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Why are you not using a SSD yet?

Posted on 23/2/11 by Felix Geisendörfer

If you are a developer, and you have not switched to a SSD yet, what is your excuse?

Let me explain. I've switched to an SSD a little over a week ago, and it's a different world. You know that feeling of having just bought & setup a new machine and everything still runs very fast? Well, a SSD will make every single day feel just like that, except much faster.

But I already knew that, so why has it taken me, and apparently you who is reading this, so long?

Well, my main problem was that I have a few big things on my hard disk, namely music, photos and virtual machine images. This means that I need a hard disk of ~300 GB to work comfortably. However, the SSD I was interested in only comes in 40, 60, 120, 240 and 480 GB. The 480 GB costs ~$1.580 right now.

A 240 GB SSD costs ~$520 which seems much less outrageous, but unfortunately that's still too small if it was my only disk.

So for a while, I thought I'd have to wait another 1 - 2 years before enjoying the SSD experience. That was until I came across this article which explained that you could replace your MacBook Pro's optical drive with an SSD. This means I could add an SSD to my machine without giving up the luxury of cheap mass storage.

With this in mind, I decided to get a 120 GB SSD, which is plenty of space for my core system and applications. I followed a few youtube videos for swapping out the disks, and I also placed my previous hdd in the optical bay slot since I've heard reports of hibernation problems if you put your primary disk there.

Making the new SSD my primary hard disk was easy as well. My initial attempt using time machine failed, so I simply booted up my system from the old primary hdd, and used carbon copy cloner to copy all data (excluding my music, images and vms) to my new SSD. After that I made the SSD my primary boot disk using the "Startup Disk Preference Pane" and rebooted. The whole operation took about 1-2 hours.

So how has this changed my life? First of all, boot time is incredible. Compared to Tim's mac (which is now scheduled for an upgrade ASAP as well), my machine goes from 0 to starting Photoshop in 48 seconds. Tim's machine takes 2 minutes and 50 seconds. Note: It takes about the same time for both machines to boot the kernel, but my machine is instantly ready at that point now.

Starting programs is either instant or 2-3 times faster than before. Recursive grep (using ack) is insanely fast / instant, even on big project. And git - it's a different world. If you've ever waited for minutes while running 'git gc' on a big project, an SSD turns this to seconds. Everything feels just incredibly fast.

With this in mind, what's your excuse for not treating yourself to a SSD now?


PS: If you think you would miss your optical drive: You can get an external USB one for ~$40 on Amazon. If you really need the internal one back, I guess it would take you about ~10-15 minutes to put it back in once you know the procedure.

PPS: If you're worried about the difficulty of replacing the disk: It's very easy, all you need to know is how to operate a screw driver. However, make sure you've got the right tools. The OWC disk I'm recommending comes with a set of tools if you order it with the data doubler for the optical bay.

PPPS: My friend Joel pointed out the lack of TRIM support in OSX as a reason for not getting an SSD yet. That's a valid argument, but the OWC discs do not suffer from the lack of TRIM.


You can skip to the end and add a comment.

Brendon Kozlowski said on Feb 23, 2011:

My excuse: I want a slimline laptop really bad. I'm tired of traveling with a rather hefty machine. The laptop's awesome and has a 17" screen, but I can no longer justify packing both my suitcase, as well as a laptop case for trips.

I was waiting for Dell to release an updated Adamo, but instead they killed it off, now Apple's MacBook Air is the only one that I'm aware of that can take it's spot.

However, if people are using their laptop as a desktop replacement, and only really use it in their home - I completely agree. SSD's are the best upgrade investment one can make, even if prices are dropping and speeds are doesn't really matter. The benefits for "now" outweighs most of that, if you use your computer on a regular basis.

Great article. :)

leo said on Feb 23, 2011:

Have the 50 GB version in my MBP for one year now, was so worth it. Thanks to the cloud I manage to still leave 20 GB free space - all the big media is on my iMac which works fine for me.

Hope posting this link is fine, but if you're looking for a german retailer: Apfelklinik worked well for me.

Miles Johnson said on Feb 23, 2011:

Why didn't you just use an external HD for all your media (music, pictures, movies, etc) and the SSD as your primary HD?

Felix Geisendörfer said on Feb 23, 2011:

Miles Johnson: Because I don't want to connect an external drive every time I want to play music. Especially on planes, trains, or when moving the laptop around in the house.

Miles Johnson said on Feb 24, 2011:

I guess that's where we differ. I use an external HD to "store" the media, basically like a backup. As for travel, I would just use an iPod, or put the videos onto the SSD before hand. But that's just me :P

Schepp said on Feb 24, 2011:

I am enjoying the world of SSD since autumn 2009 (since my upgrade to Windows 7) and I fully agree! Life with SSD is absolutely awesome.

One just needs to take care that he/she gets one of the better SSDs which are the Intels (new ones expected for CeBIT), the ones with SandForce controller and maybe also the Micron RealSSD. The Samsungs and JMicron ones are not known to be that good.

