External HDD enclosure - recommendations

I have a Mac mini running a Plex server (iTunes storage and other things) with a NewerTech miniStack as external storage.

Both the Mac mini and the miniStack are long in the tooth. The Mac mini is a 2011 i5 (replaced a 2012 Mac mini server when it died maybe 5 years back), and the miniStack is quite a few years older.

The MiniStack is maxed out at 4TB, and I am looking at a second enclosure for additional storage. I am looking for larger capacity, and something that will be a bit more future proof (Thunderbolt/USB-C). Nothing pricey as its for media storage, backups, etc and ideally low power.

Will be connected to an updated Mac mini (very likely an Intel machine) when the current one no longer functions.

Any suggestions.? thx

Have a look here:


Similar boat here.

I’ve been looking at the “Icy” jbod USB3 box for around $220… 4 drive capacity…


There’s a similar one from Orico on eBay but I think both have reviews saying the drives can get pretty hot, so may reduce lifespan…

So, not an NVME SSD in a thunderbolt enclosure then, as these are pricey.
Maybe a USB C connector enclosure with a large SATA 3 HDD inside. 4TB is still the sweet spot at present, although 6TB will be soon enough.
USB 3 will max out the SATA 3 drive interface and a USB C / thunderbolt plug for future proofing the connector cable. - Although a USB 3 enclosure with a USB to USB C cable (that many come with) could be cheaper.
If you want data security with a RAID enclosure or an entry level NAS, then that’s another story entirely…
Low power and drive sleep is more a function of the disk than the enclosure I think…

Well I just bit the bullet and ordered the Icy box above. Hoping it will “do the job” - provide fast enough speeds (“only” being USB3) for Plex, and not get too hot so as to damage the drives. The 2012 mini only has USB3, so it’s a match there, and if I do go up to a 2018 mini later, I’ll explore the idea of another external option if required.

Not sure if you (@avolve ) were looking for something as big as this one, but one thing I’ve seen in the consumer comments for this kind of box is that whilst the specs may claim high transfer rates, sometimes it’s only actually achievable on 1 of the bays, and the other bays are slower… and thus transfer between bays can be slow. I figure - for my purposes, “for now” - having 1 fast bay will suffice as the use of streaming services in our house has certainly reduced the use (and growth) of my Plex server.

When I was looking previously at NAS options, I was expecting to pay around $500 for something second hand… so am hoping by removing the network option, and getting something new, I’ll have a good experience.

They are pricey but I love Synology NAS units. Have a couple of them at the moment. Make great Plex servers. You can also monitor temps on your phone by using iStat.
My intention is to get another and place one of mine at my parents place. They can use it for their backups and I can use it for an offsite backup.

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The off-site back up idea sounds good! But I think if I tried that at my parents house, my dad would probably unplug it 27 times a month, and mum would plug it back in, and then she’d call me every other day to ask if it was meant to have that flashing light, and her friend told her that she thinks they have a virus and could it be the box’s fault, and…

I can sympathise with you there. Luckily my folks are within walking distance, so I see them quite often and can somewhat manage these things without too much hassle.

But yes, I am looking forward to setting up a proper offsite backup. I want to consolidate the three NAS units I have down to one. I am a bit of a data hoarder. I want to pick up the Synology 1621+, add some more RAM and a 10gb NIC. Once I fill that with some 10TB drives and some NVME cache drivers its going to be a good $5k investment. So it’s something I am putting aside some funds for slowly. But will see how things with the economy play out and whether I can justify such a spend.
Then will pass on my two Synology units to my folks and brother. That will then allow all of us to have off site backups.

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The Icy Box 4-Bay USB 3 arrived today.

It doesn’t come across as totally “cheap”, although - perhaps I just haven’t spent much time with expensive toys… :slight_smile: Inside the box there are some rails to slide the drives in, but first you attach a plastic handle to the front end of each drive using its existing mounting holes. The handle has some felt pads that then press up against the “gate” which secures the drives into position with some spring-loaded clips, so the drives can’t just fall out of the enclosure if you held it the wrong way.

Certainly, the front door itself wouldn’t stop the drives from falling, as it is secured only with a small magnet. Magnet… magnetic hard drives… Does that make sense? In my search, I’ve seen other JBOD boxes that also use magnets in their doors, so I’m presuming it’s safe!

