Hard drives died. Where to go from here with storage?

So, here I am. Part of my storage strategy these past three or so years was to have two 4TB drives hooked into the back of my iMac (which runs a 512GB SSD). I used one of those drives to house the data, and Carbon Copy Cloner made a complete dupe of it weekly to the other drive. Drive one and the SSD are also backed up via Backblaze. It all worked well until one of those drives (the dupe) started doing funny things a couple months ago, and now much to my dismay, strange things are happening on the first, too. Thankfully, I can still move files off of it, and so I’m being forced, with more speed than I’d actually like, to consider alternatives. And, over the past three years of this, I’ve got loads. In fact, here’s what I’ve picked up in that time:

  • 2TB of iCloud storage with Apple One. (the main point of this to now was to house my expanding iPhoto library).
  • 1TB of space thanks to Office 365 subscription.
  • A Synology NAS system that currently houses all of my media, but has about 4TB of usable space that could be expanded to something like 16TB if I wanted to shell out for new hard disks.

So, given these options, I just wanted to toss out a few thoughts in case anyone had some thoughts in return about how to go about the next iteration of my storage odyssey. I don’t think I’ve ever done this particularly well. It’d be nice to get it right, and I have some time over the holidays.

So, there’s a couple things:

I like the idea of keeping things on iCloud, as it keeps me in the most seamless ecosystem, and the space is there, sorta. Here’s some issues:

Photos. The photos I have are stored in the cloud through iCloud photos. I also have a library which lives on the 4TB drive. It currently eats about 300GB in photos and videos. I’ve thought that this local copy was not strictly needed, given everything’s in the cloud, but I believe it was wise to keep a local copy, too. Given the size of the library, I can’t have it on the SSD, and I understand that having your Photos library on a NAS is frowned upon by Apple. So I’m a little at a loss about what to do with the local copy of the photos, short of buying another spinning drive to attach to the iMac.

Next are the files. I’m a little ashamed to admit I haven’t the foggiest how iCloud manages what’s in the cloud vs. what’s local. I could put most of my files on iCloud where they’d be quite happy, but if I did that, they’d need to initially be on the SSD, and there technically isn’t enough space there. My iCloud storage is four times the size of my local SSD, so I can hold the data, but I can’t hold it locally. So I’m not exactly sure how that works. Do I just keep hammering data onto the SSD until it’s full and iCloud drive takes over and somehow magically creates space on the local SSD that doesn’t exist? I assume I can’t house things on the NAS and have it back up to iCloud?

And speaking of the NAS, I’d move all the seldom used files (such as old Aperture data to the tune of nearly a TB) and all the rest to the NAS where’s locally backed up. But then, I really have no external backup, as Backblaze won’t backup the NAS. This is the biggest question mark. I feel mostly OK about what’s in iCloud as a secure place to house things offsite. But if I have Backblaze backup the local SSD, it won’t backup the files in iCloud assuming there’s more than 512GB. it’s all confusing.

Add to that the need to actually organize everything, but that’s an entirely different discussion. For now, I’m just not sure what the best way to go is. It seems silly to me to have any kind of external storage attached to the Mac given how much storage I have elsewhere, but there doesn’t seem to be a good way to do it so that it all works with photos, and is backed up with backblaze.


Thanks in advance… this was a longer diatribe than I hoped it would be.

The route I decided to go was to buy a used Mac Mini and set it up as a server. I have 2 4tb drives attached to it. One is for media storage - music, movies, and books. The other is used as a destination for CCC clones from all our other computers. Those drives are then backed up to BackBlaze giving me an offsite backup for multiple computers at a lower cost. I also have other backup drives for each computer.

I have my photo library and documents in iCloud so I can access them from my iPad or iPhone. I have a 1tb SSD in my MBA so space isn’t a big issue for me. Biggest chunk I deal with on a frequent basis is my Photos library at about 50gb.


I chose to store my IPhoto library on a thunderbolt connected external raid device. The library still gets backed to iCloud, and is thus accessible and synced to my iPads. I use the external drive for all my large storage needs - FCP libraries, etc. I then back this up to “the cloud” (Wasabi, in my case via ARQ. Also backs up the main SSD storage).

Lots of options…


In order to back up your iCloud data you need a copy of everything, with the exception of photos and music on your internal drive. Photos and music can be permanently stored on external storage and still sync to iCloud.

Yes, syncing to any offsite service is never a substitute for automatic backups

Not counting your Photos and music library, how much data do you need to store on your internal drive? Can you move your Music, movies, etc and infrequently used files to your external 4gb drive.?


It’s funny you mention this, as I had tried that very thing years ago. I have an old Mac mini from 2014 and I tried to set it up as a server, but I could never get it to work right. I got so frustrated with it that I bought the NAS and haven’t had a day of issue since. That said, I would have been happy to try again, but I plugged the mini in and discovered it no longer boots. It appears to have breathed its last. Seems like I have more data than most. :confused:

Yeah, I’m thinking that maybe the best solution for the photos at least would be a 1tb SSD to hook into the back of the iMac. At least then there’d be no spinning drives anymore. Pricey, though. :confused:

I was afraid of that. So essentially, my iCloud storage is limited not to the amount of iCloud storage, but to the size of the Mac’s internal storage. Hrm. That does complicate things a little more. That 1TB external SSD is starting to look better. I could keep everything but the photos on the internal drive… Probably.

I have a few of these (the now older generation) that have served me well, one is two years old now. Intermittent use for backups now.

$150 for 1TB



Costco has the Sandisk drive for $120 this month.

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Thank you for the recommendation. I was just looking at options and the Samsung T5s have some disturbing reviews about not working well on Macs. If you had success with these, then maybe I’ll go this route.

I’ve had no issues with any of the three T5s I’ve got.


Please bear in mind that data stored “in the cloud” is not a backup, it is a copy of the data on your computer.

But if a file on your computer is corrupted, then a copy of that corrupted file will be copied to the cloud.

True backup (Carbon Copy Cloner, Backblaze…) is a separate copy which is up contaminated, or has versioning.

My strategy includes Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner and Backblaze so

  1. I always have a copy of my data on site (Time Machine) which is updated regularly.
  2. I always have a offline copy of my data to hand (Carbon Copy Cloner)
  3. If the absolute worst happens, I can download my data from Backblaze again.

Hard Drives will always die, it’s just a matter of when. So multiple copies are key as is to replace your drives regularly (I do so every 2 years) especially where drives are in constant use (Time Machine Drives, those that accept BitTorrent downloads)


I have 5 T5s and there has never been an issue.

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Same with me. I’ve never had a problem with T-5s and T-7s.

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@MaxxHouseMaid @ChrisUpchurch

Thanks for the reassurances about the T5 drives. In the stuff I found on the internet and amazon reviews yesterday, there were a lot of people who said they had troubles with the drive locking, or the need for extra samsung drivers to encrypt, to versions of Samsung software/hardware that recent versions of macOS dislikes, that formatting to Journaled for Mac doesn’t fly, etc. etc.

If all that is wrong, then I’ll order a 2TB T5 today and go from there.

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Oh, I know. Especially now that I understand that I cannot store more on iCloud than I have space on my Mac.

I think maybe the best way to attack this is to get the 2TB SSD and hang it on the back of the Mac, use it for photos and music and iMovie projects. Keep the important documents and work files on the internal Mac SSD to sync to iCloud and be available all over, use Backblaze to save both of these to offline backup, and then get Time Machine to handle the whole mess locally to the NAS.


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You can store more in iCloud than you have space on your Mac. That’s just a matter of checking the “Optimize Mac Storage” checkbox in system preferences. When your drive gets full, macOS will delete some of your iCloud Drive files from your local disk, leaving them in the cloud where you can download them later.

The problem you’re specifically facing is that you’re starting with more stuff than will fit on your hard drive and there’s not really any easy way to get it all into iCloud at once. You’d have to put some of it into iCloud Drive on your Mac, let it upload, then put more in to nearly fill your Mac’s drive and get macOS to remove some of the already uploaded stuff from your local drive. Lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve got all 4TB uploaded.

The other problem is, as @WayneG and @geoffaire said, the cloud is not a backup. If you don’t have these files stored locally, just in iCloud on the server, there’s no good way to make your own backups of them.


OK, so you CAN store more on iCloud than on your system. See, i don’t think I fully understand how this works. In something like OneDrive, you can designate which files or folders you want to have stored on device, in the cloud, or both. I don’t understand how, or if, you can do this with iCloud. It’d be nice to be able to just say, “OK… you, iCloud, take this folder of data and hold it for me until I need it, and then I’ll get you to download it locally for me”.

But as you’ve suggested, that’s not a backup, and if something is in iCloud but not on the system then Backblaze won’t grab it, either.

iCloud does not have that level of granularity. There’s just one switch “Optimize Mac Storage”. When it’s on and your disk is getting near full macOS will decide which files in iCloud Drive will no longer be held on your local file system. There’s not currently any way to tell the OS to keep a specific file on you local drive or not to bother keeping a local copy of a file.


OK. Thanks for explaining that to me. I appreciate your time. :slight_smile: Maybe Apple will get there someday.