Couple questions about SSD enclosure

I have a Crucial MX100 2.5" SSD, circa 2014, originally installed in a MackBook Pro of the same vintage. The drive is in excellent condition, according to Drive DX. I want to put it in a USB 3 enclosure and use it as the main boot drive for a painfully slow 2012 mini (the iFixIt directions for installing the drive internally look a bit too dicey for me).

Will I be able to boot from this arrangement or does a bootable external drive have to be an all-in-one-piece drive? If it will be bootable, I’d be grateful for a couple of recommendations for an enclosure (Will the mini provide enough power or will it be best to get an AC powered enclosure?).

Many thanks.

The mini install is not that dicey. For example, you don’t need to remove quite everything the iFixit instructions say. You can leave the board in there and instead let gravity help you slide the drive in.

That said, putting that SSD into an inexpensive USB3 enclosure will work just fine. Your Intel Mac predates the T2 so you don’t need to explicitly allow external booting in firmware first. Just boot holding option and select the external drive. Once booted from it, use Sys Prefs > Startup Disk to set it to permanently boot from that external drive.

To the Mac there is no difference between “all in one” drives or assembled by you. All the Mac sees is the SSD and the bridge chip (SATA-USB) and that’s the exact same it would see with some kind of all-in-one preassembled package.

The mini’s USB 3 ports will supply the necessary power to the SSD as long as the enclosure and the drive are not junk. That Crucial is old, but just fine. No power issues. Here’s 4 inexpensive enclosures that will do the trick. I have several of three of these and I have never had any issues (unless I accidentally unplug the drive while in use which is only the fault of me, the dumb user doing dumb stuff). My favorite is the Ugreen (first link) just because it’s the sturdiest build. The Eluteng is nice because its translucent shell means you can see form the outside which drive is in it (perhaps not too big of a deal if you only have one drive), but it is a bit flimsy. The next one has a metal enclosure which is nice too. In principle a cooling advantage, but on this level of SSD performance/age/interface that’s not really going to be an issue. The last one is from Cable Matters, it’s metal too and I love it, but it’s a bit pricey.

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Depends on what version of macOS you are running today and in the future. See Howards blog from this weekend:

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Actually that article refers to cloning.

From the article:

  • On Intel Macs without a T2 chip, it can be used as normal, as a complete substitute for bootable internal storage.

(it = clone)
The last macOS a 2012 mini can run is Catalina IIRC. But as Howard points out, it’s rather Intel vs. Apple Silicon and T2 vs. before T2 that really makes the big difference here. This 2012 mini predates T2 by far. IIRC the first mini to come with T2 was 2018.

The OP doesn’t really mention cloning.

It can of course be done, but just as well you could nuke this SSD, install a vanilla macOS on it and then use MA to migrate apps/docs/settings from that mini’s old internal HDD. IIRC the only limitation there is that the macOS you’re migrating to cannot be older than the macOS you’re migrating from.

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Thank you Simon and Al for the wonderful feedback. For the record, the mini in question is running Mojave. The SSD in question will be erased and Mojave installed on it. I’ll use Migration Assistant to move my data to the SSD, either from the internal HDD or from the Mojave clone I have on an external HDD.

I know about the Catalina limit for the 2012 mini. I’m sticking with Mojave primarily because I have a legacy 32-bit application that will cost a bundle to upgrade. I don’t use the mini for web browsing or email. I’m a writer/editor and, lacking a laptop, it’s just handy to have a computer in two locations. Mojave probably isn’t any more of a security risk than Catalina will be once Apple ceases to support it.

Cheers,
Howard

Maybe not…my 2013 mini will not boot from a USB Samsung T7. It sees it with both the option boot and in Startup Disk in System Preferences…but won’t boot. Same disk boots just fine on all of our M1 machines and on the Intel iMac we had before the Studio. Never did figure out why it wouldn’t work and finally decided it wasn’t worth spending any more brain power on.

