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I am considering purchasing a Samsung 970 EVO 2TB - NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 SSD.

There are a wide variety of external enclosures on Amazon from manufacturers that I do not recognize. What would you all recommend? I am assuming a USB 3.1 gen latest version.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I am considering purchasing a Samsung 970 EVO 2TB - NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 SSD.
There are a wide variety of external enclosures on Amazon from manufacturers that I do not recognize. What would you all recommend? I am assuming a USB 3.1 gen latest version.
Any USB enclosure, even a 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 enclosure, will hurt performance of this lightning-fast SSD.

Do you need to connect it to USB, or can you use Thunderbolt 3 for full performance? If you're limited to USB, something like a Samsung T5 or SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD seems more appropriate. You might also consider a RAID option I mentioned previously (which is even cheaper now).

If you really want to go with a USB enclosure, I've had decent luck with Sabrent, and they have one for NVMe SSDs, though I haven't tried it:

 


Not sure if this you are only interested in the OWC Aura SSD, but... I have an older 480GB Sandforce-based Mercury Pro 6G (SATA 3) SSD in a 2011 MacBook Pro 15". It still works with no problems.
 


This is interesting. I recently installed the OWC Accelsior S PCIe card to mount my EVO 860 SATA drive. The SSD appears as an external drive. Your comment would suggest that when I try to update to High Sierra that the firmware updates for my MacPro 5,1 might not be installed.
In my experience, that is not true. I had two Accelsior S cards in my Mac Pro 5,1, with SSDs - 1TB 850 EVO and 1TB 860 EVO - and they indeed show up as external drives. The 860 EVO was my boot drive.

Throughout the Mojave beta program from 10.14.0 to 10.14.3, I recall at least three firmware updates during certain software updates — with the prompt to shut down, press and hold the power button until you hear the tone, etc.

I can’t check on its current firmware version since I mothballed it after migrating to the Mac Mini.
 


There are quite a few options, and this one is rather large, but one unit I tested passed without problems:

Here's an inexpensive, more compact alternative that looks good, but I haven't tested it personally:
I have the latter (Mini Pro RAID), set to separate drives, not RAID. My only concern with it is that it does not support S.M.A.R.T.

The Akitio Thunder3 Quad X is S.M.A.R.T. compliant without needing to install additional drivers, so I plan to purchase the Akitio Thunder3 Quad Mini for 2.5" drives, confident that it will work just as well as its big brother.

Just be informed that the Quad X provides only 27 watts of USB-C power, the Quad Mini only 15 watts; probably not enough for your laptop. And neither one has hardware RAID capability.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I have the latter (Mini Pro RAID), set to separate drives, not RAID. My only concern with it is that it does not support S.M.A.R.T.
That's a very good point, and the CRU RTX220-3QR does not appear to support S.M.A.R.T. data, either (as least not when using hardware RAID).
 


Please remember that installing any recent macOS on a hardware or software RAID will prohibit the use of "Find My Mac" in Cloud, as well as an inability to create and use the Mac OS Recovery partition. Probably a few other features will be unavailable as well; I can't recall.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Please remember that installing any recent macOS on a hardware or software RAID will prohibit the use of "Find My Mac" in Cloud, as well as an inability to create and use the Mac OS Recovery partition.
This is the first I've heard of this problem. Can you share some references/documentation about it?
 


Please remember that installing any recent macOS on a hardware or software RAID will prohibit the use of "Find My Mac" in Cloud, as well as an inability to create and use the Mac OS Recovery partition.
This is the first I've heard of this problem. Can you share some references/documentation about it?
Ric:
Apple Support said:
SoftRAID Forum said:
 


Any USB enclosure, even a 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 enclosure, will hurt performance of this lightning-fast SSD. Do you need to connect it to USB, or can you use Thunderbolt 3 for full performance? If you're limited to USB, something like a Samsung T5 or SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD seems more appropriate. You might also consider a RAID option I mentioned previously (which is even cheaper now).
If you really want to go with a USB enclosure, I've had decent luck with Sabrent, and they have one for NVMe SSDs, though I haven't tried it:
I could use a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure on my MacBook Pro. What would you recommend?

