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Hardware specific issues - computers, graphics cards, mice/input devices, system benchmarks, protection key issues, etc.

Moderators: ejrolon, Barry Kelly, Karl Ottenstein, LaszloNagy, gkmethy

By Don Lee
I have two 27" iMacs:

The first one is a 2010 2.93 ghz Intel Core i& w/ 12g ram and a
ATI Radeon HD5750 1024 MB. 1T disc drive. It functions as the server.

The second one is a 5k 27" late 2015 4ghz Intel core i7 w/24 GB ram and an AMD Radeon R9 M395X 4096 MB. 500GB SSD drive

The newer one is obviously a lot faster, but I think much of the speed is due to the SSD drive on the newer one. I have searched around a bit, but has anyone used an external SSD drive as a start up drive on an older iMac like mine?

I need to wait on buying an new machine (hope they update the iMacs in the not too distant future) and thought that using a 250MB external SSD for start up and holding Archicad applications on the older iMac would help without going inside the iMac.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Is this setup hard to do?


By Don Lee
Hi Karl:

Thanks for quick reply. I watched the video and as i'm pretty handy it looks like something I could do, but I really can't risk having the iMac go down if I make a mistake. Thats why an external drive was an easy solution.

You thought the external ssd wouldn't help much-is it because of the connection speed? It does have a thunderbolt port. I'll be doing some more research, but was hoping someone here might have tried the same thing.
By Don Lee
Ok, to clarify, my intent would be that the new iMac would be used to do everyday work and renderings when needed. The older iMac is the server and is also used for everyday design modeling and 2d work.

I would load a bootable system and ArchiCad on on the external SSD. That way an ArchiCad file would be transferred to the SSD where it could be worked on much faster than on the older iMacs slow drive. This would be much like when a file is loaded from the older iMac (server) to the newer across the current cat 5e LAN.

I have looked on the internet and this seems to make sense to me, but I'm not all that tech savvy.


By Jacques Toerien
I have a USB 3 external 256GB SSD drive I use for occasional transfers, the issue is the USB bus speed is rather slow, even for USB 3. I've not tried thunderbolt as an enclosure is about £120 here!

I've just checked and doesn't seem like the 2010 i27" iMac has a Thunderbolt port? It appears it only has 4x USB2 and 1x Firewire 800.

One FireWire 800 port; 7 watts
Four USB 2.0 ports
SDXC card slot

You may want to check as the fastest external expansion you'll get for your server will be Firewire 800, direct NAS storage or an internal SSD addition.
By Don Lee
Thanks for the reply! I checked and my version of the 2010 iMac does have a Thunderbolt port (a backup drive is connected this way).

I am assuming that once the file that is being worked is transferred to the external SSD (that is now the boot drive with archicad there) all of the work would be done within the SSD drive.

It would be like when I load a file from the older iMac which I use as the server,
and work on in the new iMac with SSD drive. Does that make sense?
By Jacques Toerien
Correct, if you boot from the SSD OS X and ArchiCAD will run from the SSD as long as

1. OS X is on the boot drive and this is the drive you are booting from
2. ArchiCAD and it's preferences are stored on the boot drive (SSD)
3. Your project and any links / references are on the SSD as well.

Your iMac will see your external drive as your System boot disk and your internal drive as a SATA connected device when you boot via the external Thunderbolt drive.

Ps. it appears there were two 2010 iMac releases, Mid 2010 and Late 2010, late 2010 had the thunderbolt port....though I can't find any technical specs on it!:)
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By Karl Ottenstein
I just assumed your 2010 iMac did not have a Thunderbolt port - which would be the only way that an external SSD would perform fast enough to be worth connecting. So, looks like you've got both options - cheap internal replacement, or more expensive external thunderbolt housing.
By Don Lee
I stand corrected that my 2010 iMac does not have Thunderbolt as I had stated, but rather Firewire 800 which while better than USB 2, but is substantially slower. After looking at the videos for a do it yourself installation of an SSD that Karl suggested, I decided to take a chance on an external drive being of some help. I was confident that I could do the install, but as that iMac also functions as our server, I didn't want to take the risk of it being down.

I wound up buying a Samsung 500 gig SSD for $165 and an OWC enclosure for about $60 that had Firewire 800 and USB 3 ports. Slid the SSD in the case, formatted the drive, installed OS 10.11 El Cap and ArchiCad 19. The hardest part was getting all the settings correct so that the newer iMac had the right permissions and access. For the moment, I plan to keep the job files on the old iMac and use the SSD only for ArchiCad, iPhoto and a few other things.

Here are some VERY rough prelim times:
2010 iMac. Start Up:1m48sec. Restart:1m47sec, Load AC and one 202mb AC file: 2m43sec.

2010 iMac w/ external SSD as start up HD. Start Up:56sec. Restart:1m0sec, Load AC and one 202mb AC file: 47sec.

By comparison, my Late 2015 iMac (4Ghz Core i7) with 24 GB ram. Start Up:24sec. Restart:27sec, Load AC and one 202mb AC file: 30sec. This is over the Cat 5e lan.

The HD on the 2010 iMac is 1t with 60 gigs of free space and 12 gigs of ram. It does need misc. files and stuff removed, but it has been very dependable and has never had any problems.

The 2010 iMac is used mostly for revisions, plan check corrections etc. Basic design and rendering is done on the 2015 iMac, but I did not check rendering times. This is really a stop gap fix until we can replace the 2010 iMac. But I would say that for anyone who wants to add new life to their older iMac, this is not a bad way to go. Much faster for our usage, not too expensive and worst case you will always have a 500GB external SSD. If you are reasonably handy and don't mind taking the risk, adding and internal SSD would be better, but how much better is hard to say.

Lastly, the 2015 iMac retina with another screen has worked really well for us. The form factor is great and I take it to client meetings in a special carry bag. Clients love it, but I have to discourage them from wanting me to make major changes on the spot...!
User avatar
By Karl Ottenstein
Thanks for posting the update, Don! Wow. Glad this worked so well for you.

Have to admit I'm astonished that the external SSD on FW800 interface performed so much better than your internal drive. I would have expected the FW800 to have limited performance vs the internal SATA interface, even though the internal drive is so much slower than an SSD.

As you say, useful info to anyone else in a similar situation. Thanks again for posting the summary tests for all of us.