Posts filed under ‘Storage’

Adventures in Mac Data Recovery

A few days ago, I attempted to update my wife’s aging iMac (2009 era) to High Sierra.  I ended up at a screen telling me something about a disk error.  After that, it seemed to be in a boot cycle, where it simply returned to a similar screen with a slightly different message.

I found some CLI commands to make my own USB installer.  Ultimately, when I booted from it, I ended up with a message saying it could not install.  Thinking that perhaps the hard drive was going, I think I attached an external drive and tried to install to it, ending with the same failure.  At some point throughout this process I made the colossal mistake of formatting the internal hard drive.  We can get back to that later.

I knew I needed to get my wife a new machine, as this one is quite old and the next release of Mac OS X won’t support this hardware.  Fortunately, Best Buy had a sale on the higher end iMac with the smaller screen, which is just what I thought she needed.

Got it home, booted it up and connected to my NAS to restore her TimeMachine backup.

Uh oh.  It saw her backup there, but it said something about No Volumes.  I tried booting from the same USB stick to reinstall her new iMac, and ended up with the same sort of generic failure reasons I had been getting since after the original disk error on the first iMac.

Apparently, my installer was bad.

I moved her old iMac to my desk and was running a variety of tools to scan the hard drive, trying to recover whatever data I could.  The one that seemed to get the best results was Disk Drill, which seemed to have been able to recover the HFS directory structure and everything.  About $80 later, I could try restoring it.  Unfortunately, it was unclear if it was possible to simply have it restore the files to their original locations, so I tried having it restore to an external drive.  About 30 GB into the copy, it seemed to hang.  The iMac was still working, but no more data seemed to get moved.  I thought that perhaps I should try another method.

While researching my problem, I had previously found a link that talked about fixing Time Machine backups.  This involved running some CLI commands that seemed likely to potentially break things, so I took a few minutes to figure out how to backup my Time Machine sparsedisk bundle.  After looking around a bit, I found a page recommending SuperDuper for the task.  Using SuperDuper, I created a new sparsedisk bundle as the destination, and let it copy.  I think somewhere north of 19 hours later, it was done.

I followed the steps found on this blog entry on my copy of the data, leaving the original unaltered.

Everything went well for the repair portion, but the final steps involved editing a .plist file that should have been sitting in the root of the sparsedisk, but it was missing for some reason.

So, I tried running the repair steps on the original TimeMachine backup.  It failed.

In a last ditch effort to get TimeMachine working, I copied the com.* files from the original TM backup over to my SuperDuper copy.  I figured since the repair worked on it, perhaps I can just take the files that didn’t seem to get copied, and move them over as well, and finish the process.

I built a new Mac OS X installer (using this great little tool that I sorta wish I had found originally), reinstalled OS X on the new iMac, then tried the TM restore.  I pointed to the new TM backup I had made, and was happy to see that it saw it, and that it saw backup data there.  I started the restore process, which, probably around 3 hours later, completed successfully.

I rebooted, and it came up and worked.  I was able to login to my wife’s account and her data seemed to be in-tact.

I have since set up SuperDuper to clone her drive on a schedule to an external drive.  I’ll probably start the Time Machine backup process as well in a few days or so, once we feel secure that her files are fine, so she’ll have a few backups just in case.

June 15, 2018 at 12:50 pm Leave a comment

UnRAID experiences

Recently, NewEgg had a deal on an HP ML10 V2 server for about $170 after rebate.  It included an i3 processor at 3.5 Ghz, a 500 GB hard drive, and 8 GB of ECC ram.  I had a hard time passing up that good of a deal, so I didn’t.

After playing with VMware ESXi 6.5 on it for a bit, I decided to try UnRAID.  I was interested in using Docker on it, something I have dabbled with on my Synology.

Having used UnRaid for more than a week, I think I’m about ready to get rid of my NAS and use this instead.

The initial setup was easy.  I loaded the software on a USB drive, put several low capacity drives in it (largest being 1 TB) and created the array using the web interface.  It began the parity process and I started setting up shares and using it.