I’ve installed the 3 x 3.5" drives that were inside my Mac Pro. (Looking now for a 5.25" optical drive enclosure, and will eventually mount my MacPro’s SSD in the 2012 MacMini’s lower bay.) I have another 2 drives I want to add, but it’s a 4-bay box, so I’ll have to sort my data around a bit first. Ultimately I will have 2 x 4TB and 2 x 2TB drives in this box, at least until I need more space…

The box itself is currently sitting behind my main screen, and whilst it is not as noisy as the old Firewire box… and it’s probably quieter than the Mac Pro… for a brief time this evening I was sitting in a silent office with just the Mac mini running, its fan barely noticable. The Icy Box in contrast is a definite presence in the room. I want to say… “air vent”.

Now - for performance…

I’ve just been doing some reading on this… as I thought I was going a little crazy.

Solid State drives - data exports at approx 200MB/s
7200rpm drives - approx 150MB/s.
5400rpm drives - slower, around 50MB/s.

USB3 offers speed up to 680MB/s.

So - when I used BlackMagic to test all 3 of the rpm drives - they clocked in at the abovementioned speeds expected for their drive rpm’s. There was no throttling. That is good! But - it made me wonder USB3? It’s a box designed for 3.5" drives that max at (approx) 150MB/s - that’s an overkill. Even if I slipped a 2.5" SSD inside, it should hopefully still read at its full capacity of 200MB/s.

In contrast however - I have a 7200rpm drive in the Firewire 800 box. It is only capable of 80MB/s - which means I’m not making use of the drive’s full potential until I move it to the Icy Box.

Real Life Test - Plex

I checked out Plex on my Xbox in the living room - running now from the Mac mini and Icy Box, instead of the Mac Pro alone. I can’t say I noticed any dropped frames except on a full HD file, and from memory, my setup just wasn’t handling full HD anyway. So - that’s a PASS for Plex.

Sorry @avolve , stole your thread!

For $210, so long as it doesn’t get too hot and damage my drives… and so long as it lasts me a good few years… I’ll be happy with this Icy Box as a replacement for the 2Bay Firewire 800 enclosure / MacPro.

(Feel free to correct me on any/all assumptions I’ve made above!)

And as an aside… I now have filled the IcyBox with 4 spinners, and now have an empty Firewire 800 2-bay enclosure. I was using it (aside from disks) as a bridge between my VCR / Camcorder / MacPro (Camcorder is FW400, and it has a FW400 port on the back - I couldn’t find a FW400 to FW800 cable that actually worked). May have to keep it for that purpose… if/when I resume archiving VHS recordings from the 90’s…

Mmm… I’m thinking my “Icy Box” has died.

I’ve commented how sometimes I need to turn it off and on because the drives disappear… last night I couldn’t get them to mount even with multi restarts of the Icy Box and Mac Mini. I’d just get the “Disk not ejected properly” pop-up error on all 4 drives.

I left it on when I went to bed… and there’s over 100 of the same error. Looks like the drives have been continuously trying to mount and failing.

I only use OWC enclosures these days. I have had a few of them now with never a problem. You can get them in Australia from MacFixit.

Just spent half hour trying to figure out who I bought the thing from lol - thought it must have been Scorptec cos of link above, but it was Mwave. I’ll do a lil more testing with it… but otherwise considering it’s only 6 months since purchase, I’ll be asking for a replacement / refund so I can look at a better option…

So do you reckon you’ll try a replacement or get something else? Does your mini have Thunderbolt?

I presume I’m not expecting too much by expecting it to be able to stay “on” 24/7, sleeping when the Mac mini sleeps… I have managed to get it to connect again, but as previous it still drops out randomly; sometimes reconnects by itself but otherwise needing to be turned off/on.

I may just go with a replacement for now… and then if that is no better, look at something else. (Not wanting any additional expenses right now with the whole buying a house thing…)

The 2012 Mac mini has a Thunderbolt port - currently running my 2nd monitor. I gather I may be able to use a hub to split that? So could look at a Thunderbolt multi-drive bays…

All in all, this Mac Mini /HDD tower trial has proved to work… so ideally at some point I will upgrade to a newer Mini… and better HDD option, but it’ll be a matter of expense / reward.

Good luck!

Have you had any luck with your Icy Box?

Just sent an email to Mwave now… will see whether they want to refund or replace - for now I’d be happy either way.

Keep us up to date…

Mwave are getting me to return it for testing, free postage.

Now I just need to remember which box I packed my Firewire 2bay enclosure so I can at least have some of my drives operating…

(Our house settlement has been pushed to 28 Feb to allow for the repairs after the flood, but we were meant to have taken possession this week - we’re pretty much in limbo right now, half packed, boxes everywhere…)

I’ve just been thinking about upgrading or replacing my external drive setup. I’ve pretty much decided to stick with 2nd hand Mac minis now (will start to look for an M2 around the end of the year) so I need the external storage.