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FireWire for 75% Better Mac mini Disk Performance 533

Posted by timothy
from the outside-in dept.
peterdaly writes "As a proud new owner of a Mac mini, I quickly discovered the internal hard drive performance was so pathetic compared to what I was used to that I needed to do something about it ... preferably on the cheap. I ended up trying a FireWire attached storage enclosure and using an older 80GB drive I had in my closet from a dead PC. My mini got about a 75 percent disk performance increase for about $50 (or $100 if you need a drive). Here is a benchmark of before and after as well as information about my research and upgrade. If you already have at least 512MB RAM, this may be the best performance bang for your buck if you're looking for your mini to be faster and more responsive."
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FireWire for 75% Better Mac mini Disk Performance

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday May 16, 2005 @08:27PM (#12550132)
    Yes, it's true that since the Mac mini uses a 2.5" laptop hard drive by default, which is why the disk performance is relatively poor. This is why you can achieve greater performance with a 3.5" drive coupled with a FireWire enclosure. But many of the FireWire enclosures out there are what I would call, well, damned ugly. And huge. Way more huge than they need to be. And way too ugly and clunky to go with a computer like the Mac mini, unless you bought it completely for price and could care less about appearances.

    Enter miniMate: a FireWire 400/USB 2.0 hub with integrated Ultra ATA 3.5" disk bay with up to a 400GB 7200RPM disk, all in an enclosure aesthetically designed exactly like the form factor of the Mac mini (except a bit shorter):

    http://www.micronet.com/General/minimate.asp [micronet.com]
  • not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ostiguy (63618) on Monday May 16, 2005 @08:30PM (#12550151)
    a year ago, we stuck with hp while deciding upon a new standard laptop as the nc6000's had 5400 rpm drives vs a couple ibm units we were evaluating which had 4200rpm's. I wonder if anyone could ever decommoditize themselves as a pc maker by promising to sell quicker machines at a minor price premium - how much more would it cost to install 512MB and a 7200rpm drive instead of 256MB and 5400rpm?

    ostiguy
    • Do they even make 7200rpm 2.5" HDDs? I've heard of the 4200's and the 5400's, but only seen 7200 and 10000 rpm ratings on 3.5" drives.
      • Re:not surprising (Score:3, Informative)

        by LurkerXXX (667952)
        Yes, lots. I've had a 60GB 7200 2.5" laptop drive for a few years now. Hitachi just came out with a 7200 RPM 100 GB drive.
        • Re:not surprising (Score:3, Informative)

          by timeOday (582209)
          Hitachi just came out with a 7200 RPM 100 GB drive.
          Ahhh, the mythical Momentus 7200.1, 7200rpm 100 Gig laptop drive. Are you saying they're actually shipping? They announced [seagate.com] that sucker almost a year ago. The sad thing is, 100 GB was a lot more impressive last year. Laptop hard drives are really lagging!
      • Re:not surprising (Score:2, Informative)

        by Janitor (107737)
        Hitachi makes a 7200RPM 2.5" IDE drive:
        Hitachi 60GB TravelStar 7K60 7200RPM 8MB Cache.
      • Sure, you can get blazingly fast 7200rpm 2.5" drives, and Google will happily find you 10000rpm drives if you don't mind being limited to 36 GB and put a big hole in your wallet and possibly exceed the heat budget for a Mac Mini. But if you're concerned about price, you're almost always going to win by using an external enclosure supporting 3.5" drives with either USB2.0 or Firewire. Firewire shoeboxes are usually a bit more expensive than USB2, but I don't know if Apple's USB2 drivers are as fast as thei
        • by evilviper (135110) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @02:27AM (#12552092) Journal
          Firewire shoeboxes are usually a bit more expensive than USB2, but I don't know if Apple's USB2 drivers are as fast as their firewire drivers, so check it out if it matters to you.

          Uhh, 480Mbps USB2.0 is slower than Firewire-400, period. No matter how wonderful the software/drivers, nothing can change that. Yes, I realize the numbers for USB2 are higher, but they are just marketing numbers, and reality is very different.
  • This is news? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You buy a system with a 4500 RPM drive, and you're surprised that an external FW 5400 or 7200 RPM drive performs better? Furrfu ...

    Next on slashdot: a new and exciting way to suck eggs.

