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MacBook Pro 256GB SSD upgrade experience  

I wanted an SSD for some time and finally caved in. Armed with credit card, screwdriver and trusty MacBook Pro I fitted a sweet SSD and decided to document the experience.

Choosing a drive

There are a bewildering number of options out there. Budget, as always, dictates the combination of speed and size available.

Size

You may not need as much space as you think so even if you intend on a fresh install first clean-up your current drive to get an idea of actual requirements. Remembering to backup before you:

  1. Identify biggest culprits
    Try DaisyDisk ($20), Disk Inventory X (free) or OmniDiskSweeper (free) and drill down to catch unexpected bloat in your folders
  2. Clean up unused system junk
    Use CleanMyMac ($30) or MonoLingual (free) to clean up logs, caches, redundant processor and unwanted languages.
  3. Archive unused content
    Move those podcasts, TV shows, applications and games you aren’t going to use anytime soon to cheaper external storage.
  4. Deal with orphaned & duplicate files
    Find media in your iTunes folders missing from iTunes lists and either trash or add it back then use iTunes Display Duplicates.

If you’re prepared to give up your internal Superdrive then move your existing hard drive to the optical bay and purchase a smaller SSD for the OS and key performance-critical files. This saves cash and gives you more space at the expense of battery life and a little extra weight.

Speed

All SSDs are not created equal and the combination of flash and controller (on drive and in your machine) play their parts in defining performance. Firmware, hardware revisions, drive size and operating system can also affect the speed so do your homework.

Drives come and go quickly so keep an eye on review dates and exact model numbers as manufacturers have models with similar names with difference specifications.

My choice

I settled on the Crucial SSD 256GB C300 because it is blazingly fast and the 256GB variant fit my 150GB storage requirements.

Since writing this article I’ve upgraded two more machines. My SSD choices as of October 2012 are:

  1. Samsung 830 Series
    I upgraded my work Lenovo ThinkPad X220 with this drive and it’s crazy fast and also fitted it to my new desktop. Available from Amazon in 64GB ($80), 128GB ($100), 256GB ($230) and 512GB ($449) capacities
  2. Crucial M4
    I upgraded two MacBook Pro 15″ (work+wife’s) with Crucial’s M4 last year. Available from Amazon in 64GB ($75), 128GB ($98), 256GB ($183) and 512GB ($539) capacities

Apple-factory options

Apple’s factory options for SSD are a mixed bag. They originally used slower drives by Toshiba and from July 2010 whether you get a fast Samsung or a slow Toshiba SSD was pure luck.

Given Apple charge a slight premium for the SSD option, you don’t get to choose your drive model and they are easily replaceable (except the iMac 27″ and MacBook Pro Retina) go with an after-market drive :)

Installing a new hard drive

Newer Unibody MacBook Pro hard-drives are user-replaceable and covered in the manual.

My older non-Unibody is not so simple but those nice people over at iFixit put together a hard drive replacement guide for 15” that is close enough for my 17″.

Installing Mac OS X without a DVD drive

My Superdrive died a while back so installing Mac OS X is a little trickier than usual. There are a few options you might come across.

If you are just doing a one-off Lion install then try the Lion Recovery Disk Assistant which requires a 1GB USB key and an internet connection for the install.

If you want to install Lion to multiple machines or won’t have internet where you’re installing then you can either put down $69 for the Lion USB thumb drive (no longer available).

My favorite option however is to create my own install USB key. These steps will work for both Snow Leopard and Lion.

Create your own Lion or Snow Leopard install USB stick

The following steps work for both operating systems – the only difference is what you your drag across as a source in step 8.

  • Snow Leopard – source is your retail install DVD
  • Lion – source is InstallESD.dmg file which can be found in your Applications folder inside the Lion installer. If the installer is missing use App Store to re-download it. You will find the file inside the Lion installer by using Show Package Contents and heading to the Contents > Shared Support folder.
  1. Insert your USB stick
  2. Launch Disk Utility from the Utilities folder
  3. Select the USB stick from the list of devices and then choose the Partition tab
  4. Choose 1 Partition from the Volume Scheme drop-down
  5. Press Options… choose GUID Partition Table then OK
  6. Press Apply to confirm you are happy to wipe away all the data on the device and wait until complete
  7. Select the USB stick from the list of devices and then choose the Restore tab
  8. Drag the source (DVD or InstallESD.dmg) from the list of devices into the Source text box
  9. Drag the USB stick from the list of devices into the Destination text box
  10. Press the Restore and wait a while

When finished eject the USB stick and insert it into your DVD-less Mac. Turn it on and hold down alt until a boot selection screen shows then use the arrow keys to select your USB device and press return to launch the installer.

It may take a while for the installer screen to appear but be patient.

