Using External Hard Drives

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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alfiebuttons
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:17 pm

Using External Hard Drives

Post by alfiebuttons » Fri May 24, 2019 10:08 am

Hi all and thanks for looking.

I have read that it is preferable to use ext hard drives for some elements of Ableton?

However, to apply some context - my Mac broke last week and it's not repairable, not by me anyway. It worked well and had a 500gb SSD internally so it had decent space and was quick. I have since bought a newer Mac which is quicker but only has a 256gb internal SSD. This is not big enough.

So I was pondering whether to go through the whole hassle of selling the Mac I just bought and buy another used one. This is hassle and risk but not something I am unwilling to do to get where I need to be.

However, I was wondering whether to keep it and move to an external hd configuration and perhaps get an enclosure that allows me to run raid 1 for security purposes. This would probably mean the 256gb would be enough because I run a very lean computer with just Ableton, its plugins and VDJ. Nothing else on there. I would be looking to install Ableton prog and plugins on the Mac internal hd and everything else on the ext drives including projects.

To add a layer, I would be holding my iTunes library on this external hard drive and would need to take the hard drive with me for Dj'ing purposes. This is extra bulk but again it's fine because I go to gigs in a car with a shed load of mobile gigging kit. Also raid 1 would give me piece of mind here.

Any advice on this matter would be most appreciated.

Thanks.

Al.

TLW
Posts: 304
Joined: Thu Aug 23, 2018 2:37 am

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by TLW » Sat May 25, 2019 4:08 am

Personally I’d be looking at using one or two Thunderbolt connected SSDs rather than HDDs in any kind of RAID. SSDs have high sequential read/write speed and faster seek times than HDDs. They also use less power, need little if any cooling and are silent.

My experience has been that a single SSD can pretty much equal the best results I ever got from a pair of HDDs in RAID 0 and have much faster seek times. Which is relevant when dealing with sample libraries.

My current setup is the MBPro’s internal drive holds the OD and all software, plugins etc., one TB connected SSD holds all the sample libraries, user library etc. and another TB connected external SSD holds the projects. HDDs are great for bulk media storage, but for speed I go for SSDs every time.

USB3 “portable” drives can handle stereo audio and HD video by the way, no need to look for massive throughput or speed there.
Live 10.1 Suite, M4L, 2014/15 MacBook Pro 15.3” Retina i7, OS Mojave 10.14.5. RME UFX, assorted synths, guitars and stuff.

alfiebuttons
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:17 pm

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by alfiebuttons » Sat May 25, 2019 9:31 am

Hi there and thanks for that.

So for safety a pair of SSD configured in RAID 1?

Cheers,

Al.

alfiebuttons
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:17 pm

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by alfiebuttons » Sat May 25, 2019 9:39 am

Hi again.

I was looking this product as a potential one size fits all t get me started without spending too much.

Any thoughts?

https://www.lacie.com/gb/en/products/rugged/

Rugged Raid Pro or Shuttle - don't thin the Shuttle version is available yet.

Cheers,

Al.

TLW
Posts: 304
Joined: Thu Aug 23, 2018 2:37 am

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by TLW » Sat May 25, 2019 11:14 pm

I went for empty drive enclosures and used drives I already had from a PC with a failed motherboard, so I don't know how the lacie ones compare. I do know that speed tests show my 2014/15 MBPro's 256GB internal drive has over twice the speed of my external SSDs, which seems to indicate that for sheer performance a TB3 enclosure loaded with M2 memory would take some beating.

One thing to watch is that TRIM commands can not currently be sent by a Mac to an SSD over a USB interface, only Thunderbolt. How much TRIM matters is nowadays a subject of some debate, but personally I'd prefer it to be operating on any SSD especially one that has data erased from it regularly - TRIM helps the drive sort out which blocks have been deleted and without it write speeds can suffer. A drive that's mostly written to, such as one for samples, may not notice TRIM's absence so much. Having said that, Disk Utility's first aid function can run TRIM on a drive so maybe putting an SSD in a cheap USB3 case and once in a while swapping it into a TB enclosure and running Disk Utility on it might negate or at least minimise the effect of TRIM not being run on it all the time.

To really complicate matters some USB/Thunderbolt enclosures are really a USB drive interface with a Thunderbolt socket added...