    If you're in the crowd that would be bothered by a slow HDD, then I'd expect you to understand the implications of the mini's specs. I'm aware of this, yet bought a mini anyway, and it's chugging along fine for my needs, without any external storage.
  • by Amich (542141) on Monday May 16, 2005 @08:35PM (#12550188)
    The form factor sold the machine for me - I don't want to go adding an external drive to the machine, even for a performance boost. I knew I wouldn't be playing Unreal Tournament 2k4 or DooM3 on the machine, I bought it to have a small form factor desktop in addition to my laptop.

    That said, the findings of improved speed with an external firewire drive is hardly surprising. Laptop hard drives (which the Mini uses) are notoriously slow, and if you're one of those who got a 4200 RPM drive with their Mini it's even worse than normal.

    Still, nifty to know it works.

    I'm curious though - has anyone replaced their mini's hard drive with a higher RPM laptop drive? Did that help matters much? I wouldn't mind going for a speed upgrade if I can keep the sleek, tiny form factor =)

    -Amich
    • I know of two people who came real close to buying a Mac Mini, and didn't due to performance reasons. Instead they bought large/ugly/beige/boring generic PCs. One of them squeezed in a striped SATA hard disk set for the same cost.

    • by quarkscat (697644) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @12:08AM (#12551505)
      So sorry -- I don't have a Mac Mini that I can provide some subjective data on. I do, however,
      have a Mac Powerbook which I replaced the OEM drive in.

      The OEM drive was a Fujitsu 5400 RPM 60 GB disk. I replaced it with a Hitachi 7200 RPM 60 GB disk. The replacement disk has the same/similar power saving features as the OEM, so the PBK firmware and the OS (10.3.9) have good control. I have experienced a noticable improvement in the speed of loading applications, as well as spooling large files to disk. (The Hitachi drive has a far larger onboard cache that helps a lot.) I have lost about 15 minutes worth of battery time when untethered from an AC mains source. Over all, excepting the high cost premium charged for the 7200 RPM drive, my upgrade has been a net plus.

      Just my $00.02 worth...
  • by elid (672471) <eli.ipod@gmail . c om> on Monday May 16, 2005 @08:36PM (#12550193)
    Can one actually run the OS off the Firewire hard drive?
    • Yes (Score:5, Informative)

      by peterdaly (123554) <petedaly@ix.[ ]com.com ['net' in gap]> on Monday May 16, 2005 @08:37PM (#12550201)
      Recent Macs boot from a firewire drive just fine.
      • Re:Yes (Score:3, Informative)

        by Shanep (68243)
        Recent Macs boot from a firewire drive just fine.

        Just make sure the firewire enclosure you use will boot fine from a mini. I purchased a Zynet Firewire/USB2 combo enclosure so that I could boot from an external seperate drive for testing (Mac OS X on external, various other OSes on internal), while allowing protection of my OS X stuff by unplugging it. The mini just gives me a grey screen with no Apple logo when I try to boot from the firewire drive.

        I've not seen much complaint of this with firewire dri
      • by sjonke (457707) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:17PM (#12550472) Journal
        I don't consider my clamshell iBook G3 333 or my PowerMac G4 Dual-533, or my iMac G3 400 MHz to be recent. All of them boot from firewire. Indeed the only firewire Mac that doesn't boot from firewire is the very first one: the blue & white PowerMac G3 tower. If you're looking for a Mac on the cheap, my advice is that you take a pass on any Blue & White - it isn't worth any price IMHO, and not just due to the non-booting firewire.
    • Re:Question (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Cennon (837504)
      Yup - I've got mine running from a 160GB Firewire drive myself - no problems at all.
    • Re:Question (Score:3, Informative)

      by sankyuu (847178)

      The process (from TFA):

      1. Install the IDE drive into the FireWire Enclosure. In addition to opening the enclosure and putting it back together, this will probably involve plugging in two cables (power and IDE) into the drive and possibly (depending on the design) screwing in 4 screws.

      2. Plug the enclosure into the Mac Mini using a FireWire cable and power.

      3. Format/Erase the drive using Apple's Disk Utility...OSX may prompt you depending on how the drive setup. (You'll lose any data on the drive duri

    • Re:Question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vought (160908) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:20PM (#12550499)
      Yes. In my mind as an IT person, one of the chief advantages of a Mac is that you can boot any Mac with built-in FireWire from a FireWire disk - including an iPod.

      You can prevent this from happening by setting an Open Firmware password, but for re-imaging machines, it is a godsend.

