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Mac Mini: internal vs external storage


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Have a new Mac Mini to use as headless server. I'm wondering between putting in a single 1tb ssd (boot & music library) vs. having a small ssd (boot) with an external hdd for music library.

 

There is no issue with back-ups - it's taken care of. And while I'm not on a budget per se, I'm not gonna dump hundreds or a thousand dollars just because Amarra says this or that are the ONLY way to go.

 

I was initially gonna go with a small ssd boot drive and a thunderbolt g-drive external for music. But then started thinking I could invest the same cost of the g-drive + smaller ssd boot and just get one single larger ssd.

 

Any problem with this from a performance side?

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I have just come to the conclusion that the large SSD is the way forward for me for the music library - see my post 'Mac Mini: SSD or RamDisk?' on the thread started by Superdad in this General Forum titled 'ATTENTION Current Mac mini/A+ users: Boot Mavericks from an SD card, load a RAMdisk, dismount your internal SATA drives, and pour a drink for the musicians walking out of your speakers!'.

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I have just come to the conclusion that the large SSD is the way forward for me for the music library - see my post 'Mac Mini: SSD or RamDisk?' on the thread started by Superdad in this General Forum titled 'ATTENTION Current Mac mini/A+ users: Boot Mavericks from an SD card, load a RAMdisk, dismount your internal SATA drives, and pour a drink for the musicians walking out of your speakers!'.

 

I know that this sort of thing is a matter of end users own ears. I was reading the Amarra website's music server building details, and there's nothing totally off the wall in it's instructions - 4gb of RAM (or more), a small SSD for boot, an SSD for external library.

 

But if the possible noise of a drive is eliminated by going with an SSD, then I'd just wonder why not just get the largest SSD you can and just have 1 drive - thus eliminating the need for an external drive which then contends with either a poor quality USB/FireWire/Thunderbolt stock cable (for all those who do care about cables) and a crappy generic power cable/brick - or a bus powered drive which people could jump on that bandwagon of the computer provided "poor" power quality to the unit.

 

I would think you'd want as few links in the chain as possible, and certainly having just 1 ssd would suffice?

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One additional tweak would be to then power the harddrive externally using a linear PSU. Even a cheap bench LPSU. :)

 

I think many don't go for 1 ssd because of space and cost limitation as opposed to sound impact.

 

There was something I read about SSD a while back that after many read and writes it would slow down, and required reformatting, but that might be old info and no longer the case with the newer generations of SSD.

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One additional tweak would be to then power the harddrive externally using a linear PSU. Even a cheap bench LPSU. :)

 

I think many don't go for 1 ssd because of space and cost limitation as opposed to sound impact.

 

There was something I read about SSD a while back that after many read and writes it would slow down, and required reformatting, but that might be old info and no longer the case with the newer generations of SSD.

 

I'm at my wits end with PSUs. I have a PSU for my Mac Mini. I have a PSU for my CI Audio Transient MKII. I don't want another PSU for as long as I live, ha ha.

 

I think oftentimes people are willing to go they 100 steps just to get what might amount to a 1-2% gain in performance. If that works for them, by all means, do it. But in my case, I just want the best but also easiest option and be done with it.

 

I can't do an internal plus external SSD. The cost of small internal is nothing, but I need 1tb for an external and then you'd need an enclosure for it. If Thunderbolt, that leaves a Pegasus or Drobo, and then you're looking at almost $1000 for drive + enclosure.

 

So I either need to go 1 big internal SSD as boot and library, or 1 small SSD boot and HDD external, or just 100% HDD internal and external.

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There is another possible reason to have the operating system on a different drive - to segregate the the disk activity due to OSX with that required for reading the music files (I believe that they are on different buses). I am very pleased with OSX on a SD card and the music on the SSD, and there is also no problem of power supplies, cables etc either when adding a single, relatively inexpensive, SD card for the operating system. That said, I have not tried your proposed alternative.

