Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance
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More about the 2019 iMac 5K.

The 2019 iMac 5K I bought about 6 weeks ago is the best Mac for photography and my other work that I have ever used. Simply terrific! I don’t know yet, but I suspect that for my usage, it will be competitive with the new Mac Pro and maybe even faster, at a fraction of the price.

2019 Apple 27" iMac 5K 3.6 GHz / 8GB / 2TB / Radeon Pro Vega 48 with 128GB OWC memory.

Consult with Lloyd on configuring a high performance system.

2019 iMac 5K that Lloyd uses for photography and everything (plus 128GB OWC memory)

Detecting Corruption / Validating Data Integrity Over Time and Across Drives and Backup/Restore

See also Data Integrity Over Time, and with OS Changes.

An overlooked aspect of data management is data integrity: are the files intact tomorrow, a year from now, on the original drive and backup drive(s), or perhaps even on a DVD or BluRay. Or after having been transferred across a network.

IntegrityChecker

Knowing that files/data is intact with no damage is a key part of any system restoration/update/backups/archiving. In some situations it could be mandatory (record keeping). The more valuable the data, the more important it is to consider the risks to loss, which include loss by file corruption as well file deletion (not to mention viruses and software bugs and user errors).

“Data” can mean image files (JPEG, TIF, PSD/PSB, etc) or video clips or projects, Lightroom catalogs, etc. Or it could mean spreadsheets, word processing files, accounting data, and so on. Knowing that these files are 100% intact leads to a comfort level in making system changes in storage approaches.

How can data be damaged? Disk errors, software bugs in applications or drivers or the system itself can happen. Moreover, the “damage” could be user-induced: saving over or replacing/deleting a file inadvertently. Simply having a “warning flag” could be useful in noting that “no expected changes” is violated.

For example, suppose that a new computer system is acquired and various drives need to be transferred over. Or that you have upgraded to a newer and larger hard drive. Or swapped SSDs. Or there is a need to restore from a backup. Or that you burned files to a DVD or BluRay—are they intact with no changes? Even RAID-5 with its parity data does not validate files when reading them, and a validate pass is over the entire volume with no selectivity for the desired file(s).

Enter IntegrityChecker, part of diglloydTools: at any time, files of any and all types can be checked against a previously computed “hash”, a cryptographic number unique to the file. If there is a mismatch, the file has been altered, somehow. This check can be made at any time: on the original, or on a 1000th-generation copy of that file. The only requirement is that the hash be computed once and remain in the same folder as the file for later reference.

How it works with IntegrityChecker.

IntegrityChecker computes a SHA1 cryptographic hash for each file in a folder, storing those hash numbers in a hidden “.ic” file within that folder. Thus, all files in the folder have a “hash value” against which its current state can be checked.

The process can be run on folder(s), or an entire volume.

  1. Run Update on the original files (computes and writes the hash values for every file in each folder into a hidden “.ic” file in that folder).
  2. Make the copy or backup or burn the DVD/BluRay or whatever (this naturally carries along the hidden “.ic” file in each folder).
  3. At any later time (tomorrow or a year later), run Verify on any backup or copy (this recomputes the hashes and compares to the values in the “.ic” file).

For example, some pro photographers burn DVD or BluRay discs containing folders on which IntegrityChecker has been run; these discs carry along the “.ic” file in each folder, and thus can be verified at any time. There are numerous such uses.

Usage

Both command line (Terminal) and GUI versions are provided. The GUI is basic, but the internals are what counts: one of the most efficient multi-threaded programs of any kind you’ll ever find. IntegrityChecker runs as fast as the drive and CPUs can go. Available commands include 'status', 'update', 'verify', 'update-all' and 'clean'.

See How to Safely Transfer Data or Verify Backups and also Example of Verifying Data Integrity.

Continues below.

IntegrityChecker reporting on verification results

Worth doing or happy go lucky?

For many computer users, the consequences are of little importance if a few things go bad: a song, a picture, a particular document; no big deal. But even such users would be upset losing years of photos—bugs in software (gray swan?) can have widespread impact; data integrity checking is a sanity check on assumptions.

But in a financial and obligatory professional duty sense, professionals need to consider the end-to-end processes they use. When data is one’s livelihood, attention to data integrity takes on new importance.

The greater the value of the data and the greater the time span over which the data has value, the more important it is to implement processes that minimize the chances of loss, because over years the storage format is likely to change with transitions and copying, etc. Also, knowing that a backup restored from a crash is valid takes some of the sting out of a crash.


Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

An Interview with OWC’s Larry O'Conner on Development of the Aura Pro X2 SSD.

Background—

I was getting squeezed for space with the Apple 1TB SSD, so I Upgraded my 2015 MacBook Pro Retina Apple Flash Drive to the 2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD. The Aura Pro X2 upgrade has performed flawlessly, increased performance, and power draw seems at least as good and maybe better—a triple win.

Best of all, my 2015 MacBook can be fully functional, with all my stuff on it, with no worries about running out of space while on the road—awesome!

