WD Raptor + Mac Mini Intel = external 10k rpm SATA madness

Alright, I had this crazy idea last week: Let’s see if I can somehow route the internal SATA interface of the Mac Mini to the outside of the case so I could attach a bigger and faster external (e)SATA drive. Well, guess I wasn’t the only person with such ideas:
Perle over at 123Macmini.com already has brief instructions on how he did the internal to external mod.
I’ve made some refinements to his process which I will post shortly – along with a few pictures and links where to get the parts. Update: It’s here.

So, after doing the science (finding the right adapters and cables etc.) and tearing apart the Mac Mini with a pizza cutter (yes, you read right!), I finally have my fast drive (Wester Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150 GB @ 10k rpm) and the Mac Mini is still as energy efficient as previously – mostly due to the fact that another FireWire drive is now in standby mode most of the time.

That should make me the first person with a WD Raptor in use on a Mac Mini. W00t! ;)

Obligatory XBench results that mean absolutely nothing:
Madness
Comparison with modded 7200 rpm Mac Mini

I’m using the Pleiades Super S-Combo external enclosure with the WD Raptor. The enclosure is made of aluminium. No cheap plastic parts here. It’s pretty solid and the aluminium functions as passive heatsink. That way, even under load the Raptor won’t cross the upper 55°C specification limit. My initial thought was that given the S-Combos universal FW400/FW800/USB2.0/eSATA-bridge it may perform worse than when connecting the cable directly to the drive. This is not the case. Actually, some benchmarks performed slightly better. I can only assume this being due to some sort of caching going on inside the bridge.
Also, if you think the drive is loud with its 10000 rpms, I can assure you it isn’t. Actually, in idle mode it is very much on par with the latest Seagate Barracuda drives which have a reputation for being very silent. The only thing that’s loud are the access noises, but in my opinion it’s not annoying.

4 thoughts on “WD Raptor + Mac Mini Intel = external 10k rpm SATA madness

  1. I also did the 10k Raptor experiment with excellent results. As you said, only the seeks are a little noisy at times but that can be easily muffled with a vertical framed column for the hard drive(s): Air comes in at the bottom and vents out at the top) with a heavy blanket wrapped around it.

    I power the Raptor and my large firewire drive with an ATX power supply (silently cooled with a 120mm fan running at 5 volts). I just realized today one can sleep the main system and then turn off the ATX power supply for dead quiet and almost zero electrical consumption. When I come back, I switch on the ATX, jiggle the mouse to wake up the system and POOF! I’m back. I never realized one could drop power to the hard drive when its in sleep mode and then recover so easily.

    Now if only someone would figure out how to overclock a Core 2 Duo CPU on a Mini!

    For better cooling, use a nice heatpipe designed chipset cooler like this one:
    http://www.extremeoverclocking.com/reviews/cooling/Thermalright_HR-05_SLI_IFX_1.html
    You’re have to modify the CPU mounting brackets but that shouldn’t be so difficult. It sure would be great to get rid of that ridiculous toy heatsink the Mini uses. I’m presently using a 120mm fan cooling the entire Mini. Its ugly but it really works well.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/9433215@N03/
    Temps here: I’m at the top and am by far the coolest…..:)
    http://www.intelmactemp.com/list?v_model=mac-mini&sort=hddsize

  2. Now the hard drive to get is the Velociraptor Western Digital (either the 150gb or 300gb). Few people even know about the 150gb. Its a shame they don’t come out with a small version for just the OS and Apps. It would cost much less, and have most of the performance as you don’t need a performance hard drive when accessing things like text files and movies (unless its HD maybe). C’mon Western Digital, how about a 36gb version of the Velociraptor! Could sell for less than $100.

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