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Harry_The_Bustard

Mac Mini Hard Drive

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Just recently my Late 2006 Intel Core Duo 1.83 GHz Duo Mac mini (specification) started "beach-balling" in the Finder and with the boot process first being temperamental and then failing I guessed my hard drive was up The Swanee. I ran Apple Hardware Test and that suggested this was the case - to some extent also a so-called Genius - though with the Apple Store I went to being choked with iPhone 4 casualtues I think he simply gave it a couple of minutes failing to boot and surmised the same rather than do any real testing. (Note: Don't seek help in an Apple Store just after Christmas.) I managed to got hold of it in Target Disk mode to pull off some of the files on there (merely loads of television programmes I'd recorded and not had chance to watch) but after a while it really did give up the ghost and only the drive itself was seen with no partition. (Disk Utility's "Repair" option probably laid the fatal blow.) Still, with the drive always getting full too quickly this was an opportunity rather than a problem as it gives me the chance to whack in a 500 GB one at least - though I'm tempted by larger - and this is why I've raised this thread. There are several forum threads and articles out there, of course, though one (which I now can't find) did mention noise being a problem with the newly-installed drive. That's a major concern being as the Mac will mainly serve as a video recorder and playback device - as it was doing - hence I don't want something distracting whether it's busy whilst the Gogglebox is off or even when it's being used. Heat is another issue - something general opinion suggests should not be these days - but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Reliability is also an important factor but with drives barely costing more than fifty quid I can live with one which only lasts a few years - though I will get one with the usual three to five year guarantee and return (somewhere) it if it fails - fifty quid being fifty quid as we tight-fisted Yorkshiremen say. So, I'm after opinions - ideally from those who've done something similar - the ones I've seen elsewhere suggesting Samsung are especially cool-running and reliable but not mentioning the noise. I know I could read the technical specifications for the drives on offer from Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba and Hitachi but there's nothing like real world experience.

Edited by Harry_The_Bustard
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I've been replacing old hard drives with 500G or 640G drives quite a lot this last year. I've used them all, you know, mixing it up with the idea of finding out if something is worse compared to something else. turns out it's all good. but here's the thing. a hard drive will fail within the first 10 days of it spinning if it's going to fail. it's the nature of a mechanical thing.

 

notable:

• there are 4 500G 2.5" disks that power my G4 NAS Drive Mk3. I built this a year ago. since then one of the drives failed. I got an email from the box saying that it had died. cool!

• the 640G drive I put in my MacBook Pro(totype failed after spinning for 2 years. it went back to Samsung and was promptly replaced.

• a Western Digital drive that just showed up at my office lasted 4 days before it started making a screaming noise.

 

we all have a story about a drive that went bad which caused us to become loyal to a different brand. today it doesn't much matter who makes the drive as there are bad lots in all. YMMV right? one thing you can do is buy a drive that as a 3 or 5 year warrantee. at least you'll know that it's supposed to last that long.

 

as these 500G are so very cheap it's a good idea to have them back themselves up to some other place.

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Interesting - and much as I suspected given the views out there. Still, any pointers on low noise and heat would be appreciated - especially from this who have done the deed I'm about to do. I'll not bother with a backup of this machine - as cheap as additional media is - as whilst I would like to recover any recordings I may lose when it fails (that's all it will hold) they aren't so important as to warrant securing them with Time Machine or otherwise.

 

One tale I can tell relates to an internal 200GB Seagate 3.5" IDE drive which I bought in 2004 as additional storage for my PC. After switching I stripped that box down (I'd built it myself) and sold on most parts - the drive sitting on a shelf with only occasional mounting in a caddy to add to an archive on there. It popped its clogs this week when I mounted it again - pronging it in and out from time to time never being a good idea - I doing so as I've got two others left over from my PC days and I use each periodically. (It may have taken a knock when I moved home recently.) Oh, well, at least the data wasn't of critical importance - just a bunch of podcasts and radio programmes - and there's a slim chance it will kick into life when I try to mount it again. (I've heard such stories but don't hold your breath.) Still, its loss serves as a reminder that I must get the 4TB RAID 0 NAS drive I've been promising myself all these years rather than the measly 750 GB single drive one which I have at present.