      As a bonus for those of us who want more utility out of our portable boot disks, all FireWire-equipped PowerBooks and any FireWire equipped desktop since some of the later G4s have the ability to boot in what Apple appropriately calles "FireWire disk mode". Pressing the "T" key at startup turns your $2500.00 Mac into a $100.00 firewire disk enclosure.

      Dollars signs aside, I can assure you that FireWire disk mode is quite gratifying to watch when you've done something stupid to your machine and rendered it unbootable.

      I don't know if the same thing is possible with USB and PCs, but I know that trying to recover Windows 2000 by using a FireWire disk enclosure is impossible, and I assume this holds true for XP as well.
      • Re:Question (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As a bonus for those of us who want more utility out of our portable boot disks, all FireWire-equipped PowerBooks and any FireWire equipped desktop since some of the later G4s have the ability to boot in what Apple appropriately calles "FireWire disk mode". Pressing the "T" key at startup turns your $2500.00 Mac into a $100.00 firewire disk enclosure.

        Any it's not just the hard disk -- the optical drive is shared too, at least on later model system.

        I used my PowerBook's DVD drive to install Tiger onto m

      • Re:Question (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MojoStan (776183)
        In my mind as an IT person, one of the chief advantages of a Mac is that you can boot any Mac with built-in FireWire from a FireWire disk - including an iPod... I don't know if the same thing is possible with USB and PCs, but I know that trying to recover Windows 2000 by using a FireWire disk enclosure is impossible, and I assume this holds true for XP as well.

        I'm not an "IT person," but doesn't this KB article [microsoft.com] say it is possible to recover Windows 2000 by using a FireWire disk enclosure? From the articl

  • Well... (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Jethro (14165)
    If I recall correctly, the drive inside the Mac Mini is a laptop (2.5") drive. Those aren't really known for great performance. I'd not be surprised if it's the same kind of drive they put in Powerbooks (a 4500RPM).

    So... basically this article is saying that fast drives are faster than slow drives. Heck, if I want to do anything intensive on my Powerbook (like DV capture or heck, use GarageBand), I need to use an external firewire drive.

    Maybe I should write an article about how my Powerbook is faster with
    • So... basically this article is saying that fast drives are faster than slow drives

      Well, when you put it like that it seems kind of obvious. But the real equation this article is pointing out is that
      fast drive + firewire > slow drive + ATA

      I find that quite interesting.
    • What about replacing the internal drive with a 7200rpm 2.5" drive. I have 2 of them in my laptop now and I like em.
    • Re:Well... (Score:3, Informative)

      by hacker (14635)

      "If I recall correctly, the drive inside the Mac Mini is a laptop (2.5") drive. Those aren't really known for great performance."

      That may be true of the drives Apple is using, but it definately is not true of 2.5" drives. In fact, 2.5" drives are almost always going to be faster because of lower rotational mass, as well as other factors (caching on the drive, number of platters, etc.)

      Right now my primary laptop drive is close to 40% faster than a brand-new Maxtor drive in a very fast server in the

  • by Chanc_Gorkon (94133) <gorkon@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 16, 2005 @08:46PM (#12550265)
    I use a 120 GB Simpletech USB 2.0 drive as my capture/video editing repository and it works smashingly well. One time I forgot about saving the project to the Powerbook drive and was wondering why in heck iMovie HD was dropping frames and discovered I was using the internal drive. The USB 2.0 drive performs WAY better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, 2005 @08:56PM (#12550334)
    This just in..
    Mac user upgrades slow standard hard drive to a faster one and then gets better performance. A PC user was overheard saying "no shit".

  • Recommended HD? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by erwin (8773)
    I bought the mini for the price and form factor with the plan to upgrade it for performance. Adding RAM helped a lot with the pin-wheel-o'-death, but I haven't gotten to the HD upgrade yet. And, I haven't been watching the HR market lately.

    What's good in the 2.5", 5400-7200RPM 80GB+/- market now? I'm looking to avoid the scenerio where a crappy drive fails in the 2nd year of the warrenty and you just have to decide to get the next one bigger rather than do the warrenty repair.
  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by foonf (447461) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:05PM (#12550390) Homepage
    There has been a whole spate of these "I bought a Mac Mini, found out it really was a cheap, low-end computer, and then spent additional money to bring it up to a barely usable level" articles recently. Most of them involve either major, warranty-voiding modifications to the chassis, or as is the case here, ugly external peripherals that negate the main attraction of the Mini, its external appearance.