Remote Install

Remote Install let’s you put the a DVD into a machine with a drive, run Utilities > Remote Install and follow a few steps which include holding down the alt key on the machine that doesn’t have a drive.

Unfortunately only machines Apple shipped without a Superdrive – i.e. a Mac mini or MacBook Air from 2009 or later are happy to boot from a Remote Disc.

The following two shell commands enable Remote Disc on older machines within Finder but don’t allow a remote install:

defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser EnableODiskBrowsing -bool true
defaults write com.apple.NetworkBrowser ODSSupported -bool true

You will also need to enable sharing on the Mac with the DVD drive. Head into System Preferences then select Sharing then check DVD or CD sharing. You may also want to uncheck Ask me before allowing others to use my DVD drive to avoid having to go to the other machine to continually grant access.

Performance over time & TRIM

A simplified primer

File systems write in blocks and before SSD when the file system wrote to ‘block 1’ it got ‘block 1’ on the drive (unless it was damaged when it would map in a replacement from a reserved section). If it rewrote ‘block 1’ it overwrote what it wrote last time. This is how tools that securely erase files by writing them over and over work.

Now SSDs are fast but the flash technology suffers some limitations the most important is they can’t overwrite data without erasing it first so when the operating system writes ‘block 1’ a second time, it actually stores it somewhere else in the flash (but tells the file system it was ‘block 1’) and makes a note where ‘block 1’ actually is. This avoids the write penalty and also means that you don’t wear out block 1 by writing it over and over again (this is called wear-leveling).

This works just fine until you run out of erased blocks. This happens sooner than you’d think because when the file-system deletes a file it does not actually erase anything but just marks it as not used in it’s own file-system tables knowing it will just get used again sooner or later. (This is how file-recovery tools are able to undelete files).

So this combination of the drive never getting told to erase blocks and only finding out it can re-use them later when its time to write data and it suddenly finds these writes all require it erase blocks too and performance can drop to traditional hard-drive speeds (or worse).

The solutions

Manufacturers initially solved this problem by writing tools that examined the file-system structures to find out which blocks are unused so they can send ‘erase block’ commands down to the SSD drive so they are ready to be written again without the erase penalty – at least until you run out of blocks again. Because these tools need to know the file-systems internals you can’t throw a Windows tool designed for the NTFS file system at a disk formatted with HFS+ for the Mac and expect it to be able to understand anything.

Another solution involves the drive recording when blocks are being overwritten at the file-system it can mark the older copy of the actual block on the flash as erasable. Now, this may not happen until the disk is quite full and so to avoid stalling again on writes the manufacturers put some extra flash storage on the drive. When it gets in this state the writes gets a fresh block from the reserve and the reserve takes the previously used block to erase and put back into reserve. The problem here is that the manufacturers have to put extra flash and logic on the drive which costs $’ and it’s only able to put off stalling as long as the reserve can keep supplying fresh blocks.

A third solution tackles the problem at the source. Manufacturers agreed on a standard that extends the ATA protocol called ‘TRIM’ that lets file-systems tell the drive when blocks are no longer required and can be erased when it’s not busy. Support was built into Windows 7 and Linux 2.6.28 making a lot of SSD owners very happy.

Mac OS X & TRIM

Only Apple-supplied drives have OS X TRIM support enabled by default but there are techniques for enabling TRIM in Mac OS X 10.6.7 (Snow Leopard) and 10.7 (Lion)

You could also try to minimize unnecessary writes:

  1. Don’t use Finder’s Secure Empty Trash or the srm command line tool – these attempt to overwrite the blocks but because of wear-leveling on SSD they’ll just steal blocks up to 35x the size of the file you want to ‘erase’
  2. Keep large churning files on external drives (e.g. video processing)
  3. Don’t let your laptop run out of power as it copies the RAM to disk each time (2-8GB)
  4. Prevent unnecessary disk operations such as the ‘last accessed’ attribute on files (see below)
  5. Don’t keep running disk benchmarks that cause lots of writes!
Don’t be tempted to try and use one of the manufacturers Windows tools from your BootCamp partition as they only understand NTFS and FAT. They won’t be able to even figure out which blocks can be erased as Mac OS X uses it’s own HFS+ file system.

Turn off last-access-time

These access times are pretty useless and indeed the iPhone also has them switched off. Create a file named noatime.plist in your /Library/LaunchDaemons path with the following contents:

<plist version="1.0">
  <dict>
    <key>Label</key>
    <string>noatime</string>
    <key>ProgramArguments</key>
    <array>
      <string>mount</string>
      <string>-vuwo</string>
      <string>noatime</string>
      <string>/</string>
    </array>
    <key>RunAtLoad</key>
    <true/>
  </dict>
</plist>

Thanks go to Ricardo Gameiro for that tip although his other Mac SSD tweaks of creating a RAM disk is questionable given the way Mac OS X manages memory and disabling the RAM copy-to-disk entirely and therefore losing data is more risky to me than running out of blocks early.

