MacBook Pro Solid State Drive Upgrade Guide and Performance Testing

In our past Solid State Drive Roundup, we found that the performance offered by SSDs is nothing short of phenominal.  Apple, a company that prides itself in its focus of customer experience knows this, and as a result offers the availability of SSDs across it's Mac computing product line.  However when looking at its MacBook Pro line, the cost of configuring an Apple built-to-order SSD powered notebook is steep.  Apple offers 128GB, 256GB and 512GB SSD storage upgrades at the prices of $200, $600 and $1200 respectively (as per the Apple Store in Canada).

But the cost of getting an SSD in your MacBook Pro (or any other Mac) doesn't have to be so high.  This article is split up into two sections: the first showing you how easy it is to upgrade your hard drive based Mac to an SSD, and the second helping you pick which SSD to buy.  The drives that will be compared are Crucial's m4, Kingston's HyperX, OCZ's Vertex 3 and OWC's Mercury Electra 6G.  They will also be compared to Apple's 5400rpm and 7200rpm hard drives.

Now onto the guide...


 

Required Equipment and Tools

Not many tools are required to upgrade your MacBook's hard drive to an SSD, but these tools aren't commonly found in the average toolbox (unless you normally work with electronics).  I purchased an electronics precision screwdriver set for around $15US about a year ago, so it shouldn't be expensive at all.

  • Phillips 00 screwdriver
  • Torx T6 screwdriver
  • 2.5" external SATA drive enclosure (to USB or Firewire)

 

MacBook Hard Drive to SSD Upgrade Guide

The first step of upgrading your MacBook from a hard drive to an SSD requires you to install your SSD into an external USB  (or Firewire) drive enclosure.  We're using the enclosure that came bundled with our Kingston HyperX SSD.

After connecting the new SSD to your MacBook Pro via USB, run Disk Utility (built into OS X).  Select the SSD, then click on the Partition tab.  For Partition Layout, you should select '1 Partition', and the Format should be 'Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journalled)'.  The Size should automatically be filled out to use the maximum capacity of your SSD, and you can enter in whatever Name you would like.  Lastly, click Apply to reformat and repartition your new SSD.

Now that your SSD is properly formatted for OS X, you will need to check one more thing before you can clone your hard drive's contents to your SSD.  You need to make sure the contents of your hard drive will fit on the SSD.  Keep in mind that the performance of an SSD drops when the drive is filled to near capacity.  Ideally, you won't fill up more than 80% of the new SSD.

After you confirm your hard drive's contents will fit on the SSD, it's time to clone the drives.  I've found that there are two popular cloning programs for OS X, Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper!.  I personally use SuperDuper!, but that's mainly because it's the first one I tried, it worked well and I didn't have any problems using it.

After opening SuperDuper!, click on the Options button.  Make sure the settings match the window below.

Click OK, then Copy Now on the preceeding window.  The file cloning process should begin.

Having all checkmarks and green bars shows a successful clone operation.  After the clone is done, you're ready to install the SSD inside of your MacBook.  Keep in mind that after your first bootup with the SSD, OS X will need a bit of time to rebuild some data (like Spotlight cache).  During this time, your MacBook may appear to be a bit sluggish.


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Comments

Error when transfering files to HDD in a dual SSD HDD setup

Hi, I have a late 2011 MacBook Pro 15" that's just had a 120gb SSD fitted as the start up disk and a 750gb HDD fitted in the optical drive slot. And this is of course so I can keep all my files (downloads, music, photos, films, work files, etc) on the HDD. But the HDD frequently gives me error messages when transferring files onto it, mainly larger ones, saying that it can't read or write to the disk. I have had the HDD bracket changed and also the connector cable. It seemed to solve the problem but now it has come back. Has anyone else experienced this? Any advice or suggestions would be be great. Thanks! Pete

Case sensitive Journal and Adobe Error

For adobe CS users on a Mac : After formatting a SSD with 'Case sensitive' format and cloning I encountered an error while downloading Adobe Application Manager as it can't be case-sensitive. I had to reformat with just Extended and clone again. It downloads tip top now.

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iMac 2007 upgrade

There is a tutorial to do this upgrade on an iMac 21" late 2007?

Only applications on HDD

What if I only want mountain lion and my applications on the SSD and my music, pictures and all other files to remain on my HDD? How do I know what folders to copy over to the SSD?

Just do a clean install of

Just do a clean install of Mountain Lion on the hard drive and copy your applications folder over afterwards to rewrite the installed applications folder.

