Recommendations For New SSDs?

My husband and I are concerned about the longevity of our ancient removable drives, and would appreciate and recommendations about 2TB hard drives. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

Depends on what you want to use them for and which Mac model you have.

Are you looking to replace an internal HDD or put the SSD in an external enclosure (say for backup storage).

The primary use for the SSDs will be external Time Machine backups and archives, and also to store photos. My husband has a late 2020 M1 MacBookPro. My MacBook Pro is so old I don’t remember exactly when I bought it, but it’s probably around 10-15 years old. I will replace it when the newer MBP models come out in the fall. Any suggestions about SSDs will be most appreciated.

This night be a TL;DR so I apologize in advance.

I’ve long been a fan of build your own external drive enclosures that allow you to select your own drive, interface, and performance at the price point you want. They also allow you to replace the drive if the drives break or you want a bigger one.

But if you don’t feel comfortable with DIY enclosures, some of the below discussion is valid too.

I’d lean toward a USB interface rather than Thunderbolt for your use cases. USB interfaces won’t get all the most performance out of an SSD but it’s more compatible with more devices. And USB enclosures cost less than Thunderbolt.

A DIY enclosure will also dictate which kind of SSD can be used. There are enclosures that will accept both SATA HDDs and SSDs or those that use M.2 SSDs only.

If you go down the DIY path, you probably can’t go wrong drives from major SSD manufacturers such as WD, Samsung, Crucial, etc. I know that OWC, WD, and Samsung have external SSD in enclosures as well.

If your goal is long term storage or backups then you don’t have to pay top dollar for the highest performance storage or highest number of writes.

I would personally have separate drives for Time Machine and long term retention, as Time Machine is not a long term archival utility. It will drop old backups if the disk fills up and that’s the last thing you want to have happen for data you want to know you are keeping. It also allows you to take archival data off site for more secure storage.

But don’t rule out HDDs for Time Machine backups. You won’t stress the performance of a drive for backups (especially since Time Machine does incremental backups after the first one). And given how macOS has changed in the last few releases many pundits are rethinking the need for a ‘bootable clone backup’ that would require the performance of SSD backup media in the majority of cases - especially where M1 Macs are involved. SSDs still cost more than HDDs per GB especially at the higher capacities and conversely you can get more backup storage for the same cost with HDDs.

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I’ve talked about this on various occasions here. At the risk of repeating myself, here are some things to consider:

  • An SSD will be much faster than an HDD, but will also cost a lot more. Especially for high capacities (e.g. 2TB and more). And if you need really large capacities, you can get HDDs up to 16 TB. I guarantee you can’t afford that much SSD capacity.

  • I like to build my own external drives. I typically buy a 3.5" SATA HDD and install it in a USB 3 enclosure. This may or may not cost less than just buying an external drive, but by being able to select components, you should be able to end up with a better product. Make sure to read the enclosure’s spec sheet to make sure it supports the drive’s interface and size. (Some enclosures, especially older ones, may have problems with drives larger than 2TB)

  • When selecting an enclosure, I strongly recommend one that includes a cooling fan. Passive cooling may not be enough to prevent overheating, especially if the device will be powered 24x7. This does limit your selection quite a bit, but I think it’s very important.

  • I also recommend an enclosure that has an external power brick. While bus-powered devices are convenient, it’s hard to know if the enclosure and drive you select can operate reliably over bus power. And if you choose higher-performance drives, you can almost guarantee that the bus won’t be able to provide enough power.

  • I recommend USB 3 enclosures. Although Thunderbolt is faster, that won’t matter for an HDD. And I think it is more likely that computers in the future will continue to have USB ports than Thunderbolt ports.

  • When selecting the drive to go in the enclosure, be sure to select a device that is designed for 24x7 operation. Many consumer devices are not. Do your homework, visit the manufacturer’s web site and read the product data sheets. If 24x7 operation isn’t mentioned, you should assume the device isn’t designed for it.

    Even if you don’t think your drive will be powered 24x7, you may still have occasions where it is in use for extended periods (e.g. when making a large backup or letting Photos analyze a large library). A drive that’s designed to be in constant operation for extended periods of time will be more reliable for these tasks.

  • If you select an HDD, only choose a 7200 RPM drive. Slower drives won’t perform as well and you won’t be as happy with the results. And the 7200 RPM drive won’t cost much more than a 5400 RPM (or slower) drive.

  • If you select an HDD, make sure it uses “CMR” recording technology. “SMR” drives have significantly slower write speeds and may appear to hang during large write operations (e.g. a large backup operation). If the drive’s data sheet doesn’t mention which it’s using, assume it is SMR.

And just in case you’re curious, here’s what I’m using for my external drives (two for clone-backups of my system and one for Time Machine):

  • Toshiba N300 drives. I am using 4TB drives. These are 7200 RPM CMR drives designed for 24x7 operation in NAS enclosures.

