Direct Attached Storage

I have a Mac Mini (not the latest version, but the previous one) and currently have 3 different drives attached for Media, Time Machine and working space.

I’ve tried to find a directly attached storage device which will accept 4 drives and allow the facility so if a drive dies, I can replace it without loss of data and ideally replace a drive with a larger one.

The unit also needs to be near silent (apart from the drives) i.e. very quiet or no fans as it lives in my bedroom

It must also connect directly (not over NAS) as I use BackBlaze for Backup and I don’t want to be messing about with iSCSI connectors.

I’m in the UK, just to make this even easier.

I’ve looked at loads of enclosures, but I’m unsure about noise on many with conflicting reviews on whether something is quiet or not.

Can anyone recommend a device I could look at please.

You can probably get a Mediasonic enclosure in the UK. Not thunderbolt, but USB 3.1. I’ve had two with no problems, though a few caveats:

  1. I’ve moved to RAID’ing my storage, which is to say, I just make one big storage pool and then subdivide that giant pool for my storage needs – just folders, though of course one could make separate volumes if one wanted to.

  2. I use software RAID, specifically SoftRAID. The software is robust, but I’ve learned that the authors of it do not recommend RAID’ing any disks that connect via USB. There’s the overhead of USB that slows the RAID down, but also the interface is flakey in terms of how RAIDs will spread the data around – little timeouts or delays can be tough on the larger dataset. That is, RAID on USB usually works until it corrupts.

  3. THEREFORE, I moved to an Akitio thunderbolt enclosure. A pair of Quad 4 thunderbolt 3 enclosures; all of the bays are RAID’ed together. Works great, and is FAST.
    (I’ve also used OWC enclosures with the older TB2, also good.)

  4. Whatever you chose, I would keep just one drive for Time Machine. Compared to other types of data, you just don’t need a fast connection for Time Machine … it makes logistical sense to keep that data separate from data you might need to access at faster speeds.

I like RAID for the reason echoing what you wrote: if a drive dies, I can replace it and the RAID pool will recreate the missing data. I’m not aware of other solutions (other than straight back ups) that will allow you to keep going if one drive dies.

Finally, RAID is of course not a back up, so you still need a back up of your data. RAIDing of course can be an unnecessary complication given one needs back ups anyway.

The problem, as I see it, is your desire to replace a drive with a larger one. In a traditional RAID, you can replace a failed drive with a larger one but this will not result in any additional disk space. If your RAID is built with 1GB drives, and you replace a disk with a 2GB drive, only 1GB will be useable.

Unless something else has come on the market in the past few years, Drobo is the only manufacturer I know of that allows you to add/replace drives of difference sizes and utilize the entire disk. I used many Drobos over the years from their first USB unit, up to an 8 drive iSCSI. I experienced enough problems that I no longer would recommend them.

I have a late model Mac mini with 3 USB drives: Data, Media, and Time Machine. When more storage is needed I just purchase a larger drive and copy my data. If a drive fails, I will restore it from Time Machine or from my offsite backup (S3 via ARQ).

In my case, a RAID, Drobo, etc. would only add complexity and expense. Since I keep a spare USB drive on hand, recovery time should be similar. These days I prefer to keep things simple.

1 Like

What you are looking or is an enclosure holding multiple drives as a JBOD (Just a Bunch of Drives)

Here is an example from OWC.

1 Like

Except OP needs fail-safe. JBOD doesn’t provide that.

1 Like

He can setup up Super Duper or Carbon Copy Cloner to have have a full backup on hand.

I found RAID systems only worth while the investment and trouble for very large data sets a specially those that must be expandable (Videographers…)

I have a couple of these rigs in use with clients. Where one drive holds the main data, the 2nd a clone and 3rd drive as a time machine backup of the main drive and the attached mac.

In addition an cloud based backup system.

Depending on how critical the data is an emergency backup on a portable drive in a of-site location.

1 Like

At the risk of being one of those annoying people who answer a question with a question and then suggests a different solution than the one you asked about…

“How much storage do you need?”

I’ve seen 10TB (maybe 12TB?) external drives starting to show up on Amazon.

A few years ago I had a Synology with 8 bays filled with 3TB drives, which gave me about 18TB of usable storage on it. These days, I’d just get two 10TB external drives, as they are much easier to deal with, and they can be backed up to Backblaze (although that first backup will take some time).


I have a Terramaster 5-bay direct attached device (Amazon UK link). It’s very quiet indeed (although I don’t have it in a bedroom).

Bays 1 and 2 can be set up as RAID for some extra security. Bays 3, 4 and 5 can only act as single drives.

I’m not sure it’ll meet all your needs, but it’s worth a look

Thanks @Timo. Yep, I have a Timemachine Backup and also BackBlaze for backup. All great points.

I want separate volumes rather than folders as I intent to use Timemachine on a volume in this DAS and folders would allow it to use all of the space

Thanks @WayneG I’ve had enough drives fail to want something a little more robust, hence the DAS.

Great questions TJ. Expansion of data needs is one of the reasons for looking at this. I currently have an iTunes library of over 200GB of music, 500 GB of films and about a Terabyte of TV Shows, plus a significant photos library. (I want to own these, not stream) I’m currently ripping copies of all of my DVDs to the Mac Mini.

My 2GB data drive is topping out, and my 4GB TimeMachine drive is full.

I’m trying to move away from Single External drives as they take up too much space on my desk and a move to a single unit will simplify a few things also, hopefully with expansion.

Thanks @ThatGuy This looks interesting. Not exactly what I was looking for, but this may do the job. :smiley:

This emulates RAID 1, but is less robust.

Kind of but different, there are some advantages of not mirroring a drive 24/7.

Well, those are similar reasons why I originally bought my Synology, so I can’t fault you for that.

I wish you well in your quest. I don’t know of any solutions, but if I were in your position, I’d be checking out the folks at OWC. They have a wide variety of Mac storage solutions, they are very knowledgeable, and they have a great reputation.

I have been using a thunderbolt 4-drive enclosure from OWC for a few years now for personal use and it works great for my use. I back it up to Backblaze, which is my fail safe. They can overnight a replacement drive in a worse case scenario a hard drive dies unexpectedly. You can keep their hard drive for a fee or send it back for a refund.

One of the drives in the OWC enclosure is a complete backup of my iMac. The other drives hold my large video library for running Plex, extensive music library, pictures and other miscellaneous documents. The enclosure is on shelf above my desk and noise is not an issue. For personal use, I see this as an affordable solution. I don’t ever think about it and I sleep well.

1 Like

I have a Pegasus3 external enclosure with 24TB of available storage in a Raid 5. It works great but I edit photos and 4k video directly off of it with my Mac Minis. It is very quiet though and I don’t notice the fans. The drives are much more noticeable than the fans.

Thanks for the suggestion @mitchell3417, that’s a little on the spendy side for me unfortunately. :frowning:

Also @tjluoma The OWC stuff looks good and always gets a good write up, but I don’t think it’s available to buy in the UK without importing it.

@geoffaire I know this is on old thread, but I’ve just been reading up on some commentary about DAS/NAS.
Anyway, here’s a great UK distributor of OWC stuff: