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Small size multi HDD enclosure


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I'm considering the idea of building a very small size RAID box using 2.5" SSD drives, so it probably wouldn't need a fan nor a built-in PS. I'd fit 4 drives for a RAID-1 configuration. Since it'd be in a Mac computer, it's not necessary the box has built-in RAID firmware and it could be either USB-C 3.1 or Thunderbolt for faster performance.

My google mojo seems to be really bad for this, everything I find are conventional 3.5" drive RAID boxes (large, noisy and pricey), single drive enclosures or in the best case, those docks that can fit 2 internal HDD drives (I've had one already for four years) but are large for they can hold either 3.5" or 2.5" drives. In the worst case two boxes for two drives each would suffice, OSX could handle them for a single RAID-1 array, but it'd need two USB ports instead of one. I haven't found that either.

Any ideas will be much appreciated.

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3 hours ago, grawk said:

Amazing, that's what I was thinking about. It doesn't seem to be a very popular idea for there're not alternatives at more affordable prices. As if SSD drives weren't expensive enough. Thank you, Dan.

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44 minutes ago, HiWire said:

Would you consider M.2 SSDs instead of SATA?

This QNAP thing seems over the top with a Thunderbolt 3/10Gb Ethernet adapter: https://www.qnap.com/en/product/tbs-453dx

I might when the drives get larger and more affordable. In this moment I would consider a cheapo approach with 4 mechanical HDD which I'd be upgrading when SATA SSD ones get larger and cheaper.

BTW, that M.2 thingie is very handsome.

Edited by Torpedo
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Yes thanks, I know, but I have no use for a NAS, wife is more a reader than a watcher or listener, and most of my multimedia activities are around the computer, so having stuff attached to it, being small and silent, is more desirable in my case.

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When I got my iMac I needed a 4 bay dock.

I tried the Thunderbay Mini T3 from OWC but I returned it because the fan noise was clearly audible and I do some live recording in the same room sometimes.

Other than that, it was a pretty nice unit for the money.

I ended up getting a rack mount Blackmagic Multidock which has no fan and is excellent but it isn't small and it's twice the price of the Thunderbay.

I looked around for another enclosure without a fan and unfortunately, I couldn't find one. 

The heat produced in these units comes from the IC's that are used so the enclosures will act as Thunderbolt docks (USB, HDMI ports).

The Thunderbay has a switch to turn off the fan but it will overheat if turned off all day.

 

I may be needing another dock for a couple of drives (so far, the price of 4TB ssd's is still too high so I'm planning on 2X2TB ).

For audio, I don't need super high speeds like video wants, so I will probably opt for a USB3 enclosure.

 

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Thank you, Steve, very informative though a bit disappointing. I had found a reputable dealer that could deliver it already imported into Spain at a decent price, and had learned a couple of things, one of them being that SoftRAID isn't working adequately in Big Sur 11.1 and 11.2, but that could be fixed, being an OSX's problem, in the 11.3 update. The software developer is beta-testing a workaround meanwhile. Until that works it's not possible any configuration more complex than RAID 0 and RAID 1. I'm aiming to a 10 RAID, although I don't completely see the difference between a RAID 1 or 10 when using 4 drives.

I don't do any silence required task with my computer, so a mild noise is acceptable if it doesn't become annoying to me, which lately is is rather low. To those constant background noises I can get habituated. Did you get to measure the fan noise at about 3 foot? If not, an estimation, please? :) Were it in the disturbing side of things I'd have to look at another solution. Perhaps mechanical HDD can cope with the fan switched off better than the SSD counterparts. The good part of a redundant RAID array is swapping damaged disks.

Please PM me if you find any interesting 2 drives dock for small units being USB-C or Thunderbolt.

Edited by Torpedo
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5 hours ago, HiWire said:

This might do the trick – detachable fan: https://www.sabrent.com/product/DS-4RSS/usb-3-0-2-5-4-bay-raid-supporting-hard-drive-ssd-docking-station-with-fan/

You'd lose half the storage using RAID 10 vs RAID 1, but RAID 10 can be faster in some cases.

That unit looks very good. No idea what is their RAID implementation, but I guess it's all relaying on software. It's very affordable, Amazon is selling it very cheap, shipping is half that price :unsure: I'll try to find it at any EU reseller. The fan looks big so hopefully it spins more slowly and is less noisy than OWC's.

1 hour ago, grawk said:

raid 10 and raid 1 should have exactly the same protection penalty...

