the SSD and put any data you like on either the SSD or HDD. Both disks appear in Finder and can be accessed from any program running. Also, any external disk similarly appears if mounted.

    That's it.

    You could also combine the drives as an Apple Fusion single drive.

    The only slightly complicated thing is backing up both drives if needs be, but I believe you can run Dropbox on your system on the SSD and link folders on the HDD as it's an internal disk. I don't think you can do that to backup data on an external drive. You can also of course back up either internal disk to an external one.

    M.
     
  3. Plynth222 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #3
    Thank you so much for your thoughts, Marc, and for gently pointing out that I've been way over-thinking it. I've used external drives for years, but not in this manner. So, to confirm--forget about symlinks, Terminal, etc. and "just do it?"

    I knew the next frontier, unavoidably, would be back-up. And from what you seem to be saying, Dropbox would be a good solution to consider, which I will.
     
  4. marclondon, Feb 3, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2015

    marclondon macrumors regular

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    #4
    Actually I'm sorry I've realised I've misread your post - I thought you would be installing the SSD internally. Externally, the SSD will appear as a drive just like any other internal or external one in Finder but you'll want to keep your system on the internal HDD. As I said, symlinks are problematic on externals for services like Dropbox.

    But really you must install the SSD inside the Mini. It makes no sense to put a fast device in a slow enclosure. There are lots of posts on how to do this - I did it with my i7 refurb recently.

    I've got a SATA dock too - it's very useful to clone drives. But I'd do a clean install of Yosemite on the SSD and build your system from scratch, and then open up the Mini and put it in.

    M.
     
  5. Plynth222 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #5
    No worries, I should have read your remarks more carefully too. I've given this considerable thought and maybe two out of three people opt for the internal install, but it's not something I feel confident doing. Maybe on one of my older Minis someday, but not on my i7.

    As to it being a "slow enclosure," there's a lot of debate about that as there are those who've own both and swear there's little to no difference. That said, it's really moot as I'm committed to external in this instance.

    With regards to Fusion, again, many arguments for and against--particularly DIY Fusion, which I've seen a lot of negative comments about. People speak about difficulty partitioning on external Fusion setups, etc. While I don't understand it well enough to debate either way, it just seems there's more negative sentiment for DIY Fusion than DIY Hybrid.
     
  6. marclondon, Feb 4, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015

    marclondon macrumors regular

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    #6
    I think nearly everyone who upgrades their Mini with an SSD puts it inside... Having your system on an SSD really makes this Mini fly. I would suggest you get someone else told to do it. You don't have to even take it all apart as the SSD can be put in the lower slot, which is a pretty easy job.

    But there is of course another decent external option and that's to get an enclosure that connects to the Thunderbolt port. That will be faster than USB 3 I believe - although maybe both will cover the SSD speed. I'm not sure, but there may also be e-SATA to Thunderbolt adapters - my dock has an e-SATA interface.

    As for Fusion, I don't know if you can implement this on an external. In any case, I wouldn't try and run a system based on an external although I suppose a Thunderbolt setup would do. I wouldn't also want to have a permanent set up based on a dock - that's for temporary work and a proper enclosure is best.

    M.
     
  7. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #7
    OP:

    You are "over-thinking" this.
    Way, WAY too much.

    There's not much to it.

    If you're going to boot and run from an externally-mounted SSD, fine, just do it.
    I do this myself with my late-2012 Mini.

    Put your OS, apps, and account(s) on the SSD.

    You WILL have to give some consideration about how much you keep in the various folders in your home folder, however. You purposely want to keep the SSD drive "on the lean side", and not clog it up with seldom-accessed stuff.

    All that's required is a little thought about where things should be.

    Example:
    If you keep an application-based photo library (such as iPhoto library, Aperture library, etc.) in your home folder, again, you might consider moving it to the external drive. Nothing overly involved, just relocate the library and "aim" your photo app at it.

    You -CAN'T- keep many movies on the SSD, it will "fill it up" too quickly.
    Keep them on the HDD drive.

    Example:
    In my personal home folder, in the "Movies" folder, there is nothing at all.
    ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
    I keep all saved movies and videos on a separate partition on my HDD.

    The same goes for music files.
    I keep next-to-nothing in my home folder.
    All my music files are either on a separate partition on my internal HDD, and I also keep about 70gb of mp3 files on an entirely separate hard drive just for music.

    Forget about symbolic links, etc., unless you know exactly what you are doing with them.
    Just save files where practical and remember where they are.

    I normally keep 7 volume icons on my desktop (actually 7 partitions spread across an SSD and one HDD) that I keep on my desktop at all times. It's easy to look at these and understand what they are for.
    SSDBoot -- SSD boot volume
    SSDMain -- SSD main files volume
    Boot -- cloned backup of boot volume
    Main -- cloned backup of main volume
    Music -- partition for music files
    Media -- partition for photos, presentations, etc.
    Other -- partition for movies and file storage

    When I need to find or save something, I know right away where it needs to go...
     
  8. Plynth222 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #8
    Many thanks for taking the time to share all you thoughts, Fishrrman. So much good stuff here I hardly know where to begin. I will disclose that in a moment of irrational exuberance I purchased a 2012 Fusion drive earlier today, but thought better of it after over-thinking it a bit. ;)

    As you suggest, I will be keeping the SSD on the "lean side" with "OS, apps, and account(s) on the SSD" And all the major Data such as films; movies; photoshop files; etc. on the HDD.

    "I keep next-to-nothing in my home folder."

    With respect to the Home folder, I recall you posting previous thoughts wherein you kept all the Home sub-folders, empty or not, on the boot drive as the OS needed to "see" them. Sounds fine to me, but but it appears you don't keep Data folders on the HDD, just partitions housing the material (and probably folders inside each partition). It's a smart and novel approach, but isn't that more limiting in space than a collection of folders would be on a non-partitioned drive? I'm intrigued and want to understand the rationale behind this other than superb organizing.

    "unless you know exactly what you are doing with them"

    Thanks for clarifying the hard truth. It didn't look that daunting to me, but I'll take your word for it. As I'm constantly re-ordering / re-naming / re-prioritizing folders and content on my Macbook and old Mini, I'll simply do the same here. The fact is that this newer Mini will be dedicated pretty much exclusively to media tasks involving video editing and Photoshop. So there won't be a gazillion files, just super big ones. :eek:

    Need to ask about a partition I am going to need to create. I have some old software that isn't supported anymore and would like to run Snow Leopard. This would go on the SSD, correct?
     
  9. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #9
    OP:

    If you purchased a late-2012 Mini with a "fusion" drive, NONE of the advice above will apply, because you are only going to have ONE drive icon on your desktop:
    The "fused" icon (combination of internal SSD and HDD).

    My "home folder" still contains all the normal sub-folders.
    It's just that I don't keep very much stuff in any of them.
     
  10. Plynth222 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Jun 15, 2008
    #10
    To be clear, I purchased the Fusion drive and cancelled the transaction within an hour. I had already decided against the Fusion once--ahead of buying the base unit--but it was tempting to just "plug and play," to so speak. But at the end of the day I felt I would have more control in the set-up we've been speaking about here. I'm actually even more excited about it now!


    I totally got that; I was asking why you created partitions as if they were giant folders--whether in some way that would be limited by the size of the partition as opposed to simply living on the entire drive.

    One question about a previous remark you made:

    "If you keep an application-based photo library (such as iPhoto library, Aperture library, etc.) in your home folder, again, you might consider moving it to the external drive. Nothing overly involved, just relocate the library and "aim" your photo app at it."

    As we're not talking about Symbolic links, I'm afraid I have not context for what you mean by "aim" your photo app.

    Again, many thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise...
     
  11. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

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    #11
    [[ "If you keep an application-based photo library (such as iPhoto library, Aperture library, etc.) in your home folder, again, you might consider moving it to the external drive. Nothing overly involved, just relocate the library and "aim" your photo app at it."]]

    In your home folder, in the "Pictures" folder, you will see what looks like a file named "iPhoto Library".

    It LOOKS LIKE "a file", but it's not. It's really a sort of "disguised folder" and it contains all your photos (that have been imported into iPhoto).

    Just grab this and copy it to an external drive.

    Now, open your Applications folder. Hold down the option key and double-click on the iPhoto app. You'll see what happens next.

    If iPhoto is in the dock, hold down the option key and click on iPhoto's icon in the dock. You'll get the same choice in front of you.

    I believe this works the same way for Aperture.
     
  12. Plynth222 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #12
    I always wondered what that iPhoto icon actually was and "disguised folder" pretty much nails it. Will definitely use that technique!

    With respect to iTunes, it appears pretty simple to separate the media from the app by changing the media folder location in Advance Preferences. I believe there's a few additional steps involved, so I'll need to read up.

    Regarding back-up, there seem to be a lot of different ways to incorporate Time Machine with my set-up, but do you have a preferred method you could share?
     
  13. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

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    #13
    [[ Regarding back-up, there seem to be a lot of different ways to incorporate Time Machine with my set-up, but do you have a preferred method you could share? ]]

    I don't use Time Machine, and I recommend that you DO NOT use it.

    Use a "cloning app" instead, to create a fully-bootable clone of your internal drive on an external drive.

    A cloned backup is superior in every way to a TM backup. You can boot from it, everything is "right there in front of you" and ready to use, you can run any app from it.

    Others will disagree, but that's my opinion.

    You can download CarbonCopyCloner for FREE and use it FREE for 30 days from here:
    http://www.bombich.com/download.html

    You can download SuperDuper from here:
    http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/SuperDuperDescription.html
    SuperDuper doesn't require registration to create a "full clone".
    But you must register in order to do "incremental" backups.
     
  14. marclondon macrumors regular

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    #14
    TM is a different type of system. It's obviously useful if you want to go back through versions of files, which can be critical to recovering work. You can't do this with a single disk backup.

    M.
     
  15. Plynth222, Feb 6, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2015

    Plynth222 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #15
    I hadn't realized that. So, I imagine some people run both. For my purposes, as there will be versions accessible through the video editing programs I use, as well as Photoshop, I should probably forget about TM altogether. I've had CarbonCopyCloner for a few years and had not used it for this task, but it seems really sensible. I presume you agree with Fishrrman, but I don't understand what is meant by an internal drive on an external drive when he said:
    Wait, thinking about it, I get it. My internal drive is always bootable, no matter what, so I'm just cloning it along with the content.....correct?
     
  16. marclondon macrumors regular

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    #16
    Well your internal drive won't be bootable if it goes down.

    With CarconCopyCloner and SuperDuper (which I use) you can create an exact bootable snapshot of your boot disk or boot partition (or any other volume). This will preserve at that time all the many system and library files, apps and your desktop with download folder etc and whatever else you have on the volume.

    I consider this to be absolutely vital if you use your computer for work. It means you can use the clone to boot another Mac if your main one blows up or the same Mac if the boot disk goes down and continue working.

    If you use cloud storage such as iCloud or Dropbox the need to create a clone every day goes away somewhat as you can preserve all your key data in the cloud. But it's a good habit to run it once a day if you want your system backup as up to date as possible.

    And yes, you can also run Time Machine on the same volume. Depending on the capacity of the TM backup disk it will go on archiving all previous versions of files until it gets full and then will delete the oldest versions. I used to also run TM and will probably start doing it again as I now have a faster Mac Mini.

    M.
     
  17. Plynth222 thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #17
    I first want to congratulate you on getting a new Mini, I know the feeling! :D

    Thanks so much. You've also given me a lot to think about, reminding me how lax I've been with backing up. It's not that I don't do it, but without having a dedicated drive and timed system--well, you know the rest.

    In truth I hadn't expected my internal drive's Apps to mirror those I will be continually adding to the SSD external, but with a terabyte to fill, why not. There will very few taking up as much room as Photoshop or Final Cut Pro.

    Why do you favor SuperDuper over CCC?

    I do have Dropbox--though I'm not sure of the capacity--but I'm pretty old school and not comfortable having that as sole back-up. I would like to say that I need something "physical," but any drive made can go "poof" in a heartbeat.

    Even though I was cautioned about symbolic links, I am going to do a little experimenting on my laptop where I'm still running Snow Leopard. There's a little app called SymboicLinker that makes things nearly idiot proof, which you probably have heard of. Still not without its risks, but I'm going to tip-toe into the pool, so to speak.
     
  18. Stocks macrumors member

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    #18
    I've always used Time Machine. When my iMac failed I ran out to the Apple Store and bought a MBA, brought it home and connected it to my external drive, and restored it so that it was exactly the same (all files, apps, settings, etc.) as my iMac was 28 minutes before it failed. I also have the ability to go in and pick a particular file at a certain date to restore, which has proven helpful.

    What benefits would cloning give me that I can't do with Time Machine?
     
  19. marclondon macrumors regular

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    #19
    i don't - I just bought SuperDuper and it's fine.

    M.

    ----------

    As I explained, but not very well, a clone is a bootable replica of your system that gets you back running instantly. You can't boot from a TM backup - you have to restore it and if your main disk/machine is gone you can't until it's replaced/repiared or as you did, restore it to another Mac. With a clone you can boot from an external to a Mac with a bad disk or to a new Mac without a restore or copying a clone, which you can do later. The most common fault is likely to be a bad disk rather than a bad machine.

    M.
     
  20. Stocks macrumors member

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    #20
    I see. I'm just not seeing how that is much of a benefit. It seems like a lot of extra work and things to deal with and purchase.

    If someone is doing such mission critical work, they are going to have multiple Macs anyway, definitely an older one (even I have an iMac sitting in my closet right now :p). If one of them goes down for any reason, they could do the Time Machine restore to one of their other Macs to get up and running quickly.
     
  21. marclondon macrumors regular

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    #21

    Obviously I'm not being clear. The only extra thing you need to make a bootable clone is a program like SuperDuper. You will need an external drive for TM in any case. SuperDuper can be set to automatically backup only changed files at any time you want so it's no work at all.

    Restoring from TM can take many hours, depending on the size and transfer speed. But if my system disk goes down, I can boot my Mac or another Mac (that will run Yosemite) in a few minutes with a clone on an external disk that has my system that's almost completely up to date.

    M.
     
  22. Stocks macrumors member

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    #22
    I understand what you are saying. But its still something that you need to purchase and setup. And the only benefit is if the user is doing some type of mission critical work that could only be accomplished on that particular computer that failed and needs to be back up and running in milliseconds :D
     
  23. marclondon macrumors regular

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    #23
    The clone programs are very popular - my Mac is vital for my work and it would be foolish not to do use one for the sake of $30 and a minute's set-up. People also use them for personal Macs as they can run many apps and their Macs are in use much of the time.

    M.
     
  24. Stocks macrumors member

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    #24
    You basically just called everyone who doesn't do what you do a fool. That's unnecessary.

    I explained above what happened when my iMac failed and how quickly I was able to get back up and running with a Time Machine backup. Now that I have multiple Macs here at home I could do it even quicker.

    No one got hurt, nothing was lost. Like most users, a setback of a couple hours really isn't going to hurt anything.

    I'm not bashing your method nor do I think it is bad in any way. I just personally think it's a bit extreme and probably not necessary for the typical casual user. But I take exception to people acting like it's the only way it should be done or that anyone who doesn't do it is stupid.
     
  25. marclondon macrumors regular

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    #25
    No - I said it would be foolish for me as it's vital for my work.

    Of course a casual user won't worry about no Mac for hours. I doubt a casual user would even do a backup anyway. I think you'll find that most people on MacRumors are not casual users though.

    M.
     

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