You may also need to run the trim force command to get TRIM working on external TB drives, depending on which version of MacOS you're using. Googling "trimforce and Mac" will produce its of results explaining how to check TRIM's running and how to start it if it isn't.
Live 10.1 Suite, M4L, 2014/15 MacBook Pro 15.3” Retina i7, OS Mojave 10.14.5. RME UFX, assorted synths, guitars and stuff.

alfiebuttons
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2018 2:17 pm

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by alfiebuttons » Sun May 26, 2019 2:50 pm

Hiya thanks for this.

I am currently consolidating all my data to one borrowed large ext hard drive.

I have done a clean install on my Mac and am now just throwing on very minimal software set - Ableton, plug-ins, VDJ, iTunes library etc.

From there I have decided to buy 2 x 1TB external SSD drives Lacie do have some that are USB-C https://www.lacie.com/gb/en/products/mobile-ssd/) running Thunderbolt or USB-C hardware. I have 2 spare Thunderbolt 2 ports available for my MacBook Pro and so will plug one into each port. I then plan to run them in a RAID 1 configuration. Just a security measure because I nearly lost ally work previously.

I will then use another ext HD I already own, happens to be a 500gb SSD in a SATA caddy, to periodically run Time Machine for my system stuff so I can restore easier next time I have any issues - of course I hope there will be no next time. Perhaps seems like a bit of a waste of an SSD but I already own it so...

Cheers.

Al.

TLW
Posts: 304
Joined: Thu Aug 23, 2018 2:37 am

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by TLW » Sun May 26, 2019 7:37 pm

I quite understand worrying about not losing data. My backup routine is Time Machine runs once a day (controlled by Time Machine Editor) and backs up pretty much everything except audio projects, iTunes libraries and my several GB of photographs. Mostly because it would take up all day to let Time Machine transfer it all to the NAS we use as principle backup.

Whatever Time Machine doesn't automatically backup gets manually copied to USB3 backup drives whenever it changes using Smart Sync, which is a really useful little app for doing that job.

Off topic maybe, but I once worked with someone who lost their entire Masters thesis and related data, over two years of work, when their PC crashed. Backups? No, they were "far too busy, busy, busy to spend time doing backups". So the PC, which was under warranty, went back to the manufacturer. Who lost it for a while, then eventually found it and returned it with a nice factory fresh software install - but none of the Masters data.

Until it's in at least two separate places data is a temporary presence which can disappear in seconds.
Live 10.1 Suite, M4L, 2014/15 MacBook Pro 15.3” Retina i7, OS Mojave 10.14.5. RME UFX, assorted synths, guitars and stuff.

fishmonkey
Posts: 4099
Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2007 4:50 am

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by fishmonkey » Sun May 26, 2019 11:15 pm

if you are being prudent you would have two local copies and one offsite copy.

be mindful that RAID systems are not backup systems. RAID provides redundancy, which increases the chance that you can keep working even if a drive fails. a backup is an independent copy, ideally with some history.
badbrainz wrote: I'm a drummer, so I'm already at an intellectual disadvantage here

jlgrimes
Posts: 1265
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:55 am
Location: Atlanta, Ga

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by jlgrimes » Mon May 27, 2019 5:59 pm

alfiebuttons wrote:
Fri May 24, 2019 10:08 am
Hi all and thanks for looking.

I have read that it is preferable to use ext hard drives for some elements of Ableton?

However, to apply some context - my Mac broke last week and it's not repairable, not by me anyway. It worked well and had a 500gb SSD internally so it had decent space and was quick. I have since bought a newer Mac which is quicker but only has a 256gb internal SSD. This is not big enough.

So I was pondering whether to go through the whole hassle of selling the Mac I just bought and buy another used one. This is hassle and risk but not something I am unwilling to do to get where I need to be.

However, I was wondering whether to keep it and move to an external hd configuration and perhaps get an enclosure that allows me to run raid 1 for security purposes. This would probably mean the 256gb would be enough because I run a very lean computer with just Ableton, its plugins and VDJ. Nothing else on there. I would be looking to install Ableton prog and plugins on the Mac internal hd and everything else on the ext drives including projects.

