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Good morning, I am seeking a 5-port eSATA to SATA port multiplier for use inside an external enclosure. I've tried several, and so far, cannot find one that will work with macOS Sierra on a 15" MacBook Pro (13,3). My external eSATA host controller is a Thunderbolt 3 dock from CalDigit, which works great with Open Digital Mobius 5 external hard drive enclosures (eSATA, USB 3, etc.). The Mobius drives show up in JBOD mode as well as RAID arrays, depending on how the jumpers in the back of the enclosure were configured. Here is what I have tried:

1) Coolgear Sil 4726: This controller is pretty ancient. The sellers claim that management software to configure it is available from the OEM (now Lattice Semi), when in fact, it's not. Without being able to configure this controller for JBOD use, it won't mount any drives. If you troll the web, you can find OS X versions of the manager software. Unfortunately, it's PowerPC code and hence will only run on Mac OS X Snow Leopard and before. There is a Windows utility, but I don't have a Windows computer around with eSATA. So, no go.

2) JMB321-based generic controller: This controller is really interesting: It successfully crashes my computer every time I plug it in. I replicated this behavior with a Kanex eSATA external host, as well as the Thunderbolt 3 dock from Caldigit. In both cases, the computer screen will go blank and the machine will restart. No kernel panic, nothing. Just blank screen and reboot.

I'd be delighted if the controller also offered USB 3 as well as eSATA external interfaces. The cherry on top would be a controller that uses one of those SCSI-1 brackets to allow easy mounting to a multi-bay DVD enclosure (but that's not necessary). However, this has to be a standalone controller, i.e. it should not require being plugged into a PCIe bus to operate.
 


Good morning, I am seeking a 5-port eSATA to SATA port multiplier for use inside an external enclosure....
After some additional searching, I came across Addonics, which makes a controller (HPM-XU) which features both USB 3 as well as eSATA external interfaces, configured with DIP switches, and mounted on a SCSI-1-sized bracket. It'll be perfect, if it works!

The HPM-XU costs $69 and can also be configured / upgraded, etc. via the JMicron Raid Manager software hosted at Addonics. They show a firmware there for a USB sleep issue and I have used this manager before to configure/upgrade Oyen Digital Mobius 5 enclosures.

Meanwhile, I am requesting an RMA for the Sil4726 controller. The generic one isn't worth the trouble.
 


Good morning, I am seeking a 5-port eSATA to SATA port multiplier for use inside an external enclosure. I've tried several, and so far, cannot find one that will work with macOS Sierra on a 15" MacBook Pro (13,3). My external eSATA host controller is a Thunderbolt 3 dock from CalDigit, which works great with Open Digital Mobius 5 external hard drive enclosures (eSATA, USB 3, etc.). The Mobius drives show up in JBOD mode as well as RAID arrays, depending on how the jumpers in the back of the enclosure were configured. Here is what I have tried:
1) Coolgear Sil 4726: This controller is pretty ancient. The sellers claim that management software to configure it is available from the OEM (now Lattice Semi), when in fact, it's not. Without being able to configure this controller for JBOD use, it won't mount any drives. If you troll the web, you can find OS X versions of the manager software. Unfortunately, it's PowerPC code and hence will only run on Mac OS X Snow Leopard and before. There is a Windows utility, but I don't have a Windows computer around with eSATA. So, no go.
2) JMB321-based generic controller: This controller is really interesting: It successfully crashes my computer every time I plug it in. I replicated this behavior with a Kanex eSATA external host, as well as the Thunderbolt 3 dock from Caldigit. In both cases, the computer screen will go blank and the machine will restart. No kernel panic, nothing. Just blank screen and reboot.
I'd be delighted if the controller also offered USB 3 as well as eSATA external interfaces. The cherry on top would be a controller that uses one of those SCSI-1 brackets to allow easy mounting to a multi-bay DVD enclosure (but that's not necessary). However, this has to be a standalone controller, i.e. it should not require being plugged into a PCIe bus to operate.
Port Multiplier... OS X driver... Thunderbolt 3 aware...That's serious old school meets new school. I bet there is a "newer" chain to make that work or... build a server... 10-Gig FreeNAS box with a 10-Gig card and put a 10-Gig connector on the laptop. (Or connect via simple GigE.)
 


After some additional searching, I came across Addonics, which makes a controller (HPM-XU) which features both USB 3 as well as eSATA external interfaces, configured with DIP switches, and mounted on a SCSI-1-sized bracket. It'll be perfect, if it works!

The HPM-XU costs $69 and can also be configured / upgraded, etc. via the JMicron Raid Manager software hosted at Addonics. They show a firmware there for a USB sleep issue and I have used this manager before to configure/upgrade Oyen Digital Mobius 5 enclosures.

