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Thunderbolt External Hard Drive with Seagate STAE128 Adapter

Written Aaron Van Bokhoven on Dec 14, 2012

Yes, you can use the Seagate STAE128 Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus with any SATA external 2.5” Hard Drive. You can also use the STAE121 but I’ve read that they discontinued that for the newer STAE128.

Here’s a little review on my experience with the Seagate STAE128 Thunderbolt Adapter and a bare 2.5” SATA external hard drive. Since switching over to the Macbook Pro Retina with 256gb SSD, I’ve been a little worried about my hard drive space.

Coming from the regular Macbook Pro with a 750gb hard drive I wasn’t used to worrying about space. I had to move all of my music to an external and reduced the amount of photos I could work on at a time. Since I scan my photos to raw uncompressed TIFF files at a fairly high DPI, the files are quite large. I used to keep about six months to a years worth of scanned negatives on my laptop at a time, and moved anything older to an external. With only 256gb to spare I’m limited to maybe half of that.

So my research started when I was looking into an external in which I could use to edit directly on and was portable. This required something fast and small. I looked into USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, to which the later provided minimal results. The best I could find were 3 or 4 heavy options for Thunderbolt external hard drives at really steep prices, considering I could buy a 1TB USB 3.0 portal external for a hundred dollars.

After more research I came upon the Seagate Thunder Bolt Adapter, STAE 121, that would allow me to convert the Seagate enclosed external drives to Thunderbolt. A little more googling and I found out I could actually use the STAE 121 with a bare 2.5” SATA hard drive. A little skeptical at first mostly because of the lack of people talking about it on the internet, I went to Best Buy to see if they had it in stock.

When I got there I found the newer version, the Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter For Backup Plus, or STAE128. A little confused, I tried to google it but found nothing. I bought it, and a Thunderbolt plug by Apple.

STAE 128 Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus

STAE 128 Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus

At first I thought I would need to use a SATA cable to connect my hard drive, but it actually plugged right into it.

STAE 128 Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus

STAE 128 Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus

STAE 128 Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus

I’m using a Seagate Momentus 7200rpm 500gb hard drive which I pulled from my old Macbook Pro. I don’t have any benchmarks from when that was installed internally, but I did find a few through google and this seems to be about the average, http://jasontomczak.com/2009/06/macbook-pro-and-the-seagate-momentus-500gb-7200rpm-drive/.

My results using the same hard drive and the Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter STAE128 were very close to that.

Seagate Thunderbolt Adapter for Backup Plus STAE128 Benchmark

Compared to my 2TB Western Digital External HDD USB2.0.

and for fun, compared to the internal 256gb SSD that’s inside my Macbook Retina.

Macbook Pro Retina 256gb SSD Benchmark

Overall I’m definitely happy with the STAE128. I get to use my SATA 2.5” hard drives that I have laying around, I get speeds that match internal speeds, it’s portable and self powered, and best of all it was only $99(+$50 for the Thunderbolt cable). The price alone beats any of the other Thunderbolt options out right now.

Next up, installing and booting Windows 7 off the STAE128 Thunderbolt drive.

UPDATE:

I successfully installed, and am now running, Windows 7 from my Thunderbolt external hard drive. I followed these directions and it worked perfectly.

Windows 7 Thunderbolt STAE128 benchmark