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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > Mac mini HDD question - to FW or not to FW

Mac mini HDD question - to FW or not to FW
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Dec 26, 2005, 06:17 PM
I have a Mac mini - 1.25GHz with 1GB memory. The 40GB drive in it recently bit the dust. Unfortunately, since I'm a fairly mechanically-inclined fella, the warranty is void.

What I have done in the meantime, since I can't afford another laptop drive just yet, is put a spare 20GB drive in a firewire enclosure. I then booted from my install DVD, used Disk Utility to prepare the drive, and installed OS X directly onto the firewire drive.

(With the 40GB drive in place in the mini, it won't boot from CD at all. The drive makes awful noises. I have removed the internal HDD to restore boot-from-CD functionality. Removing the drive and trying to access it's contents using SpinRite 6 from grc.com fails miserably.)

My main question is this - what are the disadvantages to leaving the system with only a FW HDD? Could I go and get a 300GB 7200RPM HDD to put in this FW enclosure and just use that as my main mini HDD? Are there any reasons that WOULDN'T work?
2.4GHz Macbook. 22" LCD. External 640GB HD. Yum.
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Dec 26, 2005, 08:48 PM
Disadvantage? You have to always keep the Firewire drive plugged in and you only have one Firewire port, so you can't plug a video camera, iSight, audio device, etc in.

300GB? Depends on your enclosure (some only support up to 128GB/137 billion bytes), but most will be fine with it.
jamester  (op)
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Dec 26, 2005, 08:57 PM
Thanks, Mark. As it turns out, it looks like we're getting an 80GB 5400RPM 8MB cache notebook drive for the mini after all.

One of the things I really like about the firewire enclosure that I currently have is that it has another firewire port on the enclosure - so one port to plug into the mac mini, and then a 2nd port to plug in an iPod or another drive, etc. I picked it up from Newegg - it's by Bytecc and has been working really well for me.

So, it looks like we'll use the 80GB drive as the main system drive.

My next question would be this: How hard would it be to relocate user folders to an external drive? My home folder currently resides on Mac OS / Users. I'd like it to reside on an external drive. Easy? Hard? Toying with the devil? =)
2.4GHz Macbook. 22" LCD. External 640GB HD. Yum.
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Dec 27, 2005, 02:12 AM
I use an external FW HD with my Mini because my HD broke too. I got it replaced under warranty though.

I used a program called SuperDuper to clone the drive. It keeps everything exactly the same. When my Mini came back fixed, I just cloned the external FW drive back to the internal.

I had considered running my FW drive all the time but the one I have is noisy and like you, the broken HD affected other things. Also, my FW drive has a fault whereby it unmounts itself sometimes while using it. I think it's an issue with the enclosure but I had considered it might be because I have it daisy chained to a DVD burner. The DVD burner goes into my Mini and the HD into the burner. I heard somewhere that FW devices also fight for priority on a chain but I don't know if that's true.

The setup I have is generally reliable and I use the HD for backups mainly but also just extra space. I have a 40GB internal 5400 and an 80GB 7200 external. I was in a hurry as my HD was breaking so I didn't have time to shop around so I paid way to much for my external drive and it's really big. I should have gone for something like the Lacie porche portable drive:


The advantage to the one I got is that it takes standard IDE drives so I can put in a cheap HD if it breaks. It takes CD/DVD burners too.
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Dec 27, 2005, 02:50 AM
I use a 120 GB (soon to be 300-400 GB) hard drive in a Firewire enclosure, since my Mini doubles as an AFP/SMB file server for my network.
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Dec 27, 2005, 06:57 AM
Im sure you have thought about this, jamster, but why not put a 7200 RPM notebook drive in your mini. Im not up on prices, so I wouldnt know the difference in price between the 80 gig you said you were putting in the mini and a 7200 RPM drive, but I know Hitachi do a drive, i think its the 7K60 (or something like that) that is 7200 RPM notebook, which would give your mini a nice little speed bump.

Just a suggestion
iMac Core Duo 1.83 Ghz | 1.25GB RAM | 160HD, MacBook Core Duo 1.83 Ghz | 13.3" | 60HD | 1.0GB RAM
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