Aug 23

Crucial SSD
I just upgraded  the boot drive on my Mac Mini 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.

This is not for the beginner –  it’s quite technical – but here’s how to do it.

An SDD drive is the same shape and size as a traditional drive, making it easy to install. The difference is that it uses memory chips instead of a spinning hard disk to store information so it is much, much faster. If your computer is a bit 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.

You could upgrade your entire hard drive but with a 480G SSD drive costing $1579.99, it’s not a cheap option!  So an alternative is to upgrade to a smaller boot drive (a 64G drive costs $119) to run just OSX and your applications, and leave your existing hard disk for all your user files. 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. This gives much faster boot times and app launching.

I have a 64GB SSD drive, it has all my apps and OSX on it, and it’s only half full! (See the graph below – the yellow is OSX Lion)

My hard disk on the other hand has over 500GB used.

SSD Boot Drive using a different drive for my user folder – less than half the 64G SSD is used!

 

Here’s how to set up an SSD drive to run your OSX and Applications off, and keep using your existing hard drive for your user files.

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 at least 37GB for all my apps and system software. A 40GB drive looks like it would just to it – but don’t forget your system writes some very big files (upwards of 10GB) for memory swap files so this will fill up fast, plus with an SSD space more room means better operation, so I went for a 64GB drive.  I ordered a 64GB M4 SSD from Crucial in the USA  for US$119 (That was 2011, they now only cost $84). Here is a link to Crucial’s SSD page. (I get a commission from this link).

 

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.

I just sat the SSD drive in but there are some great and cheap adapters out there eg Angelbird SSD Adapter

 

For a new aluminium mac mini it can replace one of the internal drives.

Difficulty: moderate – 1/2 hr.

When I replaced the internal SSD drive in my mac mini I needed to pull out the fan and motherboard to get the new SSD drive in. You can get the old hard disk out without pulling out the motherboard but the SSD drives are actually ever so slightly thicker and more uniform in shape so the motherboard needs to come out to manoeuvre the SSD drive in place.

 

For a macbook or macbook pro you’ll need replace the internal optical drive with your old Hard Drive (OWC who also sell SSD drives provide a kit to do this here) then to put the SSD drive where your old Hard Drive was. The other more expensive option is to order a large SSD drive and replace your old hard drive with it.
Difficulty: hard – 1-2 hours.

 

iMac: Forget it! Your simplest option is to put the SDD drive in an enclosure and leave 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, (in Lion this is now called ‘Users and Groups’) 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…

 

7. Enable TRIM.

Download this TRIM Enabler app and  run it. This will enable OSX built in  TRIM support which keeps your SSD drive lean and clean.

Crucial M4 say you do not need TRIM support (read this article for more information) but I turned it on anyway no problems.

124 Responses to “How to speed up your mac with a Solid State SSD Drive”

  1. Jeff says:

    Great article and I couldn’t agree more on the SSD being the biggest speed enhancement possible. Doubling RAM doesn’t do even close to what a SSD does to a computer, its truly a disruptive technology.

    Thanks for the guide on the Mac, we do them for Windows machines, so in fairness here is our guide to the PC SSD upgrade: http://www.restontechwiz.com/how-to-drastically-improve-your-computers-speed

    Might Acronis Close Disk work just the same with a Mac?

  2. Chris says:

    I recently upgraded my Mac Pro desktop to SSD, I agree Jeff, it truly flies, once you use SSD, you will never go back.

    I purchased the Angelbird Crest Mac Pro SSD, which is great as it just slotted easily into my Mac Pro and it comes TRIM enabled out of the box.

    http://www.angelbird.com/en/prod/crest-mac-pro-ssd-107/

  3. Brad says:

    I have a 2009 MacBook Pro with a 128GB SSD. I recently bought a 2012 Mac Mini with a 750GB HDD. The old MacBook Pro feels so much faster than the new Mac Mini. I’ll be performing this upgrade very soon!

  4. Daniel says:

    How can I copy my old files when I put the SSD in the Mac mini and HDD isn’t connected?

  5. Steve m says:

    What’s the situation when upgrading from SL to Mountain Lion with this set up? Just a case of hitting ‘update’ in the ML installer?

  6. Paul says:

    Do you then go ahead and delete everything from the original drive except for the home folder? Does Time Machine still work with this setup?

  7. Chris says:

    I was hoping to to a fresh install on a mac mini i added an ssd to this way about a year ago… I was planning on making it into a fusion drive setup and was wondering if anyone had any experience with it… any hiccups on the backup/restore process? any benefits to the fusion drive over a SSD boot drive with the above setup?

    • Wayne says:

      Well I did it this way because if the SSD drive fails (and SSD is less reliable than standard at this stage) then I won’t lose my data. I have all my data on a raid setup with 4 hard disks in RAID so it’s very safe. On a fusion setup if the SSD drive goes you lose everything as it’s all essentially the one drive. But if you have it backed up I guess that’s not a problem. So fusion setup simpler, but I think less hardy.

