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Advice for external SSD for Mac Mini?

Joined
Jul 8, 2015
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55
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  1. macOS 11.0 Big Sur
I just noticed that the internal disk of Mac Mini have started to fill up, of course the Lightroom Catalog is a major culprit here (the photos are already on an external disk) and I'm starting to consider moving the LR Catalog to an external SSD. Does anyone have any recommendations for a reliable, fast external SSD for a "late 2018" Mac Mini?

I've got an one of the cheaper Samsung 512GB that I use for documents for work, It works well for that but if I'm going to buy another SSD I might as buy something really good.
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2007
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2,391
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Puget Sound
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If you have a Thunderbolt 3 port, then you might want to consider something like Samsung's X5 series. If you have a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, then the T7 series is something I would recommend. Both are faster than their original T5 series. There are other brands, but again, I would find a device that takes advantage of your fastest port. Then I would see what the rated speed is for the drive. I know, for instance, that Sandisk has drives that look quite similar, but are rated at different speeds.

Good luck,

--Ken
 
Joined
Jan 27, 2016
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176
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Napa, California
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All the Samsung SSDs are pretty good and highly thought of, and I have one. I also have the SanDisk stand-alone (like the T5 and T7, but in a different shape), that don't require an enclosure.

If the size is not too much of an issue, then internal SSDs, typically in the normal 2.5" inch size (like the ones that often come in laptops) are cheaper, including the cost of an enclosure, and can be very fast, with the added benefit that you can swap them out. There are two types of these: the 2.5", whhich look like enclosed drives; and even smaller ones, "NVME" types, in that they are not enclosed, and are long and thin. Both of these kinds will fit into enclosures, meaning you can swap them out for an upgrade or replacement yourself. I also have several enclosures from Other World Computing for both these types, but particularly for the 2.5" SSDs, and they have also performed flawlessly. The 2.5" can also be inserted into docs, similar to normal, spinning, 3.5" hard drives. I'm a big believer in future-proofing myself, so if I can afford it, I go for Thunderbolt 3 or at least USB C enclosures or drives, but if speed is not that important, everything below those kinds of connections, while slower, also cost less.

While I love my SSDs, and the prices are dropping all the time, for bigger storage, say, 2 or 4 or 6 TB or more, normal, spinning 3.5" hard drives are really cheap in comparison, and like the SSDs, also dropping in price all the time. This also means you can have more copies; I typically have three copies, at least, of every drive.

Finally, it's generally not that difficult to swap out the internal drives of earlier Mac Minis, depending on its age (later ones have the drives welded to the logic board), in which case you can solve at least one of your problems. I have my catalog on my main, internal drive, and it's backed up to the drive where I keep my photos.
 
Joined
Nov 30, 2012
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The one you buy should depend on what it is you want to store on it, because it’s really easy to pay too much. Keep in mind that the storage that affects Lightroom Classic performance the most is the device where the previews and caches are stored (which is in the same folder as the catalog). The raw master files are read less often and don’t need top speed.

If it’s for raw master files, an external USB 3 hard drive is enough because the raw files get read in once to be cached and a preview generated, and then are left alone for a while. Maximum transfer rates of hard drives are 100-200MB/sec, and hard drives are the cheapest per gigabyte.

If it’s for the Lightroom Classic catalog and previews, an SSD is recommended. But there are several levels of SSD. SATA and low-end NVME are fine for that, and are the most affordable SSDs. An example is the Samsung T5. Maximum transfer rates are 450 to 1000MB/sec — although the 5 gigabits/sec limitation of the 2018 Mac mini USB 3 Gen 1 ports will limit them to under 600MB/sec. But that is still faster than you need for Lightroom Classic.

If it’s to store very large video files and their caches that will be constantly read and written to while editing video, now you can justify high-end NVME SSD, the most expensive kind, the same kind that is built into current new Macs. An example of this is the Samsung X5. Maximum transfer rates are roughly 1500 to over 3000MB/sec, which you can’t get from USB 3, you have to use Thunderbolt 3. The combination of top-spec SSD and Thunderbolt 3 support usually makes the expense of these drives difficult to justify for photography work alone.

If future-proofing is a priority: An SSD supporting USB 3 Gen 2 (10Gb/sec) or faster might be a good middle ground. It will cost much less than a Thunderbolt 3 SSD enclosure, but it will be more than fast enough for Lightroom Classic and general photo editing, and it will be widely compatible with Macs, PCs, and iPads now and in the future. As long as you understand that on a 2018 Mac mini, its USB 3 ports (5Gb/sec) won’t take full advantage of the speed, but again, they are fast enough for Lightroom Classic. (USB 3 ports on current new Macs support 10Gb/sec.)

I don’t think it’s possible to change the internal storage of a 2018 Mac mini, so any expansion must be external.
 

GregJ

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Jul 11, 2011
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San Antonio, TX
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Classic
I'm a PC hobbyist and build my own gaming rigs. Keeping up with this is a chore. This is not a LR question but a computer question and it is important because storage is cheap and plentiful and getting very fast and we are all benefitting from it.
Study up.
I just rebuilt my PC with an internal 8TB SATA SSD (which is slow but at 8TB you have to stick with SATA for now and it is still way better than a spinning HD) to hold all my image files, and two 8TB spinning HDDs to have dual-backups using GoodSync.
My catalog resides on a 2 TB M.2 NVME PCIe SSD where the OS and all programs sit, and yes ... it is PCIe 4.0! That makes a Hell of a difference. But that is cutting edge stuff. PCIE 3.0 is fine.
If you have an old laptop with older versions of USB ports, just get a nice 1 TB SATA SSD and be happy.
But listen, if your laptop is over 3 years old, it is time to upgrade. Same with your desktop.
Too much has happened since then for you not to be enjoying it.
 

fullkoll

Active Member
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
179
Location
North of Sweden
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Advanced
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Classic
I have the Lightroom Classic program installed on my 2018 Mac mini 120 GB and I back up that with TimeMachine on a Samsung T5 500GB SSD

The LR catalogue + all my >25000 pictures are also on a Samsung T5 500GB SSD - manually backed up to three copies of the same sort of disks with SuperDuper. Two of those disks I keep in different "out of the house" locations for extra security......
I regularly delete and renew the previews, to keep the storage needed under control.

I am on my third year with this setup without any problems what so ever!
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 27, 2016
Messages
176
Location
Napa, California
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Power User
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Classic
Thanks for all the comments. I'm going to think more about this before I actually invest some money
Something I did not mention earlier is that I have large data files stored on two 4 TB spinning drives in an Other World Computing Thunderbolt 3, 4-drive- bay, and routinely work on 50-400 MB files with no problems and not much lag. The bay has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, so easy to string things together. High-quality old-school drives are plenty fast for this work, and much cheaper than SSDs; and since I have three copies of each I feel pretty solidly backed up.
 
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