The OWC Aura Pro X2 NVMe SSD is a drop-in replacement for the Apple SSD in various Mac models including MacBook Pro 2013 / 2014 / 2015, Mac Pro 2013-current, MacBook Air Mid 2013 - 2017, Mac mini (late 2014).

Interview with CEO Larry O'Conner

MPG interviewed Larry O'Conner, CEO of Other World Computing (OWC), about the Aura Pro X2. Emphasis added on particular points.

MPG: What customer base does the Aura Pro X2 serve? Who typically goes the upgrade route and what are the most common Macs upgraded? Can Windows PCs can make use of the upgrade?

The Aura Pro X2 is a great solution for MacBook Pro w/Retina, MacBook Air, Mac mini 2014, Mac Pro 2013, and - soon - iMac 2013 and later owners who require more, high-performance SSD/Flash storage capacity than their existing factory drive and want this to be inside of their system.

The X2 not only provides up to 2TB of capacity, 2X to 4X original maximum factory options depending on model, but also a far higher level of performance.

It’s a win win for more capacity + a nice boost to these great Macs for performance at the same time.

The Aura Pro X2 is designed only for use in the Macs listed. Apple uses a proprietary interface which the Aura Pro X2 is designed for.

MPG Lloyd’s setup:
Volumes Boot and Master on 2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SS
installed internally in the 2015 MacBook Pro Retina

MPG: What does OWC do to ensure compatibility and how does this differ from generic solutions? How difficult is the install and does OWC offer a service for it?

For over 30 years we’ve been focused on Apple. Literally years of man hours have gone into what is now the Aura Pro X2 with respect to design and certification. Not only hardware development, but intense firmware development as well.

Specifically, hundreds of hours go into each Apple model with our drives - testing restarts thousands of times, 1000+ wake/sleep testing, thermal load testing, extreme stress load testing, etc. We’re learned a lot in this space over the decades and an unprecedented amount of time has gone into both our Aura Pro X2 and the Aura N to ensure these are not only our next NVME SSDs ever, but the absolute best there is for the Macs we have built them for.

There are no generic solutions - Aura Pro X2 drives are built for the Apple interface. Unlike the Aura Pro X2, generic adaptations can lack the signal integrity and do lack the firmware for fully reliable operation.

We currently do not offer an official send in service for installation as this installation is truly user friendly and typically less than 15 minutes from start to finish in any of the supported systems other than the Apple iMac. When we officially introduce our iMac kits, we will offer a service for those models. As Apple has glued the screen onto the iMac - the iMac is a more difficult - very doable - but rather intimidating upgrade to many.

For ANY Mac and also for more than just our SSD/Flash - we have the most comprehensive library of how to upgrade videos in the galaxy: https://eshop.macsales.com/installvideos. In addition - toll free tech support 800-275-4576 and live chat on our site has real people, in the USA, there to help 7 days a week.

OWC Aura Pro X2

MPG: What kind of performance and battery life can be expected versus "stock" SSD?

While our previous generation Aura Pro X and especially the original Aura really knocked down the battery life - an unfortunate consequence of the available controller solutions supportable for Apple in 2016 and 2017 - these new drives provide battery run times very comparable and even potentially longer vs. the original SSDs while delivering substantially more performance.

In fact - as of earlier this year - our entire Aura and Aura Pro lines have been updated starting in November 2018 and completing in May 2019 - for whichever Apple model you have, our drives have never been faster, cooler, longer running than they are today. We do not stop.

MPG: What kind of longevity/durability can users expect from the Aura Pro X2 and how about warranty and support? What distinguishes OWC from alternatives in warranty/support/compatibility?

We have real people that care, not just an automated form - when you have a question, you can call us - live chat us, etc - and a real person that’s passionate about our solutions - that isn’t on a script - is there to help. We build our solutions first and foremost for Apple vs. this being a secondary for us. This is our passion / making the world a better place with OWC technology inspiring imagination. Apple is our focus.

The X2 comes with a healthy 5 year warranty and is designed to go double that+.

It’s been about a year since we last had any need to support a field firmware update - but that is another benefit of OWC. Apple does make changes sometimes at an OS level that can impact hardware like an SSD. OWC has the unique capability to deploy field firmware updaters like no one else outside of Apple when it comes to the Apple platform today. And… we aren’t stopping there, we are currently in developmental testing for about 2 years of our own NVME driver that could raise performance even further.

MPG: What is the development process like for a product like the X2?

Kind of talked to that in another question - but in a word, it is Intense! It’s years of man hours with design, firmware development, and system testing. Every year’s Apple is a little different and we do testing in ALL the models as there are things that need to be accommodated differently in each. This is where our firmware comes in to see the experience through all systems.

We learned a lot from our prior NVME and PCIe generation products and I have to give great Kudos to Chris Anderson on our dev team for the grueling hours he and his team put in to ensure the X2 is the incredible drive it is today.

MPG: Anything else that sets the Aura Pro X2 apart from alternatives, and is the X2 "best of breed" for its target market, and why?