Edited by Harry_The_Bustard

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noise ratings are tough. a quiet drive in a Mac Mini might seem really loud in a MacBook. the difference is going to be where your hands and head are in relation to the box. heat can be an issue but more so for laptops because of the compact space. there is zero airflow in the area by a drive for MacBook/MacBook Pro. on the mini there's better venting all around.

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I ended up getting a Western Digital WD5000BPVT Scorpio Blue (SATA II - 5400 rpm - 8MB Cache - 12 ms) 500 GB one and it's been running happily for a while - mainly recording television programmes and playing them back - the Mac being solely a media centre. Getting it in was challenging and I recommend the video guides on the web site of "Other World Computing" - also the step-by-step guides at "iFixit" - and suggest you watch and/or read them all the way through before starting. I'd had limited luck getting the television programmes off the old drive when it was failing - the partition eventually disappearing after getting hold of it for a while - and was delighted to find I was able to get almost all of the remainder off when I put the old drive in a caddy. (The partition re-appeared and I used a demo version of Data Rescue to scan the drive - that finding my files in "lost+found" rather than in the "Users" account area where they were expected - then OS X letting me know it could read the drive but not write to it.) The old drive even seems to be behaving itself after reformatting it - something I couldn't do when it was in situ - though I'll not trust it with anything critical.

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I installed a 500 Gig Western Digital into my Mini. It's been running for a over a year (I think) without a problem. As far as noise I can't say I've noticed it. I would go for it.

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The box which I replaced the drive in seemed to behave itself though is rarely awake these days as I gave it to my wife (together with an Apple 20" Cinema Display) to do big stuff on - her MacBook not being ideal for such - that in itself having been largely replaced by her iPad as it happens. So, it should last a while. I actually went ahead and bought another 500GB drive (same make and model) and put that in my Mid 2007 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz Mac mini (specification) so replacing the custom-fitted 160 GB one. That drive was working fine but as the box is now our main video recording and so playback device - with an Apple 23" Cinema Display and LaCie FireWire Speakers - we can keep a lot more television programmes this way until I either (and illegally) render them down to DivX for keeps or simply watch them and delete them. (We store other video media on a NAS drive from which we stream to that and we stream music media stored on there to a far better audio system via AirPort.) It was well worth doing for another reason - to clean out the dust in there - the box running notably quieter when rendering stuff down vis Eye TV. P.S. I went further than the guide video mentioned and removed the disk assembly ribbon cable to make thing easier - only to snap one of the legs on the grip - it surprisingly managing with just the one. Oops.

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I think you should build your nas thingie and do auto backups. While the data on the mini is not that uber important, your time sure is. When it comes to sound on the drive, is it possible to use an ssd? Depending on the amount of work your pumping in this mini - it might be a nice quite option.

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The second drive - i.e. the one mentioned in my last post - has just popped its clogs and with it being well within the warranty period (three years it seems) I'm almost certainly going to request a replacement. Before doing so, however, I'm going to have a crack at recovering the (hardly-essential) stuff on there - i.e, that which I chose not to back up - in the meantime I having recovered the contents of my Time Machine backup to my wife's Mac mini. (I must admit it was a bit scary having to rely on a single backup and this experience has nudged me in the direction of making a periodic second backup for off-site storage with the likes of online services being a likely option.) I don't hold up much hope of getting the non-essential data off but I'll let Data Rescue 3 (demo version) do a "Deep Scan" of it as that managed to get my previous buggered drive into a state where I could pull quite a bit of stuff off via (the) Finder. (Sometimes it mounted and sometimes not whilst this one hasn't since the day it died.) Whatever the case I may reformat it (with zero writes) and see if it behaves itself before sending off for a replacement - trusting it perhaps asking for trouble - though given that I use Time Machine I'm fairly covered and such might mean I can avoid major surgery once more. I know this goes against good advice but a mate's iMac hard drive went tits up - possibly one under the "iMac 1TB Seagate Hard Drive Replacement Program" - and he managed to get it going after reformatting then restoring and carried on regardless.

 

Whether or not I get a replacement drive I might get an SSD - one even as small as 64 GB as that's all I may need - that not only speeding things up but also, I guess, reducing the internal temperature which I suspect may have been the cause of the drive's failure. (I render a lot of video down from a DVB-T source to DivX.) In view of this - and this is the main reason for updating this thread - I wondered if anyone has any recommendations as to which makes to use and which not. (I gather TRIM support in 10.6.8 would be good but that I might need to use a third party patch as Apple only support it in "their own" drives.) I know the model I have only supports SATA 1 but from what I can make out drives offering SATA 2 and 3 will work - albeit at the lowest speed offered by SATA 1 - but an SSD drive should, I gather, be better than a spindle & platter(s) one.

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SSDs…

 

the best solution that I've found so far is to use the SSD for a boot/system drive and use a spinning disk for everything else. the thinking behind this is that when an SSD fails it fails so hard that recovery is not even possible. there isn't a trick to getting it working again like taking the circuit board from a working drive and swapping it on the dead one, chilling/freezing it for a bit then installing it for a go (this never works BTW… okay it did once. YMMV. you've been warned.) or whacking on a surface once (okay twice) to unstick the stuck (so if you actually do this you're a moron. this only worked for a certain IBM Diskstar aka Deathstar where the heads rusted to the surface after being idle for a while.) but dead SSD has not "tricks to get working" that I know of.

 

so don't put anything on them that you care about. or if you do make sure those bits are going to another place and another another place for safe keeping. it's not like storage is expensve like it was 20 years ago.

 

as for what to use? be mind of old product being dumped for cheap. you can tell old stock because the write times are slow compared to the reads. latest generation SSDs will have slower writes but the writes aren't half of reads like pre 1st gen hardware.

 

don't get caught up in the numbers. SATA1 will saturate pretty much anything on sale today. the bus will never wait on the drive as it's top end is 187.5 MB/s and most drives can write a 2X that or more. that's megabytes not bits. and you'll never see this speed in the day to day. I just tested copying a 200 meg file on a Core2Duo MacBook Pro. the thinking is that it would copy in less than a second. but from the time I typed Command-D after selecting the file it took 6-8 seconds to finish. that's just clock watching and not using a script to mark start and end time. copying the same file on spinning hard drive took 20 seconds.

 

so far I've played with Samsung, Intel, Crucial and Kingston SSDs. they all play similarly in old MacBooks.

Edited by johnfoster

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Thanks for the information and advice.

 

I agree that two backups would be best - one local and one remote - and better than just the one (Time Machine) that I do at present. I will improve.

 

I'll check on SSD read and write speeds before buying.

 

I fired the Mac up in Target Disk Mode and connected it to my wife's Mac mini then running Data Rescue 3 (demo version) in "Deep Scan" mode. However, it was going to take 24 hours and with her machine being needed until the weekend I abandoned that and opted to knock up an OS X 10.6.3 boot drive on flash media. That proved "fun" in that it took three hours to generate it and then wasn't spotted by the Startup Manager no matter what I tried - though my wife's Mac mini spotted and used it so it was a runner - albeit a slow one. (It's a brand new 16GB Kingston Data Traveller SE9 - a simple write test that I did showing a piss-poor speed of 5 MB/s.) So, my next step is to clear a FireWire drive and install OS X 10.6.3 on that before trying Data Rescue 3.

Edited by Harry_The_Bustard

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I cleared a portable drive and generated a new install of Snow Leopard (I have the required Leopard licence too) then restoring my Time Machine backup and overlaying my new and revised files from my wife's machine. I then cloned it to another portable drive so that I have a third copy of my data and, of course, a second copy of my system - one which I've moved off-site for safe-keeping - that being likely to be rotated each month with a clone on my current live drive when I've replaced the buggered drive in the Mac mini. So, yes, that's the plan with me now looking at SSD options given that I'm not going to trust the failed drive. Data Rescue 3 (demo) found a fair bit on there but didn't jar the drive into a state that it could be mounted so I'm deliberating as to whether to buy a licence for that - what I've no longer got access to not being essential and the £60 or so being better spent on a dual disk drive with one disk being a mirror. (I've long planned on getting a LaCie 2big NAS and using it in that mode - the recent failure of my single drive NAS from them underlining that need - much of my DVB-T-sourced video being lost.) Having researched SSDs for my Mac mini - i.e. Version 1 SATA interface - it looks like a drive with read/write speeds above 150 MB/s won't be worth the extra expense. Should anyone have any views on this - or, again, makes - then I'd be grateful. (As mentioned in an earlier post I do a fair bit of video rendering and whilst the data has been on the local drive of late I'll probably have it on an external one in the future.) As things stand I may play it safe and go with a brand I know - e.g. Crucial and Kingston - the former having lower-speed drives whilst the latter has higher ones and which may be a waste of what may be extra cash.

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After roaming around the web reading general guidance, technical specifications and reviews I plumped for SanDisk with these being the two front-runners...

 

1. Standard... SDSSDP-128G

 

2. Ultra... SDSSDH-120G

 

...the key differences between them being that the first is...

 

- four times slower at random (4K) reads

- five times slower at random (4K) writes

 

- 75% faster at sequential reads

- 30% faster at sequential writes

 

- 20% less cost

 

...than the second.

 

Given that my Mac mini has a SATA 1 interface the better sequential reads & writes of the first don't matter. However, I'm not sure if the better random ones do - i.e. whether the slower ones of the first are capped by the interface in the same way as the sequential ones - and so the more expensive drive is not worth buying. (I don't know how the quoted "IOPS" values for the random stuff relates to the interface.) There's only GBP 10 (about USD 16) in it but that's a night down the pub for me. I might just toss a coin in the morning.

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you are over thinking this. you won't be able to tell the difference in real world use.

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So say SanDisk Support too - who I dropped a line to before bedtime - they replying this morning. So, if you fancy joining me for a pint - that tenner I'll save stretching to three or four here - I'll be there on Friday night.

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I got and installed the second - i.e. Ultra... SDSSDH-120G ...and it has played ball (not the beach one) in the three or so months that I've had it in. Having said that I occasionally get system hangs of maybe fifteen seconds - though whether that's down to the "new" drive or not I don't know. One thing I am sure of, though, is that nothing appears in the System Log immediately before or after (and certainly not during) the hangs. I'm thinking of putting a similar one in my wife's slightly lower specification Mac mini - her drive having just started giving i/o errors in the System log - and it will be interesting to see if she suffers the same.

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I recently put an SSD in the wife's (Late 2006) Mac mini - a Crucial M500 - and it seems to be fine. I'm still getting those system hangs in mine - something I've been living with - though given how cheap SSDs are now I might swap the one out (for another Crucial M500) to see if it sorts out the problems. Interestingly, perhaps, I have noticed it takes a quite a while longer than it used to to show the Apple logo on restart - i.e. when it's looking for the hardware and, more importantly, a boot drive - this perhaps suggesting an issue with the existing drive. I plan to test that, of sorts, by booting from a drive image on a FireWire drive - also running from that a while to see if it hangs - all the while (a day) making sure any important file changes are backed up manually and then put on the internal drive. (That's backed up via Time Machine too.) Which brings me to the main reason for reviving this thread... that the last MacCast was interesting (more than most to me) with the advice that Crucial drives have a TRIM-type feature built in - something covered by them here - so meaning I won't need to run Trim Enabler. Not that I need to anyway, I guess, as having SATA 1 interfaces in both Mac minis means any saving is probably not to be noticed. Finally, the two Western Digital drives pulled from the two Mac minis (his and hers) last year and this are just within their warranty periods and I'll probably send them off to be replaced - though what I'll do with the replacements (always refurbished drives) I don't know - I having enough "junk" around the place and a wife who can't see the point of it all. P.S. If only cheap short-term licences (a week or a month) for Disk Warrior could be bought I'd be tempted to try to recover the data on mine before I wipe it and test it prior to a possible RMA.

Edited by Harry_The_Bustard

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