To add a layer, I would be holding my iTunes library on this external hard drive and would need to take the hard drive with me for Dj'ing purposes. This is extra bulk but again it's fine because I go to gigs in a car with a shed load of mobile gigging kit. Also raid 1 would give me piece of mind here.

Any advice on this matter would be most appreciated.

Thanks.

Al.
Biggest question is whether you have a mobile or stationary studio.


External hard drives works best for stationary setups. As it is usually more expensive to utilize internal drives in most situations, if you have the space an external hd is really not much different than an internal.

For live rigs though nothing beats just having a large internal hd in your laptop keeping from transporting too many pieces of equipment.

It also matters on what you are putting on the hard drive. If it is just audio tracks a hdd is the cheapest solution and is usually fast enough for loading songs. Just get an 7200 rpm connected via USB3.

For just backing up data a 5400 rpm should be fine and is even more portable as power isn’t needed usually. They are slower though.

For disk streaming, SSDs are huge time savers. What might take 1 minute loading a complex Sample library can be done usually in like 10 seconds or faster on an SSD. If you perform live, you don’t want the band waiting on you to transition to the next song.

A 7200 rpm works ok for smaller libraries like under a gig or so though and is a great deal cheaper.

jlgrimes
Posts: 1265
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:55 am
Location: Atlanta, Ga

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by jlgrimes » Mon May 27, 2019 6:01 pm

alfiebuttons wrote:
Fri May 24, 2019 10:08 am
Hi all and thanks for looking.

I have read that it is preferable to use ext hard drives for some elements of Ableton?

However, to apply some context - my Mac broke last week and it's not repairable, not by me anyway. It worked well and had a 500gb SSD internally so it had decent space and was quick. I have since bought a newer Mac which is quicker but only has a 256gb internal SSD. This is not big enough.

So I was pondering whether to go through the whole hassle of selling the Mac I just bought and buy another used one. This is hassle and risk but not something I am unwilling to do to get where I need to be.

However, I was wondering whether to keep it and move to an external hd configuration and perhaps get an enclosure that allows me to run raid 1 for security purposes. This would probably mean the 256gb would be enough because I run a very lean computer with just Ableton, its plugins and VDJ. Nothing else on there. I would be looking to install Ableton prog and plugins on the Mac internal hd and everything else on the ext drives including projects.

To add a layer, I would be holding my iTunes library on this external hard drive and would need to take the hard drive with me for Dj'ing purposes. This is extra bulk but again it's fine because I go to gigs in a car with a shed load of mobile gigging kit. Also raid 1 would give me piece of mind here.

Any advice on this matter would be most appreciated.

Thanks.

Al.
Biggest question is whether you have a mobile or stationary studio.


External hard drives works best for stationary setups. As it is usually more expensive to utilize internal drives in most situations, if you have the space an external hd is really not much different than an internal.

For live rigs though nothing beats just having a large internal hd in your laptop keeping from transporting too many pieces of equipment.

It also matters on what you are putting on the hard drive. If it is just audio tracks a hdd is the cheapest solution and is usually fast enough for loading songs. Just get an 7200 rpm connected via USB3.

For just backing up data a 5400 rpm should be fine and is even more portable as power isn’t needed usually. They are slower though and may not be suitable for recording a large amount of audio tracks.

For disk streaming, SSDs are huge time savers. What might take 1 minute loading a complex Sample library can be done usually in like 10 seconds or faster on an SSD. If you perform live, you don’t want the band waiting on you to transition to the next song.

A 7200 rpm works ok for smaller libraries like under a gig or so though and is a great deal cheaper.

jlgrimes
Posts: 1265
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:55 am
Location: Atlanta, Ga

Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by jlgrimes » Mon May 27, 2019 6:06 pm

alfiebuttons wrote:
Fri May 24, 2019 10:08 am
Hi all and thanks for looking.

I have read that it is preferable to use ext hard drives for some elements of Ableton?

However, to apply some context - my Mac broke last week and it's not repairable, not by me anyway. It worked well and had a 500gb SSD internally so it had decent space and was quick. I have since bought a newer Mac which is quicker but only has a 256gb internal SSD. This is not big enough.

So I was pondering whether to go through the whole hassle of selling the Mac I just bought and buy another used one. This is hassle and risk but not something I am unwilling to do to get where I need to be.