Do not

  • Turn off the sudden motion sensor – SSDs ignore the park head command anyway
  • Turn off HFS+ journaling – some users report odd issues and corruption

Last resort

If you do get into the situation where your write performance is suffering badly and you are prepared to spend a little time to get it back you can do the following:

  1. Ensure you have a full Time Machine backup
  2. Boot from a Linux Live CD (or USB image) containing a recent build of hdparm
  3. Use hdparm to perform an ATA Secure Erase
  4. Boot from your Mac OS X DVD/USB stick
  5. Choose the Utilities > Restore System From Backup menu option
  6. Point it at your Time Machine backup

You should also be able to do this with other full-system backup tools like SuperDuper but you’ll have to figure out the steps for yourself ;-)

Performance

I wish I had some better benchmarking tools but Xbench is all I have, sorry!

Xbench with Crucial C300 256GB on 2007 MacBook Pro

Here are the figures for my Crucial C300 256GB drive with 0009 firmware on my older non-unibody MacBook Pro 17″ (MacBookPro3,1) with a dual-core 2.6GHz CPU and 4GB RAM.

This MacBook Pro is limited to 1.5GB/sec on the SATA bus as it uses an Intel ICH-8M SATA controller and this is limiting the drive.

0001
Sequential
0001
Random
0002
Sequential
0002
Random
0006
Sequential
0006
Random
0007
Sequential
0007
Random
0007
Sequential TRIM
0007
Random TRIM
Overall 137.66 643.14 137.39 648.57 121.39 644.71 125.17 620.97 138.23 638.23
Uncached write 4K 200.40 762.30 185.92 789.45 194.20 774.95 208.42 885.91 191.31 931.43
Uncached write 256K 196.34 357.61 196.05 359.23 129.89 360.79 157.84 318.87 172.08 320.78
Uncached read 4K 67.56 1926.31 69.27 1942.94 63.01 1911.07 60.37 1812.40 72.50 2030.81
Uncached read 256K 239.73 628.06 238.22 624.15 236.40 617.67 234.84 615.42 243.42 631.16

My original performance figures with the original as-shipped 0001 firmware and subsequent 0006 firmware figures are after almost a year of continual use and the drive has not been secure erased in that time. The final set of 0007 figures are on Mac OS X Lion with the TRIM enabler support switched on for a week.

Xbench with Crucial M4 256GB on 2011 MacBook Pro

I had the opportunity to put an SSD in my new work MacBook and immediately jumped to the a href=”http://www.kqzyfj.com/click-3893583-10674245″>Crucial M4 256GB. Here are the crazy figures for that drive with 0009 firmware on a MacBook Pro 15″ (MacBookPro8,2) with a quad-core 2.2GHz CPU and 8GB RAM.

0009
Sequential
0009
Random
Overall 277.21 1293.22
Uncached write 4K 428.98 1890.35
Uncached write 256K 424.35 770.44
Uncached read 4K 120.56 2162.18
Uncached read 256K 691.20 1244.41

Thoughts

SSD is fast but given the hype I was expecting everything to be instant and it wasn’t quite there. Applications usually launch within a single dock bounce and everything feels a lot snappier but there wasn’t the massive WOW! I was expecting.

There are also a few other advantages often overlooked, especially on a laptop:

  • lower power consumption
  • less weight, noise & heat
  • greater shock, dust and magnetic resistance

Here’s a table that pulls the specs compared to the 7200RPM Travestar that was previously my main drive.

Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB Hitachi Travelstar 7K320
Power consumption (W) 0.094 – 2.1 – 4.3 0.2 – 2.2 – 5.5
Weight (g) 75 110
Shock resistance (G/1.0ms) 1500 200
Noise (Bels) 0 2.8
Seek time (ms) < .1 12

Time will tell how well the machine now deals with large Aperture libraries of RAW images and Visual Studio compilations from inside Parallels and I’ll be sure to report them here.

Check-in (26 June 2011)

I installed the SSD and wrote this article back in April 2010. I’ve revised and tweaked it over the 14 months it’s been published to account for new firmware, updated benchmarks, the new Crucial M4 replacement of the C300 and the fact that Apple now ship SSD’s with very good performance as standard.

My C300 is still going strong through two firmware upgrades, several OS X installs (trying out betas, upgrading to Lion), regular application installs and work with heavyweight software such as VMware Fusion and Aperture.

The Crucial hasn’t yet missed a beat. No calls to support, no stuttering and benchmarks today are very similar to those published for the 0006 firmware update (within 10%).