Meanwhile, I am requesting an RMA for the Sil4726 controller. The generic one isn't worth the trouble.
I don't see the PCIe card that goes into the Thunderbolt box. This Addonics is just for the external box. The PCIe card for the Mac is the tricky part.
 


I don't see the PCIe card that goes into the Thunderbolt box. This Addonics is just for the external box. The PCIe card for the Mac is the tricky part.
... The eSATA host interface is built into the Thunderbolt Station 3 dock from Caldigit. The dock features two eSATA ports; both are port-multiplier enabled. The external enclosure is the one that needs the port-multiplier controller.

FWIW, my enclosure is populated with 4 blu-ray drives and one hot-swap 3.5" bay. I use those blu-ray drives to encode my music collection; the 3.5" hot-swap bay is to burn in new hard drives or zero out failing ones. FreeNAS is unlikely to help me for this application (it's great software though).

If you're looking for good external PCIe enclosures for connecting Thunderbolt-aware gear to a Mac, I had a very good experience with the Thunderbolt 2-based Helios PCIe enclosure from OWC (a slightly-rebranded private label production from Akitio) and currently enjoy the Highpoint Rocketstor 6661 for my Myricom 10GBe network adapter. Curiously, the current Helios 3 from OWC is being sold for less money than either the Rocketstor or the original Helios enclosure. Go figure.

Lastly, I disagree with characterizing SATA/eSATA as somehow over the hill. Unlike USB and other connection methods, eSATA provides a very inexpensive, fast, reliable interface that also allows my computer to detect SMART error issues as they come up.
 


Good morning, I am seeking a 5-port eSATA to SATA port multiplier for use inside an external enclosure. I've tried several, and so far, cannot find one that will work with macOS Sierra on a 15" MacBook Pro (13,3). My external eSATA host controller is a Thunderbolt 3 dock from CalDigit, which works great with Open Digital Mobius 5 external hard drive enclosures (eSATA, USB 3, etc.). The Mobius drives show up in JBOD mode as well as RAID arrays, depending on how the jumpers in the back of the enclosure were configured. Here is what I have tried:

1) Coolgear Sil 4726: This controller is pretty ancient. The sellers claim that management software to configure it is available from the OEM (now Lattice Semi), when in fact, it's not. Without being able to configure this controller for JBOD use, it won't mount any drives. If you troll the web, you can find OS X versions of the manager software. Unfortunately, it's PowerPC code and hence will only run on Mac OS X Snow Leopard and before. There is a Windows utility, but I don't have a Windows computer around with eSATA. So, no go.

2) JMB321-based generic controller: This controller is really interesting: It successfully crashes my computer every time I plug it in. I replicated this behavior with a Kanex eSATA external host, as well as the Thunderbolt 3 dock from Caldigit. In both cases, the computer screen will go blank and the machine will restart. No kernel panic, nothing. Just blank screen and reboot.

I'd be delighted if the controller also offered USB 3 as well as eSATA external interfaces. The cherry on top would be a controller that uses one of those SCSI-1 brackets to allow easy mounting to a multi-bay DVD enclosure (but that's not necessary). However, this has to be a standalone controller, i.e. it should not require being plugged into a PCIe bus to operate.
I misunderstood your original post. ... If you are seeing JBOD and RAID, then I am not exactly sure what your end game is. Speed? Can you run Aja or Blackmagic speed tests and report back your results in your desired RAID configuration? My opinion is port multplier might barely give you a tiny speed boost in RAID. (Maybe in JBOD when accessing all 4 disks simultaneously, but I bet the Finder would hate that.). Let us know your results though.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
OWC just cut the price on their 12-port Thunderbolt 3 dock from $299 to $250, though reviews on Amazon are less than stellar (and Amazon hasn't posted the lower price yet).
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
And, for comparison, here are the results for the 2017 MacBook Air's internal SSD (128GB):
Write: 684 MB/s
Read: 1123 MB/s
Here's what I got over Thunderbolt 2 in Target Disk Mode, in my best run:

Write: 230 MB/s
Read: 208 MB/s


That's abysmal and non-sensical - hard drive speed from a 20Gbps interface that should easily support well over 1000 MB/s.

What in the world is going on here? This is not an isolated instance, nor a particular Mac, nor a cable problem, nor contention on another port. It's some fundamental flaw in Apple's Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode. But I don't know what that flaw is or why it has persisted for years!

Trying to rule out any other problem factors, I tried all of these changes without any improvement:
  • very short Thunderbolt 2 cable
  • removing display cable from second Thunderbolt port
  • rebooting
  • connecting the power adapter
Who cares, other than me? Anyone who needs to move a lot of data quickly between Macs.

