A solution is just a problem you haven't met, or, help me IT
May 31, 2016 1:52 PM   Subscribe

My much-loved MacBook Pro 15" (late 2008) logic board is dying. Replacing the laptop is proving complicated. Please help me to understand how people manage their data in a post-HDD world.

In the past year, I have put new RAM and a new solid-state drive into this laptop, and the display and enclosure are in great shape. I am sorely tempted to try to replace the logic board myself or to have it replaced by someone, except that I am aware that the replacement itself will still be 8 years old and that I am only buying myself a little time.

So, even if I can patch this laptop together, I am looking at new laptops in the Apple ecosystem and am having some conceptual trouble with the way that Apple laptops have evolved in the past 8 years.

Specifically, none of the laptops in my budget (even refurbished) has enough space to store the decade+ of pictures in my Photos database, nor the massive collection of music files I've accumulated over the years. In light of the amount of data these laptops can store, they do not seem like stand-alone machines, and indeed I have seen articles suggesting that modern laptops with such small amounts of storage on them are meant to generate media rather than to hold on to it. So, where am I to put my existing data and all the new photos I am taking?

I make regular backups through Time Machine, but a backup solution does not address my specific issue. So I am asking you, the Hivemind, what I need to do in order to have as much as possible of the following:

1. Portable computing, ideally with an actual keyboard and not one of those butterfly jobbies like they have on the new MacBooks (shudder!)
2. Regular access to my entire Photo library at least when I am at home.
3. Regular access to my entire iTunes library at least when I am at home.
4. Offline access to a selection from my Photo library when traveling.
5. Offline access to a selection from my iTunes library when traveling.

I am not always online, and am not super comfortable having all my photos online, either, so also:

6. Without requiring me to be connected to the internet, and without requiring my storage solution to be connected to the internet. (This may mean setting up some sort of a firewall situation at home, I am aware.)

I am not totally hopeless when it comes to setting up computers and hard drives, but I am not nearly cutting-edge either, so also:

7. In a setup that is relatively painless, secure, and future-proof.

Further, I am not exactly awash in cash to spend on this, so:

8. For a budget of less than $500 (not including the laptop itself).
9. Incorporating, if possible, the 480GB SSD that I just bought last month so I don't feel like that was a total waste of money.

Thank you!
posted by gauche to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
6. Without requiring me to be connected to the internet, and without requiring my storage solution to be connected to the internet. (This may mean setting up some sort of a firewall situation at home, I am aware.)

Can you clarify this point? Are you saying the laptop and storage solution will be at your house, and you want to be able to take down the house internet connection while retaining a connection from the laptop to a local (network-attached) storage device? Or are you talking about setting up "your own cloud" (or, as we old-timers call it, a "server") so that you can remotely access physical storage located at your house (i.e. still using the internet for the connection part, just not relying on a third party storage provider?)
posted by contraption at 2:06 PM on May 31, 2016

My solution to this* would be a networked storage device (consumer-grade NAS example) on my home network, whether that be an actual device for that purpose with fancy networking or a cheap-ass PC (or maybe mac mini?) with the biggest drive(s) I can put in it. You'd just map it like a drive/device.

(Note: still, that device is not forever. House fire, lighting strike, burglary, that stuff is gone. So you either buy a couple of them and take turns taking them to a fireproof storage or you cloud backup to a private cloud backup account.)

You need to treat your local hard drive like a working drive, really. If you're actively doing heavy-duty editing of photo/video/music, you likely want that local for speed while you're editing, then you ship it over to the shared storage.

*This is basically how we do. There's a mac mini that's got Plex running on it and a 1TB drive attached to it, for entertainment and photos. My husband also works off of a couple 1TB portables, but he's using those in the field and bringing them home to edit on, they are not meant to be long-term storage. Additionally I use a 1TB Dropbox for my personal and work stuff I access from multiple computers/devices, and he has one of his own.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:16 PM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

What's your laptop budget? There are plenty of apple laptops with solid state drives over 480gb.
posted by gregr at 2:18 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, the easiest thing to do would just be to get a 2 or 4TB external portable USB hard drive for about 100 bucks. But they are a bit more failure prone than other hard drives because of the rough handling they tend to get.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 2:31 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

We're a Windows/Android household, but I've found that a NAS on our local home network works very well for us. It is backed-up through Crashplan for documents, pictures and some irreplaceable music files. How big you need it to be is really a money issue. We're currently running at 3 TB, which seems decent enough for us. I could, if needed, double or triple that easily. I've migrated NAS devices once and have swapped drives three times now---we've being doing things this way for 7-8 years.

We mount it as a network drive on all the computers, and the EzFile file browser allows easy access from Android. We can also easily stream from Plex to our media devices.

When we travel, we carry a 100BG USB drive. I've found the Western Digital Passport drives to be very solid, and great value. Works great as a media repository and photo dump.
posted by bonehead at 2:49 PM on May 31, 2016

you can buy cases to stick disks in that then connect to your computer via usb. i don't know if usb works on current macs, but there must be something equivalent. this would be the simplest way of using your existing ssd.
posted by andrewcooke at 3:00 PM on May 31, 2016

Response by poster: contraption, the former. I don't expect to need access to all my photos or music when not at home. I do want access to a subset, though, of both.

Thanks to everyone for your answers. Can someone reassure me that my points 4. & 5. are possible? For reference:

4. Offline access to a selection from my Photo library when traveling.
5. Offline access to a selection from my iTunes library when traveling

For instance, I'd like to have offline access on my laptop to an album of selected photos of my wife and baby daughter, but automatically have access to all my photos when at home on my home network.
I'd also like to have offline access on my laptop to a playlist of music that I find helpful for working and writing, and access to all my music when home and on my home network.
Is this possible?
posted by gauche at 5:24 PM on May 31, 2016

Get the 2TB or 4TB external USB drive. Then set up two Photos libraries, one on the laptop and on on the hard drive. Do the same for your iTunes libraries.

You'll have to relaunch Photos while holding down the option key to switch libraries, so it's not automatic, but it's also not a lot of work or expense.
posted by ejs at 5:32 PM on May 31, 2016

Response by poster: ejs, thanks for the answer. I feel that is less than optimal because adding new photos to the laptop and hard drive photo libraries will become clunky, but it is at least a partial workaround.

gregr, my laptop budget is <$1300. I see one 13" MBP in the refurbished section which has a HDD large enough for all my data, but that one was made in 2012. I'm trying to future-proof a bit more than a four-year-old laptop gets me.
posted by gauche at 6:07 AM on June 1, 2016

Many of the NAS systems have the ability to do remote access of the stored file system. Synology and QNAP (chose either, probably doesn't matter much, but be careful with others) both use WebDAV solutions, for example, which will work for Macs. This might be the simplest answer for you. Might be slow, depending on your home uplink speed, but it should work.
posted by bonehead at 11:01 AM on June 1, 2016

Given your budget, I would buy a 2012 MacBook Pro 15" Retina (eBay prices look like about $800 ish) and plop in a Transcend JetDrive 725 which is a 960GB SSD and costs $500.

Note that the 2012 retina macbook pro models actually have better support for 3rd party SSDs - the newer ones are harder to retrofit.

Total cost: $1300, and you end up with a super powerful machine, and no need* to muck around with external drives or splitting up your photo or iTunes libraries.

* Unless you have > 1TB of data, but if you do then maybe you need to do some spring cleaning...
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:15 PM on June 1, 2016

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