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I have a Mac mini (Mid 2011) and I want to use an external SSD (Samsung Portable SSD T5) with it. Now the problem is that Mac mini (Mid 2011) only has:

  • Thunderbolt port (up to 10 Gbps) (not Thunderbolt 3, perhaps Thunderbolt 2) :-(
  • Four USB 2.0 ports (up to 480 Mbps)

I guess that the only way I can leverage the speed of the external SSD is by using it thru the Thunderbolt port. The external SSD is back compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. But AFAIK using it on one of the USB 2.0 ports will defeat the whole purpose of using a SSD. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.

So, I tried to find a Thunderbolt 2 to USB Type-C cable, but couldn't find it anywhere. Only items which I could find are USB C to Mini Display Port Cables but they specifically state that they:

  • Supports video only (not data transfer)
  • Check for a Mini DisplayPort port (not a Thunderbolt / Thunderbolt 2 port

I also found that using these:

can (possibly) resolve the issue, but these items are super expensive. I was hoping to spend a little less on the connectors.

So, essentially I want to use a high-speed external SSD with an ancient machine. Is there any way I can do that?

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  • Same problem here. I just bought the SSD thinking it was going to be fast on my Mini 2011. How did you solve it? Apr 12 '19 at 23:34
  • Well, I have not been able to solve it. :( After all apple spends (perhaps) millions of dollars to make sure that its customers can not upgrade the system in parts and have to buy new hardware, even when it is not necessary.
    – zeFree
    Apr 14 '19 at 1:49
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I do not think a simple cable to going to be sufficient. The differences between Thunderbolt and USB Type-C are different enough that an adapter will be needed. One such possible adapter would be the Kanex Thunderbolt Male to USB 3.1 (G2 Type-A) Female/ eSATA Female Adapter - Black. Unfortunately, this item is more expensive than anything mentioned in your question.

Another possible way to access the speed of a SSD would be to replace your internal drive. Although, these instructions show the upgrade procedure may be difficult.

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I know this question is old but I came across a solution for myself. I wanted to speed up an old Mac with a new drive but keep the drive "future proof" by getting one with USB-C. I did this by getting a drive with a USB-C port, as opposed to an attached USB-C cable. A drive like the one in the link. -> https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/ENVPROC2N02/

By having a female port instead of a captive cable with a male plug I can use a common USB-C to USB-A cable to plug into any USB-A port at USB 3.1 speeds. I found out that this drive from OWC is backward compatible with USB 2.0, which makes it potentially even more useful in the future.

USB-C on a drive can mean it's talking USB or Thunderbolt on the wire. A ThunderBolt drive with a USB-C port on it might fall back to USB 3.x or even USB 2.0 but don't bet on it without looking closely at the spec sheet.

A ThunderBolt drive with a captive USB-C cable (like this one -> https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/TB3ENVP20/ ) is not going to plug into a computer with ThunderBolt 2 and USB-A ports cheaply and easily.

Best option, in my opinion, for connecting fast drives to ThunderBolt 2 computers is an adapter like this -> https://www.kanex.com/thunderbolt-esata

With a USB 3.x and eSATA ports you will be able to plug into faster drives, and with ports more common than ThunderBolt 2. A drive with a USB-C port (as opposed to a captive cable) can plug in with an inexpensive USB-A to USB-C "superspeed" cable.

If you really, absolutely, need a USB-C port that can be used to plug in a SSD at it's best speed then you are looking at a ThunderBolt 2 PCIe breakout box with a USB-C card inside. Maybe you can still find a ThunderBolt 2 dock with a USB-C port but as I recall they were always rare, expensive, and not on the market for long.

One example of such a breakout box. -> https://eshop.macsales.com/item/AKiTiO/2PCTIA/

There's lots of USB-C PCIe cards out there, I'll leave finding those as an exercise for the reader.

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