[)amien

38 responses  

  1. Great write-up. I’ve avoided SSD so far simply because I’m dubious about the relative gains for the crazy money involved, and I’m worried about long-term degredation when used for heavy builds on a daily basis which require thousands of file overwrites.

    steveApril 13th, 2010
  2. @Steve You could consider a two-drive setup – one fast SSD for the operating system and tools and a second for the temporary work files.

    You could make the second also an SSD or regular drive. You’d get most of the benefits and even if you were running on a drive/OS that didn’t support trim you could just secure-erase the secondary drive when performance drops as there’s nothing important on it anyway.

    Hope things are going well back on the rock!

    Damien GuardApril 13th, 2010
  3. Nice post Damien. I just implemented the plist file to disable last access time. I’m on my 2nd and 3rd SSDs – my first X25-M lived a short life. I’m running them in a RAID 0 setup now in my 17-inch MBP but now I am starting to think the X25-M G2’s are a bit outdated. I think I will be replacing them with the new SandForce controller stuff – OCZ Vertex 2 Pro – when they finally come out.

    Paul StamatiouApril 16th, 2010
  4. Regarding the dead drive problem, I had this issue with my old Intel Core Solo Mini which was still on Tiger (this was the first Intel Mini they released in early 2006). The drive was dead, and to make matters worse, it doesn’t recognize the new USB keyboards for holding-keys-down-during-startup purposes (not sure if this is a peculiarity of the model, or if something is broken, but I need one of those old clear plastic keyboards to start up in single user mode, for example, and I don’t have one anymore). What I finally tried was to go to Startup Disk, and choose to restart in Target Disk Mode and attach it to my new MBP. I then installed Snow Leopard to the mini drive in target disk mode. The MBP then rebooted from that disk and it came up. I was a little concerned that when I tried to boot the mini there would be some compatibility issue due to it being installed by much newer hardware, but it all went off without a hitch.

    I just ordered an Intel X25-M for my new MBP. I’m not sure what to expect in terms of performance, but as long as it decreases the number of beach balls I see due to my typical workload of running unit tests, text editor, SQL client, Photoshop, 4 browsers, and 2 parallels instances with IE7 and IE8 at the same time, I will be very pleased.

    Gabe da Silveira – April 17th, 2010
  5. I bought this same CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1 SSD for my MBP unibody about a month ago, I reinstalled Snow Leopard from scratch and do my normal thing; Safari, Adium, Office 2008 for Mac, VLC and VMware Fusion, etc. I agree with Damien that the performance is good but not earth shattering like the hypes currently out there. During the past month, I’ve observed the following weird behavior:
    – My Mac runs super hot all most all of the time; enough for me to notice the difference.
    – Consequently, the fans always on and spin fast.
    – Battery life if shorten by about 40 minutes. I was able to get 2:30 hrs before, now about 1:50 hrs at most.

    It is interesting regarding your comments on large files, and since a Virtual Machines have big files, not sure if I can get around that issue…

    I’m actually thinking of returning the SSD considering the small benefits comparing its cost.

    Khai Huynh – June 17th, 2010
  6. Good guide, getting a Vertex 2E 120GB delivered tomorrow and will be putting it in my i7 MBP. One question about your guides on doing a backup and then using a linux live cd to do a ATA Secure erase, I’ve read that in order for this to work you need to take the SSD out and either put it in an external caddy, or plug the internal SATA cable after its booted. Something to do with the internal SATA configuration freezing when trying to do a secure erase (hot swapping after power up seems to overcome this though). Have you come across a way of getting round this issue?

    Ian – June 25th, 2010
  7. I haven’t actually tried the secure erase option yet but I think I’ll be hitting the wall soon on the unused blocks so will update this with my experiences then :)

    Damien GuardJune 26th, 2010
  8. @Khai Huynh – I had the ‘running hot’ issue too, but this was actually after the 10.6.4 update. I have a Samsung 256Gb SSD PB22J model, but that’s not the cause as my parents have an identical MBP but with original 256Gb HD.

    Additionally, there were other blog reports from others experiencing the same issue.

    2 possible fixes.
    PRAM reset – reboot with CMD + CTRL + P + R pressed until the grey screen is showing – check the web to clarify the instructions.
    SMC reset – Shutdown, remove charging power lead, remove battery, press the power on button for 4 or 5 seconds, replace battery, replace charging power lead, power up MBP. …I guess this is more difficult with the later MBP with high capacity battery and non-user removable panel.

    I did both to fix the problem – it seems to re-calibrate the fan speeds/temp sensors etc. that must have got messed up with the recent update.

    Hope this helps someone.

    Ade – July 22nd, 2010
  9. Sandforce based drives (OWC Mercury, OCZ Vertex 2/Agility 2, Corsair Force, etc) apparently have native garbage collection, so don’t need TRIM support in the OS (they support TRIM too, but OSX doesn’t).