Incredible performance well beyond that of anything before it, break through pricing - 1TB under $280 vs. $500 just for 1TB upgrade at Apple factory - cool running and great battery life - win-win-win. Extend your Mac’s life with the storage you need + performance boost too.

MPG: Where does OWC see the market going for upgrades when newer Macs have few or no upgrade options?

In a word... external - unless Apple changes course in the future. The Apple T2 chip all by locks out internal modifications/upgrades even where we had been looking at a remove and replace SMT process for the soldered storage. But.. Thunderbolt 3 offers excellent options for external capability and…. the OWC DEC lives - this add on attachment will become the ideal solution we believe.

...end of interview.

Below, performance as tested.

2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD performance in 2015 MacBook Pro Retina

Below, the Aura Pro X2 installed in a 2015 MacBook Pro.

2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD installed internally in the 2015 MacBook Pro Retina
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Configuring Time Format to Include Seconds Such as in macOS Finder Windows; YYYY-MM-DD and HH:MM:SS Format for Date/Time

For various reasons I find it much more useful to have a consistent date and time format when looking for file changes, timing tests, etc. Here’s how to configure data and time in a way that provides a consistent and accurate view always.

Below is shown how I configure my data/time display; read on for how to do this.

There are two Finder bug “gotchas”: (1) the Finder fails to use a monospaced font, so dates and times do not quite line up properly, and (2) the Finder by default usually does not make the Date columns wide enough—click and drag or double click on the dividing line between columns.

Finder window showing files displaying date in YYYY-MM-DD format, and time in HH:MM:SS format

Configuring how date is displayed

Configuring how time is displayed

I am not a fan of scanning a list of files with wildly varying time formats e.g., "today" or "yesterday" or "3 hours ago" juxtaposed against a regular numeric time. It’s just not efficient for finding what I want. So I configure the short/medium/long/full times to all be the same, and to include seconds, that is a format of HH:MM:SS.

Configuring how time is displayed in System Preferences => Language and Region => Advanced

 

Same reasoning for time as for dates—I like my dates to always be in YYYY-MM-DD form.

Configuring how dates are displayed in System Preferences => Language and Region => Advanced

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Browser Hijacking: the WeKnow.ac Malware

I was helping a client with a few issues on her Mac, when I noticed odd behavior in the web browser on her machine. In the space of a few moments, I saw:

  • An “update your Adobe Flash” install popup window (NEVER do this!!!!)
  • Another popup window trying to sell software by scumbags (MacKeeper semi-malware).
  • Two folders containing shell scripts that wrote to /tmp, enable execute permissions and executed some script.
  • Safari was hijacked in a way that prevented setting any home page, and the default page was set to the web site "weknow.ac" (don’t visit it!).

From what I could tell, the problem started from her having clicked on an “Update Flash” prompt that came from an infected website.

Her machine was infected with the WeKnow.ac malware. It does all sort of annoying things but the main thing is that much worse things are likely to result from it via information stealing, redirection to dangerous web sites, etc. This page at macpaw.com has a good how-to remove WeKnow.ac without frequently trying to sell you new software to fix it.

I was able to clean up the mess, but most people will have trouble doing so. There are lots of "how to" cleanup pages, most of which push anti-virus software (which MPG is at best ambivalent on and does not recommend). Don’t panic and find an expert to help you (does Apple help with such stuff?) or research fixit software and the company selling it before buying anything.

Downloading software that purports to remove WeKnow.ac is itself a risk—how would you know that it itself is not malware?! Certainly do not click through any link on a fixit page. Research it separately if you want to use other software to fix it.

Question for Apple: what is wrong with macOS that it allows this kind of well-known longstanding malware to infect a computer?


Upgrade the memory of your 2019 iMac up to 128GB

Switched to macOS Mojave, out of Necessity with 2019 iMac 5K

Switching over to the 2019 iMac 5K, macOS Mojave throws some curveballs:

  • I lost use of 1Password; it requires version 7. So that’s an added cost.
  • macOS destroyed several of my email accounts. After half an hour, I could not get them to work. Later, for no reason at all other than quitting and restarting Mail, then gmail would work. But two other accounts are unusable. This is infuriating.
  • Choosing the Safari downloads folder grays out the choices I want, so cannot select. After trying 3 or 4 times, it finally worked on a different folder. Very confusing—and not what I wanted.
  • Iterating over files with DiskTester over an APFS volume is 10X to 20X slower, presumably because of Apple’s file system changes (commands like fill-volume are not affected, just iterating files). I am debating whether to delete my APFS volume Master and make a true partition using macOS Extended.
  • One plus is that About this Mac => Storage => Manage provides a 1-click way to delete Garbage Band and iOS update files. This saved about 8GB.
  • Get Info on a volume took 10 times longer with APFS than macOS Extended.

While I cannot blame Apple for the 1Password thing, the rest of it is a lousy experience. The list above is just the initial problems.