It's actually faster to read/write the data with a USB drive!
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
And, for comparison, here are the results for the 2017 MacBook Air's internal SSD (128GB):
Write: 684 MB/s
Read: 1123 MB/s
Here's what I got over Thunderbolt 2 in Target Disk Mode, in my best run:
Write: 230 MB/s
Read: 208 MB/s
I decided to flip the script, so the 2015 MacBook Pro 15" was in Target Disk Mode with the 2017 MacBook Air connected via a short Thunderbolt 2 cable and running Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (with no other device connected):
Write: 635 MB/s
Read: 400 MB/s
Here's what I get for that same internal drive without Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode crippling it:
Write: 957 MB/s
Read: 1869 MB/s
Note also the bizarre Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode results where writes are faster than reads, the opposite of normal behavior - reads are even more drastically crippled than writes, and I can't think of any logical explanation for that.
 


Here's what I got over Thunderbolt 2 in Target Disk Mode, in my best run:

Write: 230 MB/s
Read: 208 MB/s


That's abysmal and non-sensical - hard drive speed from a 20Gbps interface that should easily support well over 1000 MB/s.

What in the world is going on here? This is not an isolated instance, nor a particular Mac, nor a cable problem, nor contention on another port. It's some fundamental flaw in Apple's Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode. But I don't know what that flaw is or why it has persisted for years!

Trying to rule out any other problem factors, I tried all of these changes without any improvement:
  • very short Thunderbolt 2 cable
  • removing display cable from second Thunderbolt port
  • rebooting
  • connecting the power adapter
Who cares, other than me? Anyone who needs to move a lot of data quickly between Macs.

It's actually faster to read/write the data with a USB drive!
Not that this at all addresses the slow Target Disk Mode conundrum, but have you tried using IP over Thunderbolt to transfer large files? IP wouldn't be the most efficient protocol for such a task, but maybe faster than the Target Disk Mode speeds you are seeing. I've done it in the past, but didn't really pay that much attention to the speed. Pro: doesn't require that you shutdown and reboot your computers. Con: having to see up file sharing, etc. (which you may have already set up for sharing smaller files over your wi-fi or ethernet networks).

 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Not that this at all addresses the slow Target Disk Mode conundrum, but have you tried using IP over TB to transfer large files? IP wouldn't be the most efficient protocol for such a task, but maybe faster than the Target Disk Mode speeds you are seeing. I've done it in the past, but didn't really pay that much attention to the speed. Pro: doesn't require that you shutdown and reboot your computers. Con: having to see up file sharing, etc. (which you may have already set up for sharing smaller files over your wi-fi or ethernet networks).
Thanks, I've been wondering about exactly that, but hadn't done it before and didn't know exactly how to go about setting it up, so I hadn't gotten to doing the tests yet. Definitely a good question!

Of course, the whole reason for exploring these options (and the problems I've encountered) is because they theoretically make sense for transferring hundreds of gigabytes from one Mac's internal drive to another Mac's internal drive, especially when migrating from one system to another. Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode should be an ideal solution for this, if it weren't crippled for some unknown reason. I haven't done a network-based Mac migration, so that's another place I have to get up to speed, if Thunderbolt network transfers are faster than the dysfunctional Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode.

I've got a big Samsung T5 as an alternative migration path, if Thunderbolt gets too frustrating with all its problems, and I just booted an old 2011 MacBook Pro off the T5 via USB 2... which was less painful than I expected - not even all that slow!
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I decided to flip the script, so the 2015 MacBook Pro 15" was in Target Disk Mode with the 2017 MacBook Air connected via a short Thunderbolt 2 cable and running Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (with no other device connected):
Write: 635 MB/s
Read: 400 MB/s
Here's what I get for that same internal drive without Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode crippling it:
Write: 957 MB/s
Read: 1869 MB/s
Note also the bizarre Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode results where writes are faster than reads, the opposite of normal behavior - reads are even more drastically crippled than writes, and I can't think of any logical explanation for that.
So, what happens if you connect the blindingly fast internal SSD of a 2018 Mac Mini in Target Disk Mode across the Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 adapter and test it from a 2017 MacBook Air?
Write: 440 MB/s
Read: 348 MB/s

Wow. That's pretty special... for a drive that benchmarks like this:
Blackmagic Disk Speed test: 2624 / 2761 (write / read).
Really, Apple? Why isn’t this crippling limitation at least documented if you can’t manage to fix it after years of touting Thunderbolt’s theoretical speed? Performing many times slower than advertised with no explanation isn't too cool.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
So, as expected, the new Mac Mini is quite powerful in CPU operations (single and multi-threaded), while graphics are adequate but unimpressive. What really is impressive is the internal (500GB) flash drive.

