Drobo Gen 1 replacement

Any suggestions on a replacement for an old aging Drobo Gen 1? Used mainly for a plex media library. Would like the redundancy of raid if not whatever Drobo uses. Don’t need a NAS as it will be direct attached to a Mac mini.

Are the new Drobos as loud as the original?


I know you said you don’t need a NAS. But a starter Synology would give you options in the event you decide not to use the Mac Mini in the future. You could use it just as a storage hub for now, but also use it as a Plex server in the event you decided to get rid of the Mac Mini.

Here’s the 2-bay DS218play

If you really just need a big pot of storage with no smart features, then why not just a big hard drive attached to the mini? It’s cheap, you could buy a second for backup or with direct connected USB drive could backup your data to a cloud service like Backblaze.


Thank you! I will have to double check my current storage usage. I have started to rip my Blu Ray collection so I think I have the Drobo with about 14TB of total storage not all usable with the redundancy setup.

I will look at that Synology In more detail. Considering who know if the Mac Mini will continue to exist as a product in the near future.


Wow, that’s a lot of storage. In that case, you may need to look at a 4-bay model Synology. You’ll want one of the + or Play models if you plan to transcode videos on the fly.


I too am a big fan of the Synology NAS, which provide a lot of highly useful functions beyond just being a NAS.

The big downside, and the reason I am still using a MacMini with attached Drobos (I have two of the 5D models, one TB1 and one TB3) is because the one thing the Synology doesn’t do is to be a Mac!

I have most of my storage that does not need to travel with me (on my laptop) stored on the Drobo attached to the mini; the second Drobo receives daily clones of the first Drobo as well as my MacBookPro, which is the machine that I do all of my work on at this point.

I also use the Synology Cloud Station to create my own “Dropbox” and both the Mini and the MBP are connected to that, so the Mini gets any files that I drop in the CloudStation drive.

As a result, the mini can take those files and use a variety to Hazel rules to move them to the appropriate storage on the Drobo, which is an essential part of my workflow.

In addition, the Mini can run Arq, which is my backup tool of choice, for my cloud backup.

I could replace Arq on my Synology with HyperBackup, but I did run into a few issues last time I played with it, and Arq has been rock solid.

I could also replace the Hazel functionality by having my MBP mount the Synology drives and run all the needed Hazel rules at that time, but that seems much more kludgey to me, so I am still running my 2014 Mini to handle all of this.

I know that Katie has spoken on the podcast about her workflow of cloning the Synology to a drive attached to her Mac and then letting BackBlaze take care of the cloud storage, and I toyed with that as well. My problem with BackBlaze is that if you delete a file, after 30 days so does BackBlaze. I have run into the situation in the past that I lost data and did not realize it until months later, and since I was using Arq into (at the time) Amazon Glacier, I was just able to go back several months and restore all of the data. That’s worth it to me!

Hope this helps.


I have been debating investing in a NAS for a while now. My digital photo collection is now going on 19 years old, and with my new iPhone 8 (along with my wife’s iPhone 8) , those photos are not exactly small any more…they start to suck up a lot of disc space. Further, similar to previous posts, I too am digitizing my DVD collection and that is getting to be massive.

I have tried to put my iTunes movie/music collection on a ‘shared’ drive (WD MyCloud) but I find that the response/performance of that disc and iTunes is really really slow. And there is also some quirks where sometimes Album and Movie ‘art’ does not show up in iTunes or Apple TV when the media is hosted on the external drive. Seems iTunes gets a little flaky when the media is not on the immediate computer/Mac disc that it is installed on. I’ve brought this up on the FB group in the past and don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but just trying to gain some knowledge and assess what is the best path forward.

If you decide you don’t want to go the NAS route, I’ve been using SoftRAID in various configurations, RAID0 for SSD fastest boot volume, RAID10 for faster user volume, and RAID5 for media server volumes. I currently have 32TB hanging off my in home desktop. (Yes, it is all backed up.)

At one point I migrated away from SoftRAID to using both retail hardware RAID solutions and Apple RAID volumes. However, I went back to SoftRAID due to Apple’s poor and SoftRAID’s superior support. To some extent, I had been hoping that when Apple introduced a new file system it would be ZFS like and I would no longer need SoftRAID. While APFS certainly has some attractive features, in its current state it does not supplant the value of RAID volumes.

