Questions: Storage + Backup + Dock/Hub


Questions: Storage + Backup + Dock/Hub

After having searched forums, Reddit, online posts and contacting Apple Support, I come to you for an opinion on hardware and workflow.



  • Most days are spent inside of Chrome, Word, Excel and Mail.

  • I do value my photo collection and it will continue to increase. We don’t view them often. There are valuable videos as well, but usage is minimal.

  • Hardly any music or saved movies.

  • Minimal podcasting.

Questions and Concerns:

To save on the costs, I planned to get external storage. And I’m severely confused after going down the rabbit hole - should I get an SSD, HDD, SATA, bus-powered, NVMe, heat issues, enclosure or out-of-the-box, Mac Mini speed issues over TB and USB etc.

(1) Which storage solution according to you would be good knowing my usage? Should I get a separate drive for the time machine and separate for data storage/access?

(2) Since the old drive is 10 year old, and is not SMART compatible, is it time to discard it/not rely on it a lot?

(3) Can I somehow take Time Machine backup on both devices without having to manually connect the MacBook Pro to the drive? Something that can happen in the background and maybe wirelessly?

P.S.: I know Backblaze is an option but I don’t plan on subscribing to the service for now. Happy to get a one-time license like CCC. I also considered a NAS, but not technically inclined to configure DNS, VPN and whatnot.

(4) I want to connect additional devices to my Mac mini like a podcasting mic and a camera, keyboard dongle, SSD/HDD. Will the Tripp Lite hub that I mentioned above work, or should I get an OWC/Caldigit dock?

I appreciate your assistance with this.


A lot to cover here. First I’ll tackle the issue of backup and disaster recovery. You need to decide what types of disasters you want to be able to recover from then figure the best way to handle them. Things that can happen: hardware failures, software failures, ransomware, fire, theft, tornado, hurricane, terrorist attack, flood, and the biggest - stupid user tricks.

Of those, stupid user tricks and hardware/software failures are the most likely. Do you let a child access your computer? Could they erase important stuff? You mention that you have an external drive partitioned with backup and data. How are you backing up the data on that drive? Spinning drives are cheap. They make great backup devices. No need for a SSD for routine backups. SSDs are great for clones so you can get back up and running quickly.

Backups must be tested regularly. You don’t want to find that your backup drive is corrupted when trying to restore critical files. As far as I’m concerned, an untested backup is no backup.

Finally there’s the issue of off-site backup. This can be as simple as moving backup drives between your office and house or to/from a relative’s house. Those backups should be encrypted. Better is something like BackBlaze where the backup is much more removed. If the tornado comes through and takes out your house and your office it would be nice to have the data stored elsewhere. BackBlaze is cheap for the service provided. If you need to save a few bucks and have multiple Macs to backup, just aTtach an external drive to the Mac Mini and backup the other devices to that drive then include the external drive in the BackBlaze backup for the mini.

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Now let’s talk about types of storage. You didn’t mention capacity requirements. For archive data or infrequently accessed data, spinning drive are cheap and reliable enough. If you want to process photos and videos from an external then a SSD is the way to go. As I mentioned earlier, my only SSD drive is a clone. My internal drives are large enough for all my data.

A NAS is nice if you want to share files with others in the household. It also provides lots of shareable space for backups. It requires some learning and maintenance time so be prepared if you go that route.

I’ve moved away from Time Machine for most of my backups and use Carbon Copy Cloner for most tasks. It’s easier to schedule and provides more control over the backup process.

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Any drive 10 years old should be considered as an imminent failure. Plan on a 5-7 year life for most drives. Anytime a TM drive filled up I would take it out of my backup rotation and label it as full and put it in my fireproof file. Then put a new drive in play.

If you had to recreate all your photos, videos, and data from scratch, how much would it cost you even if it could be done? Isn’t a few $50 drives a lot cheaper?

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@glenthompson Thank you for these great answers. I guess I should explain a bit more.

I went with a lower internal SSD to save on the costs knowing fairly well I will compromise on the speed with any external HDD or SSD, even with a Thunderbolt 3 connection.

For clarity -

  1. My plan is to install the OS and apps on the internal SSD.

  2. I buy a new 2TB spinning HDD for backups - Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner. I do need to learn how I can backup a Mac Mini and a Macbook Pro without manually plugging in the backup disk to the Macbook pro every day and then keeping it plugged in to the Mini.

  3. The third disk would be to access these documents and files I need on a daily basis - like word documents, excel files, pdf’s, important photos.

  4. The question of media storage still remains - I could partition the 2TB HDD (mentioned in 2 above) to have it handle part of it handle the media. Or I can simply move them to the 1TB SSD spoken in 3 above.

My data needs aren’t much - I would be happy with a 1TB external.

Looking at all these, do you still feel a NAS would end up saving me $$$ and worth the trouble?

and what would be your recommendations for the disks we discussed above?

I am willing to risk not having Backblaze - $$$ constraint. I hope these help with more perspective - happy to answer questions for clarity.

I wanted to throw out just a couple of thoughts/ideas that might help to supplement @glenthompson’s excellent advice.

  1. I strongly recommend against using the same physical drive for both data and backup. If you lost that drive, you lose everything, data and backups, which in my mind means you do not have a backup at all. Harddrives have become sufficiently inexpensive that in my mind there is little reason not to have physical separated working data and backup drives. I recently got a WD USB 3.0 14TB drive on sale at Best Buy for around $150. On sale you can usually get 2TB drives for under $100. Therefore, I would suggest a reasonable approach is to install the OS on your internal SSD where your home folder will live, and you can ether put some data on the internal SSD and some on an external drive, or keep all of your data on the external drive as your needs require, and have a second external drive for backup. I would suggest that if you have data space requirements of under 1TB (which I think you said or implied in your OP) then a 3TB external backup drive would probably be sufficient.
  1. I strongly subscribe to the multiple local and offsite backup philosophy for any data I really care about. For me this means a clone of everything to that WD 14TB I mentioned; local TM to a second external drive; local clone to my Synology; offsite backup via BackBlaze and a second offsite backup via ARQ to a different S3 provider (presently Wasabi). That is likely both overkill and more more expensive than you want or need, but I would suggest that you consider investing in BackBlaze (at $60/year it really is a bargain IMHO). I would also propose a TimeMachine external drive as in (1) above. If your budget allows, get a second external drive for a Carbon Copy Cloner (or SuperDuper! or ChronoSync) clone as well.I would think you could get an external 1TB data drive plus 2 x external 3TB TM and CCC drives for under $300 on sale, and if you can swing that cost, it could well prove worth the money some day.
  1. A NAS is certainly useful, and a 2-bay Synology can often be found for $200-$300, plus of course the cost of a couple of drives to put in it. The overall cost would probably wind up being more up front than a bunch of external drives, and I would argue that if you put your active data in a share on the Synology then you still need to address the backup issue, BUT the Synology could serve as just the target for TM and CCC for both of your computers while your active data continues to reside on an external drive attached to your Mini. One advantage to a Synology is the ability to set up SynologyDrive which essentially is your own hosted Dropbox equivalent. I use this to keep all data sync’ed between my MBAir and Mini in two separate shared folders, with my media folder shared from the Synology just to my Mini (so that BackBlaze will create an offline backup) and my wife’s files all shared between both of my computers, the Synology, and her iMac. The effect is that since anyone of any importance on my MBAir and my wife’s iMac are always duplicated on the Mini, which backs them up via TM, CCC, BackBlaze and ARQ, I don’t have to worry about separate backups of either of those computers (cost or effort-wise). You might also find at some time that having the capability to add VPN, web server, etc is useful, but this might just be more complexity than you need.
  1. I no longer make a bootable clone with CCC. With the M1 architecture, Apple has changed things so that an external drive can only boot if the internal SSD is intact because there is now a required volume in the internal SSD for booting, so the idea that if the internal drive dies you can work off the external drive is no longer true. WIth so much of my stuff in the cloud (iCloud or SynologyDrive) and apps now delivered via the internet instead of loaded off CDs/DVDs I might no longer have, it it just easier to build out a new machine from scratch than to spend time restoring, and migration assistance or restore from Time Machine helps here if you don’t want to build out from scratch. I DO make the clones because I want to have an up to date snapshot in case I do need to restore, however. Redundancy in case TM fails.
  2. The question of an external SSD vs spinning drive depends a lot on you data needs. For example, of the smaller SSD in your Mini is sufficient to store all of your working data, just keep it there. If there is a set of working data that consists of smaller files that you access infrequently but still need access to, put them on an external HD. However, if you have 500GB of photos with very large image files and you are actively editing, you will want an external SSD via USB-C or Thunderbolt.
  3. It is possible to set up your Mini to serve as the recipient for TM from your laptop, which I believe you do in the Sharing preferences pane. I do not recall the details offhand, but I am sure a quick Google will answer the question.

Hope this is useful.


Nice to see someone else with extreme backups.

I just checked on Amazon and a Seagate 2TB external drive is $60. Two of them can make a good, inexpensive backup plan.

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Just wanted to reach out again and thank you.

Here’s my approach and also clarification.

  1. I ordered the Caldigit TS3+. Thought of going for the OWC Thunderbolt 3 dock for the slim profile and OWC support but there are more positive reviews for Caldigit than the OWC. Also know fairly well TS3+ might be on its way out being replaced by TB4, but the need for a dock is today.

  2. Backup Software: I purchased CCC. I will turn off Time Machine once I have a few snapshots from CCC.

  3. Backup disk situation: I got a Toshiba Canvio Ready 4TB for $115. Was the cheapest 4TB disk I could find. I will have three partitions for this. 1 for the Mac Mini, 1 for Macbook pro, and 1 to specifically backup the external drive I have that’s on life-support(more below). I know this will be my only snapshot. I also know CCC doesn’t upload to OneDrive for which I pay. It’s a small risk I take today.

  4. 10-yr old disk: As mentioned earlier, the ageing 3TB WD disk was partitioned in two, 1TB for Time Machine and 2TB for data. I will eventually remove the Time Machine data and have a single partition with all my data in the 3TB drive. It should occupy approximately 1.2TB of HDD space. Now this drive will be continuously backed up to the 4TB new disk on a separate partition. In case this go south, I will have a data snapshot.

Future: I like the idea of NAS, but I neither have the time today to invest in setting it up nor the disposable income to spend on it. I’m in a much better position spending $100 today on the 4TB HDD mentioned above and can buy the NAS even at sticker price if required in the future.

Still Wondering: The conversation of this thread was great, but did not address one question. If I need to use an external disk as an extension for storage needs and use it as a Photo Library or Music Library, I should’ve opted for an SSD. We neither discussed read-write speeds, M1 limitations, enclosures/T5/T7 etc. So for now, I’ll continue to use the 3TB WD for the purposes of photos and music (knowing it will cause so much pain that the M1 will probably not be worth it). As needs grow, an SSD upgrade or a NAS might be on the cards.

Big thank you to @glenthompson and @nlippman for inputs.