    People seem to be buying these things as fashion accessories rather than making a serious decision based on their computer needs. It has one DIMM slot, a relatively slow CPU, and a notebook hard drive -- if thats not what you want, you should look for something else rather than expecting the rest of the world to salute your cleverness in partially addressing its shortcomings. If you don't really need a Mac, you can put together a PC for under $500 with a real hard drive and much better expandability. If you want a $500 computer to run OS X on, you can get a used G4 with specifications similar to a Mini, except again with useful internal expansion capacity. And if you want to spend more than that, well, you have the entire rest of the current Apple lineup.
    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by revscat (35618) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:26PM (#12550534) Journal

      [Intelligent, coherent argument snipped..] And if you want to spend more than that, well, you have the entire rest of the current Apple lineup.

      I agree.

      But (and you knew that was coming, dincha) there are people out there who enjoy spending their time putting nitrox afterburners and onboard computers on '76 El Caminos. Some people enjoy taking less technically advanced machines and making them perform better than the original designers imagined.

      Now, I personally don't do this, but I can see how someone could enjoy doing that with their time. Not my thing, but, ok.

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EggyToast (858951) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:48PM (#12550689) Homepage
      Part of it's fashion, but another part of it is form factor and noise.

      The mini is damn small. You can put it next to your monitor, like an external CD drive, and that's your entire computer. Get one with wireless/bluetooth and the only cable you need is to the monitor, right next to it.

      That's a far cry from a huge, loud box that sits under the desk. Even the smaller shuttle PCs are big compared to the mini, and much louder (I know, I've had the shuttle PCs, and sold it off because it was too loud).

      My girlfriend has a mini and is pretty abusive to it, application-wise. She usually keeps 6-10 beefy apps up at any given time, and while there's some lagginess in opening programs, she's otherwise very happy with it *because* it's small and quiet and does just what she wants.

      I've got a 733 G4 at work and I wish I had a mini instead -- the damn thing sounds like it's going to take off, and it's about 2 feet from my head. If I couldn't wear headphones at work I'd likely be crazy by now.

      They're already very usable computers. The articles you're reading are by those who want to max out benchmarks and make it appear like a much beefier computer than it really is -- probably more because it's like a challenge than as real usage tests. But as someone who sits a few feet from someone's mac mini, I can say that if the only reason someone's disregarding a mac mini is because it's "not as powerful as a big loud desktop," they're missing the point.

      Ultimately, I think we're agreeing but on different points. So don't interpret this as an angry rant -- just pointing out and clarifying from someone who is once removed from a very happy OOTB mini owner.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:05PM (#12550392)
    I upgraded my GF4 MX400 to a 9800XT and got 200% performance increase. I submitted the story and my links which had benchmarks to show the increase, my story was rejected. I guess upgrading a slow part to a faster part in the Mini seems so much more sexy then upgrading a PC.

    Funniest part of the the article, dude pulled out something he had pitched in his closet and it is faster then the drive in his brand new machine. Half the Mac diehards rate that as insightful, the other half make excuses and try to justify why the standard Mini drive is so slow.
    • by keytoe (91531) on Monday May 16, 2005 @11:29PM (#12551285) Homepage
      Half the Mac diehards rate that as insightful, the other half make excuses and try to justify why the standard Mini drive is so slow.
      The standard Mini drive is slow because it's a freakin $500 computer - but it's in a unique and interesting enclosure.

      Apple doesn't make commodity hardware, and they never have. Even though this system falls into the 'commodity' price range (and barely, at that) that doesn't make it a commodity box. You're paying for the engineering it took to stick all that shit into a tiny, silent enclosure.

      If you want power, buy power. If you want cheap, buy cheap. But understand - Apple doesn't make cheap, and they never have. You can always build something yourself if you want a good mix of powerful and cheap - but good luck shoving that into an enclosure that even resembles the Mini.

      And good luck running OS X on it.
  • by henk (29183) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:07PM (#12550401)
    from Feb 4th 2005
    REVIEW: Mac mini -- internal and external hard drive tests

    http://www.barefeats.com/mini01c.html [barefeats.com]

    good analysis w/ lotsa pretty graphs

  • There's some talk that Apple will abandon FireWire for cabled peripherals, in favor of USB. But, with such high performance, is it a viable CPU bus? Maybe allowing better expandability of all devices, including multiprocessors?
  • by chill (34294)
    Not owning a Mac Mini, I want to know, why didn't he just replace the internal crappy drive with the 7200 RPM Hitachi? The Hitachi is a 2.5" laptop drive. Won't it fit?
  • The Real Crime... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheNetAvenger (624455) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:16PM (#12550462)
    The real crime here is that Apple would have even shipped a computer with a 4200rpm drive.