AJA System Test Lite says:
Write: 1967 MB/s
Read: 2657 MB/s
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 1864 MB/s
Read: 2521 MB/s
So, what happens if you connect the blindingly fast internal SSD of a 2018 Mac Mini in Target Disk Mode across the Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 adapter and test it from a 2017 MacBook Air?
Write: 440 MB/s
Read: 348 MB/s
Note also the bizarre Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode results where writes are faster than reads, the opposite of normal behavior - reads are even more drastically crippled than writes, and I can't think of any logical explanation for that.
Not that this at all addresses the slow Target Disk Mode conundrum, but have you tried using IP over Thunderbolt to transfer large files? IP wouldn't be the most efficient protocol for such a task, but maybe faster than the Target Disk Mode speeds you are seeing. I've done it in the past, but didn't really pay that much attention to the speed. Pro: doesn't require that you shutdown and reboot your computers. Con: having to see up file sharing, etc. (which you may have already set up for sharing smaller files over your wi-fi or ethernet networks)
Thanks again, Joe, for posting that link. I hooked up the new Mac Mini and the 2015 MacBook Pro with a Thunderbolt cable and Apple's Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 adapter, then I enabled file-sharing on the Mac Mini, and, lastly, mounted an HFS+ partition shared via AFP from the Mac Mini's internal drive to run benchmarks from the MacBook Pro.

AJA System Test Lite says:
Write: 1212 MB/s
Read: 355 MB/s
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 1010 MB/s
Read: 293 MB/s

Again, the Thunderbolt writes are bizarrely faster than reads, which makes no sense. But at least writes are faster over the Thunderbolt network than over Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode, while reads are about the same speed.

The benchmark tests were also odd in that read speeds started out very slowly and then picked up to much faster rates during a single pass.

Let's try it over WiFi for comparison:
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 2.6 MB/s
Read: 2.1 MB/s

That's really painful...
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Thanks again, Joe, for posting that link. I hooked up the new Mac Mini and the 2015 MacBook Pro with a Thunderbolt cable and Apple's Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 adapter, then I enabled file-sharing on the Mac Mini, and, lastly, mounted an HFS+ partition shared via AFP from the Mac Mini's internal drive to run benchmarks from the MacBook Pro.

AJA System Test Lite says:
Write: 1212 MB/s
Read: 355 MB/s
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 1010 MB/s
Read: 293 MB/s

Again, the Thunderbolt writes are bizarrely faster than reads, which makes no sense. But at least writes are faster over the Thunderbolt network than over Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode, while reads are about the same speed.

The benchmark tests were also odd in that read speeds started out very slowly and then picked up to much faster rates during a single pass.

Let's try it over WiFi for comparison:
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 2.6 MB/s
Read: 2.1 MB/s
Let's try it over Ethernet, using a Thunderbolt-Gigabit Ethernet adapter on the 2015 MacBook Pro and running an old Ethernet patch cable from that to the Mac Mini's built-in 10Gbps port.

Interestingly, I can mount the Mac Mini's internal APFS volume from the MacBook Pro, which is only running macOS Sierra, because I'm going over the common SMB network file-sharing protocol, so the local file system is irrelevant, and it doesn't matter that macOS Sierra can't mount APFS volumes directly.

AJA System Test Lite says:
Write: 81 MB/s
Read: 87 MB/s
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 75.6 MB/s
Read: 71.6 MB/s

So, the conclusions are pretty clear here:
  1. High-speed Thunderbolt drives should offer the fastest data transfer in and out of a compatible Thunderbolt-equipped Mac.
  2. Thunderbolt networks are suprisingly faster than Apple's crippled Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode for writing data but similar for reading data.
  3. USB 3 SSDs are likely faster than Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode for transferring data.
  4. Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode is faster for transferring data than Gigabit Ethernet.
  5. USB flash drives are roughly similar (but not identical) to Gigabit Ethernet for file-transfer speed, depending on the particular flash drive.
  6. WiFi data transfer is excruciatingly slow - worse than other local transfer options (but may be fine for a few small files).
 


Let's try it over Ethernet, using a Thunderbolt-Gigabit Ethernet adapter on the 2015 MacBook Pro and running an old Ethernet patch cable from that to the Mac Mini's built-in 10Gbps port.

Interestingly, I can mount the Mac Mini's internal APFS volume from the MacBook Pro, which is only running macOS Sierra, because I'm going over the common SMB network file-sharing protocol, so the local file system is irrelevant, and it doesn't matter that macOS Sierra can't mount APFS volumes directly.