Purgeable space and snapshots, Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner

The purgeable space concept on APFS is mystifying. Below, the APFS volume later grew to have 260GB of “purgeable”—but there is no way to purge it that I can find (I don’t use iCloud for storage, so it’s not involved).

Iterating over the actual files, the total size matches T5_MasterClone, from which it was cloned. I assume it is some kind of snapshot, but whether it has any utility remains to be seen. It’s ludicrous to have to manually calculate space when the Finder ought to do it—I want “used” to tell me how much space I’ll need to back stuff up.

Continues below...

Confusing disk space on APFS in macOS Mojave

Reader Jack B suggests that it is a Time Machine snapshot, which can be dealt with as per the Apple technote:

If you want to delete local snapshots manually, turn off Time Machine temporarily:

1. Open Time Machine preferences from the Time Machine menu in the menu bar. Or choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Time Machine.

2. Deselect ”Back Up Automatically” or click the Off/On switch, depending on what you see in Time Machine preferences.

3. Wait a few minutes to allow the local snapshots to be deleted. Then turn on Time Machine again. It remembers your backup disks.

Carbon Copy Cloner creates its own snapshots, the confusing part being that disabling snapshot support in CCC preferences does not clean up any existing snapshots—it has to be done manually. Whether this is some inscrutable feature or a bug is unclear. However, the CCC snapshots total only a few GB, and the extra space is now 260GB, as shown below:

Snapshots kept by Carbon Copy Cloner do not total up

Dangerous suggestions

Why does macOS suggest I delete my raw image files and Photoshop files?

What is 260GB “purgeable” and how can I get rid of it? And why does the Finder show 1.36GB purgeable?

Reader Sebastian B writes:

I was having the same basic issue with snapshots and CCC. The key to understanding that window is that the sizes given for individual snapshots represent how much space would be freed (immediately) if you deleted that snapshot, NOT how much space the files referenced in the snapshot occupy. The reason for this difference is that snapshots often include files also included in other snapshots; those files only get deleted if every snapshot containing them gets deleted, so the number for "how much space do I get back if I delete this single snapshot" is often considerably lower.

You can always see how much space is occupied by snapshots in total by looking below the bar on the left—in your case, 260.41 GB. You would also get the same number if you selected all individual snapshots on the right and right-clicked them (the number is calculated and then shown in the context menu). That way you can also find out how much space you can free by deleting multiple snapshots at once.

All this does indeed seem counter-intuitive and unnecessarily complex, but I think it simply can't be done much differently due to the referential nature of snapshots.

Apple's apps are another matter, of course. They basically hide from the user that there even are such things as snapshots, let alone how they work or how they impact free disk space. And it gets even more complicated because of "cloned" files and similar APFS features, which cause different apps (e. g. Finder vs. Disk Utility) to give hugely differing numbers free disk space, and even within the Finder basic arithmetic seems like a foreign concept (sizes of individual files vs. containing folder(s) vs. indicated free space on the volume etc.).

At the moment, I think the safest bet is to rely on CCC for anything critical, especially regarding backup. It's confusing at first, but at least it's correct.

MPG: from my perspective as a user, APFS is a solution in search of a problem, while bringing confusion and performance problems. If that’s progress, I hope progress slows.

Carbon Copy Cloner is terrific, but Time Machine helps me more for little stuff, like overwriting a blog post by accident ('git' can deal with that too, but using git is harder). So if snapshots effectively allow some history on the same drive even without an external backup, perhaps I'll change my thinking on APFS.

Sebastian B continues:

In CCC, you can have snapshots made by whatever schedule you like if you simply create a dummy task that clones an empty folder on your disk to another empty folder. On APFS (unless disabled), CCC will always use a snapshot of your disk as the backup source, so whenever the dummy task executes, a snapshot for the base volume is created and then retained as per your retention policy for that volume. And unlike macOS/Time Machine, CCC allows you to simply mount snapshots and use the Finder (and not the crappy Time Machine UI) to restore files from it. (Right-click in CCC's snapshots list and click "Browse" to mount.)

You might run into free disk space issues this way if you routinely delete large files, but you can tune your snapshot retention settings to find an acceptable balance. (E. g., keep snapshots only for 2 days and set a high value for "Delete the oldest snapshots if free space is less than …".)

CCC doesn't expose this functionality more openly because otherwise lots of users would think they get true backups without external disks, and would stop backing up altogether. But for those who know what they're doing (and get used to the weird effects on free disk space), it's pretty useful.

MPG: great tip! Worth a try especially when I travel where I might not hook up a backup disk for a short bit of work. TimeMachine can restore individual files from a snapshot but if you know what version of the file you want, mounting a snapshot of a volume is easier.


Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

B&H Photo Introduces PayBoo Card, Refunds the Sales Tax for Many States — Game Changer for Retailers?

As a small business, I remit sales/use tax every year on out of state purchases.

B&H Photo makes a industry-changing move that builds brand loyalty with its new Payboo credit card, and at least here in California, is equivalent to a 9%+ discount:

Now, with the B&H Payboo Card, save the equivalent to the sales tax you pay on every purchase shipped to eligible states”.

