« Touchy Feely - Addendum | Main | Into the breach once more... »

Drives, Drives, and More Drives

For pretty much the last decade my main computer has been a laptop, starting from the gorgeous Powerbook G3 Wallstreet, through the titanium Powerbook G4s, and then the aluminum and unibody Macbook Pros. I pretty much figured that I was done with owning Mac desktops as the computing power of laptops seemed to be sufficient for my use and I placed more value in the portability of laptops. That is until I purchased a Nehalem Mac Pro in September of 2009.

Since the Mac Pro requires no small financial commitment, my initial hard drive configuration for it consisted of one Hitachi 7200RPM 1TB drive. To that I added a Western Digital 10,000RPM 300GB Velociraptor and a Western Digital 5400RPM 1TB Caviar Green drive. The Velociraptor was partitioned in two and served as my boot drive; half went to MacOS X, the other to a BootCamped Windows 7. The faster 1TB drive was my main data drive and the green drive served as my Time Machine backup.

My price trigger when it comes to purchasing backup hard drives is $100. At the time of the Mac Pro purchase, that price slot was taken up by 1TB drives. When 1.5TB drives slipped below the $100 line, I bought one to use as a new Time Machine backup drive. At that point, all four of the Mac Pro's internal 3.5" hard drive bays were filled. I then replaced the 1TB data drive with a Seagate 7200RPM 2TB drive as I discovered 1TB wasn't quite enough to cover a year's worth photo & video. This setup worked quite well and remained unchanged until recently when I decided that it was time to bring a SSD into the fold.

I've been using a 128GB SSD in my unibody MacBook Pro since early 2009 so I was well acquainted with the speed advantages. I was hoping that waiting another year+ would bring prices down but alas, that was not to be. The SSDs have gotten incrementally better but they're still locked in to the same price slots as before. The other issue was also where to install the SSD as all the internal bays were full. To that end I had been keeping an eye on the OWC Multi-Mount solution which provides brackets that allows you install combinations of 2.5" or 3.5" drives in the usually free second 5.25" bay that's situated under the optical Superdrive. So my grandiose plan was to pick up a Multi-Mount along with their 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro SSD and pair my existing Velociraptor to it. The SSD would become my sole MacOS X boot disc and the Velociraptor would be dedicated to Windows. I would also add a new 2TB Caviar Green drive to use as my Time Machine backup since that had also recently slipped under the $100 mark.

However, I forgot about one thing: there was only one free SATA port internally. I needed two. The 2009 Mac Pro comes with 6 bays: 2x 5.25" and 4x 3.5", and it has one SATA connection for each bay only. I suppose I could have followed the same route that I had done with my MacBook Pro and removed the SuperDrive but I really didn't want to have to do that. And oddly enough, OWC doesn't have an existing solution to this issue. I chatted with their tech support and the only solution they could come up with was the rather expensive Sonnet Tempo SATA E4i PCI-e card that adds four internal SATA ports. However, besides the price, another issue killed this option dead: namely that hard drives connected via this card are not bootable.

So, I dug around some more on the Interwebs and discovered MaxUpgrades and their MaxConnect system. The MaxConnect system allows you to install up to four 2.5" drives in one of the 5.25" bays. The bracket it comes with isn't as nice-looking or as flexible as the Multi-Mount solution as it only fits 2.5" drives while the Multi-Mount can take either 3.5" or 2.5". But if you're only looking to add two 2.5" drives, the MaxConnect system also comes with a 2-port "bootable" SATA PCI-e card along with the requisite cables to get everything attached and running. Plus the price was quite reasonable. I first contacted them to see if they by any chance were willing to sell just the PCI-e card and cables since I didn't need the bracket but the answer was "no." So I bit the bullet and bought the set.

MaxConnect Kit

As seen above, the MaxUpgrades MaxConnect SZ-MPRO2509-04 kit comes with (from l. to r.): two power cable extensions, a SATA cable, a small PCI-e card, and two SATA extensions. Oh, and the aluminum disk drive mount which is not shown here since I'm not using it. Plus a CD containing installation instructions. Which, in my case was cracked so I wound up emailing their support for a PDF version that they emailed to me. A bit confusing at first but it all makes sense once you start connecting things.

Internal SATA PCI-e card

First step was to install the PCI-e card. While it does have two SATA ports as advertised, only one is internal. The other is external. Something to keep in mind. I installed mine in the top-most PCI-e slot. The included SATA cable then attaches to the rear of the card.

Routed SATA cable

In the photo above, you can see the route the SATA cable takes from the PCI-e card to the 5.25" bays. While doing this installation it's easier if you remove the 1 and 4 3.5" hard drive bays as well as the entire 5.25" frame. There's also a thin back panel that you have to remove first from the far side of the 5.25" bay compartment before you can thread the SATA cable through. If you were really a stickler for aesthetics you could probably try to figure out a way to hide the SATA cable running across beneath the row of 3.5" bays but I'm perfectly fine with it hanging about like that.