    I’ve been getting the same response from my Vertex2 (replaced superdrive with caddy+SSD) used as the boot disk, with /Users on my main beefy HD.

    r00fus – August 12th, 2010
  10. Very useful article Damien, thanks for that! I ran into it while searching for ways to solve my hard disk problems with my 320Gb drive in the MacBook Pro Unibody (June 2009 model). Still not sure if replacing the disk by an SSD is the solution, but read your article from the beginning to the end and found it very informative. It has been bookmarked for later reference!

    Peter SimoonsAugust 25th, 2010
  11. Hello R00fus,

    I recently bought a MBP core i7 with 7.200rpm drive. I didn’t want to spend more on the apple store and thought that could wait for faster / cheaper / better-optimized-for-all-situations SSD drives.

    But now I’ve seen those comparison movies in YouTube and got quite impressed….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odSSI_9KAkI

    So I’m thinking again about the newest SSD drives.

    Which is your experience with the drives that have garbage collector instead of TRIM? Which one would you recommend if I’m looking for 256Gb SSD that works nice on Mac OS. Maybe I should wait to get the next generation of SSDs?

    thanks!!

    Marc – September 28th, 2010
  12. A background garbage collector just means it will collect garbage in the background. It still has to know what is garbage – specifically what is unused. Either:

    1. The operating system tells the drive which blocks are no longer needed (TRIM commands sent to the drive from the OS via the file system driver)
    2. The drive understands the file system and can figure out which blocks are no longer in use (OS independent but file system dependent – currently NTFS only no good for Mac’s)
    3. The drive just organizes it’s own internal structures (not a lot of benefit as it can’t really remove blocks the file system no longer needs)

    Damien GuardSeptember 28th, 2010
  13. Hi there. I just purchased my first real Mac (Macbook Pro, early 2009 model, 13″) 2 days ago. Kinda excited, but kinda nervous, too. Haha. It isn’t here yet, but, the specs are 2GB of RAM and a 160HD. Doing some research, and I am going to (Hopefully immediately) upgrade to 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB 7200RPM HD. What I am wondering is, because I am no expert, you said you can copy the entire contents of the current hard drive (the 160GB in my case)to some type of external media, be it an external hard drive, a flash drive (if big enough), etc? And I do this by creating a USB image of the disk contents? Here is another question for you… I am no expert, as I’ve stated, how much would Apple charge if I took my Macbook to a nearby Apple store and said “I need *this* RAM installed, and *this* hard drive installed (I plan on buying the parts myself), I do not have the proper backup storage to do this myself”. Would they be able to do this, without having to have backup of data on my part?? How much do they charge for in-store upgrades? Thanks so much!

    Chase Eversole – October 1st, 2010
  14. Installing RAM is easy – the instructions are on Apple’s site. Your computer will obviously need to be powered down but you can’t loose the contents of your hard drive this way.

    To replace the HD you’ll need to fully back it up to another. I would recommend the free tool SuperDuper for doing complete backups and it can make the new disk bootable. Then just swap them round (again, instructions on Apple’s site, you don’t need to take your MBP apart to do this). If it doesn’t work then put the original back in – no chance here of loss while you have the old HD around :)

    Give it a try!

    Damien GuardOctober 1st, 2010
  15. Many thanks for article guide. I am for long time MAC user and I plan to change my HDD (on a MBP 2009) to a SSD Kingstone 128Gb V+ and this guide powered up my knowledge. After reading some reviews between Intel and Kingstone, I’ve become more confident with Kingstone. Not only the price, but the specs are overall toward KS. Changing the HDD to SSD not only gives faster performance (ok, we don’t have an WOW, but improvements are overwhelmed :) ), but a SSD will also improve the battery life to at least 30% toward and in my case this is very useful.

    Thanks again for useful guide.
    Cheers.

    Stone – October 31st, 2010
  16. Damien, now that you have had the drive running for 5 months or so, have you noticed any performance degradation that might be attributed to lack of TRIM? Have you noticed it slowing down at all compared to day 1? How full do you routinely keep the drive? Great writeup, looking forward to your response.

    DaveNovember 3rd, 2010
  17. I haven’t yet seen this write performance slowdown but that could be due to two things.

    1. My drive is a lot bigger than I need (typically 70GB is free)
    2. I recently did a low-level wipe using Crucial’s tools to update the firmware (and then restored)

    If I do run into this issue I’ll be doing another wipe and restore – this could be a problem for some people if they run close to the limit as they’d be doing it quite often. Here’s hoping for TRIM support in OS X 10.7.

