MacInTouch Reader Reports

Hard Drives: Fusion Drive

Jan. 21, 2013
Feb. 9, 2013
Feb. 11, 2013
Feb. 15, 2013
Feb. 16, 2013
Dec. 1, 2014
Dec. 2, 2014
Dec. 3, 2014
Dec. 8, 2014
Jan. 7, 2015
Jan. 14, 2015
Jan. 15, 2015
Jan. 16, 2015
Jan. 17, 2015
Jan. 19, 2015
Jan. 20, 2015
Jan. 21, 2015
Jan. 31, 2015
Feb. 2, 2015
Feb. 3, 2015
Feb. 4, 2015
Feb. 6, 2015
Feb. 7, 2015
Feb. 10, 2015

Newer entries...
Jan. 21, 2013

item.169077

Brian Charles

Regarding a "roll-your-own" Fusion drive, the comments from OWC [Creating your own Fusion Drive] in November 2012 are as follows:

However, usage and performance over time should be indicators of the actual efficacy of this kind of drive. At this time, we are only focusing on the Mac mini, as that is the only model that Fusion is officially supported on.

So, this does not "officially" exclude other models.

Following their instructions and installed a Fusion drive on a 2010 Mac Pro with stellar results. Using a 256GB SSD and a 1TB HD. The Fusion drive holds the OS and applications and a bit of data, most of my data is on an internal RAID.

The Mac Pro now boots in 11 seconds, applications are snappy and very responsive.

For security, I do a duplicate daily clone of both my data and boot drives using Carbon Copy Cloner.

Feb. 9, 2013

item.169877

MacInTouch Reader

A Month with Apple's Fusion Drive

When decent, somewhat affordable, client focused solid state drives first came on the scene in 2008 the technology was magical. I called the original X25-M the best upgrade you could do for your system (admittedly I threw in the caveat that I'd like to see > 100GB and at a better price than $600). Although NAND and SSD pricing have both matured handsomely over time, there's still the fact that mechanical storage is an order of magnitude cheaper.

The solution I've always advocated was a manual combination of SSD and HDD technologies. Buy a big enough SSD to house your OS, applications and maybe even a game or two, and put everything else on a RAID-1 array of hard drives. This approach works quite well in a desktop, but you have to be ok with manually managing where your files go.

Feb. 11, 2013

item.169924

Bill Helsabeck

I am a self-confessed tinkerer and don't mind risking toasting a computer that I am even remotely considering replacing, so....

I opted to remove the optical drive (defunct) from my mid-2010 iMac and replace it with a 256GB SSD, and "fuse" it to the internal 1TB HD. After reading around a bit, I found instructions and anecdotal reporting that one could retain both the "Boot Camp" and Recovery partitions while "fusing" the SSD (d1) and the main partition (d2s1) of the existing HD. (I have since read that this is Apple's scheme...) For the hardware part, I followed iFixit's excellent instructions, and for the software part found several articles explaining "how-to". All went successfully.

All in all, not difficult at all and I love the performance improvement. Cold off to running in about 30 seconds. Applications launch almost immediately. Truly, for about $400 it saved me the cost of the newest iMac.

Feb. 15, 2013

item.170112

Stephen Landan

Following the directions from OWC in forming a Fusion drive on my 2008 Mac Pro, I got an error so I stopped the process. Here is what Terminal says:

new-host-4:~ steve$ diskutil cs create fusion disk1 disk2
Started CoreStorage operation
Unmounting disk1
Repartitioning disk1
Unmounting disk
Creating the partition map
Rediscovering disk1
Adding disk1s2 to Logical Volume Group
Unmounting disk2
Repartitioning disk2
Unmounting disk
Creating the partition map
Rediscovering disk2
Error: 22: POSIX reports: Invalid argument
new-host-4:~ steve$

What should I do now? What does the error "POSIX" mean?

Help

Feb. 16, 2013

item.170162

Brian Timares

Stephen Landan got "Error: 22: POSIX reports: Invalid argument" when attempting to create a fusion drive.

I checked Google, this page shows how someone got around the error (and a lot more):

If that technique doesn't work, what version of Mac OS X are you running? What (exact) drives are you trying to use? What bus(es) are they on?

Dec. 1, 2014

item.201899

Stephen Hart

I've noticed that my new retina iMac, with a 3T Fusion drive, is nearly silent. Maybe Apple has figured out a nearly perfect way to prevent a spinning hard drive's noise from getting out of the case. But more likely, it's just not spinning that much because of the SSD component.

It occurred to me that a DIY Fusion drive might be just the ticket for a Time Machine drive. Maybe most incremental Time Machine backups would go to the SSD and the external drive would rarely have to spin up.

Anyone used this setup?

item.201918

James Wilson

I agree that the 1T fusion drive in my 2012 Mini is silent, but it is not working as advertised. In 'About this Mac' it shows almost 1TB available, but when I have many gigs of images imported and several open in Photoshop, I get 'disk full' warnings and Photoshop starts closing images on its own.

I can not tell that a single byte has ever been written to the spinner, and I wonder what can be done about it. If I cannot resolve the fusion problem, I would return to having separate drives, but I do not know how to do that. Anyone else have this problem?

Dec. 2, 2014

item.201928

George

It is possible to "defuse" a Fusion drive.

Before following these steps, note the article is from 2012.

How to split up a Fusion Drive

item.201930

Stephen Hart

James Wilson wrote:

"I agree that the 1T fusion drive in my 2012 Mini is silent, but it is not working as advertised. In 'About this Mac' it shows almost 1TB available, but when I have many gigs of images imported and several open in Photoshop, I get 'disk full' warnings and Photoshop starts closing images on its own."

I've seen this in Photoshop in the past, so I don't think it's related to the Fusion drive. Photoshop also routinely spins up my Time Machine drive even though that drive is excluded in Photoshop's disk settings.

item.201931

George

Stephen Hart:

A "Fusion Drive" for Time Machine?

Let's think about that.

Time Machine is supposed to constantly update, version, and prune.

Separately, Apple's Fusion controller is supposed to be moving stuff around.

So, Time Machine is lamented on MacInTouch (it let me down once, and once was enough).

You'll also find complaints about Fusion not working as expected. Some within a few posts of yours.

So, two unreliable technologies joined in one critical function?

item.201981

MacInTouch Reader

A Fusion drive is not needed for Time Machine. It would be overkill. A slow USB 2.0 hard drive will do the trick. I use the portable bus driven USB 3.0 drives by Seagate and Western Digital that can be purchased at Costco at very reasonable prices. They work just fine whether on USB 3 or on USB 2.

item.202000

MacInTouch Reader

I agree that the 1T fusion drive in my 2012 Mini is silent, but it is not working as advertised. In 'About this Mac' it shows almost 1TB available, but when I have many gigs of images imported and several open in Photoshop, I get 'disk full' warnings and Photoshop starts closing images on its own. I can not tell that a single byte has ever been written to the spinner, and I wonder what can be done about it. If I cannot resolve the fusion problem, I would return to having separate drives, but I do not know how to do that. Anyone else have this problem?

You need to brush up on the technology. It's working as expected.

Mac Mini: Dual Drives Are Better than 'Fusion'

Dec. 3, 2014

item.202034

Stephen Hart

MacInTouch Reader wrote:

"A Fusion drive is not needed for Time Machine. It would be overkill. A slow USB 2.0 hard drive will do the trick"

It wasn't speed I was after, but silence. My USB 3.0 Time Machine drive, which is located under my desk on a vibration-isolating pad, is by far the biggest source of noise in my office. And because Apple hasn't (or can't) come up with a way to make that drive invisible to apps other than Time Machine, it spins up much more than once per hour.
If SSDs ever come down in price enough to make multi-terabyte SSDs feasible, I'll be first in line.

item.202043

MacInTouch Reader

Stephen Hart writes,

"It wasn't speed I was after, but silence. My USB 3.0 Time Machine drive, which is located under my desk on a vibration-isolating pad, is by far the biggest source of noise in my office. And because Apple hasn't (or can't) come up with a way to make that drive invisible to apps other than Time Machine, it spins up much more than once per hour."

Put it on the network in another room, either via a Time Capsule or file-sharing from another Mac, or get a quieter drive.

item.202049

MacInTouch Reader

I have used several of the Seagate slim portable drives for Time Machine, and they are relatively silent. I also have two Western Digital Green drives in Rocstor cases that are silent with the exception of some clicks when backing up. Both the WD drives are left on all the time. The connection is by way of Firewire.

The Rocstor cases I use are the 900 series with built in power supplies but no fan.

The WD Green drives in a fanless case seem to be pretty satisfactory.

item.202054

George

Stephen Hart wants a silent drive.

I've been very happy with WD Elements USB bus-powered external drives. Have some truly silent bus-powered external SSDs, probably an unnecessary expense for Time Machine.

Bought two Buffalo 2TB USB 3 desktop drives that have their own power. Right beside the co-worker who uses them, there's no perceptible sound.

Seagate offers a USB 3 4TB bus powered drive, with great reviews, for $199 on Amazon.

The worst drive enclosure I've purchased (and returned) in recent years was one that looked like a Mac Mini and was sold as a specific upgrade to sit on top of and enhance the Mini. Advertised as having the same silent fan as the Mini. Insufferably loud!

So there are options. But not all options play Simon & Garfunkel's great hit, "Sounds of Silence"

Dec. 8, 2014

item.202074

Billy Helsabeck

[Re. silent vs. noisy drives...]

I use a USB-3 OWC "On the Go" bus-powered drive just sitting on the footpad of my "Late 2012" for Time Machine. Not "silent", but pretty close.

item.202370

Stephen Hart

Billy Helsabeck wrote:

[Re. silent vs. noisy drives...]
I use a USB-3 OWC "On the Go" bus-powered drive just sitting on the footpad of my "Late 2012" for Time Machine. Not "silent", but pretty close.

Good point.

I could back down from a 3TB drive (that can hold backups into the way back) to a 2TB portable drive, and that likely would be quieter.

My current drives are all OWC, and they're not noisy, exactly.

Jan. 7, 2015

item.203912

Eugenio Sighinolfi

I have an external Thunderbolt case with a 256GB SSD I used in previous iMac mid-2011 as a Fusion drive. Now I've got a Retina iMac with 1TB fusion, and I wonder if could be worth using it by doing a three-drive fusion by adding this one.
Do you see drawbacks apart from needing the Trim function to be hacked? Is there another clever way to reuse this unit?

Jan. 14, 2015

item.204331

James Wilson

I also have a 2012 Mini with a Fusion drive but a different problem. It has not written to the spinner in the year that I have used it. Even when Photoshop warned of low disk space and then crashed, because it ran out, there was nothing written to the spinner. All my drive utilities say that the spinner is in excellent condition and waiting to be called upon, but the call never comes.

Jan. 15, 2015

item.204417

Todd Bangerter

Are you sure you have a Fusion Drive? On a real Fusion drive, you shouldn't be able to distinguish what data is stored on the SSD and what is stored on the HDD, because it appears as one unified volume, and data seamlessly and transparently (to the user) migrates between the two medium as needed. That's the whole point of the Fusion drive.

Based on your description "nothing written to the spinner", it sounds like you simply have two independent drives, and you're looking at one, the HDD, and expecting data to appear there from the (independent) SSD.

Jan. 16, 2015

item.204473

MacInTouch Reader

Question about Fusion drives:
Do they play well with Boot Camp and Windows?
Can I partition a Fusion drive into Mac and Boot Camp Windows, and dual-boot?
Will they both properly use the SSD and HDD parts of the Fusion drive transparently?

item.204493

MacInTouch Reader

It was asked: about Fusion drives:

Do they play well with Boot Camp and Windows? My experience is YES

Can I partition a Fusion drive into Mac and Boot Camp Windows, and dual-boot? YES

Will they both properly use the SSD and HDD parts of the Fusion drive transparently? NO; Disk Utility shows the Boot Camp partition being at the very end of the volume as always. I would say it's all on the spinning drive.

item.204513

Victor Drummond

A MacInTouch reader asked about Fusion drives:

"Do they play well with Boot Camp and Windows?"

Another MacInTouch reader responded that

"My experience is YES."

If the Fusion drive is 1TB or less, that's true.

However, I wanted to use Boot Camp on a 5K iMac Retina with a 3TB Fusion drive. It would not install, and Apple Support was unable to help and referred the problem up the support chain. Two months ago, and no answers for me.