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There is another possible reason to have the operating system on a different drive - to segregate the the disk activity due to OSX with that required for reading the music files (I believe that they are on different buses). I am very pleased with OSX on a SD card and the music on the SSD, and there is also no problem of power supplies, cables etc either when adding a single, relatively inexpensive, SD card for the operating system. That said, I have not tried your proposed alternative.

 

How big of an SD Card are you using to hold OS X? Will this method work with Mavericks? Is it as straight forward as formatting and installing OS X on a flash drive or HDD, SSD? Any special hurdles having the boot drive on an SD Card?

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My SD is 64GB, but I had it already. Others are managing with 32GB - see the thread I originally quoted ''ATTENTION Current Mac mini/A+ users: Boot Mavericks from an SD card, etc...' I'm using Mavericks, with the SD card in the rear card slot. I copied OSX from the SSD using Carbon Copy Cloner, very easy. Others have done a fresh install to the SD card. Some have reported a slowing down of the computer in this configuration, but it has not been an issue for me.

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Any special hurdles having the boot drive on an SD Card?

 

I just created a bootable 32GB SD card for my Mac Mini (2012 i5 w/ Mavericks). The only hurdle for me was specifying that the SD card was a bootable disk during the format process. You may already know how to do this but in case not, I had to use Disk Utilities to create a Partition and specify a GUID Partition Table under Options. Then I used Deja Vu program to clone my internal 60GB SSD. I have never used Carbon Copy Cloner program which is widely mentioned on CA so not sure how it works.

 

Boot time off the SD card is around 1 minute which is considerable slower than my SSD but still acceptable. Once booted, the speed is ok with the occasional spinning ball that lasts for a few seconds.

Eric


Ubuntu Linux box (i7-12700K, 12 cores, 32GB RAM, Intel X520-DA1 NIC, HQP Desktop) > fiber > MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+ > fiber > fitlet2 (HQP Embedded OS - NAA) > T+A DAC8 DSD > Rogue Audio DragoN > Klipsch La Scala — digital volume control with HQP, DSP with HQP convolution 

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Sorry if this is a dumb question -- you take the OS off the hard drive and put it on an SD card, and then stick the SD card in the slot on the mini? And the operating system runs off the SD card?

 

Yes, you boot from the SD card and the OS runs from the SD card. You have to specify that the computer is to boot from the SD card under the System Preferences panel using Startup Disk.

 

You can also specify (temporarily) to boot from the SD card at startup using the Option key (hold during startup).

Eric


Ubuntu Linux box (i7-12700K, 12 cores, 32GB RAM, Intel X520-DA1 NIC, HQP Desktop) > fiber > MikroTik CRS305-1G-4S+ > fiber > fitlet2 (HQP Embedded OS - NAA) > T+A DAC8 DSD > Rogue Audio DragoN > Klipsch La Scala — digital volume control with HQP, DSP with HQP convolution 

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Have a new Mac Mini to use as headless server. I'm wondering between putting in a single 1tb ssd (boot & music library) vs. having a small ssd (boot) with an external hdd for music library.

 

There is no issue with back-ups - it's taken care of. And while I'm not on a budget per se, I'm not gonna dump hundreds or a thousand dollars just because Amarra says this or that are the ONLY way to go.

 

I was initially gonna go with a small ssd boot drive and a thunderbolt g-drive external for music. But then started thinking I could invest the same cost of the g-drive + smaller ssd boot and just get one single larger ssd.

 

Any problem with this from a performance side?

 

Definitely go with an internal drive if possible. If you must go with an external one, buy one that connects via Thunderbolt (I'm assuming here, I admit. I don't know if these drives act like the USB variety or not)). I have a Mini and a 1 TB external iomega USB drive, as well as another drive that I put in a separate USB case myself. Both of them spin down when left idle. When I click on a menu, the whole computer stops until the two USB drives spin up. It drives me crazy! I'm in the market for a 2TB 2.5" SATA drive that will fit inside the mini (yes, apparently there is room) so that I can get rid of the two USB drives). I simply don't recommend going that route.

