Using Your Mac with External Storage

October 6, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Our recent tips have covered ways of tidying your Mac, either in advance of a migration of data to iCloud or just to generally keep your machine running at its optimum.

With at least 10% free space your computer should be able to perform pretty much any task, but if you’ve only made it to 10% of free space then the same performance issues that you have already experienced are likely to reoccur. The solution is to move data away from your computer (or at least from the main system partition) and store this on an external drive or secondary partition.

One other alternative is to store your data on a network drive. But how much data can you move from your computer and keep everything running as expected?

Using Your Mac with External Storage

Can I Store My Mac Data on a Network Drive?

The advantage of a network drive over an external disk drive is that the data can be accessed from any computer connected to the network without worrying about carrying it around with you. However, there are limits as to what data you can move from your Mac while keeping the computer running as required.

You should also be aware that the speed of your network will impact on how effective this solution works. If you are restricted to exclusive use of a wireless network, expect some slow-downs. The best answer is a wired network using HomePlugs or Ethernet connectors.

Which Files Can I Move?

Sadly, you can’t migrate the entire contents of your Home folder and expect your Mac to keep working indefinitely. There are various files and folders stored here that are required for the day to day running of your Mac and that allow you to sign into your profile. By migrating the folder to an external device that may disconnect or become faulty you will be effectively locking yourself out of your own profile.

The solution is to identify the files that you can move to an external device. These should largely be media files (although iMovie Events cannot be moved) so you should spend a few moments making sure photos, videos and music files are grouped accordingly before migrating them to their new home.

Remember that if you are moving large files that you regularly use from your Mac to an external device, this data may take longer to open, play and save, depending on the performance of the external storage device. As a result, you might opt to keep anything that you are currently working on stored locally.

Similarly if you have any audio tracks that you regularly listen to then you might prefer to store those locally. It really depends on the speed of the connection to your external device, which might be wireless, connected via Ethernet, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Firewire or Thunderbolt. Obviously the faster the connection, the better the results!

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