Running 3.5 Inch HD on Mac mini?

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davintosh's picture
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Hey all!

It's been a while since I last posted on the 'fritter, but I've got a project I'm working on for my job that involves using a Mac mini as a web server for a customer portal. As we all know, the mini uses 2.5 inch hard drives, which are slower, smaller (capacity-wise) and costlier than 3.5 inch drives, so I'm wondering if anyone knows of any quick & easy hacks to run a 3.5 inch drive on a mini. It will be on a shelf in a server closet, so it doesn't have to be pretty; just needs to work.

I've done some Google searches, and the only things I've found are three or more years old. Surely there has to be newer info than that! I've also searched a bit here on Applefritter and didn't come up with much (but maybe I'm doing it wrong.)

I know adding a Firewire drive is an option, but the SATA bus is significantly faster than even 800Mbps, so I'd prefer to be able to tap into that, if at all possible. Using a desktop/tower Mac is also an option, but total cost is a factor, and the machine I use needs to be an Intel Mac in order to support the software the server will be running. And since it will be a production machine, having a new machine with a warranty is also a nice plus!

Thanks! Looking forward to the discussion and the Evil Genius Ideas that might come out of it!
--
Dave

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TheUltimateMacUser's picture
Joined: Jan 28 2004
Posts: 615
well...

The 3.5 drive isn't going to fit inside the case, so...

If you want to go with an SATA drive, it looks like you will have to mount the drive outside the case, then run the wires INTO the case. ... Which will probably involve voiding the warranty.

EDIT: Will a 3.5in hard drive fit internally if you remove the CD drive? If so... perhaps cou could fab up a bracket to mount it in there.

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davintosh's picture
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Doesn't really matter...

... whether it fits inside or not; as I said earlier, it's a server and will be sitting on a shelf out of sight of everyone but me, so it doesn't need to fit inside the case. I'm guessing with a fabbed bracket and the optical drive removed, a full-sized drive might fit, but that's not a requirement for me.

One of the hacks I had seen elsewhere involved making an extra cut in the case to allow an exit for an external drive cable; my problem with that is that it would likely void the warranty. But I'm also not averse to running it nekkid, with the top of the case totally removed.

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Dr. Webster's picture
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Re: Running 3.5 Inch HD on Mac mini?

davintosh wrote:

.... As we all know, the mini uses 2.5 inch hard drives, which are slower...

Only the stock (5400rpm) drives are slower; 7200rpm 2.5" drives can, in fact, be faster than 3.5" drives due to their shorter read/write head armatures. Many servers are moving to 2.5" SAS drives for this very reason.

I dropped a 7200rpm drive in my own Intel mini and the sucker screams.

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Dr. Webster's picture
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Also, if you absolutely deman

Also, if you absolutely demand to use a 3.5" drive, your best bet would be to remove the mini's optical drive and rig up a SATA-to-eSATA cable through the disc slot, so your external drive can at least sit in a nice eSATA enclosure. There's some guy here in Minneapolis who's been trying to sell his Intel mini on the LEM Swap List that's been modded like that.

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The new Mac Mini (Server) app

The new Mac Mini (Server) apparently leaves out the optical drive to add a second 2.5" drive.

you might consider using 2 500gb drives in a raid-0 (striped) array, or even the newest (and probably very expensive) drives which I hear are around 650GB, enterprise class drives also have 10.5k RPM spindle speeds and larger buffers.

If you want good performance, and minimal cost, then you can run an enormous 3.5" drive externally, take the cover off, there's probably a fairly easy way to run a sata/esata cable out of the case.

I'm a stickler for details, so I'd probably pick up an eSata blank for a PC, take the connector off, and somehow mount it inside the case so its accessible from the outside.

davintosh's picture
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Re: The new Mac Mini (Server) app

Dr. Webster wrote:

Only the stock (5400rpm) drives are slower; 7200rpm 2.5" drives can, in fact, be faster than 3.5" drives due to their shorter read/write head armatures. Many servers are moving to 2.5" SAS drives for this very reason.

I guess I had forgotten that there are indeed 7200 rpm 2.5" drives available. I'll need to look into that...

malibujack wrote:

The new Mac Mini (Server) apparently leaves out the optical drive to add a second 2.5" drive.

you might consider using 2 500gb drives in a raid-0 (striped) array, or even the newest (and probably very expensive) drives which I hear are around 650GB, enterprise class drives also have 10.5k RPM spindle speeds and larger buffers.

I had seen the mini servers, but really didn't need the server software. But considering that it's only $200 more expensive than the top-of-the-line desktop mini and includes the Unlimited Client OS X Server license, it's not a bad deal. The drives it uses spin at 5400 rpm, so striping would be a decent way to improve disk performance.

malibujack wrote:

If you want good performance, and minimal cost, then you can run an enormous 3.5" drive externally, take the cover off, there's probably a fairly easy way to run a sata/esata cable out of the case.

I'm a stickler for details, so I'd probably pick up an eSata blank for a PC, take the connector off, and somehow mount it inside the case so its accessible from the outside.

I guess the question in my head is what kind of cable interface the mini uses inside. For a SATA drive I would think it's fairly universal; the last time I had to swap a hard drive in a newer Dell laptop, it had a 2.5" SATA drive, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it used the exact same interface as the 3.5" SATA drives. BUT, what kind of connector is attached to the logic board. And if that connector is fairly obscure/unobtainable, can the SATA cable be extended without hacking?

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Hawaii Cruiser's picture
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There was some info on the 2.

There was some info on the 2.5" drives on my previous thread:
http://www.applefritter.com/node/24283

gsmcten's picture
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MyBook?

Davin,

Would a 1T Mybook work? It has USB connectors and I'm pretty sure the mini has at least one.
Don't quote me 'cause I'm not sure.
It's just a suggestion. Smile

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Dr. Webster's picture
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Re: The new Mac Mini (Server) app

malibujack wrote:

...a raid-0 (striped) array...

Keep in mind that RAID 0 doubles your chances of losing all of your data. One drive dies, everything is gone. RAID 0 is only for people who need speed but don't care about the security of their data (e.g. hardcore computer gamers).

malibujack wrote:

...even the newest (and probably very expensive) drives which I hear are around 650GB...

They're actually pretty cheap at around $100, but unfortunately they only spin at 5400rpm

malibujack wrote:

...enterprise class drives also have 10.5k RPM spindle speeds and larger buffers.

2.5" SAS drives come in 10k and 15k RPM varieties and are indeed very fast -- a 2.5" 15k SAS drive is the fastest you can get when it comes to spinning platters. Problem is that 1) they're usually around 15mm thick (whereas normal laptop-grade drives are 9mm), which would prevent them from physically fitting in the mini, and 2) they use the SAS interface, which is not compatible with the mini's SATA controller. (You can use SATA drives on a SAS controller, but not the other way around.)

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dankephoto's picture
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re: can the SATA cable be extended without hacking?

google "sata cable extension"

Seems like a bit of a bother though, since a FW drive will be near-enough as fast. Whatever this box will be doing, you're talking about a low-end consumer computer doing it.

I'd choose a well-cooled external FW drive(s).

dan k

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