  • For my Time Machine drive, I’m using a Vantec NexStar HX enclosure. This enclosure has a fan, which I find to be necessary to keep the drive operating properly, since it is powered 24x7 and is accessed every hour (as TM makes its backups).

  • For my clone-backup drives, I am using Vantec NexStar TX enclosures. This model does not have a fan. It works fine for my application, since the drive is only turned on when I’m making a backup.

    I originally tried using one of these for my Time Machine drive as well, but after a month of continuous operation, it started getting flaky (slow operation, disconnecting from the computer, funny noises). When i switched to the HX enclosure with its fan, the problems went away and it’s been stable for over a year since then.

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Many thanks to Technogeezer and David C. for the valuable information, but building a drive would be to big a stretch for us. We’re just looking for a recommendation for an external SSD drive like the ones from Seagate and LaCie – any brand or model that folks have been happy with. We very much appreciate the feedback!

For your purposes an SSD is a waste of money. There is no need to use an SSD for Time Machine. Speed is not important. Pick up a Western Digital My Passport, format it for Mac and hook it up as your Time Machine drive. The same goes for archiving where, again, an SSD is a waste of money.

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Speed is actually very important for us. We have more than one backup drive each, like what Technogeezer mentioned. And we each have a lot large files including graphics, etc.

Speed is important depending on the task whether it be a Time Machine backup, a CCC backup or saving large files. SSD’s, even if using the off the shelf USB ones are way faster than any mechanical drive.

I also can’t recommend the WD My Passport as those drives are unable to be read if taken out or their original cases if the board goes bad (unless something has changed). Instead, the WD EasyStore models are better and a bit cheaper.

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I have used external Toshiba SSD’s which don’t seem to be available now so based on recommendations here in earlier threads, I use Samsung T5 1TB models. There is also a newer T7 which is a bit faster if you have the UBS-C connections which my 2012 Mac does not have. They have been on sale for around $109 at Best Buy and others but you would have to check on the 2 TB which are about double the cost. As an alternative, you could get a 5TB WD EasyStore HDD at Best Buy for around $109 for more storage but slower than SSD. I also use the EasyStore for backups and just purchased another. They’re not as fast as the larger WD models with 7200rpm drives but I only have so much room on the desk and these small drives just plug and play without any external power supplies.

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Well, I would just say buy one of the Samsung external SSDs (USB drives are fine - Thunderbolt are faster and much more expensive) and get on with your life. I am using SSDs exclusively for my CCC backups and for my photo libraries - and I appreciate the speed. (My CCC backup updates take less than 2 minutes to run.)

David

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I’m partial to Samsung SSD’s… and recommend them to clients as internal and externals. Internal i’d go for a Samsung EVO series and external the Samsung T5 SSD. The T5 comes with old and new USB connectors (USB A and USB C).

EVO

T5

Cheers,

Dave

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Merry 2022 Folks

I’ve been using the Samsung T5 SSDs David mentions above since 2017 for:

  • Time Machine backups
  • bootable Carbon Copy Cloner backups
  • photo, music and movie storage
  • archiving.

I regularly rotate backups between on and off-site. Their small size (a fat credit card) makes it easy to slip them in a pocket.

T7 is the current model but I’m quite happy with the T5 which you might be able to pick up at run-out pricing.

Cheers, Gobit

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Is the T5 you use for Time Machine connected 24/7?

We only connect the drives when we are backing up. And I’m leaning to Samsungs. Toshiba was a horrible client for me and so was their ad agency when I worked in ad sales. Samsung was great.

I turn my computers right off when not using them and disconnect the T5s so:

  • the work ones at the office are connected between 6 and 12 hours, 5 days a week
  • the home ones are connected 3 to 5 hours most days.

I’ve been booting from an external T5 which therefore must be connected 24/7. I’ve had no overheating or other issues.

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I still can’t agree with you on this, whether you have your Time Machine drive attached all the time or only for backups. Time Machine is purposely designed to operate in the background at a low level of priority with regard to application operations. I seriously doubt that the time it takes to perform a single backup would be seriously be reduced by the use of an expensive SSD. Save them for higher data throughput requirements.

Also agree with @jk2gs that WD Passport is is likely a poor choice here.

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On an older machine, I turn off automatic backups on Time Machine and use “TimeMachineEditor” to run it just a few times each day on a schedule less instrusive to work.

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Toshiba makes some of the most reliable hard drives and SSD’s as well. But Samsung seems to own the SSD market at this time. I have many Toshiba external hard drives and two external SSD’s and all work well with no issues as do my WD drives. So I don’t think your experience with a company in another arena is relevant to technical issues and/or reliability. Buy the model that suits your needs.

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