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I have a late 2012 Mac mini that came with a 500 GB HDD installed from the factory. It's almost full so I want to upgrade it to a 1 TB Fusion Drive, as the cost for a 1 TB SSD is still steep. The Mac mini is currently running 10.8.5 (I'm not sure if it's even compatible with Fusion Drives) and I'm going to upgrade the machine to 10.10.

Do I need to do anything in particular to use a 3rd party Fusion / Hybrid Drive?

In the past when I've moved to a new drive, I just put the new drive in an enclosure and then backup the old drive (whilst still inside the machine) using Carbon Copy Cloner. Will this work with a Fusion / Hybrid Drive? As I guess the OS files need to be saved to the SSD part of the drive.

For reference I was thinking of using a Seagate SSHD drive like this Seagate SSHD Laptop.

  • What @samh said below is right-on, in the sense that in Apple-speak "fusion" as a core storage is the same thing, but different than buying a pre-made hybrid ssd+spinning drive. Comment back if you want instructions on doing in the Apple way, I can make a really solid answer on that. – forgotstackxpassword Sep 24 '16 at 15:25
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No, there is nothing special you need to do.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, the way that hybrid drives work is that they monitor the data being read from the drive and, over time, they identify what files are regularly read from the drive. The drive then caches the most frequently accessed files to the high speed NAND flash memory.

The net result is that hybrid hard drives blend HDD capacity with SSD speeds.

A couple of years ago I actually installed a 1TB Seagate hybrid drive into a 15" MacBook Pro (late 2008) model and the improvement was amazing. Well worth it in my situation!

In terms of how you go about doing this, it's really a matter of personal choice. I've used Carbon Copy Cloner, Time Machine and others. In recent years I've just used Time Machine to manage all my backups and then restore data that way. I also use two Time Machine backup drives for each computer.

Hope this helps.

  • Thanks, do you know if the hybrid drive will work on 10.8 ? (This machines running only got 5gb of space left so i need to change the HD asap. What ill probally do is a 1:1 port of the HD to the new hybrid drive, then upgrade or clean install to 10.10 when ive got more time on my hands.) – sam Sep 23 '16 at 16:34
  • Yes, it will. As far as macOS is concerned, it's just another hard drive. All the work of monitoring the files and caching those most commonly used is done by the hard drive itself - macOS is none the wiser. In the MacBook Pro I installed one into I'm still running Mac OS X 10.6.8 (only because of some particular software requirements) and I've never had a problem (it works beautifully). If your intention is to do a clean install of Yosemite, then if possible do a Time Machine backup just before doing so and then migrate across the data you need. – Monomeeth Sep 23 '16 at 21:05
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    Note: the increased performance may not be obvious immediately as the drive will take some time to determine what data is being used most frequently. And, after you do the clean install, that process will effectively start again. Whatever you do, always make sure you regularly backup. All hard drives can fail and using something like Time Machine is a must! – Monomeeth Sep 23 '16 at 21:05
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Strictly speaking, this won't be a Fusion drive as far as OS X 10.8 or 10.10 are concerned. The operating system will see the new part as a single drive, and Seagate's firmware will do all the "Fusion" parts on its own. This should be as simple as your previous storage upgrades.

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There is one very important thing to do and that is to enable TRIM support

sudo trimforce enable

In OS X prior to Yosemite, you had no way to enable TRIM on 3rd party drives. But in Yosemite and later (10.10 and on) Apple included the ability to enable TRIM on non 1st Party (OEM) drives.

Why TRIM?

From Apple Insider:

Part of the ATA standard, TRIM helps optimize garbage data handling in SSDs by earmarking files no longer in use for permanent deletion. Unlike conventional spinning hard drives, SSDs perform erase operations before writing new files, meaning multiple erase/write operations could create a backlog of garbage bits that gradually slow the system down.

As for cloning my drive, I am not a fan of simply copying the image of a drive from one to the next unless I am doing disaster recovery. What I would do is a Time Machine back up, do a fresh install of the OS of my choice, then migrate the data from Time Machine.

Is this more time consuming? Yes. But I have found it much more reliable.

That said...

As for your setup, I would probably create my own Fusion Drive. Instead of buying a single HDD, there are 2nd hard drive kits you can get that allow you to install two drives in the Mac mini. The instructions on how to install are on iFixit.com

This (IMO) gives you more flexibility. You can use them as two separate drives or create your own hybrid/fusion drive using CoreStorage

As for your drive choice, (also IMO) I would say away from anything Seagate. I prefer Western Digital just based on the number of failures I have with Seagate drives. I have found WD to be much more reliable. It also seems I am not the only one according to USA Today

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