You are here

15 posts / 0 new
Last post
External storage options #1
deansinjeans's picture
by deansinjeans
December 4, 2013 - 6:03am



I have been using Aperture for about a year now on my MacBook Pro 250 GB. Needless to say, 250 GB is not the ideal internal HD size for a photography nut, so I will be in need of some sort of external storage soon. 

Now that I have been reading a while about the options, I can’t seem to figure out what solution will be the best for me and how they exactly work. Right now, I have only been using an external HD as a backup for the photos on my Mac, so I might also need some sort of backup for the photos on the external HD.

I use Aperture every day, even though I have no new photos to edit, so this is probably why I have been delaying the external storage solution for a while now. I like having all my photos in one place, always ready to be tweaked, shared, and viewed. I am afraid that external storage will ruin this flexibility for me, but I have to sort it out now.

Do you guys have any idea what the best solution would be for me? Should I relocate originals/masters or should I move my library to an external HD, and what’s the real difference between these two options anyways? Maybe there are more easy and flexible options that I haven’t thought of?

Also, does the external HD need a specific format and will it only be dedicated to Aperture/photos (like Time Machine, for instance)?


Thanks a lot!

Florian Cortese's picture
by Florian Cortese
December 4, 2013 - 6:25am

I have a 2T G-Tech external HD that I use as a backup for my critical documents (I update it monthly) and for part of my aperture Library.  I ran into the same problem you did with my 500GB MBP a little over two years ago.  I solved the problem by converting a good portion of my Aperture Library to referenced files and not managed. It’s easy to do. You can look at AE“s live training video #20 and this article by Joseph as guides.  There are many external HDs out there to choose from and the good news is that the prices for storage have continue to decrease. There were some issues with NAS type of HDs but I don’t know if that was resolved. Good luck!

Florian Cortese

Stuart's picture
by Stuart
December 4, 2013 - 6:50am

I am currently using a Macbook Pro 15” Retina Display (June 2012) as my main system. I do not store any images on the system. All images are stored via a Drobo 5D connected via Thunderbolt. Have 5, 3TB hard drives in the Drobo. Since I use both Aperture and Lightroom I run Aperture as reference. Have over 56 thousand images in my library.  I backup up this Drobo to two 3TB Seagate Backup Plus USB 3.0 drives. I also store another backup drive off site. Switch the drives around each month. This has worked well for me. Yes, it is a little costly the way I set this up, however hard drives can do go bad. 

Rafael -'s picture
by Rafael -
December 4, 2013 - 2:05pm

Hi Stuart,

I was wondering what kind of speed are you getting with the Drobo 5D. Do you have a mSATA SSD installed? I am definitely looking at this kind of redundancy to host my aperture library (currently 1.7TB). 

Thank you 



Stuart's picture
by Stuart
December 4, 2013 - 3:57pm


Yes, I have a mSATA 128GB installed.  That card maybe over kill because 64GB will work just fine. My current speed (average) according to Back Magic: Write 137 Read 195 via Thunderbolt.



Walter Rowe's picture
by Walter Rowe
December 4, 2013 - 2:32pm

I don’t have the same drives as Stuart, but I use the same methodology. I have 4 WD My Passport 2TB drives. One is my master drive. Three are backup copies. One backup stays offsite and is rotated on a regular basis like Stuart does with his Seagate drives. One backup stays at home. The master and one backup stay with me all the time. These are $100 each, USB powered, and are USB3 (faster than USB2, cheaper than Thunderbolt).

As Stuart says, drives fail. That is why I keep the master and a backup with me at all times.

I have over 40,000 images in a single managed Library. I have several other smaller, managed Libraries that contain scans of pre-digital film and historical family prints.

I can’t get the performance Stuart gets, but my solution only costs $400 and I don’t have to keep track of any power chords.

Stuart's picture
by Stuart
December 4, 2013 - 4:10pm

The way Walter has his setup is just fine.  And as he stated is less costly. In fact I just picked up another 3TB USB 3.0 Seagate Backup Plus last week from Best Buy for $99.00. It was on sale.  Also picked up a 1TB USB 3.0 Seagate Portable  Drive for $49.00. I am always looking for these specials as I like to have couple extra drives available. 

Speaking of Thunderbolt, the new Mac Pro has the new Thunderbolt 2 ports. You talk about speed. But with that said this new Mac Pro is very costly. Even for the entry level one. I think the next version of iMac along with the Retina Display will most likely have those Thunderbolt  2 ports.


Florian Cortese's picture
by Florian Cortese
December 4, 2013 - 5:29pm

The 2T G-Tech external HD I mentioned above is backed up by a 1T Gtech mini and an old 500GB Western HD that is off site (once a month I bring it home, back up and return it to my job site office).  I do not need more than that for now.  I also have an virtual off site storage service (only $7/month) similar to Carbonite that continuously backs up my documents, music and photos on both my MBP and G tech external HD and a 500GB Apple time machine.  So as you can see redundancy and off site back up is a recurring theme.