    Damien GuardNovember 3rd, 2010
  18. Damien,
    I am currently in the market for a replacement laptop. Many of the reviews I have read about Macbook Pro’s suggest upgrading to the SSD. During my research, I stumbled upon your blog. It was so informative that I actually asked my self, how the hell does this guy know so much? Then I read your Bio in the About Me. All I can say is thank you for taking the time to explain all of this. Your review has been very helpful.
    Thank you,
    Jeremy

    Jeremy – November 8th, 2010
  19. Damien,
    Well done, thank you for sharing your experience your explanations and insights are very thorough and helpful. I am fairly new to the Mac OS. I am an IT Pro and have been using Microsoft products for a majority of my career, I am currently in-between IT jobs and have decided to learn a little about the Mac world as I see a large uptick in the average persons interest in using Mac’s over PC’s. Keep up the good work.

    P.S. I really like you website layout.

    Thanks again,
    Josh

    Joshua – December 1st, 2010
  20. Thanks for sharing your experience. I just want to mention that I recently installed an OWC Mercury Pro SSD 240GB in my mid-2009 MacBook Pro, and the results are excellent. The most noticeable speed increases are when working with large files in Photoshop, booting / restarting and launching applications (especially iTunes). Time Machine took care of the backup/restore during the upgrade like a champ. I simply pulled out the old drive after doing a backup, and then installed the new one and did a restore using the install DVD. I’ll be surprised if Apple doesn’t put similarly fast SSDs in the new MacBook Pros!

    JordanDecember 6th, 2010
  21. I just put a 240 gig OWC SSD drive in a 2.6 ghz core 2 duo MacBook Pro. The upgrade was easy and it’s working well, very fast but the fan seems to be running on very low speed continuously. It shuts off during sleep but if the machine is awake the fan is on (it’s so faint as to hardly be noticeable).

    I’ve reset pram and the power manager but to no avail.

    Given that SSDs mimic hard disks (unlike the solid state storage in a MacBook Air) and the energy saver system preference pane still has the checkbox for spinning down hard disks to save energy, I’m wondering if there’s a connection? I’ve tried the checkbox both ways and it’s not making a difference so who knows.

    Anyone else having fan issues with solutions other than those offered above?

    Thanks for any feedback and for this discussion. I posted on my upgrade here: MacBook Pro SSD upgrade.

    RichardDecember 11th, 2010
  22. Just installed Kingston SSDNow V series 128GB into my MBP (non-unibody)15″. I must say – I LOVE the boot speed and applications are noticeably faster opening. I DO, however, miss the space of my old 320 HD. I’m thinking about a dual HD setup with the SSD boot and replacing the DVD (that I never use!) with the 320. I saw mention about poor battery life which is a bit of a concern but I may try it anyway. Looks like MCE Optibay is the way to go (if I’m up for spending another $100 on my 4-year+ machine.

    One thing nobody has mentioned is the following setup. Express34 card SSD as boot drive. I tried it on a loaner MBP v2,2 and it SCREAMS even in comparison to my new SSD. Only thing is the Express 34 (Filemate SolidGo 24GB) gets a little hot in the bay. Unfortunately, my MBP is v1,1 and it’s the only one that WON’T boot from Express 34. Oh well!

    Adam M – December 21st, 2010
  23. Guys, I wouldn’t recommend the Intel X-25M chipset at all as you most probably WILL have big issues installing Windows in BootCamp mode on the disk. I’ve struggled for quite some time with it and finally replaced it with a Corsair CSSD-F240GB2 and living with OS X and Windows 7 Enterprise happily after.

    There are known issues with the X-25M chipset and Macs with BootCamp installations, a few google searches and you know what I mean. Things like not detecting the harddrive during Windows installation and such.

    Branislav V. – December 22nd, 2010
  24. i just fitted a crucial c300 256 ssd into my 2009 17″ macbook pro with a 500gb seagate HD in my optical drive slot. The difference is incredible everything is super fast and it finally feels like my computer can keep up with me.
    Its very easy to fit the ssd drive and then restored my data from time machine

    David GoodmanDecember 30th, 2010
  25. Thanks for a great page, I found it first when planning to put an ssd in the “broken” macbook pro 2.1 I was given recently. I did speed tests before and after my upgrade with dd though, went from 30 mbyte/s to 130 for both read and write — in line with your results, my block size and my ICH7-M controller I think. The great thing is, whether my ocz vertex2 magic garbage collection makes up for lack of TRIM or not, who cares? I can lose 40% of the drive speed and still be maxing out my interface :-)

    robJanuary 27th, 2011
  26. To minimize unnecessary writes it looks like “don’t let your laptop run out of power” won’t do it. With the default settings, the RAM image is written to disk *every time* it goes to sleep. This is happening during the period the power light stays on solid after the display has switched off, before the power light goes into ‘breathing mode’. The result is that the battery can die and the image is there safe to recover from (unless you have a Sandforce 1200 controller drive like mine which doesn’t support hibernation but that’s another story). To disable the behaviour use ‘pmset -a hibernatemode 0’; if you -do- want to hibernate at some point, the best thing is to re-enable hibernation and hibernate, then disable it again (‘man pmset’). The Mac Air gets around this problem with a separate timer (accessed with pmset’s ‘deepsleepdelay’ option) which will trigger writing the RAM image to the ssd after a default 70 minute delay.