SoftRAID might at first seem a bit pricey. However, particularly if you are collecting video media, the ability to buy bare drives and configure in a manner most suited to your needs is a strong advantage and likely to be more cost effective than many of the multi-drive commercial offerings. Besides Apple RAID, I have also used hardware RAID solutions from major Mac friendly retail brands. I had at least two of those fail. For multi-drive storage solutions, I am much more confident in a Mac, macOS and SoftRAID than a turnkey hardware RAID solution using silicon and drivers of unknown origins.


I have an old Drobo 5s which has let me down a couple of times when a hard drive has failed, it does have single disk redundancy setup but its not been the most reliable of devices. When I drive fails it often takes days to sort itself out and on a couple of occasions a second drive has failed during this process.

I like the idea of the Drobo, but owning one has really put me off ever buying another. I was recently looking at buying a second storage device to replace an ageing Netgear ReadyNas and I did think of going for a second direct attached storage solution, but I decided to look at Synology NAS’s instead and have just purchased a Synology DS918+. which is brilliant. I would prefer a Mac based file system like I could do with the Drobo, but the Synology has worked really well up to now. Its now taken over as my Plex server from my Mac Mini and ReadyNas. I’ve also use the Synology apps to allow my family to backup their photo’s to.

My only regret with buying the 4 bay DS918+ was I didn’t wait for the six bay DS1618+. I quickly filled the 4 bay with 4x4TB drives and wish I had a couple of spare bays now. Both the 918+ and 1618+ support expansion units but having the spare bays in the base unit would have been a better option for now.


Thanks will look into Softraid

Have you experienced any playback issues with that mode of symbology?

I have a Synology NAS and works really well. I think you can get an addon unit to extend Synology NAS storage. Also I have no playback issues at all.

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I bought a Drobo 5c recently. I had bad experiences with cheap NAS setups, and didn’t want to mess with it anymore. Only downside so far is I can’t let my Mac go into sleep mode if I want Time Machine to work. It gives me a fail message otherwise.

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Really interesting writeup and pretty cool the system you’ve come up with. To clarify for my own curiosity, do you have a Synology as well as 2 Drobos? Also are you paying a ton for storage for Amazon Glacier with Arq? Some of those backup systems can get expensive fast when they charge per terabyte unlike Blackblaze which changes a total amount ($50 or so) for anything attached to your computer. I too am a little worried about Blackblaze’s 30 day file retention but am trying it out for this month.

I’m at a similar crossroads. Right now I’m torn between having one NAS that has tons of storage or a smaller NAS for files and another for replaceable media (aka movies and music, not photos as those are priceless).

@rkv Good post. Not as familiar with SoftRAID though it sounds a bit similar to UnRaid. That’s what I plan to use for my media server in keeping things separate from regular files. I’d recommend on your system to try and use RAID 6 for media server volumes for some extra protection. I too was hoping for ZFS like file system from Apple, hopefully over time.

I think Katie had similar thoughts and then made the switch to Synology. At a recent meet up I asked David why he still uses Drobo and he said everything on the Drobo is either replaceable or backed up in multiple other places.

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Consider Synology. Drobo spends more money on marketing then product. Synology is a professional solution…

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SoftRAID is a bit different than UnRAID. UnRAID is more a direct competitor of NAS providers or Drobo. I say Drobo because UnRAID similarly will let you mix and match drives. It is typically deployed on dedicated storage servers, so like a NAS or DROBO. However, it is a “proprietary” implementation like Drobo’s. I quote “proprietary” because I’m uncertain as to whether either of them have actually invented something or if they are just doing their own implementation of approaches which are in the literature. Both UnRAID and DROBO provide greater flexibility than standard RAID but at the same time they do not have the robustness or industrial strength of something like ZFS. Note, ZFS is actually much more flexible, but also can be even more complex. Even so, I really was hoping for Apple to do something like ZFS. As it is APFS is mostly doing things which were common in storage management appliances in the mid 1990s.

