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[Solved] New Mac Mini external storage suggestions  



Good morning all,

While listening to a TDO podcast (I think?), a discussion ensued about the high expense of the internal SSD options for the new Mac Mini.  The suggestion was made to settle on a 128GB or 256GB internal SSD option, and subsidize with an external drive over one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports.  I’m replacing a late 2012 Mac Mini with a new Mac Mini, 256GB internal SSD.  My current Mac Mini has a 1TB SSD internal (installed by me).  My assumption, based on what I’ve read about the new Mini’s so far, is that the RAM will be user-upgradeable, but the SSD won’t.  My question is:  what external option should I go with, and what process would one use to make this work?  My current drive has about 150GB free, and is filled with mostly pictures and documents.  I have iCloud Drive with 2TB of space (shared with family, but I sync/backup my Documents, Desktop, etc).  Any suggestions?  Thanks in advance.

10 Answers

I went for the 256gb internal SSD and bought an internal Samsung 860 EVO 1tb SSD on sale at my local Micro-Center store, along with a $25 USB 3.1 enclosure with a USB-C cable. I migrated my apps and users to the 256gb drive but didn't move the larger directories like Movies and Pictures. iTunes is already on it's own drive. Then I duplicated the Users folder from my old machine onto the external SSD and put aliases to the photo library, iTunes library in the folders on the internal drive. 

By building the external SSD myself, I saved about $50 over buying the prefab WD MyPassport SSD. Total cost for the 1tb external was < $200.


Assuming we are talking about the new Mac mini, this I would put the operating system on the internal storage, as it will most likely be the fastest storage and the operating system as well as your vanilla home folder should not take up too much space.

Then assuming pictures, music, videos are the really big files, use the associated app to specify that your libraries are on the external storage.  You can find articles via Google on how to move those libraries to an external drive and then tell the related app how to use those external libraries.

If there is a home folder sub-folder that is not controlled by one of the apps, but has a large amount of storage in it, then move the files to an external device, and then Google creating a Symbolic Link (aka symlink) from your home folder to the external device.

If for your original question about a 150GB drive.  If that drive is a rotating hard disk, then using an external SSD will most likely be faster.  Even if you ONLY have USB2 interfaces, but much better if you have USB3 ports (making sure your USB3 devices have quality enclosures and quality USB3 cables; as poor quality USB3 cases and cables may generate WiFi interferences).

Thank you!

Hi all,


Thanks again for all of your helpful suggestions.  Regarding backup:  if I moved my home folder to an external drive, what are the options for backup?  Currently I use a variety of methods (iCloud, CCC, and Time Machine).  Would it still be possible to perform a viable backup using CCC?


Hey, @jdoc

Certainly if you think you can fit your "main" home folder on the 128GB SSD, then do that. Just remember that this needs to hold your Mail, your Photos thumbnails, your iTunes artwork, and local storage for your iCloud Drive, so it's possible that 128GB wouldn't be enough. For me it almost certainly wouldn't work, and I would  very likely choose to boot from the external.

The listener who wrote in suggested the 2TB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD and their "External drive enclosure case with USB type C interface (USB 3.1, 6 Gbps transfer rate)" — I, too, am not sure of which enclosure listener Lee meant, and I've (now) asked him to chime in here. 😉 

Thank you.  You’re right- I initially thought the internal SSD (256GB) would be able to handle the main stuff, but I think I’ll go with the external option.  I’m still researching external drive options.  OWC is awesome for this sort of stuff!


They have a bunch of super fast external options too (more $$$, but interesting):


Hi all,

Thanks again for all of your helpful suggestions.  Regarding backup:  if I moved my home folder to an external drive, what are the options for backup?  Currently I use a variety of methods (iCloud, CCC, and Time Machine).  Would it still be possible to perform a viable backup using CCC?

CCC will require you setup a 2nd backup for the external volume going to a backup device.  It could be the same as the boot drive backup device, but if you are creating a clone of the backup device, then chance are each time you back up the boot device to the clone, it will remove all your 2nd drive's data.  So you would be best served either partitioning the backup drive with space for the boot drive and space for the home folder.  Or a 2nd backup device for the external device.
Time Machine will allow you to include the external disk with your home folder as part of the Time Machine backup.
I do not know about iCloud, as I do not really use it for my files.

Thanks so much!


