An External SSD Gave My iMac a New Lease on Life

I did exactly the same thing with my 2019 iMac with a Fusion drive. The OWC Envoy case is great and I populated it with a 1 TB drive. It is so-o much faster than the Fusion drive and has been dead-on reliable. I have two applications that I primarily use on that computer: Plex Media Server and Photoshop/Lightroom. Both behave perfectly with the external drive and Photoshop in particular launches noticeably faster.

I have to give a big ‘thanks’ for helping make my 2017 i5 waaaay faster, very much like a new machine.
A big concern is that the SanDisk Extreme 1TB it boots from feels very warm to the touch now.
Is this only an issue now that it is a boot drive (I don’t remember it being so warm when only reading/writing data)?
Question being, will this wear down the ssd faster with this constant warmth/heat?
*Edit, there was not a lot of info from this SanDisk forum: SSD Heat - #6 by centerice99 - Extreme Portable SSD - SanDisk Forums

Warm to the touch is not necessarily a problem, as long as it’s not overheating.

According to the product support page (assuming this is your model), the operating temperature range is 32ºF to 113ºF (0ºC to 45ºC).

If you have a way to measure the temperature, you should do so and see if it is approaching 113 degrees or not.

Sounds good, will try to measure the temp.
Technical follow up question: Can I dismount/remove the drive from the iMac while it sleeps to let it cool off periodically, or is it best do completely power down the mac to get the same result?

You don’t need to shut off the iMac to get the drive to cool off. If the Mac is asleep, the SSD will not be working and it will cool off on its own. If the iMac is not asleep, just unmount the SSD (eject in Finder) and it will cool off as well.

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Unfortunately I cannot dismount since it is the boot-able drive.
In addition, the SanDisk forum page I posted also had folks noticing the ssd not cooling down even while the Mac would be sleeping.
If there is anything I am missing, sorry in advance. This is rather new to me

If the Mac really goes to sleep it should get cold and the SSD as well. However, some Macs are set up to periodically perform tasks during sleep so they wake to do that and with that you could also expect to see some disk activity. Check Sys Prefs > Energy Saver > Enable PowerNap and Wake for network access.