AJA System Test Lite says:
Write: 81 MB/s
Read: 87 MB/s
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 75.6 MB/s
Read: 71.6 MB/s

So, the conclusions are pretty clear here:
  1. high-speed Thunderbolt drives should offer the fastest data transfer in and out of a compatible Thunderbolt-equipped Mac.
  2. Thunderbolt networks are suprisingly faster than Apple's crippled Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode for writing data but similar for reading data.
  3. USB 3 SSDs are likely faster than Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode for transferring data.
  4. Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode is faster for transferring data than Gigabit Ethernet.
  5. USB flash drives are roughly similar (but not identical) to Gigabit Ethernet for file-transfer speed, depending on the particular flash drive.
  6. WiFi data transfer is excruciatingly slow - worse than other local transfer options (but may be fine for a few small files).
Is AirDrop any different than #6, WiFi data transfer?
 



I am seeking a 5-port eSATA to SATA port multiplier for use inside an external enclosure....
A follow-up, and a couple of thoughts...

The port multiplier from Addonics is working great, though not with the eSATA port inside the Caldigit Thunderbolt 3 dock or the Kanex Thunderbolt 2 adapter. However, DATOptic does offer a $33 USB3-eSATA 'converter' that just works. So that problem is solved, all the DVD drives whrirr away at the same time. Happiness.

Also thought you might be amused to hear that hardware from '90s still works just fine with a 2016 MacBook Pro - however, a long chain of connections was required to connect ancient technology with Apple's more recent wares, i.e:

DGR Technologies
128MB rewritable optical system
|
25-to-50 pin SCSI cable
|
Orange FireWire 400-SCSI adapter
|
FireWire 400-800 cable
|
Thunderbolt 2-FireWire 800 adapter
|
Thunderbolt 3-2 adapter
|
2016 MacBook Pro
I was happy to get 10MB/minute. I still had the cables! It just worked!

Trouble is, you can get the files but unless you have Basilisk, etc. installed, you won't be able to read many of them. Seeing that I haven't bothered in 30 years, it clearly has not been a major priority...
 


Oh, and speaking of target disk mode, I just repurposed a Mac Mini Core 2 Duo (4,1) to run Windows 10 via target disk mode.

I had to follow instructions on the web about how to accomplish this without the help of Boot Camp, since Boot Camp as of OS X 10.8 didn't allow for a Windows 10 installation, only Windows 7.

Then, I discovered that even if I nuked the hard drive in target disk mode and formatted it as a single MS-FAT partition, the Windows installer didn't want to install on it, even after successfully formatting it as a NTFS volume.

Thanks to the great instructions here, along with the GPT fdisk utility by Rod Smith, I was able to fix the issue and install Windows 10 on the machine without errors. It runs just fine. It'll become my principal Arduino IDE machine.

FWIW, I used a physical stick from Microsoft to install Windows 10 Home. I also downloaded the necessary drivers with the help of Boot Camp at the beginning of the process. However, it's entirely unclear to me if Windows ever went looking for them. More likely than not, they may be just for dual-boot machines?

Anyhow, just goes to show how Apple seems to have lost their way. If Microsoft can operate its most recent OS on machines that are ten years old, so should Apple. After all, the hardware entropy that Apple has to deal with is multiple orders of complexity smaller than Microsoft's.
 


The port multiplier from Addonics is working great, though not with the eSATA port inside the Caldigit Thunderbolt 3 dock or the Kanex Thunderbolt 2 adapter. However, DATOptic does offer a $33 USB3-eSATA 'converter' that just works. So that problem is solved, all the DVD drives whrirr away at the same time.
Since the USB-A ports are USB 3.0 and the USB-C ports are USB 3.1, I'd think this would work better:
(It's basically the same price, but USB-C and USB 3.1.)

The main reason I'm looking at that one, personally, is that I'd like to use it with my existing “toaster”-style hard drive dock for rotating backups. I still need to figure out how to house my two spinning disks in a reasonably inexpensive fashion. A few hundred dollars for a Thunderbolt dock seems wrong after complaining about Apple’s RAM-and-SSD prices!

(And in case anyone's wondering, I'm trying to balance the thought of an iMac 21” + external 27” monitor against the Mini with a single 27” or 32” monitor.)
 


Thanks again, Joe, for posting that link. I hooked up the new Mac Mini and the 2015 MacBook Pro with a Thunderbolt cable and Apple's Thunderbolt 3-Thunderbolt 2 adapter, then I enabled file-sharing on the Mac Mini, and, lastly, mounted an HFS+ partition shared via AFP from the Mac Mini's internal drive to run benchmarks from the MacBook Pro.

AJA System Test Lite says:
Write: 1212 MB/s
Read: 355 MB/s
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 1010 MB/s
Read: 293 MB/s

Again, the Thunderbolt writes are bizarrely faster than reads, which makes no sense. But at least writes are faster over the Thunderbolt network than over Thunderbolt Target Disk Mode, while reads are about the same speed.

The benchmark tests were also odd in that read speeds started out very slowly and then picked up to much faster rates during a single pass.

Let's try it over WiFi for comparison:
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test says:
Write: 2.6 MB/s
Read: 2.1 MB/s

That's really painful...
Lloyd Chambers had done some testing of Thunderbolt networking and was less than impressed. He didn't test it in Target Mode.
macOS Thunderbolt 10 Gigabit Networking Still Not Ready for Prime Time​
 




Just as a question, has the group looked at ordinary two- to four-drive external JBODs that use USB 3 or 3.1? I'm curious because I'm looking seriously at a new computer, but I have a big spinny drive I use for extra-large files where speed isn't so important, and a big daily-backup-clone drive (using CCC so it saves older files, too). I'd like to keep doing that, but would like something reliable, not prone to overheating drives, and quiet. I've read complaints about just about all the contenders, and would rather spend more like $150 than $350.
 


Just as a question, has the group looked at ordinary two- to four-drive external JBODs that use USB 3 or 3.1? I'm curious because I'm looking seriously at a new computer, but I have a big spinny drive I use for extra-large files where speed isn't so important, and a big daily-backup-clone drive (using CCC so it saves older files, too). I'd like to keep doing that, but would like something reliable, not prone to overheating drives, and quiet. I've read complaints about just about all the contenders, and would rather spend more like $150 than $350.
I use a MediaSonic ProBox four-bay external unit, not as a JBOD (although it can do that); it mounts four separate disks when powered up. When upgrading from High Sierra to Mojave, the eSATA driver used to connect it to my Mac Pro 4,1 (firmware updated to 5,1) no longer worked, so I had to switch the box connector over to USB 3. I doubt it is USB 3.1 as it is a few years old, but it works fine connected to the USB 3 card in one of my PCI slots.
 


Just as a question, has the group looked at ordinary two- to four-drive external JBODs that use USB 3 or 3.1? I'm curious because I'm looking seriously at a new computer, but I have a big spinny drive I use for extra-large files where speed isn't so important, and a big daily-backup-clone drive (using CCC so it saves older files, too). I'd like to keep doing that, but would like something reliable, not prone to overheating drives, and quiet. I've read complaints about just about all the contenders, and would rather spend more like $150 than $350.
David's question begs another question. Given that macOS has a variety of built-in drive-spanning features (Core Storage, APFS, software RAID, etc.), does JBOD make any sense?

If you have multiple drives in a chassis, is there any advantage to using JBOD vs leaving them to be visible as separate disks and using macOS features to create a single volume that spans them?

My gut feeling says that a software approach would work bette,r because the OS can better optimize access if it sees the individual physical volumes, but I don't have actual experience to back up such a feeling.

Of course, a chassis that provides redundancy (RAID level 1 or higher) in hardware is a completely different situation, but that's not going to be the case for a JBOD (or RAID 0 for that matter) environment.
 


Now I have a new Mini that has USB 3.1 ports. I want to trade my old USB 2.0 backup drives for 3.1 backup drives, old-fashioned spinning disks, not SSD. The only ones I could find cost hundreds of dollars or were USB 3.0. Either my search skills are worse than I like to think they are, or manufacturers are reserving the faster interface for SSD drives. Suggestions requested.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Now I have a new Mini that has USB 3.1 ports. I want to trade my old USB 2.0 backup drives for 3.1 backup drives, old-fashioned spinning disks, not SSD. The only ones I could find cost hundreds of dollars or were USB 3.0. Either my search skills are worse than I like to think they are, or manufacturers are reserving the faster interface for SSD drives. Suggestions requested.
Hard drives are slower than USB 3.0, so USB 3.0 drives should be just fine. USB 3.1 Gen 2 only matters if you need its higher speed for SSD (or possibly big hard drive RAID arrays, though even those should be fine with USB 3.0).
 


David's question begs another question. Given that macOS has a variety of built-in drive-spanning features (Core Storage, APFS, software RAID, etc.), does JBOD make any sense? If you have multiple drives in a chassis, is there any advantage to using JBOD vs leaving them to be visible as separate disks and using macOS features to create a single volume that spans them?
My gut feeling says that a software approach would work bette,r because the OS can better optimize access if it sees the individual physical volumes, but I don't have actual experience to back up such a feeling. Of course, a chassis that provides redundancy (RAID level 1 or higher) in hardware is a completely different situation, but that's not going to be the case for a JBOD (or RAID 0 for that matter) environment.
I prefer JBOD using SoftRAID. I have 8 disks in two enclosures, each with a Thunderbolt connection to a Mac Mini (the next-to-latest model). Not all of the disks are using SoftRAID.
 


