Projects on system drive? Or NOT on system drive?

Hi folks -

I have a Mac Studio M1 Max, with a 4TB drive on it. This machine is an absolute beast and I love working with Cubase on it. My question is - how detrimental is it, in this day and age, particularly with these new SOC configurations, to run my projects on the system drive, the same drive that houses Cubase, all plugs, and all VSTi’s?

There’s obviously plenty of space at 4TB, and I know for a fact, particularly when I had my PC back in the day, that this was generally considered a no-no and that you should at least try to keep your VSTi’s on their own drive, your DAW on the system drive, and your projects on yet another drive. No problem, that’s what I used to do and it worked like a charm.

I ran a quick test by taking a LARGE project that I’ve been working on that’s very CPU heavy and tossed it on an external SSD, and ran it, and then did the same on my system drive - I honestly could not perceive a difference in terms of performance. I understand that performance isn’t EVERYTHING - but what I’m wondering about it FACTS - is it bad or detrimental to be running my system like this at this point in history?

Would love to hear any discussion on this from those that have dug into this and might know more!

These are the facts:

You shouldn’t worry about this, I would say.

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Only thing “detrimental” would be to forget to make a backup on an external drive (or the cloud) from time to time.

Today’s SSDs are much more reliable than a few years ago, and a 100x more than good ol’ mechanical drives, but it’s still a good habit to backup, especially all your irreplaceable project files, to an external place.

A few years ago, I had my PC power supply that went bizark and fried my motherboard AND one of my drives! I was lucky this time because that drive was in RAID1… but it could have fried all my drives in 1 event…
A friend of mine also lost *everything * because of a silly electrical fire that burned the house.

I (somewhat) learned my lesson, and bring my home backups to the office, and vice versa.

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Excellent point!

As per your own experience, it’s highly doubtful that your Cubase performance is throttled by your SSD (system drive), so my suggestion would be to keep everything on it.

That’s what I’ve done for years - less hassle and complexity than dealing with multiple drives. Just get a fast, big SSD, throw everything on it, and if it fits, call it a day and make music instead.

But yes, the advice to back things up is priceless. It’s a question of if, not when, your SSD will fail, so I treat every storage device as ephemeral, and have a backup regimen that’s constructed accordingly. It’s saved my bacon multiple times over the years.

On the new Apple silicon you will get the best performance using the internal hard drive for everything, I switched from using a project disc and other disc to just use the internal. the way the Macs are built is ultra fast hard drive/ram connection.

But using external SSD with USB C/Thunderbolt is more than enough, it isn’t that much data that is transferred. in the old days the read/write at the same time had limitations, but not anymore.

This is all GOLD info guys! Thank you for your helpful replies!

So that brings me to the backup conversation… what do you all recommend for backup situations? I’ve never used RAID, but I’ve always heard about it, I’ve definitely had a hard drive quit on me and do NOT want to repeat that experience. Ideally i’d love something that works in the background without having to manually move anything. Suggestions?


RAID is a shortcut for a combination of discs for storing data redundantly. There are several different levels, depending on what you need you can chose between these levels.

You can have hardware RAID, that means there is a piece of hardware where you connect the discs and all the storage work is done by a specialized CPU on that hardware. Some examples, out of tons of others…

Adaptec® SmartRAID RAID Adapters | Microchip Technology
NVMe RAID AIC Adapter | HighPoint Technologies,Inc. (

Or most operating systems also support software RAID, which is kind of a driver that connects the discs into a RAID system.

Faster is always the hardware solution, because it has its own CPU, a software RAID takes the performance from the system CPU (which is kind of bad for a realtime audio system).

RAID 0 The so called Stripe Set. Distribution of data across all connected discs. Extremely fast, but no added security. If one disc fails the data are lost, so just for performance, not for security.

RAID 1 Disk mirroring. It needs at least one identical pair of discs (can be more, but must always be dividable by 2) and the data are stored on both discs simulteanuously. If one disc fails, just replace it by a new disc and it will be syncronized automatically.

RAID Levels 2-4 are very rarely used and not of real interest.

RAID 5 This is the most used level. It splits data across all connected discs and creates a parity bit on another disc. So this requires at least three discs, two for data and one for parity bit. This means if one disc fails you can replace it (even while the rest of the system is active) and it will be syncronized automaticaly. Of course you lose the size of one disc for data, so in a set of three 4 TB discs you will have 8 TB of real data.

RAID 6 Same as RAID 5, except two discs are used for parity calculation. This requires at least four discs and, even if two discs crash at the same time, you can recover your data completely to the last second. So if you have four discs with 4 TB each, you still have 8 TB for real data, but a high level of security. This level is best if you have six or even more discs, so for example six discs with 4 TB each is 16 TB real data and 8 TB for security.

There are a couple more levels, but these are the most used in usual small business systems. The easiest is to get a NAS, like QNAP or Synology, with at least two, better four or more discs and connect them via the network.

For a backup you should get a good backup software, that knows about image backups (see the postings from @gamelany ) and ideally has a backup plan. That means you can do something like on monday a full backup of everything, on tuesday to friday only the changes (called incremental backup) and the next week the same.

I use Acronis for this ( Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office (Formerly True Image) - Integrated Backup and Anti Malware Protection ) This is software that has a price, but it is extremely reliable. I was always able to recover, even down to a single small file.

