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Moving from PC to iMac - best options for sample storage
Last post Wed, May 12 2021 by xosta, 5 replies.
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Posted on Sat, May 01 2021 15:16
by drew buchan
Joined on Sun, Nov 27 2005, Posts 243

My current PC is on it last legs.

I am thinking of moving to one of the latest iMacs, and storing samples on external drives.


All of my current samples are stored on 3 separate SATA SSD.

I am finding it difficult to find out:

a) can I buy a caddy to connect my existing SSDs that will convert to thunderbolt 3

b) what other options are available for external large volume SSDs?


Does anyone have any recommendations?

Posted on Sat, May 01 2021 17:19
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 612

Drew, I'm using only a 2017 5k iMac (Fusion storage) and find that having only 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports is quite a challenge when it comes to using more than a couple of external SSDs. The iMac Pro had 4 TB3 ports but it's not currently on offer in Apple's lineup. The latest 21.5" iMac (with Apple Silicon) has only 2 TB3 ports.

Looking ahead to when my iMac's internal storage has expired, I have a plan. I'll use one of my TB3 ports for a LaCie 1 Big Dock with built-in conventional fast hard drive (for bootable clone backup), daisychained out to a 2TB Samsung X5 for the system plus miscellaneous files. On the iMac's other TB3 port I'll put another 2TB external SSD for sample libraries. It's not ideal and I could well run out of SSD storage space before long - then I'll be up the creek without a paddle, lol.

There are so-called Thunderbolt-SATA caddies out there but mostly they're just for those higher USB speeds which are only available via iMac's TB3 ports.  A lot depends on the speed of your SSDs and the version of their SATA interface: if they don't need more than USB 3.0 speed then the choice of USB-SATA caddies is wider and you might find exactly what you need without having to use a precious TB3 port.

Moreover, although TB has the potentially very useful feature of being daisychainable, in practice I don't think I've ever seen any external SSD with provision for this feature - the extremely expensive LaCie 1 Big Dock SSD Pro being a notable exception (but, as the name says, it's an SSD plus TB3 dock in one enclosure).

Decent TB3 docks without built-in hard drive or SSD are expensive and not abundant, and I don't seem to recall if any had true TB3 daisychaining (sorry, my memory might be at fault there, and I've not been searching in recent months so things might have changed). The worst problem it seems to me is, until external SSDs add a TB3 thru-port we'd need dock after dock, each with at least 3 TB3 ports (1 in, 2 thru), to be able to connect to multiple 'spurs' in the daisychain, and thus far I know of no dock capable of this.

Short answer is, sorry to say, it's complicated. I'd suggest you prepare yourself with a bit of research on all the various USB and SATA versions, then it's just a case of slogging through Amazon etc to see what's out there today. Also, I'd urge you to be very careful about exactly which Thunderbolt version a device on offer is designed for. TB1 (officially called just "Thunderbolt") and TB2 are compatible with each other but not with TB3, although a rather expensive active adapter is available from Apple for using TB1 and TB2 devices with your new iMac.

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Posted on Sun, May 02 2021 15:01
by drew buchan
Joined on Sun, Nov 27 2005, Posts 243

Thank you Macker for your insights.  Really appreciate it.

Thanks in particular for pointing out that Thunderbolt SATA caddies are not going to offer Thunderbolt 3 speeds.

I think your suggestion to connect via USB might be the best option.

Hmmm. After a bit (a lot) more browsing I am wondering whether using one of these, (CalDigit TS3 Plus)  to offer genuine USB 3.1 via thunderbolt, in conjunction with some USB 3 to SATA cables.

Posted on Thu, May 06 2021 17:22
by dragsquares
Joined on Sat, Aug 13 2005, Austin, TX, Posts 82
When you are looking for a device to contain all of these drives, take care to read the specs. There are enclosures that will handle multiple drives but have limited data throughput for individual drives, which is what I believe you were trying to set up. Many multi-drive enclosures will give you ~1300MB/sec reads with a RAID but more like 200 with platter drives and 350 with SSD’s. And it’s not an issue with thunderbolt bandwidth at all.

This enclosure will do ~1500 MB/sec in JBOD mode. https://eshop.macsales.c.../TB3QMJB000/?fullDetails

I haven’t had much luck using USB drives for heavy streaming of libraries, and definitely not conventional platters. Though I did some years ago when I was touring and had to use FireWire drives, but it was basic VSL VI’s and not the de rigeur multichannel monsters we know and love today.

Honestly - if money allows, to me the coolest thing so far has been using nvme drives in an expansion chassis (as my 2013 MP has no slots) on PCIe cards. Just not a question of speed anymore at all.
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Posted on Wed, May 12 2021 10:23
by xosta
Joined on Wed, May 12 2021, USA, Fl, Posts 1

Hey! From the experience of my friends, I can say that this is a rather complicated process. As already mentioned here, it all depends on the specific model and specifics, because Apple does not make the life of users moving from other OS easier. Prepare a sufficient amount of money, and I would just write in support or directly contact the store to get recommendations on specific models and what exactly needs to be purchased for them.

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