However, I was wondering whether to keep it and move to an external hd configuration and perhaps get an enclosure that allows me to run raid 1 for security purposes. This would probably mean the 256gb would be enough because I run a very lean computer with just Ableton, its plugins and VDJ. Nothing else on there. I would be looking to install Ableton prog and plugins on the Mac internal hd and everything else on the ext drives including projects.

To add a layer, I would be holding my iTunes library on this external hard drive and would need to take the hard drive with me for Dj'ing purposes. This is extra bulk but again it's fine because I go to gigs in a car with a shed load of mobile gigging kit. Also raid 1 would give me piece of mind here.

Any advice on this matter would be most appreciated.

Thanks.

Al.
Biggest question is whether you have a mobile or stationary studio.


External hard drives works best for stationary setups. As it is usually more expensive to utilize internal drives in most situations, if you have the space an external hd is really not much different than an internal.

For live rigs though nothing beats just having a large internal hd in your laptop keeping from transporting too many pieces of equipment.

It also matters on what you are putting on the hard drive. If it is just audio tracks a hdd is the cheapest solution and is usually fast enough for loading songs. Just get an 7200 rpm connected via USB3.

For just backing up data a 5400 rpm should be fine and is even more portable as power isn’t needed usually. They are slower though and may not be suitable for recording a large amount of audio tracks.

For disk streaming, SSDs are huge time savers. What might take 1 minute loading a complex Sample library can be done usually in like 10 seconds or faster on an SSD. If you perform live, you don’t want the band waiting on you to transition to the next song.

A 7200 rpm works ok for smaller libraries like under a gig or so though and is a great deal cheaper.


For DJing an SSD might be overkill though.

A 7200 is probably fast enough or even a 5400 but I don’t DJ but I’d doubt mp3 files or even a lot of two track waves would use a lot of resources or be that slow to load.

jestermgee
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Re: Using External Hard Drives

Post by jestermgee » Tue May 28, 2019 12:08 am

As you can probably tell, there are a lot of different opinions based off a lot of different situations. There is simply nob "one solution fits all", it all comes down to what you need to do.

Much of the info has been covered but a few points for clarification:

Desktop Use
If you have a limited "non-upgradable" laptop type machine (mac for instance) then you are probably limited to external options period. If you need mass storage (lots of large sample libraries) then a decent quality HDD maybe with a good cache system would be the way to go. Keep in mind the speed of the drive as 7200 will transfer faster than 5400 speed drives as mentioned. A quality USB enclosure, USB 3 or thunderbolt would be the way to go.

If you have a smaller amount of data you need mainly read access from then an SSD would be the way to go. These are much more portable, more robust and things like lack of TRIM management (which helps manage write data to an SSD to prolong lifespan) isn't really an issue if you are mainly using for storage. However, if you plan on doing a lot of recording and rendering to the drive then I would advise the option of a HDD or to use the internal drive for that purpose.

If you have a desktop tower then it makes more sense to install a suitable HDD/SDD internally over externally.

Mobile Use
This depends on how your setup is geared.

For performance it is probably best to have the most simple approach possible and that would be the largest internal SSD you can get and limit the material you have on the system. Keeping it all internal would be safest and most reliable.

If you need any kind of external storage then SSD would be the way to go but again, mainly as read storage and not for write storage

Backup
As has also been mentioned, backup solutions should also be considered for anyone using a computer.

A single USB external drive that contains your data is NOT a backup! That is, unless you also have all that data on your PC drive too. Important data should live in a MINIMUM of 2 physically different locations and ideally in 3 locations where one location is off-site from the rest.

RAID is NOT a backup solution, it is designed for redundant operation and in fact a poorly managed RAID system can in fact cause you complete data loss if something goes screwy with the hardware or configuration.

I use a server that mirrors data from all my computers to internal drives in the server automatically every day the computer is switched on. I then also have a stack of external drives I periodically plug into a USB dock to mirror the internal drives using at least 2 drives I cycle each few weeks to mirror each internal drive. Lastly I use a service (highly recommended) called BackBlaze that can backup my whole 10+TB of data to a server for about $70 a year.

I've had a few close calls with loosing my life in digital form and it was the worst feeling so investing in backups is important if you have a significant digital life.

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