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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

Moving macOS (Big Sur) to a new drive

In a previous post I mentioned I was trying out the Big Sur beta. This was actually on my iMac with a fusion drive that I wasn’t using for much else, but now that I had Big Sur on it I started using it more and the slowness of the fusion drive started getting on to me. It’s been a while since I used regular drives, and while the fusion drive is supposed to be better than regular drives due to the 32GB (in my case) of SSD caching it provides I hated it. Any other time I wouldn’t have purchased an iMac with a fusion drive, but I bought this iMac at a time when I wanted something urgently and if I switched the fusion drive to an SSD it added a couple of days to the delivery times and so I skipped it. 

Anyways, fast forward and now I have Big Sur on it and it was slow as hell and irritating. Then I read somewhere that one can boot macOS from an external drive. In fact that’s how sensible people tried out their beta versions – not by installing it on their primary partition like I had done. :) So I decided to go down that route. I could have got an SSD but I went ahead and bought a 2TB NVMe drive and an USB-C to NVMe enclosure – which on paper is expensive, and it really is mind you, but is still cheaper than buying something like the Samsung X5 of a similar capacity (the price difference being due to the fact that the X5 has Thunderbolt to NVMe and so you get 40Gbps bandwidth whereas the UBC-C one I went for gives me 10Gbps – which was fine in my case, I don’t need 40Gbps, and I couldn’t find any Thunderbolt to NVMe enclosures either). 

First I thought I’d try something like Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the internal drive to the NVMe. That didn’t work coz CCC doesn’t work with Big Sur yet and gives a warning that the destination drive won’t be bootable (it does so even before I select a destination drive). I tried to clone and boot anyways and it didn’t work as expected. So what I did instead was the following:

  1. I erased the NVMe disk as APFS via Disk Utility.
  2. Then I took a Time Machine backup the installed macOS. 
  3. Rebooted and went into recovery mode (press Cmd-R while rebooting).
  4. Tried to do a restore of the Time Machine back to the NVMe but it said I must reinstall macOS first. It gives an option to do so there itself, which I did. (Or you could choose to reinstall from the initial menu itself. (Here’s the Apple document to recovery mode for some pictures). Either ways, this will install Big Sur to the disk you specify. 
  5. While booting up into this newly installed OS (it does automatically after the install) I was asked if I want to migrate from a Time Machine backup. I selected to do so, pointed it to my previously created backup, and it restored everything. 
  6. Rebooted, and I was now booting Big Sur from the NVMe disk (speedy!!) and all my data and settings were there. 

Some things actually worked better after this. Previously in Big Sur I wasn’t able to get the default colourful wallpaper working as it would bring up the Catalina wallpaper instead. On the new install that works fine. Some apps like Witch and Alfred etc. bring up their permissions dialog again on first login – no big deal. And that’s it really. But boy, macOS runs so blazingly fast now. Every task which used to take a minute or two of me staring at the beach ball previously is now instant. Nice!

Update: Note to self. When rebooting the Mac press the Option key so I am asked which drive to boot from. The NVMe (or any external) disk can sometimes take a while before being recognised and in such case the Mac boots to the fusion drive by default. Also, press Ctrl when selecting the NVMe so it remembers that as the default (not that it matters because I should always press the Option key when rebooting). 

LG Ultrafine 4k (the newer 23.7″ version) compared to LH 24UD58

I had previously alluded to the LG 24UD58 in a post from 2018. It was my monitor of choice ever since I shifted to using macOS due to its high PPI. At that point while I was aware of the LG Ultrafine 4k it was too pricey and I didn’t want to spend that much. For the price of one LG Ultrafine 4k I can get two LG 24UD58 (which I did) and have them in a dual config. 

One thing with two 24″ monitors though is that it is a bit of a strain. I now appreciate why someone would go for an Ultrawide. Two 24″ monitors side by side means I have to stretch my neck or keep moving around to see the corners of either monitor (which is fine when I am standing and working, but not so convenient when I am sitting) while with one ultrawide presumeably it is not as taxing.

Anyways, fast forward to now. I moved countries, my LG 24UD58s were stuck in shipping, I needed a new monitor coz working on the MacBook Pro screen wasn’t cutting it for me (too small) and so I went ahead and purchased the LG Ultrafine 4k. It is still damn expensive but I was able to get a refurbished version off eBay for roughly the same price as the 24UD58. I was apprehensive getting it because I wasn’t sure what the difference would be between these two models. On paper both have similar specs, resolutions, and PPI and maybe I am missing something on this comparison page but I don’t see any obvious huge differences. 

Now that I purchased it, and a few months later my shipment has arrived and I have the LG 24UD58s to compare with side by side, I can tell you that the LG Ultrafine 4k is vastly different. For one it’s screen is way better. While the PPIs & resolution are similar, the Ultrafine 4k screen just feels better … more fluid, more clear? Maybe its to do with the brightness. When I look at them side by side I see that the Ultrafine 4k is definitely brighter than the 24UD58. It also feels a lot clearer … a statement which doesn’t make much sense, I know. On the 24UD58 it’s as if there’s a matte screen protector on it – I can make out some graininess on the screen, while on the Ultrafine 4k it is crystal clear. 

Another thing is the LG Ultrafine 4k integrates better with your Macs, so in my case I have the power cable going to the LG Ultrafine 4k and a single thunderbolt cable from it to the MacBook Pro. This powers the MacBook Pro so I don’t need to have a separate power going to that – leaving me with a cleaner setup. The Ultrafine 4k also has no buttons on it as it is entirely controlled by the brightness etc. controls of your Mac (or attached keyboard if that can talk to the Mac). It is also more responsive than the 24UD58. When I tap the computer after I have been away for a while, the 24UD58s always used to take a few seconds before waking up (they’d wake up, go to a grey screen, hang about there for a few seconds, and then come alive and show the screen contents). On the Ultrafine 4k it is instant – tap the screen and boom! it is on. It also has a height adjustable stand – a feature I never realised was useful until I experienced it firsthand here. And the Ultrafine 4k also has better tilt angles, which along with the height adjustment means you are able to better position it to your convenience.

The Ultrafine 4k also has 2x Thunderbolt 3 and 3x USB-C ports in the back; while the 24UD58 has 2x HDMI and 1x DisplayPort – so that might be a factor if the ports matter to you. I wonder if the graininess I feel on the 24UD58 is because I am using the HDMI port. You see, Thunderbolt 3 on the LG Ultrafine 4k will give me a bandwidth of 40Gbps, but HDMI 2 on the 24UD48 is limited to 18Gbps while DisplayPort is more comparable at 32.4 Gbps so maybe I should switch to the latter to see if that works better. (Update: Looks like you don’t have any Thunderbolt to DisplayPort adapters. You have Thunderbolt to Dual DisplayPort docks – which should do in my case I guess, but they are not cheap and I don’t want to waste the money for it – or you have USB-C to DisplayPort cables, similar to the USB-C to HDMI 2 cable that I am currently using, but this obviously won’t let me use the full bandwidth available to DisplayPort. Assuming USB-C in this case refers to 3.1 Gen 2 that means I can get a maximum of 20Gbps on these cables). 

The Ultrafine 4k also has inbuilt speakers (but no headphone output port) while the 24UD58 has no inbuilt speakers (but has an headphone output port). Again, I prefer the ports and speakers of the LG Ultrafine 4k over the 24UD58 for my use cases, so now I at least get why the LG Ultrafine 4k is pricier than the 24UD58. (Not sure it’s worth double the price though, but there could be factors I am unaware of).