iMac 5K external storage question.

Aug 25, 2013
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Hi all,

I'm planning to upgrade my mid-2010 iMac to the new 5k iMac and am pretty much sure of the spec I'm going for, apart from the HDD vs SSD external storage...

I'm a working photographer, so wanting best possible speeds for least money, haha! My plan was to go for the 256Gb internal SSD, for the OS, programs and the RAW images I'm working on at the time (I have a NAS setup for my Time Machine backups, so that's sorted). I then plan to have my image libraries and other files on external drives and I was weighing up the pros and cons of USB3 vs Thunderbolt external storage. As I'm limited to the speeds of these ports, is it worth getting external SSD storage or better just sticking with normal HDD?

I know you can pay a huge amount for thunderbolt & SSD storage and I'm just not sure whether it's worth it for me. I'm a pretty heavy Lightroom user, so I'm guessing that if my 'to do images', so to speak, are on the SSD whilst I'm working on them, external USB 3 storage for everything else, should be absolutely fine?

Dec 8, 2009
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The same as Sheldon Cooper - East Texas
Your Mac's Specs
iMac 2014 i5 5k 32gb 1tb fusion, second TB display, 2014 MBA
I just got an i5 iMac 5k, to replace a lightning struck older i7 27 incher. It is considerably faster than the older model and twice as fast as my maxed out Mini i7. I just got the standard model with the 1tb fusion drive (but I upgraded the memory to max aftermarket) and use a pair of USB 3 5tb drives for offline storage. I have lots of data, but little need for instant access of it.

The externals are FAST, especially after using 2.0 2tb drives for years. I know that the Thunderbolt connection would be about 4x faster, but I can't imagine doing anything that would justify the difference in cost and complexity. In my opinion, you would have to be an EXTREME power user to justify the cost to need to load a file in 4 seconds, rather than 16.

And the fusion drive gives you most of the speed of an SSD with much more space for the money.

Anyway, my 2 cents.


I concur entirely with cptkrf -- the Fusion Drive is fast fast fast and huge, and USB3 should be fast enough for nearly all external drive needs (and if not, Thunderbolt will definitely be). Save your money and skip the internal SSD IMO.

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