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New iMac Question

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by loko12345, Dec 7, 2012.

  1. loko12345

    loko12345 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 8, 2012
    I'm trying to decide on the right, or I guess ideal, hard drive configuration for the new iMac that I am about to purchase. I plan to install and use Lightroom on the iMac (note that I have not used Lightroom before, so I am a bit unfamiliar with the whole catalog and photo files thing being separate, but I get the concept generally).

    As you may know, Apple has introduced a Fusion Drive, it comes either in 1TB or 3TB. Basically, it's sort of like a hybrid drive, with a 128 SSD HD and either a 1TB or 3TB regular HD (which I believe runs at 7400 RPM). The idea is that the Fusion Drive automatically figures out which files/applications you use the most and puts those on the SSD portion for faster access, and the less often used files (old videos, pictures, documents, etc..) get put on the the non-SSD portion of the drive.

    Initially I was leaning toward the 3TB, but I read that as of now one can't install Bootcamp on the 3TB drive; Apple does not support it. So, even though Apple may come up with a fix, I am now thinking of the 1TB drive as I may want to use Bootcamp in the future.

    I guess my question is, Bootcamp issue aside, which configuration would produce the best Lightroom results/performance in your opinion: The 1TB Fusion Drive (with Lightroom and the catalog file on the Fusion Drive) and the actual image files on an external USB drive, or having everything (Lightroom, catalog file, image files, etc..) on the single 3TB drive? Do I lose any speed/performance by storing the image files on the external drive?

    I am new to iMacs and Lightroom, so any help advice/opinions would be much appreciated!

  2. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    It appears you have more than one question here.

    When you setup a Boot Camp partition, it is stored in the HDD no matter what. The 3 TB support is assumed to be coming. I would just wait on this and emulate Windows until an update fixes it. It should be relatively easy for Apple to update the app to support higher than 1 TB hard drives. Unfortunately some idiot didn't think about HDDs beyond 1 TB when they wrote the Boot Camp Assistant app. Even more unfortunate--Fusion Drive is some what of a proprietary system and still being explored by the modding community, so no 3rd party app support as of yet.

    I think it'll be likely that Disk Utility will receive an update first, followed by Boot Camp Assistant and 3rd party apps that uses Disk Utility to create partitions in OS X.

    A technical breakdown of the problem: Boot Camp is written to create a MBR partition for Windows. New partitions used in newer operating systems are now using or supporting GUID. Due to the legacy support Windows will always default to MBR first in a hybrid configuration. So the solution (I think) for Apple is to ask user whether or not they will be installing 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows. Since Windows 7 64-bit's GUID support is fairly mature, Boot Camp Assistant will simply create a partition table without MBR and it should be dandy from there. It currently creates a partition using MBR and formats it as FAT32. That is pretty archaic. Though this isn't entirely Apple's fault, Windows running in 32-bit configuration simply will not boot using GUID. MBR's limitation is 2.2 TB.

    I don't know if you remember when Microsoft introduced NTFS in consumer Windows. People were so confused by the differences between FAT32 and NTFS. Majority of them simply continued using FAT32 until they hit a bottleneck, kind of like today!

    If you have a Fusion Drive system configured, having everything on it would yield best performance. Let OS X do the optimizations for you.

    You will lose some performance storing images on an external drive. The performance difference will be based on the type of connection interface you're using to the external and the type of drive used in the external. FireWire 800 and USB 3 will be close in performance and will show noticeable performance difference from using the internal drive. USB 2 based externals will be significantly slower.

    Thunderbolt will largely negate slow downs. It doesn't beat an internal drive but it's very close. The drive inside the Thunderbolt enclosure will be the bottleneck. So at least pick one that is based on a high RPM HDD.

    If you're going to spend money and have a Fusion Drive configuration then let it do the work for you. That'll give you the best performance. Use an external for backup instead.
  3. loko12345

    loko12345 Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 8, 2012
    Thank you for the detailed response, it is extremely helpful. I think I'm just going to go ahead and get the 3TB Fusion and use externals as backup. I have to believe Apple is going to eventually provide Bootcamp support for the 3TB. Thanks again!
  4. apbtlvr

    apbtlvr Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 10, 2012
    If the primary use of your mac will be photo centric, you might consider this site useful.

    Macintosh Performance Guide: Articles & Reviews

    Note the author expresses real concerns about the consequences of fusion dive failure. I have no experience with fusion drive but tend to agree that a larger hardrive would be preferable. USB3 and Thunderbolt will enable storage expansion with much faster bus speeds, something I find desirable as my older macs are showing their age.

    Consider adding extra RAM yourself, something cost effective and easy to do. Apple products are getting increasingly harder to upgrade but do it yourself 32GB RAM upgrade costs under $200 vs $600 from Apple.
  5. LeoS

    LeoS Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 6, 2012
    Technically, a fusion drive catastrophe wouldn't be worse than a single drive failure.. in a single drive failure you will lose all your data on it, and on the fusion drive system you will lose your data only if the hdd fails. If only the SSD part fails, you should be able to boot and access your HDD data.

    But, some people have raised concerns of data corruption that occurs on fusion optimization process (copying of data back and forth between ssd-hdd in the background, without user's intervention) due to HFS+'s (OSX file system) weaknesses. This I have not verified, but it may be sidestepped because fusion works on the block level.

    At any rate, whichever setup you choose, you should implement a backup system. Time Machine should be adequate, all you need to do is connect a drive that's as large/larger than your system's drive and enable Time Machine when the system offers you to enable it.
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