OWC MultiBay

Here you see the OWC Multi-Mount with the SSD on top and the Velociraptor below it. The Multi-Mount at its most basic is just two metal pieces that screw onto a 3.5" drive so that you can then screw them into the 5.25" bay frame. If you want to install 2.5" drives instead, you buy another set of brackets that screw into the base pieces as you see on either side of the SSD above.

5.25 Frame - Front View
5.25 Frame - Rear View

Above two shots just shows you what the entire setup looks like after everything is mounted into the 5.25" frame.

Cables Connected

Now, this is what it looks like when everything is hooked up. By default, Apple provides two merged SATA+power connectors for the 5.25" bay. That's what the black cables are. For MaxConnect, you then attach the provided extensions to those merged connectors. One of the two extensions actually splits the power cable into two so from the original 2 SATA + 2 power connectors you wind up with 2 SATA + 3 power. The way I have it hooked up, the Superdrive is connected to the PCI-e SATA card and shares its power with the SSD below it. The Velociraptor gets the unshared SATA + power connector.

Back Panel

The above photo shows the back panel that I mentioned earlier that you have to remove first to be able to thread the SATA cable coming up from the PCI-e card into the 5.25" bay. Remember to put it back in before you finish up. I think it's primary purpose is just to keep the original cabling neat and hidden.

Installation Complete

And voila, you slide the 5.25" bay back into place. The one drawback to all this is all the extra cables that you have to cram into the small area within the back of the 5.25" bay. It's a really tight squeeze and I wasn't 100% successful since you can see that the top right corner of the bay now sticks out a little bit. Doesn't affect functionality but again, less aesthetically pleasing. However, as I was typing up this post, I just realized that I could most likely remove one complete set of extension cables (the set that doesn't split the power into two) and still have the entire thing work. The reason MaxConnect needs that extra cable length is because if you use the mount that it comes with, the drives are placed side by side instead of stacked so the existing cables can't connect with that layout. But since I'm using the Multi-Mount instead, I could most likely do without the extensions.

Anyway, so now I have 6 hard drives humming along happily within the Mac Pro. The SSD boots and runs MacOS X crazy fast. The Velociraptor I wound up not repartitioning and solely dedicating to Windows because I didn't want to have to reinstall Windows again. =p So I kept the existing Windows 7 partition as is and now I use the former MacOS X boot partition as a Photoshop scratch disk. Then there's the 7200RPM 2TB data drive and 5400RPM 2TB Time Machine drive and then a 7200RPM 1TB plus 5400RPM 1.5TB that are just sitting pretty much idle for now. I have the 1TB also set as a Photoshop scratch disk and I'm using the 1.5TB to store all my app installers. Eventually I may replace the 1TB with another 7200RPM 2TB and run the two 2TBs in a RAID0.

So there you have it, how to install 6 drives into a 2009 Mac Pro. Hope someone finds this somewhat useful as I didn't really find much info on this topic when I first started looking into it.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.hitokiri.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/1858

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Drives, Drives, and More Drives:

» The Long and Tedious Road to 4K from Absurd Singularity
For the past year or so, I had been slowly getting increasingly dissatisfied with the pixel density of computer monitors that I've been using for the past few years. As can be seen from last year's desk photo, I've... [Read More]

Comments (2)

Zathrak:

My goal is to have 5 x 3.5in HDDs (one of which is a boot camp Win7 drive - the other four are in RAID 0), 1 x 2.5in SSD, and the existing optical drive on my 2010 Mac Pro. From your post, it seems that the SZ-MPRO2509-04 only fits 2 x 2.5in drives in the 5.25 empty optical bay whereas in my case, it would seem I would need the aforementioned multimount solution from OWC that held 1 x 2.5in & 1 X 3.5in drives in the empty 5.25in bay. Do I understand that correctly? Or is it the case that SZ-MPRO2509-04 from MaxUpgrades does accompany the 2.5 and 3.5 and it just isn't pictured?

Ben:

Hi Zathrak,

Correct, the MaxUpgrades kit does NOT hold 3.5 drives. At least it didn't earlier this year. You might want to double-check with them to see if they might have a new one that does. The only purpose of the MaxUpgrade kit is to get the bootable SATA PCI-E card that it comes with. So if you're able to find some place that sells that card separately (I couldn't), then there's no need for the MaxUpgrade kit. Get the OWC kit to be able to mount a 2.5 x 3.5 into the extra 5.25 bay.

Post a comment

About

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 5, 2011 1:43 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Touchy Feely - Addendum.

The next post in this blog is Into the breach once more....

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Subscribe

 

Add to Google Reader or Homepage
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.