Glad you understand the value of backups! Here’s my backup strategy:

(1) I have an external SSD attached via USB to my Cubase PC and use the Windows file versioning capability to make a backup/file history of my Cubase directory on that external SSD, so I can go back to previous versions of files. I’m sure Apple has similar capabilities.

(2) I use GoodSync to synchronize my Cubase directory at the end of the work day to a NAS that’s installed in a server closet in the basement of the house.

(3) That NAS (Synology DS220j) has two spinning hard drives in a RAID configuration, and has an external spinning hard drive attached to it to keep a tiered file version history of everything on the NAS on it, so I can retrieve previous versions of files up to a year back.

(4) I then use GoodSync on a different PC on a different floor of the house to pull those Cubase files from the NAS at the end of the work day onto an external SSD attached via USB to that PC, and into the OneDrive directory on the internal SSD of that PC.

(5) OneDrive will then synchronize those files with its cloud storage.

(6) I also run Carbonite on that PC to synchronize those Cubase files with the Carbonite cloud.

(7) Once a month, I will compress all of my Cubase files into a ZIP file, and store that ZIP file as a point-in-time snapshot both on the NAS and on an external spinning hard drive that I will stash away in a safe place otherwise.

It might seem excessive to have my files stored in eleven different locations, but all of this is completely automated, and the different backup destinations serve different purposes, and defend against a variety of different failure scenarios:

(A) I use two different, geodistributed cloud providers in case one of them becomes inaccessible (or, say, an earthquake takes one of them down), and I use OneDrive to easily access my files when I’m traveling.

(B) I use the locally attached backups to quickly pull up backups/file versions, instead of going out to the Internet (which may or may not be available).

(C) I use different rooms/floors in my house to guard against, say, the basement getting flooded and taking the NAS down with it, or a thief stealing my computers (but not knowing there’s a server closet in the basement).

(D) I use different storage mediums (SSDs and spinning hard drives) because they have different failure modes (magnetic vs. non-magnetic), and different MTBFs.

Except for the more catastrophic scenarios (flooding, theft, earthquake), each one of these has come in handy in one way or another over the years, so this isn’t overengineered. If you’ve been around for long enough, you’ll realize that even pretty outlandish long-tail scenarios will eventually manifest.

Two last bits of advice:

One, it’s not the backup you care about, it’s the restore capability. So, whatever backup mechanism you end up using, test out its restore capability! You don’t want to find out that you can’t restore your files for some reason when you need them.

Two, backups are useful, but file versioning is even more useful. So, make sure you have some file versioning capability built into your backup strategy, and make sure your versioning schedule is well thought out. I do daily versions for a week, then weekly versions for a month, and then monthly versions for a year. If you ever delete a file by accident, and then propagate that deletion to your backup, you’ll be grateful to be able to go into the file history (or a point-in-time snapshot) and retrieve that file!!

SSD have by nature a limited life span. If one writes large amounts of data on an SSD at a given point, it will stop to be writeable. At that point one can only read data allowing an attempt to make a backup copy on some other drive.

Before starting a discussion: I know that large amount of data is really ‘Incredible large’ amounts of data. But I reached that point on a 1 TB NVMe SSD …

Wow… these posts are making it apparent how slack I am in all of this. Thank you all for these incredibly detailed replies, I know it’s pretty time consuming to detail all that out.

I really need to do some research but ideally, I would like I think some type of physical backup - and then as well to the Cloud, much like you have @Timo00 . I don’t know that I’d like to go to the lengths that you are going, but I love the idea of a NAS array along with the OneDrive, in case the house ever burns to the ground. How big is your OneDrive storage? Do you pay for additional storage? Does this all sync in an automated way or do you have to initialize it?

Thanks again for all this info guys!

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I’ve got 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage. Calculated based on my observed file growth rate, that’ll last me for many years to come.

I’m paying something like $70/year for Microsoft 365, which not only includes the 1TB of OneDrive storage, but also the full Microsoft Office suite. Ridiculously cheap for what it is.

I’ve got all this set up to sync fully automatically. The only thing I do manually is to kick off the GoodSync jobs at the end of the day (literally one mouse click), or whenever I’ve made a batch of changes I want secured immediately.

You can get 1 TB together with the abo for Microsoft 365 for $69.99 in the US.

I use OneDrive also as a synchronized copy of relevant data from my NAS. That is a Synology system, that has a small application for this task. It is easy to setup and works quietly in the background.

Is there a reason why you are not using Cloud Sync on the Synology NAS?

Two reasons:

(1) I like having another local copy of my files on a separate PC that’s running OneDrive (I don’t want my DAW PC constantly talking to the cloud).

(2) My current system works great, so no need to look elsewhere :slight_smile:

It is not the PC talking to the cloud, it is the NAS. Cloud Sync is a small app on the NAS.

I copy the data from my PC to the NAS drive, whenever needed manually. The rest is done by the NAS software without any manual intervention.

Never touch a running system :wink:

Right, I know. I was referring to the fact that I’m sync’ing my Cubase files from my DAW PC (which is not running OneDrive) to another PC (which is running OneDrive) to minimize non-DAW workloads on the DAW PC.

And yes, not going to mess with this system until it either breaks or doesn’t meet my needs anymore. I’d rather write music than fiddle with tech :slight_smile: