Using a firewire external HD as a mini boot drive

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Whackintosh, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. Whackintosh macrumors 6502

    Mar 8, 2009
    Now that I've finally decided to go for a mini, I'm contemplating getting a 1tb external firewire hdd and using it as a boot drive, instead of putting that coin towards replacing the mini's internal 5400. I've read that going this route would give me the fastest machine possible barring ssd, and it would also be cheaper. My question is, would this mean that I simply don't install OSX or anything else on the mini's internal and put everything on the external immediately from the get-go when I get my machine? If yes, are there major drawbacks to this? Right off the bat, I'm assuming there would be quite a jump in electricity usage...


    This is the external I'm considering, btw: World Computing/MEAQ7H1TE32M/
  2. kennyli macrumors regular

    Sep 16, 2008
    Hong Kong

    If you completely erase everything in the internal HD, the Mini will start from the firewire HD. If you have OS in both, than you have to press "Option" key to select which HD to boot.

    If you are using the firmwire HD, the boot time will be longer, at least in my case. Regarding to the speed .......... in my case it is slower than the internal HD. Specially when you are reading / writing large files.

    Personally, I prefer internal HD. A 320GB 7200 is very cheap now. If you want larger HD, Seagate just released a 500GB 7200 for about US$120.

    The upgrade process is very simple. Just go to or and follow the instructions.
  3. panzer06 macrumors 68030


    Sep 23, 2006
    I thought about doing exactly that because bootcamp can only run on internal drives I was going to Vista on the internal and use an external 10000rpm raptor drive in an external housing for OS X. Ultimately, I decided not to and went with an internal 500GB Seagate for under $100. It just seemed to defeat the purpose of having this little computer to add another external device.

    However, if you decide to go the external FW800 route, you can boot from the OS X disk and select disk manager rather than installing. Select restore and restore the data from the internal to the external drive. Once the restore is complete, choose Startup Disk from the same menu where you selected disk utility. Pick the large external drive and the system will always boot from that device.

    Best of luck either way and enjoy your new mini.

  4. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004

    You Don't have to erase the internal in order to boot from the external. All you have to do is use startup disk in the system preferences and set the external firewire drive as the default boot drive. It's debatable if a firewire external is faster than a high speed internal with a SATA II interface. It depends on the drives chosen.
  5. Whackintosh thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 8, 2009
    Thanks everyone. It sounds like a lot of hassle for potentially negligible gains (and possibly even slow-downs) so I think I'll go back to my initial plan of just installing a solid 7200 internal!
  6. mashmosher macrumors newbie


    Mar 17, 2009
    umm is correct -- although I've been booting from a FW external with my new Mini and half the time it won't boot up. I posted in another thread about how I think it's a faulty or low-quality port that's to blame for this.

    as for speed, I'm booting from a 1 tb w/ 32mb cache, FW800 external (in a fast OWC enclosure) and see no difference in speed compared to using the internal drive. I even play Need for Speed, Tiger Woods 09 and other games off the external, with no apparent lag. I have 1 FW800 and 1 FW400 (Time Machine) drive daisy-chained from the main external I'm booting from, and there's no apparent lag in speed compared w/ internal HD when using those drives either. (you have to love Firewire for that!)
  7. Whackintosh thread starter macrumors 6502

    Mar 8, 2009
    Interesting. Is your internal a stock 5400?
  8. mashmosher macrumors newbie


    Mar 17, 2009
    It is, and now that you mention it, the stock internal is in fact much lower speed than any of my externals if you look at the specs. A garbage laptop drive, if you ask me-- I never intend to use it. if I end up keeping the mini, the internal is going to be replaced with a larger and better one, although I am annoyed with Apple for not making a single desktop model under $1000 that uses regular desktop-sized drives and ram.

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