I just upgraded the boot drive on my Mac pro to an SSD drive and it’s by far the biggest speed enhancement I’ve experienced on any computer! the speed increase is incredible – almost hard to believe – boot time went from 60 seconds to under 30 seconds, and applications launch instantly – no bouncing dock icon.
Now you could upgrade your entire hard drive but with a 480G SSD drive costing $1579.99, it’s not a cheap option! But you can upgrade just to a smaller boot drive (a 60G drive costs $139) to run OSX and your applications. this means your system files and applications are on the new SSD drive, but your user data (iphoto, itunes etc) stay on your old Hard Disk.
An SDD drive looks the same shape as a traditional drive, making it easier to install, but it uses memory instead of a hard disk so it is much, much faster. If your computer is a bit old and slow this may be a better solution than upgrading your whole computer because often it’s not the processor speed that slows things down but the hard drive.
This is not for the beginner, it’s quite technical, but here’s how to do it.
1. Work out how big a boot drive you need.
Everything except your user data will go on the boot drive. to work out how much space you need, do this:
(a) find your total disk usage. Click on your hard drive and press Apple-I, check how much space is used. For me it’s 587 Gig:
(b) find your user folder usage. Select your user folder (the onew with a house as an icon – this is where all your documents, music, movies, photos etc are stores) and press Apple-I, it may take a while to calculate it.) If you have more than one user, you’ll need to do it for each folder and add them up. I only have one user and for me it was 550GB:
Subtract (b) from (a) to give you the amount needed for your boot drive.
587GB – 550GB = 37GB. I need 37GB for all my apps and system software. A 40GB drive would just to it, so I went for a 60GB drive. I ordered a 60GB Mercury Extreme Pro SSD from Other World Computing for US$139.
2. Connect the Hard Drive to your mac.
For a mac pro it simply connects into the spare optical bay slot – no adapters needed, a 30 second operation – see how here.Difficulty: easy – 30 seconds.
For a new aluminium mac mini it can replace one of the internal drives.Difficulty: moderate.
For a macbook or macbook pro you’ll need replace the internal optical drive with your old Hard Drive (OWC provide a kit to do this here) then to put the SSD drive where your old Hard Drive was. the other (more expensive)is to order a very large SSD drive and replace your old hard drive with it, but this will be more costly.Difficulty: very hard.
iMac: forget getting inside it! your best option is to put it in an enclosure leaving it plugged in all the time.
3. Format the SSD Drive using disk utility.
After your SDD drive is plugged in you’ll need to power on your computer and use Disk Utility to format it – Mac OS Extended (Journaled):
4. Copy everything except your user directory onto the new boot drive.
Now you need to copy your system folder and applications onto your SSD drive. You can’t do this by hand – there are hidden files that need to be copied, so use Carbon Copy Cloner. using Carbon Copy Cloner, select your boot drive as the target Disk and then select Incremental backup:
Now select your main hard drive as the source disk, but then deselect your main user directory so that you don’t copy across all your user data (it won’t fit!)
Click Clone and your boot disk will be created on the SSD disk.
5. Reboot from the new SSD boot drive.
Under System Preferences click Startup Drive select the SSD Drive, then restart! (wow – notice how fast it is!)
Since it is now looking for your user data on the new drive, it won’t find anything and so your desktop and dock will be the default ones and all your files will be missing. Don’t panic – in the next step we will get your old files back.
6. Select your old User folder.
Go to system preferences, then accounts, then click the lock to make changes, and control-click the main user account and click Advanced Options.
In the advanced options tab choose your old user directory, which is back on your original hard drive.
Your computer will tell you that you need to restart, and when you restart you will be running off your new boot drive,with your user directory on your old hard disk.
So how fast is it? Here’s a demo of how quickly applications launch from my new SSD drive…