I’d be surprised if this move does not cause other companies to follow. Kudso to B&H.

Apply Now for Payboo

B&H Photo Payboo “Save the tax” credit card

The arrangement is a not “points” or saving later, it is instant savings:

What are the B&H Payboo Credit Card benefits?

B&H issues instant Payboo Card Savings on all non-tax-exempt purchases shipped to eligible states paid for with the Payboo Card in the form of a reward concurrently issued and redeemed directly on your order during checkout.

How does the Payboo Card benefit really work?

When you pay for B&H purchases with the Payboo Credit Card, B&H will charge the total of merchandise plus applicable fees and taxes; but we instantly issue and apply a reward on orders made in our SuperStore or shipped to eligible states right in checkout as a form of customer payment. Then, the amount charged to the Payboo Card is net of the benefit applied. \

Am I paying sales tax on my purchase? Do I need to submit anything in my tax filings?

B&H will collect and remit state sales tax in accordance with state sales tax laws and regulations. So, customers do pay required sales tax and do not need to keep track or file anything separately. Is there any limit or cap on the total amount of Payboo Card savings? No. B&H will issue Payboo Card Savings rewards without any upper limit.

...

B&H Photo sells a wide variety of cameras, lenses, electronics and more, and is an Apple authorized reseller. See my B&H Photo wishlists.

Super easy to apply and use

I applied for and received my Payboo card and had made an order in under 5 minutes.

B&H Photo Payboo card used for order, saves sales tax

Upgrade the memory of your 2019 iMac up to 128GB

Update on Using an eGPU for Photoshop for Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details

See my recommended Macs for photographers and similar higher-end users. Contact Lloyd for consulting on choosing and configuring a system, backup and fault tolerance, etc.

See my detailed May 1st post Notes on Using an eGPU for Photoshop for Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details.

May 6, 2019 update from Adobe:

I received this response to my inquiry as to why an eGPU was not being used for Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details on the 2018 Mac mini. Emphasis added:

There is indeed some confusion surrounding eGPUs. We've been working with Apple to try to understand in which situations eGPUs are currently supported and which ones they're not.

For normal Adobe Camera Raw usage, where we have more direct control over which GPU is used, you should find that eGPUs are supported in current versions of macOS, such as 10.14.4.

However, Enhance Details is an exception to this rule, because it relies on underlying OS-driven technologies where the use of eGPU is OS-determined, not app-determined. We originally tested Enhance Details with eGPUs back when the latest macOS was 10.13.x, and eGPUs definitely worked at that time to accelerate Enhance Details.

Unfortunately, eGPUs don't seem to be working reliably with Enhance Details under 10.14.4; we're working with Apple to try to get this resolved, but no timetable as yet.

MPG is glad to hear that the sitution is known and being worked on.

Upgraded my 2015 MacBook Pro Retina Apple Flash Drive to the 2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD

See my recommended Macs for photographers and similar higher-end users. Contact Lloyd for consulting on choosing and configuring a system, backup and fault tolerance, etc.

This might be OWC’s best upgrade for older Macs yet! Quick and easy install for more capacity, higher performance and lower power consumption make it a triple winner.

The OWC Aura Pro X2 NVMe SSD is a drop-in replacement for the Apple SSD in various Mac models. Available for:

OWC Aura Pro X2
  • MacBook Pro 2013 / 2014 / 2015
  • Mac Pro 2013-current
  • MacBook Air Mid 2013 - 2017
  • Mac mini (late 2014)

Available by itself or with an SSD upgrade kit which includes an OWC Envoy Pro enclosure for the internal SSD being removed (highly recommended since it allow cloning from the old SSD to the new internal SSD). [Note: the enclosure is engineered *only* for the Apple SSD, do not install the Aura Pro X2 into it].

The feature set is appealing: faster than the original factory SSD along with lower power consumption for longer battery life, and up to 2TB capacity.

  • High performance for high demands
  • Read speeds up to 3192MB/sec
  • Write speeds up to 2488MB/sec
  • Consumes less power and runs cooler
  • Designed for macOS 10.13 and beyond
  • NVMe – PCIe 3.1 x4
  • OWC Free Install Videos make it easy to upgrade!
  • 5 Year OWC Limited Warranty

Which capacity?

I obtained the OWC Aura Pro X2 2.0TB NVMe SSD Upgrade Solution for my 2015 MacBook Pro. It includes the optional Envoy Pro enclosure to house the original SSD. Unless the budget is super tight, MPG recommends the 1TB model as it is only 50% more than the 480GB model.

Design/performance

Like many SSDs, the design of the OWC Aura Pro X2 is a two-tier flash memory design, so that continuous max-speed writing will run at full speed for about 16% of drive capacity, then write performance drops to about 800MB/sec (still very fast, read speed is always very fast).