Here in Germany you can get a similar upgrade kit to the one you linked above which is named hardwrk.

An alternative to consider for people who want to keep their DVD drive, sits in between SSDs and classic harddisks: It's Seagate's hybrid drive, the Momentum XT.

Felix Geisendörfer said on Feb 24, 2011:

Schepp: Not sure I agree with your recommendation for disks. The benchmark you link to excludes the OWC disks I mention, and from everything I read on the subject, they are leading the pack by far.

Schepp said on Feb 24, 2011:

@Felix The disk you mentioned is nearly identical to any other SandForce SF-1200 controller/chipset driven SSD (in my link that would be the Corsairs). It's like with graphic cards, they also do not differ from brand to brand as long as they use the very same chipset and have about the same storage-size.

Larger SSD-manufacturers like OCZ do have the resources to further tweak the firmware on top of what they get delivered from SandForce but that's it.

What can make a larger difference when doing random reads and writes is storage size. The more memory you have onboard the broader the controller's path to that memory and the more "fresh" und untouched cells it has access to at any given time.

Gordon  said on Feb 24, 2011:

Not sure I trust the linked "review". The site gets advertising money from the maker of the product, the benchmarks sure didn't look like "real world" usage to me, and the reviewer is ignorant of the difference between binary and decimal measurement.

Oleg  said on Feb 25, 2011:

What is about battery life, 2 hard drives should make it much shorter? Any test results?

Hendrik  said on Feb 27, 2011:

Just curious:
which macbook do you have? 13, 15 or 17"?

I have a 13" one and was already wondering if it would be possible to swap my win laptop's ssd over to it, so great timing with your post :)

Felix Geisendörfer said on Feb 27, 2011:

@Schepp: What you say sounds reasonable. I just found the OWC drives recommended over and over again, and the various benchmarks and articles I looked at all seemed to confirm that. If there is no magic to them other than the controller, I guess any disc with a SandForce SF-1200 will do. I'll look into this more closely when buying my next SSDs : ).

@Gordon: Maybe. I found other articles with the same conclusions, so I don't think that particular article is a fraud.

@Oleg: I have not really tested it yet, but I suspect my battery life will not be as good anymore. If that's the case, I think I'll simply have to make sure my magnetic drive doesn't spin in order to conserve power (

@Hendrik: I have a 17" MacBook Pro (5,2), but I don't think it matters.

Michael Murray  said on Apr 20, 2011:

Hi Felix - BTW the 480Gb OWC disk is down to about $900 now (as of 19/4/11). FYI/ Thanks for post! Michael

Michael Murray  said on Apr 20, 2011:

Hi Felix - BTW the 480Gb OWC disk is down to about $900 now (as of 19/4/11). FYI/ Thanks for post! Michael

Tom  said on Apr 20, 2011:

TRIM can be enabled on OSX now, apparently. I'm not comfortable doing it, though :P

Anon  said on Apr 20, 2011:

SSD's are 100% graded by the chipset they utilize. That is what determines if an SSD is junk or not.

Also, to note, the power consumption when adding an SSD will be next to nothing as they use very little power. The fan on the laptop probably uses more power than the SSD does by more than a few times.

To comment on the external drive comment, external drives are not only more opt to failure, due to handling, but also increase the odds of a failure. After all it's just another thing to fumble around. Externals are "backup" drives and that's it. The controllers on most externals are not meant for heavy general usage. To further add on to the "copy your movies to the drive before your trip" comment in the same comment, that is not a good idea. You have to remember that most SSD's shouldn't be defrag'd and they WILL degrade in performance over time no matter what. If it's an OS drive, you want to keep it OS and Apps only. These are not regular hard drives and keep take some upkeep to keep them flying.

Good article mate. Probably one of the few I have seen online that have been pro-ssd. Been on numerous SSD's for the past few years and I would never, ever switch back. Of course unless it's for storage and random files, that stuff gets the regular drives.

Figured I'd point out on the comment the author made about the first stages of the boot, the drive doesn't control or effect that so of course the computers will boot those stages equally, as neither cpu, ram, nor hard drives effect that process.


Aaron Kulbe  said on Apr 20, 2011:

I would include a screenshot, if it were possible. Suffice it to say that Lion has TRIM support already. It's coming, folks. :)

And yes... SSD is *fantastic*. (Written from my 2010 Macbook Air)

Dave said on Apr 20, 2011:

I love my SSD. It's made my Macbook Pro the fastest computer I've ever owned.
Stats before SSD and after.

Totally worth the money.

Martin H. Normark said on Apr 20, 2011:

The moment you realize your life has been a missery until you got an SSD, is when your SSD crash - and you have to go back to the old HDD while waiting for the replacement SSD to arrive!

I still fail to understand how I made a living for so many years, with a computer without an SSD.

Are  said on Apr 20, 2011:

One reason is because of security. There is not an easy way to wipe a SSD disk and if you start to run full disk encryption you are probably getting hit with performance losses.