    robFebruary 17th, 2011
  27. I have newer MacBook Pro 13inch. I dont want to invalidate AppleCare, but would like to move to SSD. Couple Questions:
    1. Is the move “destructive” leaving trail preventing me from installing old drive and resuming AppleCare if needed?
    2. CompUSA is advertising $119. 500Gb SSD. Price is great. How can I determine if this might fit / work?
    – Seagate ST95005620AS Momentus XT 500GB Solid State Hybrid Drive – 500GB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s
    3. Do most SSDs come with instructions (for Mac) that would guide me through and special set up?

    Thanks! – Mark

    mark – February 18th, 2011
  28. 1. You can replace your hard drive without invalidating your warranty providing you follow Apple’s own instructions on how to do this.
    2. That drive isn’t a real solid state – it’s a “hybrid” which has just 4 GB of flash to use as a buffer on top of it’s traditional magnetic storage (hence why it’s $119 for 500 GB and not $700). Performance doesn’t look anywhere near as good as a real SSD.
    3. No special set-up is required other than connecting it (shown in that Apple guide I linked to) and re-installing Mac OS X (or restoring a backup).

    Damien GuardFebruary 18th, 2011
  29. Just wanted to say Thank you! Yes :) budget dictates. Mine for the MBP17 is $2500, give or take a smidgen if xtremely necessary. Im researching between 750 or 500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 RPM -or- the 128 Solid State -also- wondering if I’d be foolish not to sincerely consider 2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 for the extra $250 -verses- the 2.2GHz. Im graveling at it all, but within the next 2 weeks I’ll be at the counter to purchase:) I’ll be using this for graphics and such. I would appreciate your thoughts.

    Marie – March 13th, 2011
  30. Damien, just wanted to thank you for a great post!

    I came across your article around September, 2010, and after doing a lot of research, I purchased an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 120 GB for my mid-2009 13″ MacBook Pro 2.26 GHz. At the same time, I upgraded RAM from 2 to 4 GB. I’d like to share some experiences with you. The installation of drive and RAM were a piece of cake. I easily restored my system from my Time Machine Backup. Performance was very good, but I experienced the Hibernation lockup that was known to occur with the Sandforce SSD Controller chipset. Undeterred, I initially disabled Hibernation by issuing sudo commands in Terminal. Ultimately, I downloaded and installed the SmartSleep pref panel (now available as an app through the Mac App Store, and highly recommended for users with SSD boot drives. I also configured the system to disable last-access time and confirmed it’s operation by entering “mount” in Terminal (noatime is displayed for the boot drive parameters).

    Several weeks ago, OWC posted a firmware update that cures the Hibernation ills that plagued this drive and Mac OS. Since there as yet was no Mac OS firmware updater (though it should be available soon), I temporarily installed Windows 7 using Boot Camp just for this purpose. The firmware update was non-destructive. Hibernation issues were cured. SmartSleep is now set to sleep until 20% power level, then hibernate. This saves time, but protects your data — a great compromise. I initially disabled the Motion Sensor, but after lots of research, I decided to reenable it, without seeing any “stuttering” in video playback.

    So far, so good. But here is my best modification up to this point. I happened to return to your post, and noticed your update concerning TRIM with Mac OS X 10.6.7. I followed your link and downloaded the TRIM Support Enabler v1.1. Once the patch was installed and working, I followed suggestions to erase the SSD’s free space using Disk Utility, and entered the 3 Terminal commands that were listed. When I rebooted the second time, the boot process seemed to be much faster. In fact, before enabling TRIM support, the boot process needed about 14 revolutions of the progress gear that appears beneath the Apple logo. Following TRIM enabling, the progress gear only requires about 5 revolutions for the boot — improved by a factor of 3! I am ecstatic with the performance of my MacBook Pro, having seen improvement in battery life (by the way, if you haven’t seen it, check out “Watts” Battery Utility by Binary Tricks), reduced noise and heat, and confidence that my data won’t be destroyed by dropping my laptop. My experience has been better than I expected!

    Sorry for being long-winded, but I thought you and your readers might be interested in my experience. And thanks again for updating your great post!