In real world usage, hitting a performance drop-off would require continuous writing of 320GB on the 2TB drive or 160GB on the 1TB model or 80GB on the 480GB model). Few if any real-world tasks write that much data without pause—even my largest Photoshop jobs don’t write more than 20GB or so. So it’s a non-issue for real world use for any imaginable use case. Using the DiskTester create-files command to create ten 10GiB files (100GiB total), I saw the write speed alternate starting at about 160GB (there was already 500GB on the drive). But pausing a minute and then writing would deliver high speed again. The only real-world scenario that writes a ton of data is my 200GB git repository, which has to be rewritten in its entirety during a "git gc". I tested that, but since git doesn’t write much faster than 200 MB/sec, the write speed is only a fraction of what the SSD could accept.

Installation

Backup first! Preferably at least two backups, just in case. Make sure you can boot off one backup so that it can be cloned back onto the new drive.

User error: I made one mistake when installing—I forgot to disconnect the power supply. That’s bad juju in general (could damage something), but while no damage occurred, it apparently caused some kind of SMC controller problem. I could not get the drive or the original drive in the Envoy Pro enclose until I disconnected and reconnected the power, then everything worked instantly and perfectly. So be sure to disconnect the power cable (as shown) before installing.

Most of the time involved is transferring the old system and data to the new drive—best done with cloning, which is whey the optional OWC Envoy Pro enclosure for the original SSD is handy. But the same cloning can be done from any drive.

Installation is very easy, requiring only torx screwdrivers. See the install video. Key points:

  • Don’t wear wool and don’t work on carpet or other static prone surfaces.
  • It’s helpful when removing screws to have a small magnet so as not to lose them.
  • Be sure to disconnect power before removing/installing the SSD; see annotation on image below. Don’t forget to reconnect it before closing the laptop backup.
  • Have a plan to migrate data onto the new drive—it is empty to start with so the best thing is a clone backup of the original internal drive, or the internal drive itself (in the optional OWC Envoy Pro enclosure designed for it).
  • If there is dust, blow it off with canned air—dust kills computers.

Below, the install is done except for screwing the back cover back on.

2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD installed internally in the 2015 MacBook Pro Retina

Below, the original Apple 1TB SSD gets installed into the optional OWC Envoy Pro enclosure. (bus-powered, supplied with cable).

Original Apple SSD to be installed in OWC Envoy Pro enclosure

Setting up

Shown below is the 2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 installed in my 2015 MacBook Pro. I use Disk Utility to create two APFS volumes. I did not use true partitioning because the APFS container approach does not balkanize the space—much more flexible.

The reason I use two volumes is that I prefer to have all my data on a separate file system, just in case something goes wrong with the system on volume Boot—I can wipe it out and reinstall without whacking my data on volume Master. System and applications go on Boot and all my stuff (well, most of it) goes onto Master.

MPG Lloyd’s setup:
Volumes Boot and Master on 2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SS
installed internally in the 2015 MacBook Pro Retina
2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD installed internally in the 2015 MacBook Pro Retina

Performance

Performance is outstanding, with exceptionally high read and write speeds for 32/64/128/256 KB transfers—very important for real world use.

The speeds are not quite as fast as the SSD in the 2018 MacBook Pro, but are better than the SSD speed with the Apple SSD—a definite upgrade in both speed and capacity. There is a dip in write speed with 512K transfers, common with SSDs.

All in all this is a terrific upgrade that extends the life of my 2015 MacBook Pro.

2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 SSD performance in 2015 MacBook Pro Retina

Conclusions

This might be OWC’s best upgrade for older Macs yet! Quick and easy install for more capacity, higher performance and lower power consumption make it a triple winner.


Deals Updated Daily at B&H Photo

Two-Minute Install of OWC 128GB Memory Kit for 2019 iMac 5K Works Great, Runs Big Jobs Effortlessly

See my recommended Macs for photographers and similar higher-end users. Contact Lloyd for consulting on choosing and configuring a system, backup and fault tolerance, etc.

Shown below is the OWC 128GB memory kit installed in the 2019 iMac 5K. Installation took all of two minutes (well, maybe 3 or 4 including unplugging, positioning, installing, plugging back in). Pop the back cover, remove existing modules, install the new modules. See the memory install video for 2019 iMac 5K.

Get the Mac Lloyd recommends for most photographers, then adding 64GB or 128GB OWC memory.

The smart move for users looking for 32GB or more memory is to order this 2019 iMac 5K with 8GB memory, then add 32GB or 64GB or 96GB or 128GB at about half the price Apple charges (and Apple does not offer 128GB). In other words, get 128GB for the price Apple charges for 64GB—a no-brainer.

OWC 128GB memory kit for 2019 iMac 5K
128GB memory in 2019 iMac 5K
128GB memory in 2019 iMac 5K

Get up to 16x more storage and 2x the speeds of the original drive

How Much are GPU and CPU Cores used by Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details?

See my recommended Macs for photographers and similar higher-end users. Contact Lloyd for consulting on choosing and configuring a system, backup and fault tolerance, etc.

The Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details is the most important raw file conversion feature in years, applied as a preprocessing activity to the camera raw file. I apply it to all my raw files for improved image quality. But it is very slow, taking up to 5X as long as converting the raw file!

