Will attaching an external drive to my Mac Mini improve booting time?
November 20, 2007 1:36 AM   Subscribe

Will attaching an external Firewire drive to my G4 Mac Mini make a big difference to booting speeds and application loading times?

I'd like to use an external Firewire drive as the default boot device. I think the internal drive is a crappy 4200rpm 2.5" 60Gb drive. Booting is pretty slow. Loading applications is pretty slow. How much (if any) of a speed increase could I expect? The new drive will be faster, but will the Firewire 400 interface counteract this?
posted by salmacis to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
This is rather off-the-top-of-my-head, but I'm reasonably sure that FW400 is slower than both IDE and SATA connections, with a max throughput of about 50MB/s, where I think SATA starts at above 100MB/s, and IDE runs at 66MB/s (this one I'm less sure of, because of the weird things that go on when there's more than one thing per cable).

Anecdotally, it also makes sense that the external interface is slower, or it'd be being used internally too.
posted by Smoosh Faced Lion at 2:13 AM on November 20, 2007

A nice 7200RPM external firewire drive will help considerably.

The only upgrade that is more beneficial is memory. If you don't have 1GB in that machine, I'd do that first.
posted by -t at 2:15 AM on November 20, 2007

Booting will be slower as the machine will always scan the firewire and USB ports to see if there is a bootable drive attached to them. There might be some setting to tell the computer to boot only from the internal hard disk. My MBP does this, but it doesn't really bother me.

I've noticed that finder is sometimes slower kicking in when an external drive is connected, but again, my machine is fast enough for it not be an annoyance. Not sure about a G4 though.

Seconding maxing out the RAM.
posted by ReiToei at 3:45 AM on November 20, 2007

The Mac Mini has a really slow drive. Furthermore, the fact that it's a 2.5", not 3.5", effectively makes it slower (linear speed at the outside of a 2.5" disc turning at a given speed is lower than linear speed at the outside of a 3.5").

Here are some mini drive benchmarks. As you can see, there's no one configuration that's always fastest, but an external drive can speed things up. So can a faster internal.

If you really want to go crazy, you can connect the internal SATA jack to an external 3.5" drive, but this requires taking a Dremel to your case.
posted by adamrice at 7:31 AM on November 20, 2007

I've done exactly this.

It will be noticeably faster. The drive in the mini is ridiculously slow.
posted by TravellingDen at 8:28 AM on November 20, 2007

Yes. Yes, a thousand times yes!

I did it with my G4 Mini. I'm never going back!
posted by SansPoint at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2007

Thanks for your answers. Looks like it's worth doing.
posted by salmacis at 9:11 AM on November 20, 2007

I recently upgraded the hard drive in a mac mini and opted for a 7200RPM drive as the replacement. It's like a completely different machine now. Opening the mini is not nearly as hard as I was led to believe, and getting to the hard drive required the removal of about five or six phillips screws.

The trick with opening it was to only insert the putty knife about a quarter-inch into the side. It will go much farther with no resistance, but you make it much, much harder that way.
posted by odinsdream at 9:12 AM on November 20, 2007

odinsdream: You mean you put in a 7200rpm 2.5" disc? It fit perfectly? That might also be worth doing.
posted by salmacis at 10:27 AM on November 20, 2007

salmacis; it was a laptop 7200RPM drive, yes. It was definitely worth the trouble, and opening it, if you're at all mechanically inclined, was not difficult at all.

In fact, I would have been inside much sooner had it not been for directions online that indicated how difficult it was to pry open. If you do it correctly, by inserting the blade of the putty knife only about a quarter inch, and it's perpendicular with the bottom of the machine, you'll be able to easily pry the handle away from the center of the machine and pop the teeth inside free.
posted by odinsdream at 2:46 PM on November 20, 2007

I have a G4 Mini, and an external FireWire helped, even though I didn't use it for booting or applications. However, putting a 1GB RAM stick made a freakin' massive difference. It was a completely different and far better computer after the RAM upgrade.
posted by azpenguin at 10:53 PM on November 20, 2007

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