Upgrading My Wife’s MacBook Pro With An SSD

My wife inherited my old MacBook Pro when I moved to a MacBook Pro With Retina Display. It works for what she needs to do. But I knew that I could do one thing that would make it better for her. Replace the old school hard drive with an Solid State Disk which is better known as a SSD. Now, what do I gain by doing that? Here’s a quick list:

  • Speed: SSD’s are insanely fast. They allow a computer to boot in seconds and not minutes. Applications will also start way faster.
  • Durability: With no moving parts, SSD’s can survive bumps and other rigors of life that would damage an old school hard drive, which makes them perfect for portable computers like the MacBook Pro.
  • Power Usage: With no moving parts, SSD can consume less power than an old school hard drive. That translates into longer battery life. How much longer depends on your use case.

SSDs have dropped in price to such a degree, that they are only a modest preminum over a old school hard drive of the same capacity. That makes them way more accessible than they used to be. For example, the computer that my wife has had an option for a 512 GB SSD for $700 CDN when it was new. Now you can get a SSD of that capacity for a third of that price. Case in point is this SSD:

IMG_2698.jpg

This is a 500GB Samsung EVO 850 SSD. Its MSRP is $250 CDN, but you can find it for just over $200 if you look around hard enough. It’s highly rated by Mac users as being a great balance between price and performance.

First next step is to clone the data from the old school hard drive to the SSD. To help me with that is this piece of kit from Thermaltake. It allows me to connect almost any type and physical size of hard drive via USB to any computer. I use it to help my customers move data from their failed computers or old computers to new ones. But I used it to mount the new SSD so that I could format it and use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the contents of the old drive to the new one.

Now swapping out the drive is easy if you’re used to working on computers and you have the proper tools. The tools in question are a #0x25 Phillips screwdriver and a T6 Torx screwdriver. As for how you do it, here’s a video from Other World Computing that shows how to do it. It took 15 minutes for me to swap the drive out and I took the opportunity to use some compressed air to clean out the inside of my wife’s MacBook Pro as these things seriously collect dust. After putting everything back together, I then powered on the MacBook Pro and after a 1 minute delay caused by the fact that it had to account for a SSD being installed in it, it fired right up. I rebooted it cold a number of times after that to confirm that it was fine. I then reactivated Microsoft Office, renamed the new SSD to “Macintosh HD” from “Untitled” and fixed the Carbon Copy Cloner backup tasks that were still referencing the old drive. 

Speaking of booting, here’s a comparison of how fast my wife’s Mac booted with an old school hard drive, and with an SSD. In both cases, I had FileVault2 encryption enabled:

Old School Hard Drive: 1 minute and 4 seconds

SSD: 15 seconds

That’s quite the difference. I also test opened applicaitons and they opened instantly. I really think that when my wife sees this, I might get a really big thank you as it really starts to level the playing field between the two of us when it comes to the computers that we use.

One last note. Some people out there will ask about TRIM support. When an operating system uses TRIM with a SSD, it sends a signal to the SSD every time you delete a file. The SSD knows that the file is deleted and it can erase the file’s data from its flash storage. With flash memory, it’s faster to write to empty memory. But if it has to write to an area of the disk that has data, the data must be erased before it can be written to. This causes your SSD to slow down over time unless TRIM is enabled. TRIM ensures the physical NAND memory locations containing deleted files are erased before you need to write to them. The SSD can then manage its available storage more intelligently. I decided to enable TRIM for this reason and if you want to do it, here’s a document that explains how. Just make sure you have a backup when you do it. 

Take it from me. Besides adding RAM to a computer, an SSD can really take a computer that is a few years old (in this case, we’re dealing with a 3.5 year old computer) and breath new life into it. It doesn’t cost a lot and it’s not hard to do.

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2 Responses to “Upgrading My Wife’s MacBook Pro With An SSD”

  1. Old school….
    yes yes, we know it’s an old school hard drive

  2. […] After I dropped an SSD into my wife’s MacBook Pro, I had a perfectly good 2.5″ Western Digital 500GB Black hard drive left over. So I decided to turn it into a portable hard drive. To accomplish this, I used an Orico 2.5 inch USB hard drive enclosure. Putting it together is insanely easy first you take the lower half of the enclosure and slide the hard drive in like this: […]

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