Let me explain a bit about how UnRAID works.  It’s not your traditional RAID array.  You basically put in whatever disks you want, select the largest one as the Parity drive, and start using your array (there are some WebGUI steps involved, but it’s very easy).  I understand that you can even take drives that already have data on them (in a format UnRAID uses), and that data is preserved, with the exception of the parity drive.  With UnRAID, you get the advantage of parity protection, so if a single disk dies, just replace it and it rebuilds.  If there’s a problem with more than one of your disks at once, you only lose data on the failed drives.  Your remaining working drives have all their data intact.

Another differences is the way shares work.  It has your traditional disk based shares, where you add a share for an individual disk, and write files to it the usual way, and it will create parity info on the parity drive should that disk fail, so your data is safe….  And it has what it calls “user” shares.  These shares span your disks.  So, you might have a media share, for example.  You copy a video over to it, which gets dropped on disk 1.  Later, you copy another video, and it gets dropped onto disk 2.  When you view directory listing of the share, though, you see a single view with all the files presented as if they were in a single structured set of folders, so you don’t have to know which disk a specific file is on…  UnRAID tracks that for you and presents it all as if it’s a single, large share.

Anyhow, over the next few days, I set up three Time Machine shares, along with a couple others and copied over the majority of the data from my NAS to it.  (I have not been storing nearly as much on my NAS recently, having cleaned off tons of media some time ago.)

The Docker container functionality is great.  You can load a docker container based on templates, so there’s not much to do but point and click, though you may have to type in a path or two, here or there.  Think of it sort of as Plug-ins or Apps – there’s a Plex container, MythTV, SageTV, and many, many more.

After the initial parity calculation was done, I moved my 4TB drive from my NAS over, replacing the parity drive in UnRAID.  It rebuilt the parity info after I adjusted the config in the WebGUI.  Then, I proceeded to swap another drive with a 3 TB drive, and let it rebuild that., and I’ve done that with yet another 3 TB drive.  At this point, only one of the original hard drives is in the array.

And, I actually want to remove that last 750GB drive from the array.  With traditional RAID, that’s pretty much a no-go.  With Synology’s hybrid RAID, or a Drobo’s approach to RAID, I think you have to stay with the same number of disks in the array, short of copying all the data off and recreating the array fresh with fewer disks.

With UnRAID, though, I’m now copying all the data from disk 3 to disk 2 using a simple rsync command.  Afterwards, according to what I’ve read, I can simply remove the disk, then create a new array with one less disk and it will recreate the parity information.

Why would I want to do this, you may wonder?  To add a cache drive.  UnRAID lets you add a cache drive (an SSD, or perhaps just a 10K RPM or 7200 RPM drive), and set up your shares to take advantage of the cache drive.  When data is written, it goes to the cache drive, and at 3:40 AM, data is moved off the cache drive to the other drives in the array, at which time parity info is calculated.

Now, if you run a business and keep critical data on UnRAID, you shouldn’t entrust the safety of your data to a single cache drive, as the parity info associated with the cache drive is only generated once per day, so there is the potential to lose whatever data has been written to the cache drive.  But if you are a home user, mainly using it for entertainment purposes, you can probably take the chance, for the performance improvement (especially with an SSD cache drive).

Although I’m still within my first 30 days of using UnRAID, it’s safe to say I’ll be buying it soon.

April 25, 2017 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

MythTV on a Synology NAS

I have a DiskStation 1512+, which has an Atom D2700 CPU with two cores running at 2.13 Ghz and 3 GB of RAM.  While it’s not speedy by today’s standards, DSM is easy to use and includes the ability to do a lot with a few mouse clicks, including run Docker, which in itself gives you a lot of flexibility.  I also have an HDHomerun Prime tuner, which would seem to be a good match for MythTV, if I could get it running on this NAS.

I’ve looked into running MythTV on Docker in the past.  Searching around the net, I’ve found people talking about it, and there are even some Docker images available for MythTV, but documentation hasn’t exactly been a strong point.  There is an image for Unraid of an older version of MythTV, but I wanted to use .28.  Fortunately, someone made a newer container with that version!  It works on a Synology, if installed correctly…  With a few caveats.  And since I had trouble finding good instructions on getting this to work on a Synology NAS, I thought I would post it here for anyone else who wants to try this.