Unlike raw file conversion which has zero GPU usage and modest GPU usage for Photoshop Filters, the Enhance Details feature is GPU-constrained, so a faster GPU should considerably speed up Enhance Details. As of mid 2019, that’s about the ONLY Photoshop operation where a GPU has much relevance—choosing more and faster CPU cores should come first before spending on the GPU. Thus it is doubtful that an eGPU makes any sense at all except for machines with integrated graphics (only).

Get the Mac Lloyd recommends for most photographers, then adding 64GB or 128GB OWC memory.

Below, the GPU on the 2019 iMac 5K is pegged out at 100% utilization while converting raw files. There is some CPU usage, but any 4-core Mac should handle that easily—the key is the fastest possible GPU.

GPU vs CPU core usage for Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details

Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

How Much is the GPU used for Raw File Conversion in Adobe Camera Raw?

See my recommended Macs for photographers and similar higher-end users. Contact Lloyd for consulting on choosing and configuring a system, backup and fault tolerance, etc.

Adobe Camera Raw raw conversion is a pure CPU operation for all six digital camera raw file types I tried and therefore presumably all raw file types.

In other words, a faster GPU has zero benefit for raw file conversion in Adobe Camera Raw (Photoshop and Lightroom).

Get the Mac Lloyd recommends for most photographers, then adding 64GB or 128GB OWC memory.

Photoshop Adobe Camera Raw raw conversion: all CPU, no GPU

How Much are GPU and CPU Cores used by Photoshop Filters?

See my recommended Macs for photographers and similar higher-end users. Contact Lloyd for consulting on choosing and configuring a system, backup and fault tolerance, etc.

Photoshop Filters are found in the Filter menu in Photoshop. The graph below shows how much the CPU cores and GPU are used for those filters.

The only filter with any meaningful use case for me (and probably most photographers) is the Sharpen filter.

In other words, a faster GPU does almost nothing for most users except for sharpening. And even when the GPU is used the most, its utilization is no more than about 1/3 of the GPU potential even as the CPU cores are also used substantially. In the context of the total operation time, it is doubtful that a faster GPU versus the base GPU option has more than minimal value. Unless of course you’re doing Oil Paint, Emboss, Liquify and a lot of sharpening many times a day.

Get the Mac Lloyd recommends for most photographers, then adding 64GB or 128GB OWC memory.

Photoshop GPU vs CPU core usage for most Photoshop filters

Andrew V writes:

This is a shame, especially in light of the newly announce Mac Pro. As a hobbyist, I have been fortunate enough to been able to acquire the 2009 and later the 2013 Mac Pro, adding/upgrading external storage, monitors, memories as my budget allowed. However, that ride has effectively ended with the new Mac Pro price points. I dislike iMacs for their all in one unit especially given bad past experience with my first 2006 iMac where under warranty I had all at the same time a motherboard, HD and video card failure.

With that said, I was hoping that the Mac mini would have been the next best (expandable/buildable) option given the its new configuration, but not able to use eGPU from OWC, makes this a less viable option. Essentially there is no new Mac machine that can take advantage of this device.

Too bad the eGPU from OWC is not compatible with the 2013 Mac Pro, even though my unit has the D500 cards. It would have been nice to have some sort of upgrade path as I enjoy shooting both photos and video. For now, I plan on keeping it until it dies or cannot keep up with the Adobe PS subscription changes and hardware requirements. This whole concept has gotten me into a degenerative loop. Software subscription that ultimately requires upgrading the hardware and either very expensive machines or limited reasonably priced hardware options will eventually force me back out to Windows.

MPG: referencing a 2006 iMac (13 years ago) IMO has no validity as an experience at this point. My 2017 iMac 5K ran like a champ and so far that is also true of the 2019 iMac 5K.

An eGPU is pretty much for gamers and video. Nearly all my photographic work uses CPUs, and there the 2019 iMac 5K rocks.

I just don’t see much logic to these comments, since they dismiss a wonderfully capable machine out of hand—the 2019 iMac 5K.

128GB Memory in iMac 5K

Up to 128GB for 2019 iMac 5K!
Up to 64GB for 2015/2017 iMac 5K

Save nearly 50% over Apple pricing

Notes on Using an eGPU for Photoshop for Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details

See my recommended Macs for photographers and similar higher-end users. Contact Lloyd for consulting on choosing and configuring a system, backup and fault tolerance, etc.

The Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details feature is a GPU-intensive feature that I use frequently. On my 2017 iMac 5K, it takes ~6 seconds per 45MB raw file, which is about 3X the time it takes to convert the raw file! On the 2018 Mac mini, Enhance Details takes a molasses-slow ~42 seconds per file. With 187 megapixel raw files, those times quadruple.

The slow speed on the 2018 Mac mini raises the question of whether an eGPU can speed up Enhance Details. The answer is “yes it should, but it does not”, but so far on the 2018 Mac mini I cannot get Photoshop to use the eGPU for Enhance Details even though it recognizes the Radeon RX 580! Photoshop instead uses the integrated GPU for Enhance Details.

eGPU should work in Photoshop for Enhance Details on 2018 Mac mini, but does not

The Adobe video applications support dual eGPU processing; this post applies only to Enhance Details in Photoshop/Lightroom.

Setup is macOS 10.14.4 with the OWC Mercury Helios FX 650 connected directly to the 2018 Mac mini as shown in the system profile. Photoshop CC 2019 v20.0.4. Adobe Camera Raw recognizes the AMD Radeon RX 580 eGPU in its performance preferences as shown.

As shown, Photoshop does not use the eGPU for Enhance Details. Below, a batch job of Enhance Details on the 2018 Mac mini uses only the built-in graphics. The Prefer External GPU option is checked on Photoshop.

Photoshop Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details batch processing, eGPU being ignored

Below, system configuration confirms the eGPU is present and recognized both by macOS and by Adobe Camera Raw.

eGPU setup on 2018 Mac mini

Below, Photoshop recognizes the AMD Radeon RX 580 eGPU in its preferences:

Photoshop Performance preferences showing that Photoshop recognizes the AMD Radeon RX 580 eGPU

When does an eGPU get used?

Just today, I received this interesting bit from an Adobe engineer. It does not address the 2018 Mac mini issue, but there is important information here:

In general Enhance Details does support eGPUs, but on macOS this does not work when the computer has its own built-in discrete GPU. It's possible Apple may change this limitation in a future version of macOS.

In the meantime with 10.14.4, this means that Enhance Details will use the eGPU if the base system has only an Intel integrated GPU, but unfortunately NOT use the eGPU if the base system already has a discrete GPU (like a MacBook Pro with both Intel and AMD GPUs, or an iMac with an AMD GPU).

Thus with the 2018 Mac mini, the eGPU ought to be used, since it has only an integrated GPU. But it is not working for Enhance Details, and I’ve triple checked all configuration. I’m forced to conclude that there is either a macOS 10.14.4 but, or an Adobe bug.

May 6, 2019 update from Adobe:

There is indeed some confusion surrounding eGPUs. We've been working with Apple to try to understand in which situations eGPUs are currently supported and which ones they're not.

For normal ACR usage, where we have more direct control over which GPU is used, you should find that eGPUs are supported in current versions of macOS, such as 10.14.4.

However, Enhance Details is an exception to this rule, because it relies on underlying OS-driven technologies where the use of eGPU is OS-determined, not app-determined. We originally tested Enhance Details with eGPUs back when the latest macOS was 10.13.x, and eGPUs definitely worked at that time to accelerate Enhance Details.

Unfortunately, eGPUs don't seem to be working reliably with Enhance Details under 10.14.4; we're working with Apple to try to get this resolved, but no timetable as yet.

Summarizing which Macs will use the eGPU

With regards to use of the eGPU for Enhance Details:

  • 2018 Mac mini ought to use eGPU since it has only integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630, but so far I cannot get it to work.
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro ought to use eGPU since it has only Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640/655 integrated GPU.
  • iMac 4K ought to use eGPU since it has only Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 integrated GPU.
  • iMac 5K will not use eGPU since it has various flavors of discrete GPU.
  • 15-inch MacBook Pro will not use eGPU since it has various flavors of discrete GPU.

The iMac 5K (all variants) and 15-inch MacBook Pro (most all) also will not work, since they have both integrated and discrete GPUs. The iMac 4K should work, since it has only Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640. The 13-inch MacBook Pro should work since it has

* Driving the NEC PA271Q with the Radeon RX 580 (though video tends to not come back after reboot, probably a lingering macOS bug.

See also:

From Apple and Adobe.


Get up to 16x more storage and 2x the speeds of the original drive

2019 iMac 5K: Coming for Review

See my recommended Macs for photographers and similar higher-end users.

Contact Lloyd for consulting on choosing and configuring a system, backup and fault tolerance, etc.

More about the 2019 iMac 5K.

On the way for testing is the 2019 iMac 5K. Due to travel, I expect to review it starting in late April. I am keenly interested to see how much faster it is than my 2015 iMac 5K.

Ordered with 8GB memory, I’ll be testing it with 64GB and 128GB of OWC memory.

Please buy your Macs at B&H Photo through the links on this site or diglloyd.com—it is B&H Photo that makes these reviews possible!

Because the Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details feature uses the GPU intensively, I’ve selected the top-end configuration with the AMD Radeon Vega 48 GPU. See Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details Feature: Integrated into my Workflow... How Much Does it Use the GPU?. Currently on the 2017 iMac 5K, it takes about 5.5 seconds per 45 megapixel raw file, and 22 seconds for a HighRes 187 megapixel file. Whether the Vega 48 GPU is worth the cost remains to be seen, but at this point, I advise it for photographers since the Enhance Details feature is the best raw conversion feature in years.

Recommended Apple 2019 iMac 5K for high-end users
BUT buy with 8GB then upgrade the memory to 128GB

 


Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

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