  8. Peter says:

    I got both of the angelbird SSD drives. one for my macbook pro 17″ and the mac pro ssd for mac mac pro. both work perfect and I can only recommend these.

    wayne, thank you for this nice article!

  9. Dickw says:

    I’ve been using this setup of r some time. Only problem is that the computer has to search for init ial links to some apps. Wheel spins sometimes for several seconds. Any suggestions for this?

  10. Dickw says:

    I’ve been using this setup for some time. Only problem is that the computer has to search for init ial links to some apps. Wheel spins sometimes for several seconds. Any suggestions for this?

  11. ollie says:

    I am running an early 2011 macbook pro with an 2.3GHz i5 and 16gb of RAM (overkill maybe i know) and a 500gb seagate HDD (shipped with the mac). I just installed the data doubler with the existing HDD into the optical drive and put my new 128 samsung pro SSD into the main bay. Following these instructions, I had no problems, no hitches whatsoever!

    Thankyou so much for the help!

  12. louis says:

    Hey, I just completed my ssd instal on my 2011 iMac. I’m at step 6 now and I was wondering: can I only transfer certain part of my hdd user account ( I want to have my music, photos, apps and setting on my new bootable sad, and I want to erase my old hdd to make it partitioned in 2 one for a time machine backup and the second one for my movie collection) Help would be appreciated! thanks

  13. louis says:

    Hey, I just completed my ssd instal on my 2011 iMac. I’m at step 6 now and I was wondering: can I only transfer certain part of my hdd user account ( I want to have my music, photos, apps and user settings on my new bootable ssd, and I want to erase my old hdd to make it partitioned in 2. One for a time machine backup and the second one for my movie collection) Help would be appreciated! thanks

    • Wayne says:

      OSX looks for everything such as pictures, music etc in your user folder, you can’t split it, but you can put your own files outside your user folder manually but I wouldn’t recommend it.

  14. Kevin D says:

    Is there a noticeable speed penalty if you boot the SSD off an external enclosure instead of the internal SATA connection? I have 2012 Mini and dread doing the surgery required to install it internally. Since external booting works on the iMac, I’m assuming it will on the Mini. I’ll do the surgery if it really makes a speed difference. But I can live with an always attached external using a Thunderbolt or USB 3 connection if the difference is not all that apparent.

  15. Mathieu says:

    Hi Wayne,

    thank you for this helpful post. Like Paul said, I would like to erase all files of my old HD disk except my home folder but how do I proceed ? Do I just put everything into the trash or do I have to make this in a different way ? Thanks,

  16. Ken says:

    Hi Wayne,

    For the carbon copy cloner, do you leave everything checked except the file with the house icon? There was so many other files in there so I decided to uncheck some stuff I felt was unessential. However the SSD drive did not registered as bootable in the Startup Disk in My Preferences. Does this mean I didn’t copy a file that was essential? Thank you.

  17. Ken says:

    Hi Wayne,

    For the carbon copy cloner, do you leave everything checked except the file with the house icon? There was so many other files in there so I decided to uncheck some stuff I felt was unessential. However the SSD drive did not registered as bootable in the Startup Disk in My Preferences. Does this mean I didn’t copy a file that was essential? Thank you !

  18. pando says:

    I have around 200GB of music which keep on my Macbook to listen to, is it recommended to keep this on the HDD drive? or move them over to the SSD drive?

    Thanks Wayne!

  19. jack Chamberlin says:

    I ‘m assuming that when I modify a photograph in Photoshop using the SSD that when I save it, Mavericks saves it to my home folder on the HDD drive automatically? Also, when I open iTunes on the SSD, Mavericks opens the file on the HDD in response without my having to do anything?

    Thank you

    • Wayne says:

      This is correct. You don’t notice it at all. Once it’s set up it uses apps and system off the SSD and files off the HD and you don’t need to worry about it at all.

  20. Tarik says:

    Howdy! I just followed your directions. The SSD works great as a boot disk on my mid-2011 iMac 27″. However, I no longer see the new SSD nor the original HDD on my desktop. How do I get them to show up?

    Thanks!

  21. Justin says:

    Hello, I upgraded my Mac Mini to add a 128 GB SSD along with the 1TB hard-drive it came with. I followed you instructions to the best of my knowledge and also used carbon clone copier. However my SSD has seemed to become nearly full. I do not think that I did something correct during the carbon clone step. Once my computer restarted, yes it booted off the SSD and was extremely noticeable. However now, a few months later, the SSD is nearly full and causing issues. Also when I rebooted initially I did not have to go into preferences to show everything on my Mac as your instructions state, everything was already there. This is where I think my problem is. However I did uncheck user folder as shown in your screen shot. Also would using VMWare fusion cause any issue with this as far as the settings go with sharing the files between the host(my mac) and the Fusion software? Please help!!!!