The Apple Forum is full of users with 3TB drives who cannot get Boot Camp to work. Some people have gone through difficult gymnastics using Terminal commands. I'm not sure there was any success.

People with 1TB Fusion drives (or smaller) can successfully install Boot Camp [and] I've installed it on a MacBook Pro Retina with a 500GB SSD.

Jan. 17, 2015

item.204539

Ted Selvaggio

A Windows partition can not exceed the 2-GB point on a Mac drive. I believe that it has something to do with the old-school MBR (Master Boot Record) technology.

I had a 3Gig drive and had to partition it as follows:

Mac HFS+ 500 Gigs
PC Fat32 500 Gigs
Mac HFS+ 2000 Gigs

I couldn't use Boot Camp Assistant and had to do a direct install of Windows.

I can't recall in which order that I had to install the OS's.

item.204543

Michael Pique

The Apple Knowledge base article updated December 22, 2014 notes:

Boot Camp 5.1: Frequently asked questions

...

Do Macs that have a Fusion Drive support Boot Camp?
Yes. Boot Camp Assistant creates the Windows partition on the disk drive instead of the flash drive (SSD).
If you're installing Windows 8 on an iMac with a 3TB hard drive, make sure the iMac is using OS X v10.8.3 or later.

Jan. 19, 2015

item.204584

Robert Rosenberg

Ted Selvaggio posted

A Windows partition can not exceed the 2-GB point on a Mac drive. I believe that it has something to do with the old-school MBR (Master Boot Record) technology.

I had a 3Gig drive and had to partition it as follows:

Mac HFS+ 500 Gigs
PC Fat32 500 Gigs
Mac HFS+ 2000 Gigs

I couldn't use Boot Camp Assistant and had to do a direct install of Windows.

I can't recall in which order that I had to install the OS's.

The Boot Camp Assistant is in my opinion BAD (Broken As Designed), in that it will only work with a single partitioned HFS+ Volume. There is no way to have a volume that it has formatted with other than single HFS+ partition and a Windows partition (either FAT or NTFS).

While you can (as the poster did) create a volume with more than one HFS+ partition in addition to the Windows one, there is an additional gotcha 2GB placement. The Windows partition must be one of the first 4 partitions.

This can bite you, since recovery partitions count, as do hidden Boot OSX ones. Since there is also the EFI Partition, there go the first 4 partitions....

item.204612

Mark James [SoftRAID Inc.]

[Re: previous discussion]... a couple comments on Fusion:

OWC personnel certainly know about Fusion. Perhaps the person who did not was new or in sales.

Yes, SoftRAID is behind the development of Transwarp, which was demonstrated at CES.

The motivation behind it is that we believe Fusion to be an inferior implementation of SSD/hard disk integration, as the user is essentially concatenating two disks and intertwining the data so as to make data recovery extremely difficult if either disk fails.

We also believe we also can increase performance significantly.

Transwarp will be compatible with all standard Mac OS X maintenance, recovery and repair tools.

Transwarp will be sold as a stand-alone application, as well as integrated into SoftRAID at some point.

item.204617

Todd Bangerter

While reading the press release regarding Transwarp, it sounded essentially identical to the L2ARC in ZFS. (The only major difference I could see is the persistence of the cache after power cycling/removal.)

While it will certainly provide similar read performance to Fusion Drive, it appears that write activity will be slower, as all writes are committed to the HDD media, as opposed to Fusion Drive's 4GB SSD write buffer.

Transwarp
Pros:
If the SSD dies or is removed, you don't lose any data, because it's just a cache.
Does not require special disk maintenance tools (since the HDD where the data is stored is a normal HDD).
Cons:
Write activity is slower, since it is written to the HDD.
Volume size is the size of the HDD, since the SSD is a read-only cache that duplicates (some) data from the HDD.

Fusion Drive
Pros:
Both reads and writes are SSD accelerated.
Volume size is HDD size + SSD size.
Cons:
If either the SSD or the HDD dies, the volume is lost.
Requires disk maintenance tools to be Fusion Drive-compatible (most are now). Some operations might not be possible on Fusion Drive.

As for the product name, well, one only hopes that it proves a more usable product than Star Trek III's Transwarp drive:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRf1zI2IoWQ

item.204619

Dennis Womack

Everybody has two questions...

How soon?

How much?

Thanks!

Jan. 20, 2015

item.204649

Joshua Schwarz

Mark James [SoftRAID Inc.] writes,

"Transwarp will be sold as a stand-alone application, as well as integrated into SoftRAID at some point."

Is Transwarp significantly different from building a hard drive and ssd mirror volume with SoftRAID right now? From the SoftRAID website:

"You can create fast mirror volumes, for starting up your Mac or for storing files you frequently use, by combining an SSD with a normal hard disk. The SSD gives you incredibly fast read speeds and the normal hard disk gives you the redundant storage which protects your files from disk failure."

item.204687

Lyman Taylor

Re: the Transwarp announcement and

... it sounded essentially identical to the L2ARC in ZFS. (The only major difference I could see is the persistence of the cache after power cycling/removal.)

It could be even more general than that. SoftRAID mimics what hardware RAID set-ups can do. Some hardware RAID systems have a RAM cache built into the card. They require battery backup to protect the volatile RAM storage. If you use an SSD instead, then you don't need the battery backup.

These hardware RAID caches can also do write caching. It is just not as large as what Apple's Fusion targets (~4GB). However, simply reordering multiple write streams (that present as random writes) into a series of sequential writes can improve write speed to a hard disk drive also.

It will be informative if there is some kind of "clean eject" mechanism for the cache drive. If you can't just randomly yank the cache drive, then the software may need some cache flushing and synchronization to clean everything up.

The cache may/may not be persistent after running in detached mode. Unless they are checksuming every single block, after attachment there isn't going to be a good way to mark whether the data in the cache is obsolete. The cache likely will have to be "re-warmed" after being run detached. During the "re-warm" period, you would be reading from the hard disk drive whether you had checksum or not.

Again, a marker of a clean, synchronized shutdown would allow things to immediately pick up again.

Re.

Fusion Drive ... Pros...

If using Filevault2, the volume is all encrypted. It is unclear whether Transwarp presents as a low enough block device for Apple's encryption system to send/receive the encrypted blocks.

Fusion is targeted at two internal (in normal usage, non-removable) drives. The trendline that Apple is on is going to blunt the usefulness of this "detach, reattach" mode. It is useful when the hard disk drive is traveling with the system. The normal mode for Apple laptops is heading toward the SSD travelling. The desktops are heading that way, too (Mac Pro). The OWC enclosures with 4 bays likely will have the Transwarp set up localized to the enclosure more so then split-system mode.

Jan. 21, 2015

item.204688

Lyman Taylor

Re:

The Boot Camp Assistant is in my opinion BAD (Broken As Designed),

Much of the "problems" here with partitions and > 2TB hard drives are not really Boot Camp root cause issues. They are BIOS-is-antiquated issues.

The Windows partition must be one of the first 4 partitions.

That is a MBR/BOIS, "how things worked in the good old days", issue. Only the first couple partitions were bootable. There were partition/boot managers that tiptoed around the issue, but generally people didn't try to put 3-4 operating systems on their 256MB hard drive.

Windows being deeply encrusted in the maximum backward compatibility constraints means Boot Camp had targeted that mode.

The more recent Macs, versions of OS X, firmware, Boot Camp, and Windows (8+) have targeted an environment where Windows finally steps into the current century and boots EFI/UEFI mode.

Boot Camp generally pushes Windows to the "end" so that if you decide you don't need Windows anymore (going Mac OS X only), that partition can be easily wiped out and the space easily added to the OS X one. It is biased, but given the folks writing it, Apple, it isn't all that surprising. I doubt they will be convinced of that feature being deeply broken. Giving the 'best' part of the disk to Windows and the 'worst' to OS X (or wiping out OS X completely) just generally isn't in Apple's best interest.

I don't think Apple ever wanted "Boot Camp" to be a rEFInd+grub+gparted like solution.

Getting around the > 2TB limit means you have to have a combination of all modern elements.

i. Windows 8 (or higher)
ii. A Mac created in the post-Windows 8 introduction era (2013+)
iii. Also an OS X in same general vintage 2013+ (10.8.3+) and equally modern Boot Camp software.

In that context, Boot Camp should be using an EFI context to install Windows and can avoid the legacy BIOS restrictions.

(For pre-2013 Macs there are ways to hack around some of the issues, but still need a version of Windows that defaults to UEFI.)

By Popular Demand: My "Better Than Bootcamp" Guide to Installing Windows 8

Windows XP on a 2006 vintage PC is likely going to run into similar problems with 3TB drives, since it will likely only have BIOS firmware. 1970-80's data structures to deal with 2008+ hardware doesn't work so well.

When Apple dumps support for Windows 7 and previous, then it will be time to dump all the legacy compatibility that clogs things up for the latest capacities and hybrid drive set-ups that didn't exist last century.

Jan. 31, 2015

item.205232

Timothy Standing [SoftRAID]

While the CES demo of Transwarp only accelerated reads, the final product will accelerate both reads and writes. Our target is to offer identical performance to a Fusion volume while making the volume much more reliable at the same time.

Note: Unlike Fusion volumes, Transwarp volumes do not slow down after you've written 4 GB to the volume.

Feb. 2, 2015

item.205314

MacInTouch Reader

Wow, after doing some more reading about this software, Transwarp, I am quite intrigued. What kind of systems will be able to use this software? Will it work with USB- and FireWire-connected drives? Will it be available for machines running OS 10.6.8 or only newer version of thOS X? Are you able to provide any more information on a release date? Thanks again for informing the MacInTouch community about this upcoming product.

Feb. 3, 2015

item.205367

George

Comment on Item 205314...

A MacInTouch reader wrote:

Wow, after doing some more reading about this software, Transwarp, I am quite intrigued. What kind of systems will be able to use this software? Will it work with USB- and FireWire-connected drives? Will it be available for machines running OS 10.6.8 or only newer version of thOS X? Are you able to provide any more information on a release date? Thanks again for informing the MacInTouch community about this upcoming product.

Today, Feb 2, 2015, MacInTouch listed two updated lines of Crucial SSD. The MX 200 1TB: $470 list.

I really don't "get" why anyone would want Apple's Fusion or Transwarp from OWC, when a really good, super-fast by comparison to either cache to spinning drive, is available so cheaply.

Need huge mass storage? Add external USB 3 spinners. Inexpensive, reliable and simple.

Both Fusion and this Transwarp seem potential additional trouble spots.

Back in DOS 3 days, I could copy all my programs and data to a RAM disk. Zing! Then I had to copy the data files back before poweing off at day end. Pretty similar to these fused schemes.

Would have made a lot more sense when SSDs required a bank loan. Why now?

[FWIW: RAM disk apps are still available for OS X, with automatic load and save features. -Ric Ford]

item.205382

Mark James, SoftRAID

Re: more info on Transwarp:

Transwarp will support Mac OS 10.6.8 or later.

Transwarp can work with any two devices, on any buses, but the main benefit is with a rotating disk, warped to an SSD on a fast bus, such as Thunderbolt or USB 3.1.

Our goal is to release this summer.

More details/specs will be available when we get closer to shipping.

Feb. 4, 2015

item.205437

George

Ric Ford added to Item 205367

"RAM disk apps are still available for OS X, with automatic load and save features."

I looked up Mac Ram Disks, and found this $8.99 Application:

http://powerapp.ch/product/ramdisk4mac/
"Systems with a mechanical hard drive will become faster, and systems with SSD will reduce the wear on the SSD."

By that I presume "reduce read/write" cycles.

Back in DOS days, I could fit my daily programs, WordStar*, SuperCalc 2, and DB II, and the data I used daily, in a RAM Disk. All programs were tightly written in "Assembly" and my huge, expensive, 128 MB! RAM disk was commodious. (It sat on a PC card, separate from system memory).

I'm not so sure Photoshop or Microsoft Office could be copied entire into a RAM disk? The largest amount of RAM I have on any computer is 16 GB on a Retina MacBook Pro.

But if I had a slow spinning hard drive, and lots of RAM, I'd sure give the RAM disk a try. Maybe not on my 4GB Air?

Here's hoping someone with personal experience can tell us more. Ric?

[I used a RAM disk very productively back in the Mac OS days but haven't needed one for a while. Below are a few we've mentioned in the MacInTouch products section. -Ric Ford]

item.205440

George

Mark James, SoftRAID, in Item 205382, re. more info on Transwarp:

"Transwarp can work with any two devices, on any buses, but the main benefit is with a rotating disk, warped to an SSD on a fast bus, such as Thunderbolt or USB 3.1.

"Scotty" just beamed down with a couple of issues to discuss. He quotes from the OWC press release:

"Transwarp is unique in that it allows the SSD caching drive to be removed without damaging the volume or compromising any data on the hard drive, and unlike conventional cache, Transwarp persists even when the power is turned off. Once the SSD is reconnected, Transwarp seamlessly picks up where it left off, making it a great option for laptop users looking for the flexibility to be light on the road, but fast at home or in the office."

Scotty asks if the updating a disconnected "TransWarp" drive wouldn't require a lot of R/W cycles on the "WarpMaster-SSD?"

Scotty wonders about the marketability of an application "for laptop users looking for the flexibility to be light on the road, but fast at home" when all but one of Apple's current laptops come standard with blazing fast SSDs, and an SSD is a $150 option on even the "basic" 13-inch model?

Wouldn't it be useful (mostly) to users of older laptops with spinning drives, older laptops often with FW 800 and USB 2.0, not even USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt? A conundrum. Transwarp needs a fast SSD connected over a fast bus, but its best use case is an old laptop with no fast bus.

Will any Mac which offers USB 3.1 (when that happens, probably soon, think Broadwell) even be available with a "spinner?"

Lastly, Spock, who came back from the dead, wonders this: "Since Transwarp will depend on a fast SSD connected over a fast connection, will Transwarp provide the TRIM function to keep that fast SSD fast?. Will it be able to initiate the garbage collection sequence across the different brands of SSDs that do that differently?"

"George" writes in conclusion that he's not just being negative. To the extent Transwarp is still in development, and issues can be addressed pre-release, these seem like ones to solve.

item.205464

Davide Guarisco

I have to disagree with George on

"why anyone would want Apple's Fusion or Transwarp from OWC, when a really good, super-fast by comparison to either cache to spinning drive, is available so cheaply (MX 200 1TB: $470 list)."

Well, first of all, $470 isn't exactly cheap. You could buy an entire PC for this money. A 1TB 2.5" HDD is available for ~$60.

Second, external storage isn't always a good option: It's bulky and still slower than internal storage.

I solved this problem in a recent Mac Mini by separating the two components of the Fusion drive, using the SSD for system and apps (making sure it's only about half-full), and the HDD for the Users folders. The system feels fast.

item.205479

Stephen Hart

Davide Guarisco wrote:

"Well, first of all, $470 isn't exactly cheap."

And if you need more "internal" storage than 1 TB, it gets really expensive, and you have to open a brand new iMac. (Of course, that's what a Mac Pro is for, at a much higher price point unless you already have your monitor(s) of choice.)

"Second, external storage isn't always a good option: It's bulky and still slower than internal storage."

If the drive is connected with Thunderbolt, it may be as fast as any internal. Even then, you still have to deal with potential power/sleep/mounting issues. You have to deal with noise. And you have another drive to back up. (Time Machine will deal with backing up two drives, but I don't think it can combine them into one archive.) ...

"I solved this problem in a recent Mac Mini by separating the two components of the Fusion drive"

What problem?

item.205492

Grant Symon

I used a RAM disk on a quad G5 for a number of years and although fiddly, it worked well and was much faster than a striped 7200rpm drive set.

My advice is to just put an SSD in there. I installed an 840 EVO and it is superb. My old app (the one I still run the quad G5 for and which is an imaging app - therefore CPU/disk intensive - is so fast, I can hardly believe it.  :)

Feb. 6, 2015

item.205505

George

Davide Guarisco writes that he disagrees with my rejection of the Apple Fusion (or pending OWC Transwarp) in favor of the largest Apple SSD the user can afford (and Apple will sell).

I don't think we're really so far apart.

Davide has "defused" the Fusion Drive in his Mini, I presume ending with a 128GB SSD and a 5400-RPM spinner of 1 or 2 Terabytes that does benefit from being directly connected to the [SATA] bus.

I'd rather spend my money on the largest "Apple" SSD I can justify at purchase. Faster, and without the potential point of fail inherent in the "Fusion" system more or less continuously moving data between the SSD and spinner. (Long ago I used a couple of different types of RAID to speed a PC used for video editing. Both failed spectacularly, which makes me nervous about software playing "games" to divide data among disks).

Davide mentions external drives are slower and add bulk.

Since Fusion is only sold in desktops, I don't think the extra "bulk" of an external drive is a big detriment. There are some really small, bus-powered, very fast external drives.

http://www.transcend-info.com/apple/jetdrive/

http://oyendigital.com/USB-3.0-portable-hard-drive.html

And I have no size or speed complaints about the 3.5" Seagate 7200-RPM, 2TB ($84) in a generic (Best Buy, $35) USB 3.0 enclosure I use as secondary backup at my home computer workstation.

Buying a new Mac? You're not going to be able to upgrade the SSD. Apple certainly wouldn't sell me an upgraded hard drive for a MacBook Pro, telling me in absolute terms, Apple will only replace a disk with exactly the same one that came from the factory.

Even if you can, you won't want to install a third-party SSD in a Mac, as long as Apple keeps blocking them from TRIM.

But you will be able to upgrade your external drives, larger, faster, cheaper.

Hoping to keep that Mac several years? My bet is you'll be happier with your "aged" Mac a couple of years down the road if it has a 256GB SSD (or bigger!) rather than the slower, larger, Fusion, for the same price.

item.205517

Joe F

Davide wrote:

"I solved this problem in a recent Mac Mini by separating the two components of the Fusion drive, using the SSD for system and apps (making sure it's only about half-full), and the HDD for the Users folders. The system feels fast."

I am curious, when waking from sleep is your Mini as responsive as if it only had an SSD, or does it have to wait for the internal HDD to spin up? I ask because I am considering a similar configuration. Not splitting a Fusion drive, but adding an internal SSD in addition to the existing internal HDD and only having the system and apps on the SSD and data on the HDD.

The issue I'm hoping to solve is that it's a headless Mini on my network, and sometimes when I try to access it via Screen Sharing, it doesn't wake up fast enough. Screen Sharing either has to make multiple attempts before it connects,or it fails altogether (immediately relaunching it works, because the Mini has finished waking up by then). An SSD-only option is too expensive relative to the problem I'm trying to solve.

item.205519

George

Ram Disks:

Ric provided links to several -

RAMDisk Manager
FastTasks 2
RAM Disk Control
iRamDisk

Comment on Item 205437 ...