SoftRAID is firmly a Mac solution with a relatively long history on the Mac. Since 1996 they have been a provider of Software based RAID solutions for the Mac platform. They provide drivers which are deployed in macOS and enhance its capabilities. SoftRAID is not meant to be primarily a dedicated storage device. SoftRAID doesn’t offer all flavours of RAID. Currently, they only offer RAID 0, 1, 4, 5, and 1+0. So no RAID 6, which I too would prefer. Sometime in the past few years they were acquired by Other World Computing / MacSales and are providing the software for OWC’s Thunderbolt RAID solutions for the Mac.

The remainder of this is a long story as to why I became a somewhat loyal customer. No need to read, unless you wish to hear the story. I’m in no way associated with SoftRAID.

SoftRAID did bail me out at one point in a work situation where another manufacturers hardware failed and that manufacturer wouldn’t in any way stand behind their product because it was out of its one year warranty period. I don’t want to dump on anyone so no names, other than they are a brand name storage provider which has a long history with the Mac and were in Apple Stores from the beginning.

This is around 2001 and in those days for lower cost external storage we were using things like firewire 800. I STUPIDLY built a larger RAID 0 stripe volume with something like seven drives using the unnamed manufacturers drives. Note I say drives but that is really a misnomer since the drives were produced by someone like Western Digital or Seagate. The brand name company was just providing cabinet, limited RAID capability within the electronics of the cabinet, and a power supply. In any event, I had a very important work product on a RAID 0 volume and just after the work was done, but before I could move it someplace else one of the disks in the RAID 0 volume failed.

It was the brand name company’s drive which failed but they were not willing to do a thing because the drives were a little over a year old. SoftRAID on the other hand stepped up and held my hand through the process of getting it working. As it turned out the drives when removed from brand names box and put in a docking station would work. However, they were a bit garbled because of the electronics failure. SoftRAID provided me with terminal DD commands for dumping certain sectors from the effected drives and had me ship the file control data extracts to them. They then sent me DD commands to over write selected sectors to patch the drives with repaired file system data structure information. That all worked and I had a working RAID 0 volume from which I could extract the project which was on the failed and then resurrected RAID 0 volume.

I was very grateful to SoftRAID for helping me to recover from the brand name companies equipment failure. Also, through that effort I learned that the drives inside the brand name cabinet had a longer warranty if I bought them directly and they cost less. So from that point forward, I’ve only been buying raw drives. I probably have something like 40+ drives ranging in size from 500GB to now 8TB. I’m figuring 10TB helium filled drives are the next ones for my Mac Pro. A few years later, in a less dramatic scenario SoftRAID once again helped to debug and work around what was a bug in Apple HFS+. In general, my experience has been that they stand behind their products and support clients in resolving issues even when it is not their fault.

After the RAID 0 failure, even though SoftRAID saved my neck, I actually stopped using them for a while. I was a bit gun shy of external home grown RAID implementations and for a while only used Apple RAID. At one point I really wanted an Apple Xserve as my personal file server. But that was always out of my price range. However, as I needed larger volumes and Apple effectively stopped advancing their RAID solutions I eventually went back to using SoftRAID. Currently I have 32TB in three different SoftRAID volumes hanging off of my MacPro. I have had disk failures but I have always made it through the event with SoftRAID functioning in the manner it should.

I’ve not had any playback issues at all. The DS918+ will transcode on the fly if needed,

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I use my Drobo in same way. I do Chronosync backups of all my machines to the Drobo, and also backup the Drobo to other removable drives, so if I lost a drive in the Drobo I always have copies of my files elsewhere including off-site copies

I also have a FreeNas box setup, running on an old pc with a couple of 4TB HDD in, which I use for time machine backups of all my Mac’s.

@Jonathan_Davis I have a 2 bay Synology as well as the Mac mini system with attached Drobos. At present the Synoligynisnt doing much of anything as the mini handles file serving, and I have a Synology router that handles CloudStation and VPN services. At some point I think the Synology will get back into the rotation when I think of how to use it effectively.

I no longer use Glacier for storage. Arq now backs up to BackBlaze B2. I would guess it runs me under 10 dollars per month. Using standard BackBlaze would cost way more as 4 different computers all go to my B2 storage (my MBP and mini plus both kids’ laptops). All told I have over 2 TB online, and I can go back years to find a lost file.

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Do you have your Synology backing up to B2 through Arq or do you run Arq through your Mac and mount your Synology?