Multi-bay SATA enclosure for my Mac?
June 16, 2015 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Multi-bay SATA enclosure for my Mac?

I want a reliable dual- or quad-bay 3.5" SATA enclosure to connect to my late 2009 Mac mini and play movies with Plex. I don't need RAID and would use the enclosure in independent/JBOD mode.

The only Drobo that seems to be in my <$300 price range has some worrisome reviews, especially about their customer support.

The OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2 looks good, but it states that WD Green drives (of which I have one) are not recommended. I chatted with their support and they said those drives have not been tested in JBOD mode. Would that be a problem?

Anybody have other recommendations? Thanks!
posted by DakotaPaul to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Linksys NAS200, perhaps? They were about $200 (and still appear to be -- that's without drives, too) when I bought one new about... geez, 7-8 years ago? It's been perfectly reliable. 2 drive bays. Because of its age, I probably wouldn't put anything over 2TB into each one (it definitely supports 2TB). It just throws them on your network as shared drives-- JBOD is supported, but I mounted them as separate drives. Support should be limited to some online resources; it's legacy hardware for Linksys and I don't even think they currently offer any NAS products. It makes a slightly shrill chirp/beep when powering up or down (extremely infrequent), and it's not ready for a few (5ish?) minutes after a powerup, but mine has been on my desk, working perfectly (low demand on the disks) for all that time--- I've changed one disk in its lifetime, and only to add more space.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:31 PM on June 16, 2015

Best answer: I have used OWC parts to upgrade a 1st gen mac pro, and the parts worked great, their tech support was first rate. I also had a WD Green 1TB in a (non-OWC) USB enclosure once for a Time Capsule disk and it would oddly unmount now and then, I think the aggressive parking of the greens with some USB->SATA adapters are not optimal with OS X.

I would suggest making them discrete disks, JBOD puts alot of eggs in one basket.
posted by nickggully at 8:48 PM on June 16, 2015

Best answer: +1 on OWC
posted by Mac-Expert at 9:01 PM on June 16, 2015

I don't have a OWC, but ran green drives for a while, had no issues with that. They do power down a lot, which means startup can take ~40s.. but if you are patient, that is no problem.

I don't need RAID and would use the enclosure in independent/JBOD mode.

Sounds like you are planning to use ZFS, always a good bet :)
posted by lundman at 10:04 PM on June 16, 2015

DO NOT BUY A DROBO. They are shitboxes that die repeatedly and randomly that are completely proprietary/opaque and lock your data away forever when they fail. The internet is full of people who agree with me.

On the flipside, i'm still using an OWC drive unit that is literally well over a decade old. It's got a 160gb in it, back when that cost like $250. I haven't had a single problem with it and it's built like a bomb shelter and runs very cool.

Cineraid, to me, feels like it has been around for a long ass time and seems to get good reviews. I'm pretty sure i've seen it in use at quite a few places including clients shops. I'm not clear if that model supports jbod? but i believe some of their other ones do, that was just a random pullquote example. I know those will run in independent mode, as will most enclosures like that.

G-tech is another one in that price range but for some fuzzy memory i remember having to tear one down and laughing at how crap it was(ditto for LaCie, poop-o-matic power supplies, although i don't know if they even sell enclosures like this anymore?)
posted by emptythought at 3:57 AM on June 17, 2015

Best answer: The OWC Mercury Elite Pro Qx2 looks good, but it states that WD Green drives (of which I have one) are not recommended.

WD Green drives are not recommended in *ANY* sort of high usage, high density or RAID configuration, and I'll be honest, I don't recommend them period, because they combine two factors that, to me, scare me -- higher density with lower lifetime. In terms of disk, the more they hold, the longer they need to last.

They're good in the very low power regime, which is what they were built to do, but they made a lot of compromises in performance to do that, and they made some in reliability to get density up.

As to OWC products, I've used many, I recommend them pretty much without hesitation -- the only hesitation is cost. They are more expensive, but they are better. They dislike WD Green drives (I've talked extensively to one of their product development guys a couple of years ago) because they just saw too many failures, esp. when they were working in the RAID realms, but they've found little difference in reliability between the RAID and non-RAID scenario, other than RAID is a handy way to test more disks at once.

So, that's my opinion there. However, I'm an enterprise admin/architect specializing in, amongst other things, storage, and I'm very very picky about my storage. At home, I use Macs, and while I generally use the default storage internally, I use OWC external storage for backups, and it works. When I need performance in storage on the desktop level, I'd go to them in a heartbeat, though at home, I really don't. At work? I call guys like EMC and buy storage systems that are larger than refrigerators, but that's not relevant here. :-)

Personally, I'd go with them, and I'd just replace the WD green, or get another cage and use it as another drive, or I'd put it in and use it as a volume for low importance data.

Drobo, I don't know, but I IM'ed a couple of people and it was like telling Vader that Amidala was dead. So, yeah, I'd not do that.

Also: Advice. Mirror your backup drive. Those time machine snapshots are really, really nice, and it sucks if your backup drive dies and you lose them. Having a mirrored backup drive means you can lose one and still have your drive history. Well worth the extra cost. Also: Put your backup drive where you can reach it, so when the smoke detector goes off, you grab that disk on your way out the door.
posted by eriko at 7:07 AM on June 17, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses so far. I do have an older OWC Mercury Elite Pro that's been working great, but I just got the 4TB WD Green drive (which now sounds like a bad idea) and found that it doesn't support 4TB drives.

Based on the replies so far I'm leaning towards OWC again, but maybe a single drive enclosure this time. Please keep the suggestions coming!
posted by DakotaPaul at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2015

nthing the OWC enclosure - I've got a 2-bay one at the recommendation of several people who have more elaborate ones (most of which were Apple Geniuses at one point or another) and, other than needing to replace the fan, it still works great. The problem with the Green drives - any of 'em, not just Western Digital's - is that they are very aggressive about spinning down to save power, which, to a RAID controller, says "whoopsie the disk went away REBUILD THE ARRAY". (I had a lot of problems with this when I had a bunch of WD Green drives in a software RAID on a Linux machine. My 4 1.5TB disks are still chugging away, though I will note I am solidly in the "it's a hard drive, it's going to fail" camp wrt reliability there.)

FWIW, the last external I got was this WD Elements drive in 4TB. It was real cheap and seems to work pretty well through the fairly short amount of time I've had it. I would have gotten just a couple of decent, 7200-rpm disks to put in my OWC enclosure but this was cheaper than buying a bare drive... I have a virtual machine on there that does not seem to be any worse for the wear from being on an external disk, but I have no clue as to what kind of drive is actually in the thing.
posted by mrg at 11:22 AM on June 17, 2015

I have the mediasonic quad bay. I bought it in fall of 2012 and it's been rock-solid the whole time. And, yes, I primarily use it for my plex server.
posted by nightwood at 7:34 PM on June 19, 2015

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