My Installation
1. DSM 6.1-15047
2. Docker 1.11.2-0316 installed via Package Center

To Install

  1. Login to DSM and start Docker
  2. Go to the Registry and search for MythTV
  3. Download mp54u/myth28:latest
  4. When done, to the the Image section, click on the image and hit the Launch button
  5. In the Create Container window that pops up, hit the Advanced Settings button
  6. Click on the Network tab, then check the box Use the same network as Docker Host
  7. On the Volume tab, create three mount paths:
    1. Create/Select /media/MythTV and set the path to /home/mythtv
    2. Create/Select /media/MythTV/recordings and set the path to /var/lib/mythtv
    3. Create/Select /media/MythTV/db and set the path to /db
  8. On the Environment tab, add a variable called TZ and set the value to  the appropriate timezone.  In my case, this was America/New_York.  There should be no spaces in the name here.  Google for Linux and TimeZones and you’ll probably be able to find a list of them.  Make sure to use the right one.
  9. Launch your new MythTV container.  Give it a couple minutes before continuing.
  10. Open a VNC client.  Put in your DiskStation’s IP, and remote control it.
  11. You should be logged into your Docker now.

Note:  The username and password are both mythtv.

At this point, you should be able to run the MythTV Backend Setup tool and configure MythTV.  After it’s configured, MythWeb will be running on your DiskStation, port 6760.

This forum post, which is a little specific to Unraid and involves the older docker image with MythTV .25 or so, should help you set it up past this point.  Note – He talks about using RDP to control it, but that did not seem to work when using Host networking, but VNC did from my Mac (using Chicken of the VNC).  Be aware that I have had issues exiting from the MythTV Backend Setup tool where VNC seems to lock up.  I’ve had another time where it exited normally, but the Backend didn’t seem to start afterward.  In both cases, a quick restart of the Docker container got it back up and running again.  If anyone comes across these issues and figures out a good long term fix, please leave it in the comments!

Front End
In my opinion, about the best front end that will run on a set top box is MrMC.  It’s available for AppleTV and for FireTV and is pretty inexpensive.  It includes the MythTV PVR add-on and is easy to configure, especially if you have experience with Kodi.

February 28, 2017 at 11:33 pm 4 comments

HP N54L is on the way

I am in the process of acquiring a used HP N54L N40L.  If you don’t know, this is a microserver.  They are extremely small machines that have room for 4 swappable hard drives, and maybe two more without adding any more cards.  I heard about it a year or more ago and considered buying one for myself, but ultimately my budget decided I couldn’t afford it.

What changed?  Well, this machine was a gift, so the budget isn’t a factor.  Since I found out it was coming my way, I have been looking around the web to find out the best thing to do with it.  It didn’t take long before I ran across pages talking about installing ESXi 5.5 (there is an ESX image for it put out by HP!)  Since there is a supported version of ESXi floating around, it’s liable to be very stable.  Further, from what I’ve read, the processor in this unit isn’t really that bad.  A quick check shows that it’s a little shy of twice as fast as the processor in my Synology 1512+ NAS.

Speaking of the NAS, some of the tutorials I’ve found tell you how to install Synology’s OS on a VM, then point it to your individual raw disks.  If this works as well as I suspect it might, I could end up with the advantages of Synology OS running in a VM, but still keep the advantage of the physical write speeds as if it were running natively.  I could also have a couple of other VMs running at the same time (not doing any hard number crunching).

I”m not 100% sure what I’m going to do yet, but I’m working on the plans.

Update:  The server arrived, and it was actually the older version, the HP N40L, not the N54L.  So, the processor speed is 1.5 Ghz, instead of the 2.2 Ghz I was expecting.  Other than that, it’s the same, really.  It’s got a lot less processing power than I expected, but I think it’s still a potentially very useful box.  Considering that it was given to me at no cost, I can’t complain too much about the mix-up.

August 15, 2014 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

Synology DSM 5.0 is out, meh…

Back on March 10th, Synology released DSM 5.0 to the world, post-beta.

I’ve been running it now for about two weeks, and I’m fairly happy with it.  There were no issues with upgrading to it from 4.3, and even installing 5.0 Update 1 a few days after the initial 5.0 upgrade went very smoothly.  It’s been just as stable with the 5.0 as it had been under 4.3, which is to say VERY.

First off, the main feature you’ll notice is the new coat of paint.  They already had the most advanced UI for a NAS on the market, but they’ve been pushing the boundaries anyhow.  The icons are now more colorful and generally simpler in design.  Really, it looks like they gave DSM the IOS 7 treatment.  It appears the devs are moving toward the Mac style, right down to the Launchpad look-a-like that shows up each time you hit the equivalent of the Start button.  Good news if you have tablets at home, the UI is now touch-capable.

For small businesses, the new DSM supports a central management tool allowing you to see all your NAS devices in a single app.  Haven’t tested that, as I only have one Synology NAS, but this sounds like a great new feature for small businesses that have multiple NAS devices.

Cloud Sync is a new feature allowing you to sync your Google Drive, Drop Box (and perhaps other) storage accounts with your NAS natively.

From a functionality standpoint, they claim to have sped up the performance of both AFP and SMB file transfers. Oh, and if iSCSI is your thing, they claim it is up to 6 times faster.

Personally, I’m not very excited about this new upgrade.  Yes, the speed enhancements are very nice, but most of the new features weren’t really aimed at users like me.  The new UI was really unneeded at this point, either, since it was already better than anything else you can get in a NAS.

What would I have rather seen?  It may be boring to the people at Synology, but more high-quality apps.  Work with the third parties out there to make all the apps on Synology devices better.  For example, I understand the built-in video station does some hardware assisted transcoding.  It would be awesome if they would give specs to the Plex guys on how they could incorporate that into Plex also.  If they did that, perhaps I wouldn’t have moved Plex from my Diskstation to my Mac Mini (my main workstation).

April 2, 2014 at 10:30 pm Leave a comment

New Samsung 840 EVO SSD install in 2011 Mac Mini

My recent post recounted the problems that I’ve had since doing my own DIY Fusion drive installation.  Basically, it sounds like my 500 GB drive was starting to die, even though running a SMART test against it showed everything was great.  The clicking I heard on boot-up definitely sounded mechanical, and since the only two mechanical things in the Mini are the system fan and the hard drive, I think the hard drive is the safer bet as the source of the problem.

I ordered a Samsung 840 EVO 500 GB SSD on Saturday.  It was scheduled to arrive sometime today, so I made sure to have a recent backup via Time Machine and via SuperDuper! (to an external drive).  Once that was complete, I shut down the Mini and proceeded to disassemble it.  It arrived around 5 PM and I set off to installing it.

If you’ve never opened up the DVD-less Mac Mini, I’ll say it’s not for the faint of heart.  Today, I removed both the original hard drive and the 128 GB Crucial m4 drive that had been running as a fused pair.  I have serious doubts about the HDD, but I expect that I’ll reinstall the 128 GB SSD in a machine my kids use for homework and such.

The installation of the Samsung 840 EVO went very well.  The most difficult part was getting it aligned with the two holes in the carrier.  Perhaps I should have done that with the carrier outside of the chassis.  One of the two screws that goes through the perforated aluminum plate wouldn’t reach the SSD hole.  Not wanting to dissemble things again, I let that one minor flaw in place and completed the assembly.

I had previously created an 8 GB flash drive to make re-installing OS X 10.9 easier, so I went that route.  The SSD was seen by disk utility, I formatted it, and then installation went without incident.  After it rebooted, it prompted me to restore.  I selected Time Machine, put in the password to pull the Time Machine Backups off of my NAS, and let it start restoring.  Here, OS X had all sorts of difficulty figuring out how long it would take to completely restore everything.  It might show 51 minutes, or 4 hours.  The restore process actually took more like 2 1/2 hours.

Now, I’m back up and running with 10.9 installed on a 500 GB SSD, with about 370 GB of it in use.

My Mini is now significantly faster than with the Fusion drive.  Don’t get me wrong, the Fusion drive was faster than the HDD alone, but the SSD alone is so much better than the Fusion drive.

The 840 EVO is among the fastest consumer SSD drives available now, at a great price point.  I wasn’t too keen on the 840 series when I read it uses the cheaper TLC.  Not only does it allow for fewer writes than SLC, it’s slower doing those writes.  This means it should be less reliable and perform worse, a bad combination if there ever was one.  However, the EVO version pairs the TLC with a SLC cache of sorts, so you can perform faster writes.  And Samsung’s reliability of the 840 hasn’t been bad at all.  According to what I’ve read, I’m expecting this new SSD to last 15 years or more.

My mini has had new life breathed into it.  Moving from a Hard Drive to a SSD is truly one of the best upgrades you can do yourself.

October 29, 2013 at 11:02 pm 6 comments

My DIY Fusion drive under 10.8.3

I finally installed 10.8.3 tonight after ensuring that my SuperDuper clone was up-to-date.  I’ve been avoiding it a little, just in case there are issues with my DIY Fusion drive.

The upgrade went smoothly, and soon I was sitting back at my normal login screen.

After the install, I checked things out, relative to my DIY Fusion drive.  To refresh everyone’s memory, I have the 500 GB Toshiba HD that came with my 2011 Mac mini, “fused” with a 128 GB Crucial M4 SSD.

The Storage tab under “About This Mac” recognizes it as a 628 GB “Fusion Drive”.  That’s a good start…

Disk Utility shows my Fusion drive as a Logical Volume Group.  It shows the capacity as 626.94 GB, with 621.51 GB used and 5.43 GB free.  Below that in the Disk Utility window is the actual partition that my files reside on, which shows a capacity of 614.48 GB, with 352.78 GB used.  These numbers are in agreement with the “About This Mac” numbers.  This looks pretty good too.

Interestingly, if I go to the Partition tab when my Logical Volume Group is selected, it shows one partition of 499.25 GB…  Which looks to me like numbers related to the actual size of my Mini’s hard drive.  This doesn’t look like I would have expected.

Next, I took a closer look at System Information.  There I noticed that TRIM wasn’t enabled, so I ran Trim Enabler and turned it on.  After a reboot, Trim Enabler reports that it’s working, so I guess that’s one thing I’ll probably have to do every time there’s an OS update.

Overall, it looks like things are pretty safe in this release, but everything still doesn’t line up 100%.  I imagine that by the time I’m in the market for a replacement Mac (2014?  2015?), the mid-level Mini will probably come with SSDs standard, so I probably won’t need to “roll my own” Fusion drive again… But you never know!

April 5, 2013 at 9:38 pm Leave a comment

Synology DSM 4.2 is out! Radius Alert!

DSM version 4.1 has been my standard since I got my Diskstation sometime last summer.  Today, I happened to check and found that version 4.2 is now available.

NOTE:  Right now there is a screaming good deal on a 3TB WD Red drive at NewEgg ($139).  Check out for the coupon code.  I ordered one minutes after seeing the price, as that’s a very good buy on this drive, which NewEgg normally sells for $179.

Anyhow, I installed DSM 4.2 not expecting much, with it being a point upgrade.  Looking around at it though, I’m surprised, and in a good way!

The first thing I noticed was that the GUI for the Package Center is different.

The second thing I noticed was that there were a bunch of new packages that look really good.

DHCP Server
I remember this being a feature of 4.1, but I believe it was lacking reservations.  They are supported now, along with screen to show you the current leases, plus you can do multiple scopes now.
DNS Server
I’ve wanted a decent DNS server for my NAS, and now I’ve got one.  It’s got a nice GUI interface for setting up zones, and it seems pretty fast.  Not sure whats under the hood, but I’m using it as mine now.
Radius Server
This was a surprise, and it’s the Gem of the upgrade, in my opinion.  It’s got a deceptively simple GUI.   It was nice to see that it comes out-of-the-box with options to authenticate local users, LDAP users, or Domain users (the only options on the Settings panel).  The Clients panel allows you to add clients… I added a quick client (a newly created SSID on my OpenWRT box), set the Shared secret, and Applied it.   It’s got a Block List panel, which appears to allow you to set certain users (or groups) that you wish NOT to be authenticated.  Lastly, it has a Log panel, which lets you see what it’s been up to.

Perhaps most surprising of all, my simple test worked with very little effort.  I connected to my new WPA2 Enterprise SSID via my iPhone, and it prompted me to accept the Certificate, put in my new username and password, and it authenticated.  My iPhone was connected and working.  I may just move all of my Enterprise Auth to the Radius server on my Diskstation, if it proves to work well.

