One of the reasons people love a Mac mini server is they own the hardware and can upgrade or add-on as needed. We allow for BUS powered drives to be attached to Mac minis for extra storage or for backup of their Mac mini server. This is a great way to get large amounts of data to or from the data center quickly. For instance, a couple years ago we partnered with a Canon program where photographers would take photos in the field, overnight us a small external drive with hundreds of GBs of photos, and we’d plug it into their Mac mini so all the photos were available online very quickly.
In our data center, we’ve always preferred BUS powered drives for a couple reasons. (In other words, drives that are powered by the port on the Mac.) First, they require less power and space (both of which are expensive in a data center.) Second, over the years we’ve seen a number of hard drive external power adapters burn out. It seems that much attention is given to the drive, but the quality isn’t there for the power adapters.
The downside to BUS powered drives is that they usually aren’t as large in capacity. Up until recently, the maximum size of drive you could buy was 2TB. For most people this was plenty, but sometimes you just need more.
In January, Seagate announced a new 4TB BUS powered drive and it looked great. This drive is called the "Backup Plus Fast Portable Drive." Horrible name, but great potential. We now have one of the first drives shipped and we took a look for those interested in it.
Here is the packaging:
And another one from the top:
The hard drive ships in NTFS format, which is ideal if you are going to use it between a Mac and a PC. However, Mac OS X Extended is preferred if you’re going to be on a Mac only. (This can be done in Disk Utility of course. A tip: I wasn’t able to partition the drive right away. First I had to use the "Erase" option, then the partition option worked fine. Maybe a little bug?) When formatted for a Mac, the drive shows 4TB available, and 1.11GB used, which is likely the amount needed to keep the two internal drives configured in RAID 0.
The drive ships with both a USB 3.0 cable and a USB 3.0 Y-cable. The latter is need in case your computer doesn’t provide enough power from just one USB port. However, on the 2012 Mac mini and the 2013 MacBook Air, the single USB is sufficient.
The transfer speed is fantastic. We used the great (and free) Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. For comparison, here is the WD Firewire drive pictured above:
Now here is the USB 3 Seagate drive:
Obviously, USB 3 is faster than Firewire in any situation. I mostly just wanted to show that it certainly lives up to those speeds. (Here is a handy comparison from Macworld on different speed options.)
When picking a drive to purchase, I think there are three things to look at: speed, capacity and convenience. For instance, you can buy a desktop drive like this one with great speed and capacity, but you’re stuck with a bigger drive and an external power unit. Another option is a portable small thunderbolt or small USB3 drive, but you’re limiting your capacity at 2TB. The amazing thing about this new drive from Seagate is you get great capacity, great speed, and it’s in a small form factor with no external drive. I think these drives will be very popular. The Seagate product page still lists them as "Not available" but you can buy one on Amazon right now. (Though, they’ve been selling out quickly so you may have to keep an eye on it.)
Macminicolo, a Las Vegas based company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. We are the leaders in this niche market and are known for our personal service and advanced data center. We currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 56 different countries around the world. Find us on Twitter @macminicolo or on our company blog.