Friday, February 5, 2021

Yottamaster 4-Bay Hard Drive Enclosure

Tyler Hall:

But it always drove me crazy giving up USB ports for multiple drives. And especially the awfulness of giant power bricks and their cables. I have no idea why I never thought to look for something like this before, but that silver box is perfect for my needs (non-affiliate link).

It’s just a hard drive enclosure with four bays. But it’s not RAID or anything fancy like that. It’s a single power cable and a single USB cable. But each drive mounts individually on my Mac as if they were all plugged in separately. I don’t want the overhead of dealing with a RAID array. I’m perfectly content spanning my data across multiple drives myself, so this is a terrific and inexpensive solution.

It’s $100 for the USB 3.0 version or $170 for the USB 3.1 version. There’s a fan, but it’s “silent.” Reviews mention the lack of a hard power switch.

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I've been keeping an eye on similar enclosures, since that is exactly how I would like to mount the disks and manage them. Even if I could afford a fancy Synology NAS I would probably run it in JBOD anyway.

(Also: my experience with external USB drives is that it is rarely the actually disk that breaks but rather the power brick or something else from the internals. Bending open the case and extraction the disk and putting it in a new enclosure usually works fine.)

Kevin Schumacher

For years I've had a pair of Mediasonic ProBox HF2-SU3S2 (4-bay non-RAID enclosures that presents each disk as its own in the OS) sitting on my desk. For a long time they were connected via an eSATA to USB connector, as common knowledge was that the USB ports on them didn't work that well. At some point I had to switch over to USB for a reason that now escapes me and they've worked just as well.

Their website is flaky as hell, and their product pages (on the ©2012 website) have apparently been returning "Forbidden" errors for like a year, which is too bad, because I see they have an 8-bay model now, and it would be nice to only have one unit to deal with, or be able to increase capacity without having to swap out some of the older 6 TB drives for 12 or 14 TB drives that are still quite expensive. But without being able to be sure of being able to get updated firmware, or being sure that their company is even still a going concern, I'm really hesitant to invest any more in their products.

I still use the first-gen LaCie 5big enclosure (TB1) for my NAS. I chose it expressly so I could run my own Linux MD RAID6, instead of some proprietary RAID, and still be able to talk to the disks for SMART etc. But the market for multi-drive enclosures isn't nearly as big as I'd expect, even with USB-C/TB3. Any suggestions for what to do if I want to run a similar software setup in future when my Mac Mini 6,1 running Linux dies? I suppose, if I can establish that "JBOD" means "expose each drive individually", then I might be able to actually use one of these USB RAID enclosures. But I'm as yet unsure which vendor does good driver support for Mac and Linux for their respective RAID chipsets, or supports SAT for passing through SATA commands. Thunderbolt is such a wonderful thing, when it works and the products are available--sucks otherwise. I was lucky to get the combination I did, when I could, but I've painted myself into a corner.

Paul Lefebvre

I have been using the USB 3.0 version for about a year and a half. I bought it to hold my internal drives when I upgraded from a 2009 Mac Pro to a 2018 Mac mini. It’s been reliable, but the fan is not silent. It is a constant speed whirring noise and is slightly louder than the Mac Pro fan was. I bought a longer USB cable and moved it farther away from my desk.

Sebby: Is there a reason you want to install your own Linux? Just get a NAS. Synology boxes are simply headless Linux boxes with several drive bays and a nice web GUI. You get your choice of standard Linux filesystems and RAID options. They have ordinary RJ45 ethernet ports, often more than one. You can manage them fully from the GUI, or ssh in if you really want to.

For Mac users, it has SMB file sharing, and a Time Capsule compatible server, and advertises its services with Bonjour.

Maybe other NAS manufacturers are the same. I only have experience with this brand. I did specifically get a NAS which looked standards-compliant and long-lasting at all interfaces. So far, so good: RJ45 ethernet, SATA drives, SMB file sharing, and Linux are all just as common as when I bought it.

In the past I've had hard drive enclosures with Firewire (both kinds), USB (multiple kinds), and eSATA. There was no way I was going to touch Thunderbolt. For transferring non-real-time data, it's ethernet or bust. It always works.

@SaM: I have indeed given thought to going the "mainstream" route. I "built" my NAS at a time when Synology weren't offering what I wanted, in functionality or accessibility, but things look different now. I use my NAS as my home server (including mail and DNS) and router (with a Netgear RAX200 [formerly Time Capsule] as standalone WAP). My chief objections were flexibility to use exactly the configuration of software and services I wanted, and the generally weak CPUs. But, honestly, it's not exactly stress-free, it's a central point of failure that I'm almost too afraid to touch in case I break it, and the whole reason I switched to a NAS in the first place was to avoid cloud services (for privacy). I could solve all my problems tomorrow, if I gave up my ideals. The question is, do I want to? :)

@Sebby Unraid is probably your best bet if you want to build your own NAS. It's not fast, but it's very reliable and no striping over multiple drives with parity drive(s) means it's a great solution if using mismatched size drives. You won't lose all data if multiple drives fail.

@Sebby: It sounds like you want a tiny Linux PC with a lot of drive bays. Get a Mini/Nano/(smaller?)-ITX board. Even tiny mobos come with 4 or more SATA ports these days, and you can use as fast a CPU as you want.

If there's no case you like, make your own. It's literally a box. If you can install and administer a Linux system, you can build a little box! Ultimate flexibility.

the whole reason I switched to a NAS in the first place was to avoid cloud services (for privacy). I could solve all my problems tomorrow, if I gave up my ideals. The question is, do I want to? :)

I don’t know about other NAS vendors, but a Synology can be used without any cloud services; they’re opt-in.

I’m not 100% happy with the UI, especially compared to the olden days of Mac OS X Server, but it probably beats homegrown.

@Sören: yeah, macOS Server was a native app. The other obvious advantage to going Synology would be all the native iOS apps, but really, homegrown is just standard protocols for which there are apps (though not as "vertical"). For administration, of course, ssh is king--I don't need or want a UI for that.

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