I've got a quick question about OWC's RAID products. I was just browsing their site and I noted that nearly all of their RAID products include SoftRAID. This seems to imply that these products don't have a hardware RAID controller but rely on software to provide RAID functionality.

My questions to the group here are:

1: Is this a problem? Does the use of SoftRAID on your Mac impact system performance? Does it impact drive throughput?

2: What does your Mac see if you don't install SoftRAID? I would guess that you see each drive in the enclosure as a separate device that could be individually partitioned and formatted.

3: If you make a RAID array with SoftRAID and move the enclosure to a new computer (maybe because the old one broke or was retired), what happens if that new computer doesn't (yet) have SoftRAID installed? I assume it won't see the RAID array, but hopefully it will see something like a stub volume with a file telling the user that SoftRAID needs to be installed. I hope it won't just look like unformatted drives, since that would cause macOS to pop up the window offering to reformat them with a single click.

4: What about Apple's own software RAID? Does it still exist in Mojave? Would it be preferable to SoftRAID? If I remember correctly, AppleRAID supports levels 0 and 1, but not 5, so perhaps it would be preferable for a 2 drive enclosure, simply because macOS should have support built-in.

5: Does anyone know if it is possible to create an APFS container that spans multiple physical disks? I know that this is how Fusion Drives are created, but after an hour's worth of web searching, it seems that container-spanning in any other context (e.g. to combine all the drives in a multi-drive enclosure into one container) is unsupported, undocumented and possibly not possible.

I did find a few articles showing how you can create an AppleRAID array and then create an APFS container over it, but that's not the same thing. With that approach, your APFS container is not spanning drives but is using a single device - the one created by AppleRAID.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I've got a quick question about OWC's RAID products. I was just browsing their site and I noted that nearly all of their RAID products include SoftRAID. This seems to imply that these products don't have a hardware RAID controller but rely on software to provide RAID functionality. My questions to the group here are:

1: Is this a problem? Does the use of SoftRAID on your Mac impact system performance? Does it impact drive throughput?
Mark may pop up and give us the scoop on performance, but I don't think that's an issue with SoftRAID. For me, the major issue is its current incompatibility with Core Storage (and also APFS), which rules out FileVault encryption with SoftRAID. This is not a problem with hardware RAID.
3: If you make a RAID array with SoftRAID and move the enclosure to a new computer (maybe because the old one broke or was retired), what happens if that new computer doesn't (yet) have SoftRAID installed?
It doesn't even have to be a RAID drive - any drive formatted with SoftRAID will fail to mount until a SoftRAID driver is installed on the Mac. (I don't think there's a prompt to erase the drive, but I forget the details of exactly what happens.)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
2: What does your Mac see if you don't install SoftRAID? I would guess that you see each drive in the enclosure as a separate device that could be individually partitioned and formatted.
After I installed the SoftRAID driver (required to even run SoftRAID), I formatted a drive (Samsung X5 on Thunderbolt) with SoftRAID and opened Disk Utility, which shows the drive and its size (1TB) and partition map (GUID), but displays its partition map in a bizarre way, where the device looks like it has just two partitions of type Unknown, one 2.32MB in size and one 7.34MB in size.

I subsequently realized that, while I had initialized the drive in SoftRAID, I had not added any volumes to it. So I used SoftRAID to add a 500GB volume on the 1TB drive and rebooted into the system with no SoftRAID driver, then opened Disk Utility. It now showed the two tiny volumes, plus a 500GB volume - all type Unknown with UUIDs as volume names - and no sign in Disk Utility of the other 500 GB that hadn't yet been allocated.

By the way, you can download a SoftRAID free trial and try all these things out yourself for 30 days before having to purchase a copy.
 


4: What about Apple's own software RAID? Does it still exist in Mojave? Would it be preferable to SoftRAID? If I remember correctly, AppleRAID supports levels 0 and 1, but not 5, so perhaps it would be preferable for a 2 drive enclosure, simply because macOS should have support built-in.
Apple's own RAID software doesn't exist past Yosemite. I've kept a bootable Yosemite system just for that OS's Disk Utility, which is the last one to support Apple RAID. You recall correctly, it only supports levels 0 and 1.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
What about Apple's own software RAID? Does it still exist in Mojave?
Here's a related note at SoftRAID:
SoftRAID Support said:
Mojave does not support booting from RAID volumes
With the release of 10.14 Mojave, users can no longer startup from RAID volumes. This includes any SoftRAID volume and Apple RAID volumes.