Here's the best article I could Google up on RAM disks on a "Modern Mac" It includes Terminal Instructions to create one directly (I'm always reluctant to copy and paste Terminal commands on blogs when I don't understand exactly what they're going to do. Just a heads up, if you want to try this.)

How to Create a 4GB/s RAM Disk in Mac OS X

Now a 4GB RAM Disk isn't going to happen on my 4GB Air, or even my 6GB MacBook Pro - though I'd really like to make Excel go as fast as it could in a RAM Disk per the performance graph in the linked post!

item.205550

Lyman Taylor

I'm not SoftRAID, but some of these questions generally have answers.

... if the updating a disconnected "TransWarp" drive wouldn't require a lot of R/W cycles on the "WarpMaster-SSD?

This should be more along the way of "how do you pay" to re-synchronize the disconnected drive. One extreme is to invalidate it all and start over from scratch. The other would be to dive into an intensive "RAID rebuild" process where the data from the SSD is all cross-checked with the HDD (note that is heavy R/W on both drives).

If both the SSD and HDD had some metadata that says nothing happened between disconnection, then it doesn't require any writes.

It won't be surprising if this is a 'lazy' rebuild where things start off slow and get faster as the HDD accesses confirm that the SSD is mostly up to date.

Apple's Fusion is brittle (both drives tightly coupled), but it doesn't have this "re-heat" factor after it's run separately for a while.

... about the marketability of an application ... when all but one of Apple's current laptops come standard with blazing fast SSD

Just for illustrative purposes, if Apple sells 5M Mac laptops in a year for 4 years then the current year numbers 5M and the previous 3 amount to 15M.

Long-term, that specific example has problems, but short-term it isn't a huge hurdle. It is being bundled with OWC's drive mechanism, but until that builds up, they need a steady revenue stream.
(If the drives are both in a drive enclosure, you neatly side-step the "re-heat" issue above.)

Apple going to capacity-limited SSDs only is likely going to generate a subset of folks who will have to carry external HDDs to keep up with the capacities they need. There will be a larger subset that need to push files into a desktop drive enclosure when they get back. For both, it is keeping up with the demand for "close to SSD" speeds that is the driver. As users increasingly demand SSD-like speeds from their storage, that will drive demand for this type of solution.

Wouldn't it be useful (mostly) to users of older laptops with spinning drives, older laptops often with FW 800 and USB 2.0,

A huge chunk of the older laptops with USB 2.0 have optical disk drive bays. OWC's Data Doubler with this is Fusion in a laptop solution. They don't have to use external storage. The solution they are presenting is that can use any path you want to.

As the ODD/Doubling laptops die off, the relatively newer versions increasingly do have Thunderbolt.

Will any Mac which offers USB 3.1 (when that happens, probably soon, think Broadwell)...

USB 3.1 isn't coupled to Broadwell. Apple resisted USB 3.0 until Intel moved it into their I/O chipset. USB 3.1 isn't coming to the chipset any time soon.

Apple will probably fast-track USB Type C connectors into the whole Mac line-up, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are 3.1 implementations behind them internally.

It is possible that no 2015 Mac laptop will have any HDDs later in the year. That is just as much driven by dumping SATA drives as much as anything new in Intel (or 3rd party) updates.

...provide the TRIM function to keep that fast SSD fast?. Will it be able to initiate the garbage collection sequence across the different brands of SSDs that do that differently?

Sigh. TRIM is not a panacea. TRIM is also not necessary for the garbage collector to work inside a SSD. The garbage collection is not externally controlled or directly invoked.

As long as there are a regular, modest set of writes in a normal read:write ratio, most reasonably implemented modern SSDs are going to clean themselves up. However, it probably wouldn't hurt if Transwarp layered some additional over-provisioning beyond what the SSD controller has hardwired in.

TransWarp should be like Fusion in that it should generally take control of the SSD drive. If you let end users muck around with buffer sizes and partitions, it probably isn't going to work well over time.

Note that Transwarp's job is to present a block-level device that resembles an HDD (all the data is going to the HDD also, so it will have most of the aspects of a HDD). HDDs aren't sent TRIM calls. Transwarp probably has its own metadata on the SSD, and those updates could be incrementally improved with TRIM calls, but that is a relatively small subset of the data.

item.205618

Jim H

I know of another person who de-fusioned the drive in his Mac Mini and is very satisfied with the results.

I've never really liked the concept of a fusion drive setup. It's my belief you will get the most benefit by having the OS on the SSD and your data on another.

item.205649

Colin B

I just bought a Seagate hybrid drive as a replacement for the internal hard drive on an older iMac. Does anyone know how these compare in architecture or performance with the fusion drive?

item.205555

George

Re. drive throughput, Thunderbolt, FireWire 800, USB, SSD, "spinners," Fusion, and thumb drives...

There are so many deeply technical variables.

... Thunderbolt throughput [isn't always] faster than USB 3. In real life, a fast SSD (perhaps because it maxes out and can only handle so much bandwidth) [may not] work faster on Thunderbolt than USB 3, and FireWire 800 [may be] adequate if available.

None of these externals [may] match the SSD's installed directly by Apple on the logic board. They will all be much faster than a "spinner."

As to Apple's "Fusion Drive," this AnandTech analysis reveals the scheme's fundamental weakness by comparison to the "pure" SSD.

A Month with Apple's Fusion Drive

I'm linking below to three SSD external drive reviews on Tweak Town.

The slowest, still plenty fast, is a Silicon Power Thunderbolt. Samsung recently announced a very pocketable 2 TB USB 3. And LaCie has been selling a "Rugged" with both TB and USB 3. It houses a Sammie drive and on TB isn't much different than the Sam on USB 3. Too bad the reviewer didn't compare the LaCie on both interfaces

Silicon Power T11 240GB Thunderbolt External SSD Review

Samsung PSSD T1 Portable 1TB SSD Review

LaCie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt 500GB External Storage SSD Review

item.205645

Steven MacDonald

"I am curious, when waking from sleep is your Mini as responsive as if it only had an SSD, or does it have to wait for the internal HDD to spin up?"

I didn't 'de-fuse' but I added an OWC 128GB SSD to my 2011 i5/4GB/Yosemite Mac Mini. I left the 750GB 7200 RPM drive in the other slot. The only files on the HD are iTunes Media and the iPhoto Library. There is still ~60GB free on the SSD.

I've not done any testing with a stopwatch but the Mini seems nearly as 'snappy' as my 2013 Air in terms of booting, waking up or playing iTunes tracks. I've completely lost the beachballs I (occasionally) used to get.

Feb. 7, 2015

item.205675

George

Lyman Taylor wrote in Item 205550

"Sigh. TRIM is not a panacea. TRIM is also not necessary for the garbage collector to work inside a SSD. The garbage collection is not externally controlled or directly invoked."

Do any "search" on SSDs, TRIM, and Macs and you'll inevitably find this from OWC:

To Trim or not to Trim (OWC has the answer)

"If you have an OWC SSD, though, you don't need TRIM. The SandForce controller in our SSDs takes care of this "garbage collection" as well as performs various other tasks that keep your drive running at optimal speed, without the drop-off that you see with other brands."

That statement is accepted as gospel by the Mac faithful and Apple apologists [but] SandForce itself directly contradicts OWC:

[Did you know HDDs do not have a Delete command? That is why SSDs need TRIM]

Install an SSD in an old Mac that had a spinning drive, and you'll be delighted with how much better it is. When the SSD is new, and perhaps forever, depending on how you use it.

But I'm not doing it again, because of how Apple is effectively blocking TRIM which "SSDs need!"

FAQ and support for using Trim Enabler in OS X Yosemite

item.205676

George

Re. Seagate hybrid vs. Fusion drive

They're not the same! Apple's "CoreStorage" is OS X software that divides your Mac's storage between two separate drives. I'm pretty sure it won't do that between the cache memory [and hard drive in] the Seagate hybrid.

Probably not a good idea. One of many "storm warnings" from a quick Google:

"Well, unfortunately smooth sailing ended in a storm. Twice now the computer has crashed hard"

Upgrading a Macbook Pro to a Seagate Momentus XT drive

item.205700

Mike Retondo

The OS always puts the entire Mac OS onto the SSD of the fusion drive. Whatever space is left over is used to hold the most used applications. In my case Word, Safari, and Mail launch super fast. No more waiting 10 minutes for Word to start up.

item.205729

Steven MacDonald

"That statement is accepted as gospel by the Mac faithful and Apple apologists [but] SandForce itself directly contradicts OWC"

Except I don't read anything in the linked article as contradicting OWC. OWC says that the SandForce drives they sell work fine (and for a long time) without TRIM. They also say [an old version of Trim Enabler] caused some problems.

If you have a link to something that actually compares SandForce SSDs with and without TRIM, preferably on Macs, it would be appreciated.

item.205730

Joe F

George wrote that "SSD need" TRIM and linked the a blog on that supposedly countered OWCs statement that SSDs with SandForce controls don't need TRIM:

Did you know HDDs do not have a Delete command? That is why SSDs need TRIM

However, read the very last line of that same blog:

"In my next blog I will explain how there may be an alternate solution using SandForce Driven member SSDs."

Here is the link to that follow-on blog which discusses a technology which can help "with an older operating system or in an environment that does not support TRIM..."

Can data reduction technology substitute for TRIM in an SSD and drain the invalid data away?

TRIM is good, but it's not the end of the world if you don't have it. And I'm sure SSD technology has advanced in the intervening two years since those blogs were written. (Note also that the OWC blog entry everyone likes to point to is from 2011... ancient times.)

I have yet to hear about any real world catastrophic performance degradation without TRIM beyond the theoretical or in a benchmarking environment. I'm sure there are some cases out there, but I'm willing to bet that the use cases were far outside the norm for a typical user. Even if my SSD was suffering from some small amount of performance degradation after 1.5 years without TRIM, it's still far, far, far faster than my hard drive ever was.

[I'm pretty sure that, if you use a non-SandForce SSD filled to within a gigabyte or less of its capacity, you'll be able to see some interesting effects with TRIM disabled, though it may not crash and burn so much as slow down significantly (at least initially). I don't know how much better a SandForce-based SSD, with its data-compression scheme, would fare in this scenario. -Ric Ford]

Feb. 10, 2015

item.205745

George

Steven MacDonald responds in Item 205729 re:

"That statement is accepted as gospel by the Mac faithful and Apple apologists [but] SandForce itself directly contradicts OWC"

Except I don't read anything in the linked article as contradicting OWC. OWC says that the SandForce drives they sell work fine (and for a long time) without TRIM. They also say [an old version of Trim Enabler] caused some problems.

If you have a link to something that actually compares SandForce SSDs with and without TRIM, preferably on Macs, it would be appreciated.

Here you are:

As you can see in the diagram, the performance degradation problem only persists on SandForce-based SSDs. The others can restore their speed back to the original level after a TRIM command. That's why the Kingston SSDNow V300, like all other SF-2281 based solutions, are better suited for a system disk rather than for storing user data. When files are constantly being rewritten, the SSD's writing performance may plummet by a half, which is most annoying.

Background garbage collection doesn't work well on the SandForce-based SSDs, too. Although they have a rather large reserve pool, their speed can only be restored, even though partially, in a TRIM-supporting environment. This remark is important for Windows XP (where TRIM isn't supported at all), for Mac OS X (when you have to enable TRIM), and for RAIDs (where TRIM depends on the RAID controller's driver).

Kingston SSDNow V300 Solid State Drive Review: SandForce with New Fixings.

item.205748

George

Joe F wrote:

"George wrote that "SSD need" TRIM and linked the a blog on that supposedly countered OWCs statement that SSDs with SandForce controls don't need TRIM"

My response: The blog that Joe says "supposedly" countered OWCs statement that SSDs with SandForce Controllers don't need TRIM is an official SandForce statement that states their own product needs TRIM.

Joe F.:

However, read the very last line of that same blog:

"In my next blog I will explain how there may be an alternate solution using SandForce Driven member SSDs."

Here is the link to that follow-on blog which discusses a technology which can help "with an older operating system or in an environment that does not support TRIM..."

Can data reduction technology substitute for TRIM in an SSD and drain the invalid data away?

See:

"DuraWrite technology from SandForce has yet to win me over. I can see it performing as it was designed when dealing with highly compressible data such as databases (ref: LSI white paper) but I fail to picture a usage pattern that would fully take advantage of the DuraWrite in a desktop environment."