Type of SSD

Do I need to buy the SSD from an Apple Store, or can it be any type of SSD? I tried to install an Intel 520 series SATA II/III SSD in my MacBook Pro 13" (2011) and it didn´t work; I had to restart the computer two times every time I turned it on. (and this SSD was made at an Apple authorized store; after I installed it, they told me it might not work properly!)

TRIM

What about the TRIM issue...

is MicronC400 Compatible with MAcbook pro 8,1(early 2011) i7 13"

Hi is the macbook pro 2011 (early), i7 2.7ghz compatible with micron ssd c400 256gb (mtfddak256mam-1k12? Thank you

Thanks for the guide, made my

Thanks for the guide, made my transition to SSD effortless. I used Carbon Copy Cloner and it's still easy. Just wondering how much data does the author had on his hard drive? Because it took me 90minutes to copy 70GB of data from hard drive to SSD. For those who has Steam, do not use case-sensitive for the format because Steam doesn't run on case-sensitive formats. I tried and that's what happened for me. Fix was easy though, boot up from the hard drive just replaced (unless you wiped everything from the old hard drive) and format your SSD to case-insensitive and clone everything back from the hard drive you just replaced. I also read that after changing to SSD I should disable Sudden Motion Sensor, disable Hibernate and disable spotlight and use Trim Enabler. I've read the comment about not needing TRIM but what are your views on disabling this and that? Thanks again.

Can SATA II MPB use a SATA III?

Okay, I know you can't get the 6Gb/s speed on a SATA II system, but can it physically accept a SATA III? I mean, suppose I found a great deal on a SATA III SSD and wanted to put it in my 2010 MBP 6,1 - could I? Or do I have to get a SATA II?

It should run perfectly fine

It should run perfectly fine at SATA II speed, i mean got a SATA III disk in my SATA II MacBook Pro 2010, and it works like a charm.

Format of SSD

Hi, thanks for a great guide. Why should the format be case-sensitive? /Jonas

It doesn't really matter, you

It doesn't really matter, you can choose either case-sensitive or not.  You SHOULDN'T encounter any issues either way, and if you do it would be rare.

Is it void the warranty ?

Great article, i am planning to replace the hard drive with solid state storage but mine is still under warranty. is it void warranty ?

Along with the memory (RAM),

Along with the memory (RAM), the hard drive in your MacBook is considered as a user-serviceable part.  Keep in mind if Apple finds that you damage your laptop while installing a drive (ex. breaking the SATA ribbon connector), that probably won't be covered by warranty.  And the new SSD you put in won't be covered by Apple's warranty, but a new SSD should have its own warranty from the manufacturer.

Reset PRAM

Thanks for the awesome post; I just upgraded a few days ago to the Crucial M4 and it smokes. The one thing I had to do was reset PRAM as I had a strange 20second boot delay. Once reset it boots in record time.

Comparison to Apple SSD????

I just wondered if you had any results of a factory fitted apple SSD? This would then make it clear whether it was worth doing a DIY job or paying for the 'branded' version. Thanks

Sorry no, but as far as I

Sorry no, but as far as I know, the SSDs tested in this review are faster than most Apple branded SSDs (as they use drives from Toshiba or last gen Samsung drives).

Garbage Collection / TRIM

Guys, what's the latest word on TRIM? Are various TRIM-enabling hacks worth the hassle on OS X Lion?

I'd leave TRIM as disabled in

I'd leave TRIM as disabled in OS X.  In general, TRIM is good.  But many believe that the stability bugs present in the Sandforce based drives are caused by TRIM.  So by enabling it, it can cause some unstability with OS X (or other operating systems).  For most users, the garbage collection algorithms used by SSD controllers are good enough anyway.

thanks. great article, by the

thanks. great article, by the way - very useful info.

SSD MacBook Pro Compatibility?

My daughter has a late-2009 13" MacBook Pro. Last I looked into a SSD, there were apparently Apple (OS?) issues which restricted the speed to less than SATA2 (i think it was 150Mbps = SATA1). Has this been resolved? Would she be able to get SATA2 or SATA3 performance out of the newer SSD? BTW, can the MBPs use 9.5mm SSDs or (as I assume) are they limited to using 7mm thick SSDs?

You can check what SATA

You can check what SATA version your MacBook Pro supports by clicking on the top-left hand Apple button -> About this Mac -> More Info... -> Select Serial-ATA -> Then in the details section, you should see Link Speed.  If it says 1.5 Gigabit, then it's SATA I, if it's 3 Gigabit, then it's SATA II, if it's 6 Gigabit then it's SATA III.

Regardless of what version of SATA your MBP supports, you will still gain a noticable speed benefits.  Also, all of the current SATA III SSDs are backwards compatible.  I believe that with current software updates installed, you should be at SATA II.  And MBPs support 9.5mm drives.

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