    Yes I understand the slight cost difference and the slight possibility of heat difference, but a 4200rpm Drive? Give me a Break; it is almost 3 generations old in technology.

    It is hard to even buy a laptop drive that is not at least 5400rpm anymore, and the 7200rpm and upcoming 10000rpm drives equal desktop hard drive performance.

    They saved what, maybe $10-25 on the computer by using the 4200rpm drive, and yet I would imagine almost every user would rather pay the extra money to have a computer with a hard drive with 'normal' performance.

    How is this innovative or cutting edge, when the technology they are shoving at Mac users, and first time Mac buyers that are not technical was top of line 5 years ago?

    Apple can do SO much better than this, and we need to remind Apple that if they want to be the innovators and 'technology' leaders they can't get away with giving people sub quality performance and outdated technology.

    I know a lot of people here love Apple and their Macs, but there are times when you need to tell Apple what you think and PUSH them to DO the right things and PUSH them to provide truly the best technology they can.

    (In. example, you still can't buy a Mac Laptop with a high resolution LCD Screen, you still can't buy a Mac with graphics that are even in same class as top of the line PC graphics cards, The G5 is a great CPU, but even OSX (yes even Tiger) does not fully even utilize the features of this CPU. Tiger isn't' even a real 64bit OS, and should be (apple controls all the hardware, this should be easier for them than Microsoft and yet Microsoft is the one with a real 64bit OS for consumers. There are numerous other issues that truly bother me when people tell me they are the 'technology leader when it comes to graphic design or imaging' - technically the hardware falls short of what is available to the PC world.

    One other note on the G5, if Microsoft can take a tri-core G5 based CPU and put it a Video Game Console (Xbox360) at 3+GHz, why can't Apple do this in a desktop system and be a technology leader?

    Ironic that the hard hitting G5 based Tri-core CPU from IBM is running Windows NT and Direct X for gaming and will be sold for playing Games.

    Ok, I got off a bit on an Apple Rant, but darn it I used to love Apple back in the late 80s, and they keep disappointing me and disappointing me. I had so hoped OSX would be the saving factor for what I had expected from Apple, yet it is still catching up to Microsoft and Open Source OSes in a lot of ways and Apple still is NOT providing the cutting edge hardware that they 'market' that they are.

    Apple fans, don't just accept what Apple gives you is always great, question it, compare it to the PC world, and if it isn't truly the level you expect from Apple, TELL THEM. Maybe some good user feedback will push Apple a bit more.

    Take Care all... and sorry about the long rant. :)
    • Re:The Real Crime... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bnenning (58349)
      One other note on the G5, if Microsoft can take a tri-core G5 based CPU and put it a Video Game Console (Xbox360) at 3+GHz

      Um, they haven't yet. All the Xbox360 demos were running on Power Mac G5s.
    • Re:The Real Crime... (Score:3, Informative)

      by EggyToast (858951)
      3 things:
      Laptop resolution -- Apple has stated that the reason their laptops remain at the resolution they do is so that they maintain a 100dpi resolution. So it is intentional. You can disagree with that if you like -- not many people need to run 15" screens at super-high resolutions, as they can often make text difficult to read.

      64 bit OSs -- It's more useful for consumers to introduce 64bit code for processes that can use it more effectively than simply dropping everything into it. Why? Mostly so

      • First of all, let's recap. When Apple introduced the G5 two years ago, you may remember the ads which proclaimed "The World's First 64-bit Personal Computer." What they forgot to mention was a pretty fundamental flaw with their claim: their flagship OS X could not actually run any 64-bit applications!

        It has taken two years and 2 OS releases for Apple to add limited support for 64-bit applications to OS-X. Even today, apps which utilize any graphical application framework libraries (i.e. any GUI applicat

        • I've been using a real 64-bit OS for over 10 years now, using a true 64-bit API, and all I can say about this issue is:

          1. If you really need 64-bit, you know it.

          If you just think 64-bit is all about speed, you're confused... the reason the 64-bit Alpha was fast and stayed at the front of the pack with far less effort than Intel had to go through (at least until it got Compaqted) was less the fact that it was 64-bit (in fact programs in 32-bit mode were often faster) than the fact that DEC was able to star
  • by Duncan3 (10537) on Monday May 16, 2005 @09:32PM (#12550580) Homepage
    Spend the extra money on RAM instead, the cacheing will more then fix the drive RPM issue.