I found a couple of options for external storage:

There was a post on Twitter from Dave Hamilton of a comment by one of his followers.  The author recommended a 1TB drive (OWC drive above) and a “$20 case”.  I don’t know which case they’re referring to, or if it’s a USB-C case.  

Question:  what would be the best option for my setup- using the external drive as my primary drive for everything, an the internal 256GB drive as an accessory?  Or using the internal drive for the OS, and the external drive for high-storage items like Photos and Documents?  Any advice would be helpful.



Congrats on choosing one of the new minis, I didn't know the SSD was soldered to the MOBO, darn Apple.


Anyway, visit the "My Upgrades" section of OWC and then under Desktops category choose your new mac mini. You will need an SSD enclosure for the 1TB SSD. If you don't know which one is compatible with your 1TB SSD contact OWC via chat and they should be able to recommend the right one.

So the Mac mini 2012 only used 2.5" SATA drives. You wanted a thunderbolt enclosure but OWC doesn't sell them for 2.5" SATA drives so you will need to go with one of two USB enclosures.

OWC Mercury On-The-Go or OWC Mercury Elite Pro mini

On connecting your previous home folder to the new mac, I recommend the following procedure and you are ready to rumble. You will need to simply login to your legacy account. 

I recommend creating a two user accounts on the new mini, a secondary admin account and a primary one with exact same legacy username and password you always used on the 2012 mini.

When you get your enclosure from OWC and the 1TB SATA SSD drive fitted inside and it's connected up to the mini you will start by turning on the Mac and logging in to the secondary user account.

Then open system preferences>Users and Groups, unlock the padlock if locked, right click over the primary account and choose Advanced. These next steps are considered advanced by Apple but all you are really doing is linking up your main user account to the new system.

Advanced Options

Right-click over the legacy account to get the advanced options

Advanced Users and Groups Options

Advanced Options

I have used this advanced feature for about 5 years on an iMac, I set it up the one time as I am suggesting here and it has since seen Software Updates and Upgrades, software installations of all kinds and over the years it has worked without a single related hitch, everything just works as expected. There is nothing advanced here in my opinion, not for the purpose you are seeking and that I already use. The screenshot is from my MBA so it doesn't reflect this but if you need I can send you a screenshot from the iMac which has an internal SSD and a 2TB rotational drive, hence my need to use this method myself.


Would it be possible for you to share that screenshot? I've been a MAC only user since '92, but I'm having difficulty understanding what you mean by creating another account (and so forth).

Bought a 2018 mini with 128ssd, 32gb ram and a 2tb external ssd. I'm just confused at what steps to take next to transfer my Time Machine backup. Appreciate your time and assistance.


I am also interested in your question.


You can't go wrong with one of the Samsung T5 external SSDs.


Interesting that this post just came across feed as I am in the same position, especially now that Barclays just came out with their “holiday” 18 months interest free offer. 

I am planning on getting the i7 and sticking with the minimum storage of 256GB and using that as the boot drive. I will supplement that with a 1TB Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G from OWC for about ~$300. FWIW, the holiday catalogue shows this @ $279 but I do not see that price on the web...yet?? I also plan to set the home folder for my user account(s) to use this external drive. 

As far as an enclosure, I am planning to get the “Mercury Elite Pro Dual mini” and putting my existing 480GB SSD into the 2nd slot. Running the enclosure in individual drive mode.

As far as RAM, I am planning on getting a single 32GB DIMM from OWC. Leaving the door open to go to 64GB someday in the future should I ever have money again 🙂

...and selling the 8GB RAM the system will come with to OWC for a whopping $30...but that is better than in just sitting in my computer bin-o-crap

Suggest using matched pairs of DIMMs to get memory interleaving.  You can get about an extra 10% memory performance that way.

If you are not doing memory intensive tasks, then using a single DIMM is fine, or even unmatched pairs.

@datafornothingandbitsforfree interesting thought & that will save $$$....until I want to go to 64GB, which is not now anyway and when/if that time comes the 32GB DIMMs will be cheaper. Thanx for the suggestion 

I am leaning towards a Raid 5 solution after much research. Considering the AKITIO Thunder 3 Quad. 

I was going to go with a 1T internal SSD and existing external drives but changed my mind. The uplift to 1T is $600. The cost of the Raid 5 solution is about the same with spinning drives. Using 2T drives will net me roughly 5.5T usable. It will be a big improvement over what I have in usable space and speed. Plus, I will get to use Thunderbolt 3 which is a big part of the new Mac Mini. Merry Christmas to me!!