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Best External HDD Option for an older MacBook Pro

Community Beginner ,
Jan 26, 2024 Jan 26, 2024

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Hello everyone, so I am returning to this forum after a while, I had really wonderful experiences with all the knowledgeable folks in the past, and I have a geeky question that some of you might fun to answer, and if not don't worry:)

 

I have a late 2013 11,3 MacBook Pro (2.6GHz and 16GB RAM) - I realise it is an old machine, but I do not have the money to upgrade. I am starting to work on a feature documentary (not as the main editor but will be doing some footage pulls etc.). We will be editing with 1080p proxies, but there is already about 500gb of footage and it might even go up to 4tb.

 

My question is this - I want to try and finish the project with my current MacBook (which might be just about possible) - and I am trying to figure out the best set up in terms of transfer speeds, read/write etc. I think the best way forward would be buying a 4tb SSD HDD - but the computer only has two Thunderbolt 2 ports and two USB3.0. There are no external SSD drives with TB2 made - and I feel like USB 3.0 is kind of limiting, and also in terms of future proofing it is a useless thing to buy these days. 

 

Does it make sense (and is it even possible) to buy an external SSD drive with USB 3.2 or TB4 and hunt for some kind of a convertor to TB2 (which in theory should be faster than USB 3 so to me as a layman it seems like the better option for editing - but I can't find any) - or is it kind of pointless/non-existent and should I just figure out some kind of a conversion to the simple old USB 3? Or is my entire thought process flawed, and actually an SSD drive is pointless for my computer, because my ports won't be able to take advantage of its speed?

 

I will really appreciate any input, it is very hard to get to relevant info online, especially regarding video editing.

 

Thank you!

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correct answers 1 Correct answer

Community Expert , Jan 28, 2024 Jan 28, 2024

Pick a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 solution from OtherWorld Computing.

Connect Apple's Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter to one of the Thunderbolt 3/4 ports on the back of the Thunderbolt drive.   These can often be found slightly cheaper as open-box items from Best Buy.

 

Patch a Thunderbolt 2 cable from the adapter to your MacBook Pro.

Your 2013 MacBook Pro will handle 1080p ProRes 422 HQ just fine.  If editing 2160p, you'll need to use Premiere Pro's proxy workflow.

 The challenge of working with th

...

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Community Expert ,
Jan 27, 2024 Jan 27, 2024

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I'm on Windows so I have NO idea if this will work for you... but I'm sure 'something' will

I use a Sata docking station and SEVERAL 'bare' drives for backup of my desktop computer
There are many external drive devices, this is the one I use
https://www.amazon.com/StarTech-com-External-docking-station-drives/dp/B00U8KSLA8/

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Community Beginner ,
Jan 31, 2024 Jan 31, 2024

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This is a very interesting option, I have heard of people building their own drives - I don't really have the knowhow, but I might try to find someone in my city and chat to them about it. It's good to have you recommend it, because then it seems like a viable option. Thanks John!

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Community Expert ,
Jan 28, 2024 Jan 28, 2024

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quote

My question is this - I want to try and finish the project with my current MacBook (which might be just about possible) - and I am trying to figure out the best set up in terms of transfer speeds, read/write etc. I think the best way forward would be buying a 4tb SSD HDD - but the computer only has two Thunderbolt 2 ports and two USB3.0. There are no external SSD drives with TB2 made - and I feel like USB 3.0 is kind of limiting, and also in terms of future proofing it is a useless thing to buy these days.

By @denisd888

 

I would just go out and get a current external USB SSD with the capacity you need and within your budget, and plug it into one of your USB ports. The reason this will work is that all good USB drives today should be backward compatible with your USB ports, even if you have to get a USB-C to USB-A 3.0 adapter. Amazon sells those adapters at like $10 for a 3-pack.

 

When shopping, you’ll probably see many compact, bus-powered SSDs with USB-C ports. Some are rated for the earlier USB 3 standard (5 gigabits per second or Gb/sec) which matches your ports, just attach a USB-C to USB-A adapter and get to work. Some are rated for the newer USB 3 standard (10 Gb/sec); these will also work with your Mac but will be limited by the 5Gb/sec of your USB ports. But I think those are well worth buying, because when you get a new Mac it will support the drive’s full rated speed, so you lose nothing today, and gain something tomorrow. In other words, the 10Gb/sec option may be future-proof for you. I use them myself. (You may see USB 3 20Gb/sec or 2x2 advertised, but don’t buy on that basis, because few PCs and no Macs support that standard.)

 

Given the age of your Mac, the 5Gb/sec limit of your USB ports is probably not going to be the bottleneck for performance, so I would go down that road of a current USB external SSD, which will work with your current and future Macs. Keep in mind that even though your USB ports are “only” the older 5Gb/sec (350–500MB/sec real world), that is enough throughput to let an SSD transfer at 2 to 3 times the data rate of any hard disk drive you were considering, because a “fast” hard drive typically achieves 150–250MB/sec.

 

The one thing to watch out for: Avoid any enclosure, cable, or adapter that says USB 2.0 or 480 megabits/sec. That is the even older, slower standard and you do not want to suffer through transferring HD video that slowly, especially if you are depending on the external SSD for media cache files. Ensure that all parts of your storage chain are USB 3 at 5 gigabits/sec or more, to get the most speed out of your ports.

 

I would ignore Thunderbolt in this case. Thunderbolt 2 is capable of 20Gb/sec, but as you said, it’s tough to find a way to make it work today, so you would be paying the high premium price for a Thunderbolt 3/4 interface while not being able to achieve the device’s 40Gb/sec throughput.

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Community Beginner ,
Jan 31, 2024 Jan 31, 2024

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Thanks for your answer Conrad. You go to the heart of the question - which is kind of claimed performance by manufactureres vs what I can actually do with it in a real life situation. That being said, I find it interesting that you say that a fast HDD achieves 150-250Mb/s - that seems to match what my oldish USB3.0 GRAID claims - and I guess I would expect an SSD to be faster than that as people say it is a much more advanced technology. But if it's real world performance is similar to my 2019 GRAID than I think it is a valid question whether I shouldn't just stick to my old workflow which was that GRAID plugged in via USB3.0. I will investigate this further, thank you for your reply:)

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Community Expert ,
Jan 31, 2024 Jan 31, 2024

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What I was pointing out is that even on older 5Gb/sec USB, an SSD can run at least twice as fast as any hard drive, even a hard drive RAID, making SSDs worth using.

 

Reading the subsequent replies, Warren has experience with the Thunderbolt option that I don’t have, so if you do want the most speed, you can go with his advice instead of what I said about preferring USB 3.

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Community Beginner ,
Feb 03, 2024 Feb 03, 2024

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Thanks! I think I will try to go with Warren's suggestion. 

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Community Expert ,
Jan 28, 2024 Jan 28, 2024

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Pick a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 solution from OtherWorld Computing.

Connect Apple's Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter to one of the Thunderbolt 3/4 ports on the back of the Thunderbolt drive.   These can often be found slightly cheaper as open-box items from Best Buy.

 

Patch a Thunderbolt 2 cable from the adapter to your MacBook Pro.

Your 2013 MacBook Pro will handle 1080p ProRes 422 HQ just fine.  If editing 2160p, you'll need to use Premiere Pro's proxy workflow.

 The challenge of working with that year MacBook Pro is that macOS Catalina 10.15 is the newest version of macOS that can run on it.  As long as an older version of Premiere Pro is already installed, you should be good; however, collaboration with others works best when everyone is on the same version of Premiere Pro.  That may be a challenge.


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Community Beginner ,
Jan 31, 2024 Jan 31, 2024

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Thank you for your answer Warren, this is an interesting option. It seems to me that that is really the absolute fastest option for my MacBook that exists. I wonder whether it can actually take advantage of that setup in real world conditions, I suppose no real tests for that kind of a thing exist online, but I am intrigued by it as an option.

 

Yes, Catalina is starting to become a pain, I think it really is at its end when it comes to support. There is always the possibility of forcing an OS upgrade, but that seems like a slightly risky proposition!

 

Thank you for your answer:)

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Community Expert ,
Jan 31, 2024 Jan 31, 2024

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This is how I patch newer Thunderbolt drives to older Thunderbolt Macs.

 

It works fine. 

 

 

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Community Beginner ,
Feb 03, 2024 Feb 03, 2024

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Thanks very much!

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