For another machine, would a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure be backwards-compatible with USB 3.1?
 




Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I could use a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure on my MacBook Pro. What would you recommend?
One option is a Thunderbolt 3 PCIe chassis. As I described previously, I bought and tested a Samsung 970 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD on an Angelbird Wings PX1 PCIe card inside a Sonnet eGFX Breakaway Box. The Breakaway Box is neither compact nor elegant, but it's quiet, provides top speed, and can host a GPU card, if it's not being used for something else.

This is probably not what you need, though, and there are smaller alternatives that don't have power supplies big enough for a GPU, but I haven't tested any of these. Other folks have commented on Thunderbolt 3 RAID storage systems, but I haven't tested those, either, only the very compact and speedy Samsung X5 SSD.
For another machine, would a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure be backwards-compatible with USB 3.1?
Unfortunately not. The Samsung X5, for instance, will simply not function when connected to a normal USB port. However, you can connect a Thunderbolt 3 device to a Thunderbolt 1 or 2 port on an older Mac, using Apple's Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 converter, though self-powered Thunderbolt 3 devices (e.g. the Samsung X5 or G-Drive Mobile Pro SSD) will have to be connected to a Thunderbolt 3 dock, because Apple's adapter does not pass power through from the computer.
 


There are quite a few options, and this one is rather large, but one unit I tested passed without problems:
Here's an inexpensive, more compact alternative that looks good, but I haven't tested it personally:
Thank you for the recommendations. I neglected to add in my request the necessary information on my computer, which is a Mac Pro (Late 2013) "trash can" model. It doesn't have Thunderbolt 3, only Thunderbolt 2 connections. So your second option unfortunately won't work with Thunderbolt 2, per their specifications. And having only USB 3 ports on this Mac, I can't get above 5 Gb/sec using USB, so I'm wanting to use the Thunderbolt 2 port's 20Gb/sec speed instead.

If I had given my Mac Pro specs in my initial post, I'm sure that would've altered your recommendations somewhat. But again, thanks to you and others for responding so quickly.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Thank you for the recommendations. I neglected to add in my request the necessary information on my computer, which is a Mac Pro (Late 2013) "trash can" model. It doesn't have Thunderbolt 3, only Thunderbolt 2 connections. ... having only USB 3 ports on this Mac, I can't get above 5 Gb/sec using USB, so I'm wanting to use the Thunderbolt 2 port's 20Gb/sec speed instead.
For that scenario, I might want to go with a Thunderbolt 3 dock and an Apple Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 adapter, and get a Thunderbolt 3 RAID that you hook into the dock. It's a bit more expensive, with the added dock and adapter, but more of a forward-looking solution with maximum performance.

Thunderbolt 2 systems are starting to disappear, but you still may be able to get a Thunderbolt 2 RAID system if you're happy being limited to that particular level of technology. I'd be careful to test it very thoroughly before committing important data to it, making sure it doesn't suffer from any of the notorious Thunderbolt random disconnect problems (which is true for any Thunderbolt storage devices).

Here are some OWC Thunderbolt 2 options.
 


Any USB enclosure, even a 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 enclosure, will hurt performance of this lightning-fast SSD. Do you need to connect it to USB, or can you use Thunderbolt 3 for full performance? If you're limited to USB, something like a Samsung T5 or SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD seems more appropriate.
The Samsung T5 and SanDisk Extreme Portable are both SATA SSDs internally, though, so their performance is limited to about 500-525 MB/s.

The M.2 NVMe to USB 3.1 Gen 2 bridge chipsets (JMS583 and ASM2362) are relatively new (appearing only in July), and I haven't seen them in any retail products. However, you can DIY an enclosure for $50 or less on Amazon, adding a Samsung 970 EVO inside. The NVMe SSD will allow you to fully saturate the USB 3.1 Gen 2 bus the way the SATA SSDs can't. Some of the speed tests in the Amazon enclosure reviews show that you can reach 1000 MB/s, or almost double the speed of the SATA SSDs. A 2TB Samsung 970 EVO plus enclosure will run about $498 + $50 vs. a 2TB Samsung T5 for $428. So about a 30% premium for almost double the speed. If you substitute an entry-level NVMe SSD like the Crucial P1 (when its 2TB model finally launches) or the 2TB Intel 660p (currently at $380, but selling for as low as $250 in the past), you could meet or beat the price of the Samsung T5, and it should still be fast enough to saturate the USB bus, or at least be quite a bit faster than the SATA SSDs.