Pete Forde said on Apr 20, 2011:

The new OWC 6G SSD launched yesterday manages to beat any of the OCZ specs.

Anyhow, I strongly recommend that you put your SSD into the slot formerly occupied by the factory HDD, because it's the only one that supports the full transfer speed. What I did is put my HDD into a data doubler bracket (from OWC) and install it where my DVD drive used to be. Bliss.

Seems like an extra step, but it can double your throughput.

Anon  said on Apr 20, 2011:

:) Martin. Amen to that. That is why I generally just get 40 or 80 gig drives for my OS drive. I can buy 2 of them for the price of a slightly larger one.

"One reason is because of security. There is not an easy way to wipe a SSD disk"

It's no different than with a regular hard drive. 7 layer format is NSA standard SSD or regular drives. If that is too much for many, there are many forensics methods of deleting data off of the drive. If it's a drive that has gone bad, just smash it.

I looked at the OWC stuff and dug around the site and they are more than familiar. I have been out of Mac's since the Motorola days, but, these guys are the same people I remember. Buying generic stuff and putting their brand name on it. This drive is no different than the "Microcenter" drive.

Now I know who Fast Mac dumped all their obsolete cpu's to as well... OWC.

As long as your happy all good. Also, I don't get why people think that the majority of the drives require TRIM. It's the opposite. For the longest time, many SSD drives WOULD NOT support trim. TRIM support came with many firmware updates in the early days, now it's standard, but, like before it can still run an OS without it... IE Mac OS.

Anon  said on Apr 20, 2011:

Also forgot to mention, that drive is literally useless without SATA3.

Sata 2 peaks at 3Gbps. So, putting it into 99% of the computers on the market, you will NEVER EVER see those speeds. It's a sham for the average consumer to think those speeds will happen, not knowing it the SATA class it requires to do so.

Now, being I know not everyone who views this article will be utilizing an SSD in a laptop, but instead in a desktop, remember, for the price, and not having a SATA3 connection, you can always run an I/O card SSD drive such as the OCZ RevoDrive or a Texas Instruments card. These will actually give you claimed speeds since the Pci-e bus can handle it.

Nic Wise said on Apr 20, 2011:

I went half way. I didn't have the funds for a 512GB SSD (I could get away with a 256GB tho, I think), so I got a Seagate Momentus XT. It's a hybrid - 4GB of SSD and 500GB of platter. The SSD bit is transparent, it just acts like a HUGE, fast cache.

It's quite a difference over a normal 7200RPM drive, but it's no SSD. It's also about $150, which ticks the "I can't justify a SSD" box. (Just make sure you read the Seagate forums and get firmware SD25. You need it, and it's an easy upgrade)

In my future I see a Optibay, the 500GB XT and a smaller (120GB?) SSD. Best of ALL worlds - space and speed.

Martin H. Normark said on Apr 20, 2011:

@Anon - 40-80 Gig is too small for my OS drive. I need my apps on the fast drive, and with all the development tools, servers etc. I'm currently using 130 Gig on my OS drive.

I hate that Intel's new 510 drives are 120 GB and 250 GB. The gap is too large, IMO.

Tom  said on Apr 20, 2011:

@Nic A lot of people have had those hybrid drives (the momentus XT in particular) fail on them, or just not work.

So, yes, read the forums. But don't be disappointed if it just doesn't work out on your system.

Nic Wise said on Apr 20, 2011:

@tom: it's been working fine for the past 12 months. No problems so far... of course, with hard drives, they work or they dont....

Are  said on Apr 20, 2011:

@Anon, regarding erasing SSD and security you are not updated. They are very hard to delete and the regular procedure doesn't work on them. Information regarding this topic is easily available. E.g.

james braselton  said on May 09, 2011:

hi there buy the 2015 model 1 terabyte ssd and you say you need 300 gb of storage soo a terabyte flash storage should be plenty

james braselton  said on May 09, 2011:

oh i ment there terabyte macbook air with terabyte ssd

tatil said on May 21, 2011:

Thank for post. I'll try..

Filipe Oliveira said on Jun 08, 2011:

SSDs are not all they promise to be on real world usage, sure their fast but they will never be half as fast as the benchamrks freaks will have you believe.

Plenty ppl think well If I got a good score on benchmark then it will do ok, but not so, in fact performance is hampered down on SSD's specially if they are the main drive.

I jusmped on bandwagon and got a zooming fast vertex2 it barely breaks the 100MB read Im still waiting for the 200+. and until recently you had to flash your drives o a secondary OS install or plug your drive to another machine so the firmware is updated... wOes go on...

Now That OCZ have cracked how to flash main drive one will home that the trim bug and other severe hindrances on performance get fixed, but with the released of vertex 3 this is gonna be a long wait....


same sh*t different day

feel free to comment on my blog on all matters.

james braselton  said on Jul 24, 2011:

hi there yes i have a ssd a 256 gb ssd in my 2.13 ghz 4 gb ram 256 gb ssd macbook air

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