Other new features that I’ve only looked at briefly, but look good:Antivirus by McAfee – Not saying this is a good thing, but more A/V options aren’t really bad.
Syslog Server – Nice looking GUI interface.  It’s not Splunk, but it’s decent.
Directory Server – Was this in 4.1?  I plan to check into this one when I have some time…

There are lots more packages, that look to be useful in a business setting as well.

I’ve already turned off DHCP for my router and started using this as my caching DNS server.  Perhaps this weekend, I’ll move my “main” SSID over to let my DiskStation handle the Radius auth as well.

March 14, 2013 at 12:06 am 1 comment

My DIY Fusion Drive Follow-up

Way back on 11/21/2012 I created my Fusion drive on my Mac mini, using a Crucial 128 GB SSD + the original 500 GB Toshiba 5400 RPM hard drive.  This wasn’t long after upgrading from 8 GB of Ram to 16 GB.

As of today, I have used this system with the Fusion drive for a little over 6 weeks.  I am still running off the original install described in my previous blog post.  I occasionally clone my system to a 750 GB external drive, along with my Time Machine backup (stored on my NAS).

I’m using just over 50% of the capacity of my Fusion drive (322 GB out of 614).  The system seems just as snappy today as when I first installed the Fusion drive.  Prior to my recent upgrade, I was used to my system running somewhat sluggishly when doing typical work with VMs.  Now, there’s a pretty brief pause while waiting for a VM to suspend or restore, but that’s about it.  Most everything that I do is almost instantaneous.

Six weeks in, and I’m very happy with the results.  For the price of the $50 upgrade kit plus the $79 SSD, I would have to say that this has been one of my most cost efficient upgrades yet.

January 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm Leave a comment

My DIY Fusion Drive

Fusion Drive!

Ever since reading about Apple’s new “Fusion Drive” announcement, I’ve been intrigued.  The idea of adding an SSD of substantial size to a hard drive, with the OS performing behind-the-scenes data shuffling so the things you need more often are on the SSD, is pretty attractive.  Add to that the fact that it works on the block level, not just the file level, and you have a serious advancement.

In performing additional research about it, I found some reports that agree with the initial DIY assessments, and one report that disputes the results, saying that they never saw files move back and forth.  They’re suggestion was to just buy a small SSD, install the OS on it, and link your Photos, Music, etc to your secondary hard drive.  While they brought up the need to do things like this (if, for example, you work on large video files, and want to edit them on the SSD to save time), I can’t say that is the best route.  If it were business critical, I’d just spend the money on a large SSD and be done with it.

Anyhow, as luck would have it, I’d been toying with the idea of buying one of the kits online to add a SSD to my 2011 Mac Mini.  So, I pulled the trigger on that order, and within a few days, had a sale on the Crucial m4 128 GB drive, down to just over $70, so I ordered that as well.

The Hard Work

Yesterday, I had both of the components in hand, so I performed the delicate operation.  I am not new to opening up my machines, having previously built numerous PCs, along with hard drive swaps in an original Mac mini and the first model of Intel iMac.  Aside from those, my only other mac internal experience has been upgrading RAM in some of the previous generation Mac minis (which wasn’t bad, but far more involved than the 2011 mac mini RAM upgrade process).

This operation took me probably a full hour to perform.  Maybe a bit longer.  Doing this is serious business.  If you are considering this yourself, watch the install video.  Then, watch it again.  Installing a second drive involves removing almost every single component of the Mac mini from the chassis.  The connectors and cables are very delicate.  I felt like I was dangerously close to breaking something at numerous points throughout the process.

The instructions from Other World Computing (included in my kit) were excellent, except for one minor point.  Step 1 on the Assembly process says to replace the two Torx T6 screws to attach the drive housing to the chassis.  Try as I might, the screw on the right side was too long.  After trying for several minutes, I sat back and reviewed the dis-assembly instructions.  It was then that I realized that you must reinstall the power supply before attaching the right side screw, since it should go through a tab that sticks out from the power supply.  The instructions I was following start the process of installing the power supply in step 2, finishing the power supply install in step 6.  OWC should really fix that.