If you want full NVMe speed (externally) though, you have to get a Thunderbolt enclosure, which should more than double the speed of USB 3.1 Gen 2. I'm not aware of any M.2 NVMe to Thunderbolt enclosures though (except for one listing on Amazon for $160 with no reviews). So, for retail drives, the only ones I'm aware of are the Samsung X5 ($1000 for 2TB) and the OWC Envoy Pro EX ($729 for 2TB) and HP P800 (no 2TB option). As with everything Thunderbolt, you pay a high premium. Maybe that $160 enclosure is worth a try after all.

If you choose to go with Thunderbolt, though, you lose the ubiquitous compatibility of USB, of course. So, I guess it depends on which systems you want to attach your external drive to, and how much premium you want to pay for speed.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Thanks for the informative post. A few additional notes:
  • I see that the "OWC Envoy EX" has both USB-only and Thunderbolt versions, so be careful when ordering.
  • Thunderbolt single-drive enclosures without SSDs are likely not certified, and I'd be extremely reluctant to order one of those from China (e.g. the listing noted).
  • George previously posted a great link about a TEKQ Rapide Thunderbolt upgrade project. (The low-end SSD included with the drive might be well suited to a USB-C enclosure.)
  • I've ordered a Sabrent NVMe USB enclosure for testing. A critical issue with these may be heat transfer and availability/effectiveness of thermal pads connecting the chips with the aluminum enclosure.
 


If you want full NVMe speed (externally) though, you have to get a Thunderbolt enclosure, which should more than double the speed of USB 3.1 Gen 2.
Theoretically, it should be triple the speed, more or less. Thunderbolt 3's maximum bit rate is 40Gbit/s, but it is limited by the bridge chips. Assuming your Mac is using 4 PCIe lanes for its Thunderbolt 3 chip (e.g. the 2018 Mac Minis use 4 lanes for each 2-port chip), then that has a maximum speed of 32Gbit/s (4GB/s) per chip, compared with USB 3.1 Gen 2, which has a theoretical top speed of of 10 Gbit/s.

Of course, this assumes that the SSD and NVMe-Thunderbolt 3 bridge chip in the external drive also uses 4 lanes of PCIe 3.
 


For good (or possibly ill) Other World Computing (OWC/MacSales) bought Akitio effective January 1, 2019. OWC has owned SoftRaid since 2015, and I only found that with a lot of "Google-foo" in this MacInTouch post.
Robert Mohns said:
I noticed that the copyright statement in their footer says "© 2015 OWC Holdings, Inc." That's the parent entity of OWC (macsales.com). I was a bit surprised! A little checking on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine indicates this happened sometime between October 26, 2015 and November 9, 2015.
OWC is a private company. A couple of sites that try to guesstimate revenue and employee census of private companies suggest gross revenue of about $100 million and employee count ranging from 50 to 100.

One of the issues with OWC "gear" failing and OWC (which sells direct and shouldn't need a receipt to "know" it sold the item to a customer) is a company of that size isn't making its own products but re-branding or ordering stock parts, custom-Assembled to a unique appearance. When a customer's OWC device fails, OWC likely has to submit it for refund/replacement to its own source.

Akitio was also a private company before acquisition by OWC. Found one "guesstimator" site (Owler) that pegged Akitio's revenue at $22 million and employee census at 25. Akitio has made some well-reviewed products, which says good things about the company's design and engineering capability. One thing of interest: Akitio stamps its products with a logo inside a USB-C shaped oval:
Akitio
California USA

in the same spirit as Apple's trademark
Designed by Apple in California
That's not the same as the required country of origin label, which seems to be missing from Akitio's website and PR images available online, though by persisting, I found some Akitio product images it was possible to enlarge enough to find the inevitable "Made in China", and in one case, the "China" label on the power supply fan on the back panel of one product was far more legible than the grey "Akitio California" logo.