Florian Cortese

jemostrom's picture
by jemostrom
December 5, 2013 - 7:22am

I was recently in a similar situation, I had a MBP with a 320 GB disk. Because of the limited disk space I had my photos organized in a “one library per project”-style on external drives (mirrored and backed up offsite). While this worked it was a pain to find photos, etc.

But when I was going to do a clean install of Mavericks the hard disk died on me (it had been behaving a bit strangely the last 6 months or so), so I bought a 1 TB internal disk and moved all my libraries into one big library. I also went from managed to referenced.

So my situation right now is that I have one library with all photos being referenced and stored in a special folder. That folder is excluded from Time Machine backup (it’s too large for my time capsule).

I use Time Machine to backup my laptop including the big library (but excluding the original photo files). I backup the original photo files in two ways:

  • I use SuperDuper to make a bootable copy of my internal disk to a 2TB external disk
  • I also use ChronoSync to mirror my “original photo folder” to a Synology NAS in my house. The content of the NAS is then mirrored offsite using CrashPlan.

This all happened about 1-1.5 month ago, it took me about a week to move everything into one library and … CrashPlan still hasn’t uploaded everything to their servers (although it’s about 95% done at the moment).

So far having everything in one library makes things easier … but since the photos have been spread out on different disk during a number of year they are not in a … should we say “consistent state” :) 

I expect it to take a long time before I have them organised the way I want (I’m hoping to be done before 2015 :) )

So my advise would be: use one large disk if you have enough space (don’t be afraid of getting a larger internal disk), it’s much easier than having them on several disks. And make sure that you have proper backup and with that I mean that each file should be in at least three locations in addition to your laptop. In my case

  • External hard disk (this is my primary rescue disk)
  • Synology NAS (if the external disk gets corrupted also)
  • CrashPlans servers (if something happens to my home)


David  Moore's picture
by David Moore
December 5, 2013 - 11:38am

Thanks Stuart for the Black Magic app numbers.  I had Just gotten that App and your 5D is about 2.5 times faster than my Drobo S on firewire.  Been considering the 5D so your info is helpful.  dbm
Twitter= @davidbmoore
Scottsdale AZ

Walter Rowe's picture
by Walter Rowe
December 5, 2013 - 4:18pm

My upgraded storage solution arrived today. This is my 4 x 2TB storage solution. $400 US.

Enrico Centanni's picture
by Enrico Centanni
February 19, 2014 - 2:40am

How are your MyPassport holding up?

I was thinking to get one aswell for my AP (managed) Library, but wondering if the WD drive would be noticeably slower than an external 3.5” 7200rpm with a power brick.

Walter Rowe's picture
by Walter Rowe
February 19, 2014 - 5:13pm

They are a little slower, but acceptable for me. They are holding up well.

Jacques Cornell's picture
by Jacques Cornell
December 6, 2013 - 5:09pm

How about a bigger, much faster internal drive?

If you don’t shoot a lot of new material - and with all your photos on a 250GB drive it sounds like you don’t - you might get by for a while with a bigger drive in your MBP and an external drive to back it up. If you think 1TB will last you for a year or two, I’d recommend replacing your current internal drive with a 1TB Seagate Hybrid laptop drive. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re conventional laptop drives integrated with fast solid state cache that acts like a mini SSD. This makes the most recently/frequently accessed data available at SSD speeds. Overall performance is not as fast as an SSD, but system boot and app launch is close, much faster than a conventional HD, and the cost per GB is much lower than an SSD. The largest version is 1TB and costs about $125. I put a 500GB version in my mom’s old Macbook, and it turned a pokey machine into something pleasantly usable. In my book, this is the cheapest, most effective way to extend the usable life of an older laptop for a couple more years.

BobComptonPhoto's picture
by BobComptonPhoto
December 19, 2013 - 8:01pm

I took an entirely different approach.  I start a new Library each year, but they still exceed 1TB each by the end of the year.  I had three goals:

1) Much larger storage

2) Much faster storage (i.e. thunderbolt)

3) Each library accessible from multiple different Mac’s (one at a time of course).

Apple strongly discourages Aperture libraries from being housed on network drives, but the reason is that if the drive disconnects the database can become corrupt.  More on that in a second.

I installed a Mac Mini with OS X server (running only file sharing services).  Attached to that is a bank of Thunderbolt drives (all 4TB) which house my libraries and other business files.  Also attached is a 20TB Raid Array assigned to Time Machine running on the server.  All of the Mac’s are networked to the server by Gigabit Ethernet.  Now, every mac has near full-speed access to the Thunderbolt drives (even ones that are several years old). Finally, the drives and server are also backed up to BackBlaze for off-site redundancy.

The key to keeping Aperture happy is to never let the network connection drop. This is handled in the preferences by never letting drives sleep.   In over a year I have not yet had any issues with Aperture.

When I am in the field, I simply create a new library for the project.  When back in the office, I import the library as a project into the master database.

This setup lets anyone in the office open a library, and has dramatically sped up access to all machines.

You may login with either your assigned username or your e-mail address.
Passwords are case-sensitive - Forgot your password?