That was my idea, but 10, being 1+0 should provide some speed advantage over 1 on four disks that supposedly would be filling one disk after another while making the redundant backup writes. Still I haven't found a clear and definitive explanation for RAID 1 over 4 drives.

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12 hours ago, Torpedo said:

 

I don't do any silence required task with my computer, so a mild noise is acceptable if it doesn't become annoying to me, which lately is is rather low. To those constant background noises I can get habituated. Did you get to measure the fan noise at about 3 foot? If not, an estimation, please? :) Were it in the disturbing side of things I'd have to look at another solution. Perhaps mechanical HDD can cope with the fan switched off better than the SSD counterparts. The good part of a redundant RAID array is swapping damaged disks.

I don't have the Thunderdrive anymore but I remember that it had about the same fan noise level as my 2012 Mac Pro.

I just measured that noise with a TEX 1150 SPL meter and it was 33dB IEC A weighted at 3 feet.

Not very intrusive and if it wasn't for my nice quiet iMac, I probably would have kept the Thunderdrive Mini.

One thing to note, spinning drives tend to produce more heat than SSD's. (so using standard HDD would require the fan more than SSD's) Which one is more sensitive to heat is another matter and one that probably depends on the unit in question.

IIRC, M2/NVME type drives tend to produce more heat than packaged SSD's but that is more of a result of the SSD's package which has far more surface area to distribute the heat energy.

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33 dB(A) isn't unnoticeable at almost 1m away, but I guess this MBP gets louder when busy. I don't have a good calibrated SPL meter but I can make a good approximation with an app I got for the iPhone. Now time to ponder and to make other decisions.

Thanks for the help, guys, you're awesome.

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There are some negative reviews of the Sabrent box, so it makes me a little suspicious (it is also listed as out of stock on their website).

I'd definitely have a backup of the data and test the RAID array if I got one – it doesn't seem to have any software so it's really up to your built-in macOS drivers. Also, there are some complaints the fan is loud.

Their product page links to a different product on Amazon, the non-RAID version (DS-4SSD instead of DS-4RSS). I'm going to surmise that the RAID variant was too problematic so they discontinued it and they are selling the simpler, cheaper variant for now – one of the Amazon comments mentions using Windows Storage Spaces to run software RAID, but I'm not sure I'd rely on it.

TL;DR: There are a bunch of low-priced "RAID" devices with poor reviews online... they probably use the same cheap JMicron controllers and they don't have the performance or data integrity of real hardware RAID devices (which usually cost hundreds of dollars).

I think I'd get this instead – run 2 large 2.5" 5TB drives in RAID 1 for a total of 5TB and use this fanless enclosure because I trust OWC more than the other manufacturers: https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/MEMDC2KIT/

Edited by HiWire
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I've had a OWC Mercury Elite 3.5" enclosure for many moons that I use primarily for storage for my MBP when I'm away from home.

Even though it's rolled around in backpacks and plugged into many "strange" Macs over the past decade, it's still solid as a rock.

That one you linked looks like a winner for my needs at least!

Thanks!

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I looked into a similar question (but for 3.5" hard drives) and ended up with the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual about a year and a half ago:

https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/MED3ER0GB/

I put two HGST 4TB drives in there and it has been working well ever since, connected 24/7 as a backup 8TB, RAID 1 volume via eSATA to a Synology NAS.

SSDs can work in these devices but speed will be limited by the controller or interface. Using something modern like Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 will ensure there is no I/O bottleneck.

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It's a backup of a backup, so I thought I'd try it... so far, so good.

Have you noticed any trends in drive failure? I've been checking into the Backblaze reports periodically just to get an idea of trends in the market.

I've been buying Seagate Exos drives lately and they've been problem-free so far.

Edited by HiWire
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I initially went with WD Red drives in my original Synology NAS. They worked OK. But over the course of 5 years I had three drive failures. No data loss and they were all replaced free under warranty. When I bought my new Synology NAS I decided to switch to Seagate Ironwolf drives. No failures or even bad sector reports in over 3 years of use. I have started replacing the drives in my older NAS (the backup for the backups) with Seagate drives.

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Spinning disks die, go with whatever has the best warranty :) It's all luck of the draw if you get one that fails early.  I'm under an NDA about some things, but even some of the highest regarded drives have underlying hardware issues, and they just count on statistics to handle the cost of the fallout.

 

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