Best ways to make silent backups

With my new Mac arriving in a week, I’m contemplating another hardware upgrade, and I’m curious to learn what others have done. Put simply, I hate listening to hard drives.

For my everyday bootable duplicate (I have others too, along with Backblaze) and Time Machine backup (on separate partitions), I bought a 2 TB OWC Mercury Elite Pro mini case with a 5400-rpm drive years ago. It was reasonably quiet, but eventually its mechanism went belly up. I replaced it with a Seagate FireCuda Gaming 2.5-inch 2 TB drive, which is much louder and spins up and down more noticeably. First world problems, I know, but I’d really like to eliminate the noise.

For backing up the 1 TB internal SSD on the new iMac, I can use the external 1 TB Samsung T5 SSD that I’m currently booting from, so I’ll have a bootable duplicate that’s updated every night. No sound there.

And I have several hard drives that basically just have archival information on them and can stay turned off unless I need them. No unnecessary sound there.

But for Time Machine backups, I’m thinking about getting a 2 TB SSD and using that so I don’t have to keep listening to my current drive. That’s an easy solution, if a tad expensive.

What about other solutions? I could imagine a NAS in another room, although that would be more expensive and would likely require another UPS as well. Long ago, I had a Mac mini acting as a server and running Time Machine Server; that’s still conceivable but I gave up on it before because it was an annoying amount of work to manage. Anything else?

Hope you enjoy your new iMac Adam. I love mine - it is an iMac 27" Retina 2019. Got a bunch of RAM from OWC and it runs like a dream. I use a 4 TB WD hard drive for one CCC backup and a 2 TB SanDisk SSD that I alternate with the WD for my CCC backup. I also use a 2 TB WD hard drive for my Time Machine (don’t keep it plugged in all the time, just do so a couple of hours each day). Seems to be running smoothly (knock on wood!).

I was under the impression that Apple did not recommend SSDs for Time Machine. Have they corrected that issue?

I got the iMac because of growing eye difficulties and it has been a dream. I solved the noise from hard drives by losing my hearing - much cheaper. . . Looking to solve the problem of workout pain by getting older, too. lol

Enjoy your iMac. Love to hear your evaluation as you begin working with the newer version.

Hah! That’s basically like sticking your fingers in your ears and repeating “I can’t hear you!” in a loud voice. I’ve lent my AirPods to a friend briefly, so I’m using the AirPods Pro and I just don’t like them that much.

I was a little concerned about that too, but can’t find any obvious warning from Apple, and even years ago, people were saying it was OK.

I am with Doug. I’d love to be able to complain about noisy hard drives

even with very $$$ state of art H aids the noise isn’t there


I’ve been using an SSD for Time Machine for at least 10 years with no problems. My husband has been using an SSD for backups as well.

For what it’s worth, I have several HDD’s running without any significant increase in noise.

The drives are sitting vertically on a particle board under my desk; there is at least 1/2" of separation between them.I used my Apple Watch Noise app to test noise level. The baseline noise level in the room with windows closed, fans off, and computer speaker output muted is about 35dB (watch played at about ear level at my normal seating positioning front of my iMac. I saw the same level when testing in a quiet corner of my apartment. When I placed the Watch directly in front of a WD myBook 4TB hard drive streaming video (muted speaker, of course), the level went up by a 2-3 dBs. However, from the normal seated portion, no change registered.

My question, however, is if you turn off all those drives, does it seem quieter? For me, that’s the real issue. The drive isn’t making a ton of noise, but it’s constantly doing things on the desk in front of me, and it does capture my attention at times.

1 Like

If it’s that important to you I would really just get SSDs. I don’t mind the noise as much, and yet my next TM drives (after I go through the remainder of my spare WD HDDs) will definitely be SSDs. Decent stuff is now going for about $110/TB.

1 Like

I am in the same boat.

Expensive is of course relative but I am leaning toward a 2-TB Samsung T5 ($279 at B&H), which seems to be a reasonable compromise between price and perceived reliability.

1 Like

I haven’t noticed any noise when turning the drive on. Actually, I also haven’t noticed noise from my portable external drives that I use with my laptop on short cables; so I may not be that sensitive.

It’s at my feet, so I can’t really say. One advantage of this arrangement is that, while close, everything is out of view.

There are no lights on the front of the drives, and I don’t think there is an activity light on the back either, so that should not be a distraction.

Note that I find on Noise app on my Apple Watch to be great for these noise studies. For example, I am running a tier fan on the right side of my chair. The watch at the left armrest registers a noise level of 40dB or so. Placed a fraction of an inch from the front of the fan, it registers 85dB.

My spinning hard disks definitely add enough sound to be annoying.

I favour the Alan Forkosh solutions.

Another idea would be to dismount the Time Machine drives so manually so that it is quiet when you are concentrating at the computer. And have them automatically mount periodically with some sort of automation software/terminal commands/hot key so that it eventually mounts and backups when you are away from the computer.

I personally would not want to spend much more money on Time Machine as is, as I sort of feel that it is overdue for an overhaul to current Apple tech (APFS etc). I find a NAS useful, but don’t use Time Machine with it.

FWIW - I’d try Time Machine on another Mac again. I tried it a few years ago and found it didn’t work well, but I’m running it now and it seems (knock on wood) simple and reliable.

I’m actually just going through this myself. I moved my desk around, and in the process, I turned everything off and realized how quiet it was without all those drives running.

I’ve got a T5 drive for bootable backups, but all of the other spinning drives are being banned from my office and being attached to Mac minis in other locations in the house where I will not hear them.

Since 2017 I’ve been using a set of four encrypted 500GB Samsung T5s.

  • Drive 1 is for Time Machine
  • Drive A is a Carbon Copy Cloner bootable backup
  • Drive 2 is for Time Machine
  • Drive B is a Carbon Copy Cloner bootable backup

Drive 1 and Drive A are used for a week, then stored off-site.
Drive 2 and Drive B are are brought on-site, used for a week, then stored off-site.
Repeat …

iPhone and iPad both get backed up to my iMac.

A small collection of audio/visual files lives on my iMac’s SSD drive. The rest are stored on a pile of duplicated LaCie Rugged HDs and more latterly on Samsung T5s.

Works well for me.

Cheers, Gobit

1 Like

I use a Synology NAS DiskStation with 4TB Seagate IronWolf 5900 rpm drives and the Synology client backup app for continuous backup. I also do a nightly bootable CCC backup to a 2TB OWC Mercury Elite Pro (MEP) Dual RAID.

The NAS is very quiet, although it is located in another room in the house … my wife and I both use it. The MEP is right next to my iMac and is also very quiet.

1 Like

Tell us how you like your new iMac when you get it. What upgrades did you order and can you explain why you picked that particular configuration?

I like the idea of a centralized backup for all computers we have. We use a Mac mini in a physically locked server room on an UPS with an attached 6TB Seagate Backup Plus Hub. All computers are on a fast ethernet network. I use QRecall for daily backups. The Mac mini is headless and it is very easy to remotely login to check things if necessary. The Mac mini also maintains all the backup archives during night times. Backup software sends automatic email in case something goes wrong. Plus in case of emergency, there is only one hard drive to grab and run.

I’m also using a Synology NAS. Mine has multiple drives in a RAID configuration and I’m using Apple’s Time Machine to back up to it instead of the Synology app. It works very well and I keep it in a closet so I never hear it. I’ve been thinking about also configuring the Synology unit to back itself up to cloud storage each night for an off-site backup.

1 Like

Is there room for a low tech solution? How about a wooden box lined with eg egg boxes under the desk somewhere? I’m sure there’s a hightech form of sound proofing if you really must .

Adam, the least expensive way and least complicated to eliminate that pesky hard-drive noise is :grinning:

See 27-inch iMac Receives Significant Update, Other iMacs Get a Nod

I’d be very worried about heat in such a situation.

Way too cheap—I can put fancy AirPods Pro earbuds in my ears if I want silicone in there. :slight_smile:

I decided to go for a Samsung T7 2TB drive for $345 (after tax). I just don’t have sufficient regular need for the things that don’t fit on my main boot drive to put up with a NAS or another Mac purely for quieting down the storage.