    • Wayne says:

      Use Disk Inventory X to see what has filled up your SSD drive. It might be one particular app that needs to have a setting changed. Some Applications use the boot folder instead of your ‘user’ folder and you might need to change a setting in that app if that is the case. But Disk Inventory will let you see what is taking up the space.

  22. Mole says:

    Hi there,
    I already bought a 240gb ssd before reading your article. I had a 320gb hd in my mac. I was hope hoping to gain more speed and more space. But judging from your article, it seems i’ll gain ONLY more speed! And not more space (given that it’s set to delete all files that are Not on the source).
    So my questions are..
    1.) is there any way to go around this setting so i can also gain space? I.e i’d love to store some data on the ssd without having them deleted.
    2.) perhaps a partition. Is it appropriate to make 2 partions on the ssd and use one for bootup and they other for extra storage? If yes, please tell me the steps to take.
    3.) do i get any advantages interms of speed or whatsoever by using a very large ssd (240gb) as opposed to a smaller one?
    4.) or do you recommend that i consider sending my ssd back and ordering something smaller?

    • Wayne says:

      1.) is there any way to go around this setting so i can also gain space? I.e i’d love to store some data on the ssd without having them deleted.

      In the method I describe you do gain space, but you end up with two separate hard drives as a large SSD drive is EXPENSIVE! Documents must either be on the old (larger) Hard disk, in which case they do not get a speed increase, or the new (smaller) one, in which case they do get a speed increase. I chose to put the system on the SSD as you notice that speed increase very dramatically.

      2.) perhaps a partition. Is it appropriate to make 2 partions on the ssd and use one for bootup and they other for extra storage? If yes, please tell me the steps to take. No you’d just run it all one one partition. In an ideal world you’d just buy a very large SSD (1T) and use it for everything.

      3.) do i get any advantages interms of speed or whatsoever by using a very large ssd (240gb) as opposed to a smaller one?
      If everything is on the SDD (totally remove old Hard Disk) that will be the fastest! Also SSD drives degrade and shrink with age so bigger is better.

      4.) or do you recommend that i consider sending my ssd back and ordering something smaller?
      The bigger the better.

  23. Tim Wood says:

    As an FYI, OWC specifically recommends that you don’t use Trim with their SSDs. Similar capabilities are built-in to their drives SandForce controller. In fact, they’ve had reports it can hurt performance: http://blog.macsales.com/11051-to-trim-or-not-to-trim-owc-has-the-answer

    A post over on macworld indicates this is probably the current recommendation by most SSD vendors: http://hintsforums.macworld.com/showthread.php?t=169435

  24. Claus says:

    Should I delete the main user on the boot disc after doing this procedure? Thanks for this great tutorial!

    • Wayne says:

      No you don’t delete the main user. The main user files are never copied to the boot disk. The main user is still used but their files are on the old disk to save space.

  25. Claus says:

    Also I have two preferences folders which both contain the same data. Shouldn’t I delete one of them?

  26. Rob says:

    Hi Wayne,
    For the carbon copy cloner, If I have more than one User in my computer, should I unselect those folders too? or is only the main User (the one with the house) that I have to unselect?
    Thanks!!!

    • Wayne says:

      The only reason you unselect that user is to stop their data being copied onto the boot drive. So yes you can unselect all the users to save space, so long as you change the home directory for each of as specified in step 6. Or if they take minimal space you can leave them on the boot drive.

  27. ctb1001 says:

    Wayne:

    Need some help! Followed these instructions and now I have a problem.

    Dying and almost full internal 1TB HDD in a mid 2010 27″ iMac. Installed new 4TB HDD and 1TB SSD on the extra SATA port. Install and boot up is fine. Ran everything for a few weeks off of the SSD – no issues. The point in doing the SSD was to have all programs and system software (10.9.2) run off of SSD and all files (music, media, etc) run off of the HDD. When running EVERYTHING off of SSD – no kernel panics.

    When I moved my User file to the HDD per the instructions I would get a kernel panic when the computer had been in deep sleep. This did not happen prior to moving the User folder.

    I suspect that something is needed by the system software (on the SSD) that lives on the HDD and when it tries to verify that and “use’ that bit of code, etc. and come out of “deep sleep” it can’t find it on the SSD, freaks out and causes a kernel panic.

    Was running 10.9.2 the whole time, no other issues with external USB devices, graphics card upgrades, etc. Ran disk utility and hardware checkers – no issues. Memory is fine and seated properly.

    The only workaround so far has been to have the disks not sleep via Energy Saver and only putting the display to sleep. This is ok and it has caused KP issues to stop, but iStat tells me I am running 10 degrees on average hotter (of course) and I am worried that the fans, DD, etc. will take a beating by never sleeping.

    Any thoughts are appreciated as to a fix!

  28. Dave says:

    i followed all the steps but now my iTunes says error 13001 and will not launch???

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