    Like any computer, once you run the apps once, they load near instantly.

    And if you're doing heavy file serving, well... that's not what a mini is for now is it ;)
  • While OS 10 has so many nify next gen features and improvements file access times do not seem to be the the most notable.

    Compared to OS9, X's accessing our server is like slogging through mud, I can tell most of it is it hitting the server trying to get the icons for all the files (ALL the files), and there is no way to turn off custom icon view. We are using AppleTalk, and I have heard SMB is a marked improvement, not because it's the fault od appletalk, but the waty X handles appletalk.

    Also USB sucks too, you can't boot from a USB CD in 10, (9 is no problem, speed is not that bad in 9, but really lame in 10). (I suspect it has to dso with the overhead 10 has in device dection on the USB.) Maybe it's all thier legacy interfaces (ATA and USB) that are speed dogs.

    Apple has a bit of work on improving some of these OS X core components to make me say it really rocks.

    • Compared to OS9, X's accessing our server is like slogging through mud, I can tell most of it is it hitting the server trying to get the icons for all the files (ALL the files), and there is no way to turn off custom icon view.

      Just to be fair, that's not a problem in the filesystem itself - that's a problem with the Finder. Apple has been absolutely brain dead when it comes to the Finder in OS X and for some reason doesn't seem to be interested in fixing the issues. In the OS 9 days, the Finder was ni

    • Appletalk is a legacy technology that should only be used to talk to really old Macs and printers. If you can switch everything on your network to Appleshare over TCP, do so as soon as possible.
  • SATA HOWTO for mini (Score:4, Interesting)

    by prlawrence (671855) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @10:07AM (#12555425) Homepage
    BACKGROUND
    I bought my mini for the software. Years ago I paid for a miniDV camcorder, because I knew that someday I would be able to afford a computer to edit the footage with. That day finally came! :-)

    But the HDD stinks. External SATA is possible, and the best answer. Here's why...

    OPTIONS
    FW 400
    While I *might* go for an external FW 400 solution, the mini only has one FW port... and copying DV material from a camcorder to a FW HDD on the same channel is a no-no.

    USB 2.0
    slower than FW 400 on the mini, according to what I've read. But more importantly, the mini won't boot from USB.

    External 3.5" PATA
    Ah, now we're talking! Check out these articles: 4 sweet solutions, all of which allow use of 3.5" HDDs on the mini's own ATA/100 controller:

    mini in a PC box
    http://www.appletalk.com.au/articles/miniserver/ [appletalk.com.au]

    mini with an external drive box housing an ATA HDD
    http://www.amug.org/amug-web/html/amug/reviews/art icles/mini/ [amug.org]

    mini ensconsed in a Centris 660
    (Check out the XBench scores table)
    http://www.amug.org/amug-web/html/amug/reviews/art icles/mini/dock/ [amug.org]

    And best of all (IMHO), the purple mini
    http://macmod.com/content/view/273/2/ [macmod.com]

    External 3.5" SATA
    The problem with the external PATA solutions is that the form factor sucks. Which got me thinking: If I could only use one of those fancy new SATA cables...

    PARTS LIST
    1. PATA to SATA bridgeboard:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=PATA2SATA [google.com]
    2. IDE Hard Drive Cable Adapter - 2.5'' to 3.5''
    http://www.google.com/search?q=StarTech+IDE4044 [google.com]
    3. 44 Pin Male to Male IDC 2.5" IDE Laptop Gender Changer
    http://www.google.com/search?q=+44+Pin+Male+to+Mal e+IDC+2.5%22+IDE+Laptop+Gender+Changer [google.com]

    DETAILS
    I don't yet have the money to do this project, or you would have already heard the results. :-( But here is the plan:

    Assemble the three components together (and trim off the unneeded power connection from the 2.5" to 3.5" cable adapter). You now have an assembly that fits within the space normally occupied by the mini's 2.5" HDD.

    WARNING: the real unknown is whether or not you can actually then snake an SATA cable from the bridge board and out the back (or side) of the mini. But I think it will work. Assuming it does...

    RESULTS
    There are more and more SATA drive enclosures hitting the market. This year the trend is multiplexing backplanes, so that you can RAID multiple SATA drives in the enclosure and connect them via one channe back to the computer.

    Pick an attractive SATA drive enclosure, plug it in, connect it to the mini, and off you go!

    Phil Lawrence
    --
    feel free to email me if you'd like details about the success or failure of the project, once I get the parts together

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