Intel SSD mSATA 525 Series Review

SandForce "DuraWrite" Data Reduction Technolgy is like an automatic file zip performed by the SandForce controller as it writes/zuos and reads/unzips data.

It happens "on the fly." I've found no benchmark for how much that affects peformance, but zipping a file on my current i7 retina MacBook Pro isn't instant.

Less data written to an SSD will use less of the SSDs available data blocks and leave more of the SSD's "space" available to move data around as garbage collection occurs.

The "fail" is that, regardless of whether data is compressed as it is written to an SSD, the SSD controller can not differentiate between data that is good and data that is garbage without TRIM.

Compressing data onto the SSD may delay the the time before an SSD that's not Trimmed is filled, but as the drive fills and as the "garbage collection routines" attempt to free space by moving data around (into free space, including the "over provisioning" space accessible to GC but not the user), the drive will get slower and slower.

There are other factors. Much data is "incompressible." JPGs, movies, MP3s, PDFs, DMGs. The user who stores a lot of those kind of files on an SSD won't benefit as much from the SandForce controller's built in compression scheme.

For more information than you probably want to digest, check out the TweakTown direct comparision of a SandForce Drive with and without TRIM. But this should be persuasive:

"The benchmarks will be presented side-by-side and in the same order we run the tests. This is important because we'll be able to show how rapidly performance degradation occurs without TRIM."

LSI SandForce 5 Series SSD Firmware - TRIM Lost and Found, Performance Investigated

Re:

TRIM is good, but it's not the end of the world if you don't have it. And I'm sure SSD technology has advanced in the intervening two years since those blogs were written. (Note also that the OWC blog entry everyone likes to point to is from 2011... ancient times.)

For what it's worth, OWC linked back to and reaffirmed its 2011 post in December, 2013,

http://blog.macsales.com/21641-with-an-owc-ssd-theres-no-need-for-trim

And in a ZDNet interview December, 2014, OWC's CEO was promoting its drives as not needing the "crutch OS side TRIM offers . . . "

Re:

I have yet to hear about any real world catastrophic performance degradation without TRIM beyond the theoretical or in a benchmarking environment.

Try this, which does not lay the fault diretly on TRIM's absence but is the kind of fail the lack of TRIM will cause:

MacBooks are destroying SSDs

Not as terrible:

How can I reset my OWC SSD to factory performance?

Now please don't misunderstand me. I'm not "at war" with OWC. I've had great luck with their gear and no problem returning the one item that wasn't acceptable.

I'm in fact saddened that Apple, Inc. seems so hostile to third parties, like OWC, willing to take the economic risk of developing and selling products for Macs that Apple simply won't.

But now we're back to the issue of TRIM, which Apple is effectively blocking from third party SSDs in Yosemite.

It is a pain to crack open an older MacBook Pro (or most Macs, for that matter) and install an SSD, so much so I chose to pay a shop to have it done. The computer that drive is in will stay on Mavericks (with TRIM) for the rest of its life, unless a better third party solution to enable TRIM appears, or Apple (don't hold your breath) relents.

If you have an older Mac you want to revive, an SSD may do the job. Since it's an older Mac, maybe another year of use is plenty, and perhaps you'll be happy with its performance for longer. If you're running Snow Leopard to Mavericks, and not upgrading to Yosemite, there's a TRIM solution for you.

Just no security updates as your Mac ages out of Apple support.

But, truly, beware Yosemite. It modifies firmware as it installs in ways the Great Google hasn't been able to find described. There are many posts on many sites Google does reveal with users having third party SSD issues after installing Yosemite. (Well, there's a lot of posts about issues with Yosemite!)

The kext workaround to enable TRIM can (worst case, thus far) require OS X reinstall from Recovery.

I'm not worried about disabling kext signing as a security issue, but the possibility of not getting my Mac to boot because kext signing is off is bothersome.

Before Yosemite, Apple provided developer guidelines on how to write kexts (Kernel Extensions). It (apparently) wasn't a big deal, and Apple could have offered a kext approval submission, but instead (apparently) dropped the hammer and just blocks any Apple doesn't create.

Have a third-party SSD and you're not running Yosemite?

Enable TRIM.

Enable TRIM even on an OWC SandForce SSD OWC advertises doesn't need it, because the company that makes the SandForce Controller in the OWC SSD says you do!

Shopping for a new Mac? Let Apple have its way with you. Buy the biggest Apple OEM SSD you can afford, and for the life of your AppleCare, and probably your Mac, you should have the smoothest, fastest, Mac experience your computer could possibly deliver.

But when you outgrow your Mac and the external options possible with Thunderbolt and USB, presume you'll need a new Mac, not an underhood upgrade. There's a reason Apple recently had the largest quarterly profit in world business history.

item.205762

Davide Guarisco

George, I don't disagree that an "all-SSD" Mac would be the best solution in terms of performance.

It's just that, at the moment, it's not an economically justifiable proposition for people like me (and we may very well be a small minority) who need large amounts of internal storage.

As an example, my latest 2013 retina MacBook Pro is the first Mac laptop purchase ever where my storage capacity did not increase from the previous model. Today, my SSD is 93% full, so I will have to trim some files soon.

Keeping your documents on HDD is an acceptable performance compromise at a reasonable price and offers the advantage of being able to upgrade the HDD to suit your needs.

Upgrading the "Apple" SSD is possible as well, sourcing from eBay.

item.205763

Davide Guarisco

I am curious, when waking from sleep is your Mini as responsive as if it only had an SSD, or does it have to wait for the internal HDD to spin up? I ask because I am considering a similar configuration. Not splitting a Fusion drive, but adding an internal SSD in addition to the existing internal HDD and only having the system and apps on the SSD and data on the HDD.

The issue I'm hoping to solve is that it's a headless Mini on my network, and sometimes when I try to access it via Screen Sharing, it doesn't wake up fast enough. Screen Sharing either has to make multiple attempts before it connects,or it fails altogether (immediately relaunching it works, because the Mini has finished waking up by then). An SSD-only option is too expensive relative to the problem I'm trying to solve.

In reply to Joe F.: I did not notice any issues waking up from sleep -- but I did not try connecting to it remotely.

Spinup time for a single HDD is a few seconds. It is acceptable for me.

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