There is no workaround for this, and we do not expect there to be a solution going forward.

We had several discussions with Apple to see if they would re-enable booting in the future, but the chances are slim to zero.

Prepare to migrate your startup volumes to Apple standard volumes before attempting to install Mojave.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Does the use of SoftRAID on your Mac impact system performance? Does it impact drive throughput?
Here's a note about that from SoftRAID:
SoftRAID FAQ

How much will SoftRAID slow down my Mac?

The SoftRAID Monitor generally uses less than 0.2% of your Mac's CPU power, even when you are using SoftRAID for both your startup volume and all your data volumes.

The SoftRAID driver only uses CPU power when you are reading or writing files. Reading and writing to RAID volumes usually uses less than 4% of the CPU power of your Mac. This increases to about 10% of the CPU power when writing to or rebuilding RAID 4 and RAID 5 volumes.

In addition, all parts of SoftRAID will usually be using less than 200 MB of your physical RAM (less than 100 MB if you are not using RAID 4 or RAID 5 volumes).

We have designed SoftRAID to have as little impact on the speed of your system as possible.
 


Apple's own RAID software doesn't exist past Yosemite. I've kept a bootable Yosemite system just for that OS's Disk Utility, which is the last one to support Apple RAID. You recall correctly, it only supports levels 0 and 1.
RAID support was removed in El Capitan's Disk Utility but it then returned in a later OS - Sierra I believe. It's currently still supported in macOS 10.14 Mojave:
Create a disk set using Disk Utility on Mac​
 


2: What does your Mac see if you don't install SoftRAID? I would guess that you see each drive in the enclosure as a separate device that could be individually partitioned and formatted.
To see more detail than Disk Utility will supply, use the Terminal command
Bash:
diskutil list
This will show all partitions, mounted or not.
 


I have a couple of OWC's RAID enclosures using SoftRAID (RAID levels 4 and 5). When I boot an alternate OS drive without SoftRAID installed, they mount fine, and the drive icon changes to include an exclamation point to indicate the SoftRAID driver is not installed on the current boot drive. My understanding is the volumes are still useable, but you don't get any of SoftRAID's features like monitoring and logging of issues.

One issue I had in the past (a few years ago) is if a drive was initialized by SoftRAID, I could not later have Disk Utility take it over and reinitialize it. The computer would panic every time I tried it. I haven't tried this lately, so I don't know if this still happens with current versions.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I have a couple of OWC's RAID enclosures using SoftRAID (RAID levels 4 and 5). When I boot an alternate OS drive without SoftRAID installed, they mount fine, and the drive icon changes to include an exclamation point to indicate the SoftRAID driver is not installed on the current boot drive. My understanding is the volumes are still useable...
This was contrary to my experience and understanding, but I found a SoftRAID support note that helps explain what's going on:
SoftRAID Support said:
Problem updating SoftRAID driver with new iMac Pro
The new iMac Pro has an issue that causes the SoftRAID driver to require updating every restart.
Note: This issue is resolved in 10.13.6!

A version of the SoftRAID driver is included with every OS X installation, so any user can connect any SoftRAID disks to any Mac and the volumes will mount. The macOS bundled version of SoftRAID has minimal features, and just enables mounting of volumes.

This has been the case since 10.3.x. We issue a new driver version to Apple for each OSX upgrade to maintain this compatibility. When a user installs SoftRAID, the current drivers are installed and loaded at startup, and all SotRAID driver features are available.

The new "Enhanced Security" feature in the iMac Pro interferes with this process. ...
 



RAID support was removed in El Capitan's Disk Utility but it then returned in a later OS - Sierra I believe. It's currently still supported in macOS 10.14 Mojave:
Oh. Okay, thanks, I stand corrected. That's the good thing about this forum, people keep up with the Knowledge Base articles when I don't.

Along with your information and SoftRAID saying we can't boot Mojave from any RAID, I can pretty much get rid of that old Yosemite boot disk. My RAID disk is a "LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2" from 2014, which consists of two SSD drives in a RAID 0 configuration. That's my SuperDuper backup disk for booting in an emergency or for other maintenance routines on my Mac Pro (Late 2013).

I guess, before I update to Mojave, I'll have to get rid of the RAID configuration and just make it a regular old, slower disk array. The LaCie's purpose is only as a backup bootable drive, so while it'll be a little slower at least it'll be able to serve its purpose.

Once again, it's just disappointing that Apple has chosen, seemingly arbitrarily, to remove functionality from their devices and software. Oh well.
 


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