    Scott Boydman – April 14th, 2011
  31. Damien
    Very impressive guide on the SSD’s. I have been (the fact I am here!) scouring the forums for information on installing a ssd on my mac. I have a mid-2009 13″ MacBook Pro 2.53 GHz (4gb ram) , same generation as Scott above. Recently I have noticed 2 issues, the never ending plagues –
    1. Slow computer using Aperture, stumbled upon the nifty Activity Monitor to realize I had 41 megs free ram left – yikes, shocking since I thought 4 gigs would be enough to last me a lifetime! Thankfully, I can upgrade to 8gigs.
    2. 250 hdd is running low on space – I have a 80 gb aperture library and another 80gb itunes collection.
    I have been toying with the idea of replacing my hdd with a faster, bigger one and have scrunched on the idea of jumping onto the ssd bandwagon owing to he high costs. Last night I stumbled upon a an article on OWC that opened my mind to repacing the superdrive slot to a second drive. I started toying with the following config and hence had some questions. By the way, I loved your primer on the usb install disk if you dont have a superdrive – will be my case soon!

    My ideas on the new config – replace the existing 250gb, 5400rpm hdd with a 600gb 7200rpm for data storage and use a ssd as the boot drive and for installing applications.

    Q’s –

    1.Should the ssd be in the slot the hdd is or is it ok to be in the ‘optical drive’ position.
    2.I think my system is still a 3Gbps, which amongst the OWC vs the crucial vs ocz vertex 2 should I try since they are very similar price ranges?
    3.Would it slow down aperture to use application launch from the ssd and data from the hdd? Same for itunes. How does the dual drive sonfiguration work for this scenario?

    Any help would be awesome. Thanks to Scott for sharing his insight into the OWC install with the 13″.

    Ankur

    Ankur Jain – April 16th, 2011
  32. Thanks for your post. I was surprised that the performance improvement was not assive, as I’ve been toying with the idea of replacing my main hdd with an ssd for a while. I have a 2008 Santa Rosa 17″ Macbook Pro (which I love) maxed out at 4Gb.

    Like other people here, yesterday I replaced my superdrive with a 5400 1Tb Optibay, and I’m very pleased with the results. I’ve moved 160Gb of stuff off my primary hdd (my home folder) and now everything is swishy fast again, plus I don’t need to worry about downloading lots of podcasts, running VMs or filling up the scratch disks when photoshopping.

    I was very impressed with the Optibay, super easy to install, and it came with a free enclosure for the old superdrive. Rather ironically though, the instructions were supplied on CD :)

    Nicholas Johnson – June 20th, 2011
  33. Wonderful write-up!

    I’ve just installed a new Crucial M4 in my mid-2009 MBP 5,3 after reading this blog post. One thing I’ve noticed though is that, under the System Profiler, it lists the “negotiated link speed” as 1.5Gbps instead of 3.0Gbps. Has anyone else noticed this? My mac is fully updated (OS 10.6.8).

    Timothy Nguyen – June 30th, 2011
  34. @Timothy Nguyen:
    I am also thinking of upgrading. And I read elsewhere as well that the connection speed is actually 1.5Gbps on the MB Pro 2009 vintage. Did you find out any more information on this?

    To the original author of the article – Thanks for sharing your experience.
    I am thinking of buying the Samsung 830 drive. So thanks also for the updates to the article.

    sims12 – September 16th, 2012
  35. And can anybody with experience of having HDD in Optical drive bay, comment on the extra noise as a result of that?

    sims12 – September 16th, 2012
  36. Well strangely enough its less noise now after the samsung 840 went in in the OWC bought data doubler.
    I have 240gb with system and apps on and a 500 WD for data and the noise seems less. I am judging primarily from the fan sounds and it just seems as if they go on less frequently now compared to before, I have not measured though, I also think the heat is slightly less so far, so my experience is all positive.

    Karl Petersson – January 4th, 2013
  37. thanks for a great post Damien.
    following your post and a couple others, I installed a 256GB Vortex4 to my MBP 15″ of Early 2011, and moved the 500GB HDD to the optical bay.

    Now, I still start the computer from the HDD, because I could not figure out the best configuration.
    Does anyone have any info or links to do the best configuration?

    Particularly I want to know how to transfer my apps from HDD to SSD (and keep SSD as my start-up disc), and have my application support folders in the correct place.
    Also, how do I make sure my User folders (movies, documents, pictures, downloads, etc.) are not duplicated in the system?

    Ideally, I wish to have a system where SSD has only the system files and all the renewed/ modified folders and files are in the HDD.

    In such a setting, would having, for example, Final Cut Pro in SSD and its saved files in HDD cause any slow downs?

    inca – January 12th, 2013
  38. Will something like this work for a MacBookPro3,1 hardware?
    1. Insert new SSD to an USB dock
    2. Connect USB dock to MBP via USB
    3. Run Superduper! to image current HDD to SSD
    4. Swap HHD with SSD

    Rob S. – February 12th, 2013

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