Thank you Neil for the heads-up. Hmm, well, at least I didn’t run right out and purchase the enclosure. The proverbial quandary…

I believe you said you have a 2012 Mac Mini which is what I have. If so, those have no problem booting from external USB SSD’s like the Samsung T7 or T5 1 TB as I have tried them both and use for backups. I also use an older Toshiba XS700 240GB for booting and it worked wonders compared to the spinning internal discs.

Neil has a 2013 and I recall that issue where the Samsung’s would not boot.

Mojave makes the whole thing even easier. Mojave did use APFS (that started before with HS), but it still used the old single-partition macOS install scheme. In short, you can directly clone the entire drive. There is no SSV or split system/data or anything like that on Mojave that complicates this process. The last one actually. Changes started with Catalina. And SSV came with BS.

(And FTR, that’s not say that the split and SSV didn’t come with other [significant] advantages)

Thank you jk2gs. Hmm, the plot thickens. Yes, I have a Late 2012 mini (About This Mac confirmed). I wasn’t aware of a 2013 mini, but there is a Late 2014 incarnation.

In any case, every manufacturer’s SSD differs by whatever proprietary control software it contains, which is why I asked about potential boot ability. My disk is a Crucial (Micron) MX100 2.5" 256 GB SATA, formerly a replacement internal drive for a MacBook Pro. Probably not many 256 GB drives have seen action as external drives, so…won’t know 'til I try.

Many thanks,
Howard

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I have a 2012-model mini (purchased new in 2014). I used to boot Mojave on it from an external USB SSD periodically. I don’t think there will be a problem with doing that.

When I moved to Catalina, I found that Catalina will not boot from an external FileVault-encrypted drive on a 2012-model mini. It is a known issue, pointed out on the CCC blog.

If you stick with Mojave, it should be OK, even with FileVault. And, yes, stay away from the Internet with Mojave.

Thank you kcjw. I didn’t know about the FileVault issue with Catalina. I’m using Catalina on a 2018 mini, but I don’t use FV. When the dust settles, I’ll upgrade to Ventura. And, yes, the old 2012 workhorse will remain off the Internet.

Sounds like I should invest $15-$20 in an enclosure and give it a try.

Yeah…I know yours is a 2012 but if the 2013 won’t boot from external then I would try and verify before I spent any money on that model as well that it will boot.

Goo to know…I wonder what’s different about the 2013s…other than a minor speed bump I think they’re pretty much the same thing.

Mine is a Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.3 GHz Quad Core Intel Core i7.

I use Catalina as that is as far as I can go unless I use a VM (which I do have).

I don’t use FileVault with Catalina and as I said, the USB SSD boots fine.

As for the internet issue with Mojave, for normal web browsing and email I wouldn’t worry too much about security issues. Firefox is updated constantly and currently can run on Sierra and above. However, Mojave does not get the newer XProtect Remediator updates for security so that is an issue:

Maybe I have too much imagination; I do worry about security issues!
You are right that you should be OK 98% of the time. You only have to make one mistake however.
Security is most effective in layers and there are a couple more security layers on Monterey.

I finally upgraded to an M1 Mac (10% sale on M1 Pro MBP at B&H Photo) because TurboTax kept warning me that it would not work with Catalina next tax season. I feel like I waited a bit too long, and I’m glad I upgraded.

If you don’t use FileVault, anyone can take the drive from a Mac of that generation and read it on another machine.
If you don’t have anything important on the Mac mini, that’s OK. For example, no contacts, e.g., with birthdays or email addresses, no email password, no social media account names, no passwords of any kind, no financial information, etc. Any time you update any third-party software, e.g., Firefox, LibreOffice, you have to trust that their download sites are tamper-proof. Any time you visit a site that links to third-party advertising, e.g., ESPN, you have to trust that those sites are trustworthy and are not using some exploit against Catalina or earlier.
Since I use my main Mac for everything, I try to keep it as safe as I can.