George

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Definitely go with an internal drive if possible. If you must go with an external one, buy one that connects via Thunderbolt (I'm assuming here, I admit. I don't know if these drives act like the USB variety or not)). I have a Mini and a 1 TB external iomega USB drive, as well as another drive that I put in a separate USB case myself. Both of them spin down when left idle. When I click on a menu, the whole computer stops until the two USB drives spin up. It drives me crazy! I'm in the market for a 2TB 2.5" SATA drive that will fit inside the mini (yes, apparently there is room) so that I can get rid of the two USB drives). I simply don't recommend going that route.

 

I use a firewire drive, which frees the USB bus and all mac minis support. I imagine thunderbolt, if supported by a mac mini would be better.

mini+Roon > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

system pics

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I use a firewire drive, which frees the USB bus and all mac minis support. I imagine thunderbolt, if supported by a mac mini would be better.

 

I looked at using Thunderbolt, it's an extension to the PCIe bus, so the throughput should be the same speed as well. For audio playback though, the speed is not so important, but perhaps isolation from the USB bus is the big plus. That isolation can only go so far, when you start to add larger drives and their own noisy wall wart supplies. As far as reliability is concerned, I would put all attached drives in the same boat, that will eventually fail, either the drive itself, or more frequently the controller. So why pay the extra 30%+ premium on Thunderbolt when the drive's controller will fail anyway?

 

For sure if video editing came into the picture, Thunderbolt is the way to go.

 

For audio playback, so long as whatever you use doesn't use the USB ports, that's fine, I went with Firewire 800 drives. Tests with files on the internal drive weren't all that different to the FW drives, same sound stage, res the DAC didn't seem to care. FW800 is quite fast to copy files and transfer, DSD especially, within a reasonable amount of time. To copy 1.6TB of music took about 14 hours from a USB3 drive to the FW800's.

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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The thunderbolt is a good option for a few reasons:

 

Speed and latency - this was important for Amarra, not as much with Audivarna

 

Ability to power externally using a linear power supply.

 

Not on the USB bus, which if you are using an USB DAC should not be used for anything else. (And filtered)

 

If you are looking to lower digititus/listening fatigue I recommend getting rid of all wall warts and switching supplies sharing the audio AC circuit, and power as much of the computer bits including all the harddrives individually and with LPSUs. Of course this has drawbacks in terms of space (and cost) as not everyone can stick all the gear in a closet.

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Also, don't confuse drive noise with drive "electronic noise". SSD can put just as much hash and drain on an internal supply as a regular drive. You mention a separate PSU for your mini--does this have separate legs for the internal components, or just supply power to the MB which then distributes it? If the latter, then it would be much better to run the mini off an SD card (as mentioned) and use an external drive. I've always bought OWC housings, and still have ones that are 15 yrs old. Yes, ideally this would mean another PSU, but you gain so many benefits. As has been mentioned, don't use a USB ext. interface if your DAC is USB.

 

Even better, for the price of a 1tb SSD you could get a small NAS with platter drives, and hardwire that to your mini with cat6.

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Also, don't confuse drive noise with drive "electronic noise". SSD can put just as much hash and drain on an internal supply as a regular drive. You mention a separate PSU for your mini--does this have separate legs for the internal components, or just supply power to the MB which then distributes it? If the latter, then it would be much better to run the mini off an SD card (as mentioned) and use an external drive. I've always bought OWC housings, and still have ones that are 15 yrs old. Yes, ideally this would mean another PSU, but you gain so many benefits. As has been mentioned, don't use a USB ext. interface if your DAC is USB.

 

Even better, for the price of a 1tb SSD you could get a small NAS with platter drives, and hardwire that to your mini with cat6.

 

FWIW, I found the sound of a FW800 directly connected drive better than mounting a drive over the network (to be precise, my music drive on my mac pro, over AFP).

mini+Roon > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

system pics

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