Other installation issues:

  • Installing the SSD in the drive is easy, but be sure to screw the screws in far enough.  If your screws aren’t in pretty far, they will bump up against the inside of the chassis, keeping you from properly lining up the drive housing with the screw holes in the chassis.
  • Installing the hard drive is trickier than it looks in the videos.  That step alone took me 10-15 minutes, mostly because its very hard to ensure you have it in the right spot.  The manual suggests placing a screwdriver in one of the screw holes on the side of the drive that’s visible to help position the drive.  That didn’t seem to help me much.  I think I finally got it in on my second attempt to position it while the chassis was sitting upright (so gravity could help me position it, a little).

Prior to installation:

1. I used SuperDuper to make a clone of my boot drive.
2. Made sure my Time Machine backup was up-to-date.
3. I created a bootable Mountain Lion 10.8.2 USB drive.

After installation:

1. I booted normally (against the hard drive).
2. I downloaded the latest Crucial m4 firmware, burned it to a CD ROM, and booted to it to update the firmware using my external DVD drive.  (ALWAYS upgrade your SSD firmware!  There are some issues with older firmware and the most recent version is said to improve performance by as much as 25%.)
3. I installed TrimEnabler, turned Trim on and rebooted to enable Trim on the SSD.  (Run it after the reboot to ensure it’s supported with your SSD!)
4. Updated my Time Machine backup and my SuperDuper clone one last time.

OS Re-installation:

1. I followed the instructions on to enable Fusion (steps 4 – 7).
2. I tried booting from my 10.8.2 USB stick and restoring a Time Machine backup to my Fusion drive twice, but it failed each time within just a few minutes of starting.
3. Finally, I did a clean install and restored my system from Time Machine after installing the OS.  Perhaps #2 is a bug related to Fusion drives.
4. Using Trim Enabler, I saw that TRIM wasn’t enabled, so I turned it back on again and rebooted.  After that, Trim was enabled!


I don’t have any real metrics to show.  The various tools to measure speed are mostly useless here anyhow, since anything written to the drive will go to the SSD first, and most tools would probably then read what they just wrote, meaning they’d be reading from the SSD as well.

My SSD is the 128 GB Crucial M4, and the hard drive is a 500 GB Toshiba (5400 RPM) – the original drive that came with my 2011 Mac mini (the mid-level model with discrete graphics).  My Fusion drive is 614.48 GB (I left about 10 GB free for the recovery partition).  I’m using 342.95 GB, so I’m far above the 128 GB of my SSD.

Caution:  Don’t use the Disk Utility that comes with 10.8.2 for anything to do with the Fusion drive.  When looking at it in Disk Utility, it sees the name of my LVM (Fusion) and the name of the partition, but it shows it as the 500 GB drive.  The next version of 10.8 will probably have a new version that sees Fusion drives appropriately.

Noticeable Changes:

My boot time is considerably faster now.  Like 1/3rd or 1/4th the previous boot time.

Resuming and Suspending my VMware Fusion VMs is substantially faster than before.  This is something that I hoped to see, but was skeptical.  According to initial reports about Fusion, this works on the block level, so it’s possible that just the portions of the VM disk files that are frequently accessed are on the SSD, with the portions that don’t get used often residing on the hard drive.

Applications seem to launch instantly.  Most apps have their window on screen before the dock icon completes the first “bounce”.  Apps like Civ V still seem to take their time on the “Loading” screen, but apps I use on a daily basis are very snappy.  Perhaps if I start playing Civ V again, it will speed up too?


My results are completely subjective, but given the nature of the Fusion drive, it’s difficult to test.

With that in mind, so far I really like it.  My system seems snappier and more responsive with my DIY Fusion drive.

It looks like a good way for a relatively casual user to get most of the performance benefits of an SSD without the high cost of getting an SSD big enough to hold everything.  At least, if you don’t buy it from Apple.  They are currently charging $250 extra for a drive with a street price of about $110 (or even under $100 on sale).


1. There is not currently a way to see how your files are laid out across the drives.  Not really a Con, unless you are a control freak.  It just would be really nice to have some evidence that the Fusion process is moving data around.
2. Since the Fusion drive is a combination of two physical drives, you are doubling the chance of catastrophic drive failure.  A single drive failing will cause you to lose all the data on your Fusion drive.  This just makes it all that more important to keep your data backed up.

November 21, 2012 at 11:31 pm 2 comments

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