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External SSD macOS boot drive questions.. what files/apps MUST come?

Ok, so I’m running a 2017 iMac w/ an internal 1 Tb SATA drive. I wanted some extra firepower, namely when using iMovie, so I followed the advice of native ifixit’ers and bought an external SSD (500 Gb Samsung T5) and installed Catalina onto it.

Everything is working great so far, except for a couple questions I have—more out of curiosity than anything:

  1. I just noticed that “Adobe Flash Player” isn’t being recognized/utilized from my internal SATA drive—as I just was scrolling a website, and got the ol’ “This content requires the Adobe Flash Player” message.
    • I’m still learning and am a n00b, but what applications/files MUST “come with” (ie. be transferred or copied over to the external boot drive), not for the greatest efficiency, but merely for fluid operability (ie. doesn’t require me opening up the applications folder of my Mac HD and open manually each time I want to use it)?
    • If something is “necessary” on the external boot drive, then I should most likely just uninstall it from my internal SATA drive then too, right?
  2. In order to gain the most from an external SSD boot drive, what which apps/files would be best suited IN the SSD, as opposed to stored in the internal SATA?
    • I remember reading something about “the more data you have on the SATA drive, the slower the overall mac system will run” (this was referring to without an external boot drive)—I’m wondering if this applies to the external SSD as well, and if so, what “limit” should I not surpass in order to gain the greatest performance benefit?
    • also WHILST having the external boot SSD, does the capacity of my internal SATA even modulate the performance of my iMac at all anymore, or could I theoretically max it out with data (videos mostly) without negating overall performance/speed?
  3. Kind of a side stream question, but with so much cloud availability now a days—is there a downside to storing almost everything in the cloud (except for my applications/software)? I’m just thinking in the long-term, because it would almost be unnecessary to ever purchase another physical drive again.. just my external boot, and a ton of cloud storage! hypothetically speaking of course.

I know the answers to some of these specific questions probably overlap haha, but I appreciate any feedback! Cheers!

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Rule of thumb is the boot drive is where your apps will live. So you are correct if you’ve setup your external as the boot drive then you do want to hod the apps on it.

Thats not to say you can’t run some off a different drive! But, it depends on the given apps needs.

Some Apps allow you to alter their cache & scratch space either via a menu option or having to go into the apps settings with an editor. Adobe Flash Player sadly needs to be in the boot drive and frankly you want it under the higher security level of the apps folder.

The word ‘Data’ can throw you as that could be anything! To add to it there is a lot of mis-information on how to effectively setup drives in general.

So let’s start at ground Zero! Lets say you have a brand new system and you run it on for the very first time. Apple has already install the Os and the setup screen will prompt you for the needed first users info. This is where I take a left turn! This first user is defined as the systems Admin! So a good habit is to set this user up as a user account to manage your system not user it (make sure to make a strong password and write it down somewhere safe)! For installing apps and OS updates. I generally don’t use my name but something that I can remember is an admin account. Once this account is made I go into the User & Groups control panel account to create my daily user account. This account is setup as a ‘Standard’ User and I still want a good password for this account but one I will remember!

OK so installing apps using the Admin account and using the standard account for my day to day stuff setting up my email account and other settings for the apps here.

Now lets talk about Apps & Data segregation! Ideally, if you are a heavy data person you what to use either a separate partition if you have a very large drive or use a separate drive for your data isolating it from your apps. This then gets into using the faster I/O for your OS and Apps drive, and using the slower as your data drive.

If you have a 27” iMac you have two I/O’s available a fast PCIe/NVMe interface and a slower SATA III (6.0 Gb/s) interface. If you have a 21.5” model you may not have the faster PCIe/NVMe interface as Apple only installed the needed parts on the SSD only or Fusion Drive’d systems to support it and there is no means to add it later.

If I remember correctly you were getting a 21.5” Fusion Drive model and wanted to know if you could add in a blade SSD. I think I had recommend you just use the system as is and use an external drive as a backup. Which I would still do here. And once you have some coin get the larger OWC Aura drive making your system a true dual drive setup with the Aura PCIe/NVMe blade drive be your boot drive with the apps and leaving at least 1/4 free for the OS to leverage.

Using an external drive as an OS/App’s drive can be dicy! As if you break the connection your system can freeze up if you knock it.

Thats why I do recommend dual partition or drive and not an external

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