Since China's the source for nearly everything, that Akitio may be ordering from fabricators there isn't that important. What matters to customers of both OWC and Akitio is whether the kind of design that has earned Akitio good reviews will survive the acquisition in both Akitio and OWC brands.
 


  • Thunderbolt single-drive enclosures without SSDs are likely not certified, and I'd be extremely reluctant to order one of those from China (e.g. the listing noted).
  • George previously posted this great link about a TEKQ Rapide Thunderbolt upgrade project. (The low-end SSD included with the drive might be well suited to a USB-C enclosure.)
I did some more research, and found this thread where they claim that "Intel requires that all bus-powered thunderbolt 3 enclosure include an SSD drive." To me, that is as ridiculous and anti-consumer as Apple soldering the RAM to the motherboard. I don't get why it seems Intel is trying to further stunt Thunderbolt adoption.

Also from that thread is this interesting brochure of Intel-certified Thunderbolt products. The Mikosi enclosure on Amazon is not listed in that brochure (even though it claims to be Intel-certified). However, more interesting is the very last product listed on the very last page, the Winstars Thunderbolt 3 USB-C to NVMe SSD Adapter (WS-UTE01). Although you can't buy it domestically without an SSD inside, it looks like you can order it directly from the Chinese manufacturer for $60 each with a minimum order of 5 units:


That seems like a really decent price for a Thunderbolt enclosure, if you can find a few people to split the order with.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
However, more interesting is the very last product listed on the very last page, the Winstars Thunderbolt 3 USB-C to NVMe SSD Adapter (WS-UTE01).
A look at the Alibaba Winstars web page didn't seem to show any thermal connection pad joining the SSD to the aluminum enclosure, which may rely on convective cooling, and I'm not sure that's good enough.
 


A look at the Alibaba Winstars web page didn't seem to show any thermal connection pad joining the SSD to the aluminum enclosure, which may rely on convective cooling, and I'm not sure that's good enough.
One of the descriptions I found for the enclosure says "Aluminum housing with unique heat-sink structure allowing extraordinary heat dissipation to keep NVMe SSD running at peak performance." Additionally, this user review describes a heatsink inside that attaches to the drive (and also confirms that the Thunderbolt cable is replaceable, unlike some other enclosures). (The enclosure in that review is the Winstars enclosure, just private-label branded for Wavlink.) It would be nice if there were pictures of the inside, but it sounds like (hopefully) adequate attention has been given to thermal dissipation.

I found some additional reviews on Amazon, including a speed test with a Samsung 970 EVO installed that shows 2500 MB/s read speeds.

I just noticed that the Alibaba page I mentioned earlier has a "Place Sample Order" link where you can request a single unit for $65 (plus shipping, I assume). Winstars accepts PayPal, so it could be pretty simple to get one that way.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Quick tests of the inexpensive ($90) WD 500GB My Passport Go Cobalt SSD out of the box (using a 2018 MacBook Pro and a USB-A-to-USB-C adapter):

AJA System Test Lite
Write: 185 MB/sec​
Read: 294 MB/sec​
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (first run)
Write: 103 MB/s​
Read: 296 MB/s​
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (second run after quit and relaunch)
Write: 126 MB/s​
Read: 299 MB/s​
 


I'm trying to reinstall macOS on an iMac (27-inch, Late 2013), prior to resale. I've already wiped the 3TB Fusion drive.

I've tried various versions of macOS, both from USB flash installers and via Internet Recovery, but they always fail with an error such this one from High Sierra:
macOS could not be installed on your computer
POSIX reports: The operation couldn't be completed. Input/output error.
Quit the installer to restart your computer and try again.​
The last message in the Installer log prior to the POSIX error is "Clearing automation and attempting to rebless".

Something led me to believe it could be problem with the Recovery HD partition. So I de-fused the Fusion drive, which wiped out all partitions including the Recovery HD, and then re-fused it.

Disk Utility doesn't think there's anything wrong with the drive. However, back when I was trying to migrate from this iMac to a new computer, the Fusion drive spontaneously de-fused, losing all the data. That would hint at some kind of hardware issue. But, back then, I re-fused the drive and restored more than a terabyte of data to it, with no I/O errors at all -- which would seem to indicate the hardware is OK.

Has anyone seen anything like this before? Any ideas to get it to install?

If I can't reinstall macOS, then this iMac won't be sold, it will be recycled as non-functional.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I'm trying to reinstall macOS on an iMac (27-inch, Late 2013), prior to resale. I've already wiped the 3TB Fusion drive. I've tried various versions of macOS, both from USB flash installers and via Internet Recovery, but they always fail with an error such this one from High Sierra...
Apple has now hidden/deleted information about defective iMac 3TB Fusion drives in that timeframe that required a special replacement program. You might want to start there.

Otherwise, since High Sierra doesn't support APFS on Fusion drives, it seems like a scenario that may be prone to problems. Here's what I suggest if you sort out the question of defects above:
  1. With the internal storage "defused", check for SMART errors on both SSD and hard drive with a utility such as DriveDX.
  2. If you're sure there are no defects or hardware problems, boot a normal macOS Sierra 10.12.6 system and format the Fusion drive as HFS+, then try installing macOS Sierra. (Alternatively, you could try using macOS 10.14.3 Mojave instead, but I would use Sierra.)
  3. If that doesn't work for any reason, defuse the SSD and hard drive, format the hard drive in HFS+ format, and install macOS Sierra on that.
 


I'm trying to reinstall macOS on an iMac (27-inch, Late 2013), prior to resale. I've already wiped the 3TB Fusion drive.
... Has anyone seen anything like this before? Any ideas to get it to install?
For checking disk hardware, Disk Utility is not particularly useful. I use SMART Utility from Volitans, but DriveDX and other products can report SMART details.

Installing Mojave on your machine might make it more valuable. Just this morning I performed a clean install of Mojave (10.14.3) on a Late 2013 27" iMac. The 1.1TB Fusion Drive was still 'fused' and working before this process. SMART Utility indicated both drives were healthy.
  • Created a USB external volume, Install macOS Mojave, by downloading a fresh copy of the Mojave installer and used creatinstallmedia to make a bootable USB installer volume.
  • Used Command-R boot to start the iMac.
  • Selected Disk Utility and did a simple Erase of the fusion volume.
  • Installed Mojave.
  • Got a clean macOS startup.
Several factors contributing to my success include using SMART Utility to verify both the hard drive and SSD, not overthinking the fusion drive business, just selecting MacintoshHD and clicking Erase using the default parameters.

The installation seemed to take quite a while before actually starting the install progress bar. I guess it was updating the on-disk structures of the internal fusion drive which is now an APFS fusion drive.
 


Apple has now hidden/deleted information about defective iMac 3TB Fusion drives in that timeframe that required a special replacement program. You might want to start there.
Otherwise, since High Sierra doesn't support APFS on Fusion drives, it seems like a scenario that may be prone to problems. Here's what I suggest if you sort out the question of defects above:
  1. With the internal storage "defused", check for SMART errors on both SSD and hard drive with a utility such as DriveDX.
  2. If you're sure there are no defects or hardware problems, boot a normal macOS Sierra 10.12.6 system and format the Fusion drive as HFS+, then try installing macOS Sierra. (Alternatively, you could try using macOS 10.14.3 Mojave instead, but I would use Sierra.)
  3. If that doesn't work for any reason, defuse the SSD and hard drive, format the hard drive in HFS+ format, and install macOS Sierra on that.
My iMac was sold too late to qualify for the 3TB hard drive replacement program.

I de-fused and ran TechTool Pro to check the drives. The SSD was clean, but the hard drive reported several SMART values that TechTool Pro interpreted as warnings.

I gave up and shipped it off for recycling. The graphics were failing anyway. (What surprised me was that there were sites willing to give me money for an iMac with failing graphics!)
 



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