Aug 23

Crucial SSD
I just upgraded  the boot drive on my Mac Mini to an SSD drive. WOW!  It is 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.

What we are doing.

SDD stands for ‘Solid State Drive.’ SSD drives are the same shape and size as a traditional drive. The difference is that an SSD drive uses RAM chips instead of a spinning hard disk to store information. This makes it much, much faster.

You could upgrade your entire hard drive but with a 480G SSD drive costing $1579.99, that’s not a cheap option!  So an alternative is to upgrade part of your hard drive to SSD. (A 64G drive costs $119.) I suggest getting an SSD drive to run just OS X 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 application 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 OS X Lion, the green is my Application Folder, most of the drive is still free.)

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

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

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 one with a house as an icon – this is where all your documents, music, movies, photos etc are stores). 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 (total used space) – 550GB (user folder) = 37GB (everything else!).

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 (NOTE: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 new SSD Drive to your Mac.

The difficulty of this varies according to what kind of a Macintosh computer you have.

Mac Pro

Difficulty: easy – 30 seconds.

For a mac pro it simply connects into the spare optical bay slot – no adapters needed, a 30 second operation – see how here. I just sat the SSD drive in and added a bit of gaffe tape but there are some great adapters out there eg Angelbird SSD Adapter

 

Mac Mini

Difficulty: moderate – 1/2 hr.

For a new aluminium mac mini  you will need to replace one of the internal drives.  This involves pulling 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. There’s easy to follow instructions here at mac fixit.

 

Macbook

Difficulty: hard – 1-2 hours.

For a macbook or macbook pro can replace the internal optical drive with your old Hard Drive or order a large SSD drive and replace your old hard drive with it. You can find instructions here.

iMac

Difficulty: Forget it!

It’s quite complex to pull the iMac apart and you need a vacuum clamp to pull the glass screen off. Give it a go if you want but I wouldn’t recommend 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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. Dave says:

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

  4. tricia says:

    Hi Wayne, I did everything exactly as you said and it worked out fine! Thanks a lot for that! However doesn’t seem that CCC copied everything to the ssd. I did step 1, and the result was:
    (a) total disk usage 226,25GB – (b) user: 165,02GB = 61,23GB
    After the CCC cloning the ssd shows 27,52Gb of data, I’ve opened applications and stuff and everything seems to work fine, so…what could’ve happened? Any clues? Should I clone it again? Thanks in advance!

    • Wayne says:

      Interesting! The CCC clone is usually a bit smaller, but 30GB is a lot. It’s smaller because there are some (unnecessary) files it doesn’t copy. These include the trash and images of your RAM (e.g. if you have 12G RAM that may use 12G of disk space). Did you have really big files in the trash and the trash wasn’t emptied recently? What I’d do is run off the new (cleaned up) system, but keep the old one in case one day you find something missing.

  5. Joseph says:

    These instructions worked great except for one consequence. Time Machine doesn’t know that the user folder on the old drive is the same as before, so it backed up everything again. In my case, that used up 500 GB of backup disk, which deleted a big chunk of the old backups. Similarly, Spotlight is going to need to index the new flash drive, which can take a while. So ironically between the backup and Spotlight action, for the first few hours after the upgrade, everything was actually pretty slow, but of course that’s temporary.

    • Joseph says:

      Update after a few days: So far the speedup has not been that impressive on my mid 2010 Mac Pro, esp. compared to 100% SSD on 2012 MBA or MBP. (To be fair, this was a 256 GB SSD for $110, while those had 1TB SSD for $450.) Yes reboots are fast and apps launch instantly, but I don’t do those tasks often anyway. So the disk churning that drove me to do this was all in the User folder, e.g., opening and closing files, annoying TM backups, etc. The one exception is VMware Fusion, which used to just churn endlessly even when I wasn’t doing anything. I moved the disk image to the SSD, and now it flies along happily. That plus spacing out my TM backups with TimeMachineEditor has made the machine much more responsive.

  6. Jordan says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial.

    I have one question, Once I do this, am I able to then delete the everything except my user directory data from the HDD? That is, everything I CCC’d onto the SSD can I now delete from the HDD?

    • Wayne says:

      Yes you can delete it all if you want, but it doesn’t hurt to keep it. If you keep it you have a spare bootable system you can boot off in an emergency.

  7. Howard says:

    If you keep everything but your home file on the old drive you’ll still have application folders on both drives. Will this cause any problems? I assume that application upgrades will only be installed on the boot drive. Any comments?

  8. Steve says:

    Hi Wayne, I am intending to follow your guide but I would rather do a clean install of Mavericks and then re-install the applications rather than clone my existing install over. If I do this, will I still be able to simply ‘splice’ in my two user folders that will still be resident on the internal HDD of my iMac? I’m guessing not as the fresh Mavericks install won’t know about these two users so won’t even give me the option to point to their new location. Any ideas on how I can combine a fresh install with existing user folders? Thanks for your time.

  9. Curt Johnson says:

    I installed an ssd in the optical bay drive of my 11,1 27 inch iMac. I have my applications, most data, and apps on the SSD. On my HD I only have iPhoto library and music. So I have two mounted disk drives on my desktop (SSD & HDD). I also have two separate 500 gig external disk drives mounted on screen but can’t figure out how to use time machine with the SSD as the source to back up to one of the externals and use TimeMachine to back up the HDD as source to the other external HDD. Any insights as how to back up the two in-computer disk drives to the two separate externals?Thanks

  10. blabla says:

    Can you do the blackmagic test (disc read speed) and show us the result? You Can find it in the app store. My hhd does around 100 mb/s. I would see if the ssd is much faster.

    • Wayne says:

      On the SSD the write is 105MB/s, read is 360MB/s on the first test.
      On the following tests the write can vary between 15Mbps and 100Mb/s and read varies from 5MB/s to 550MB/s

  11. Joe says:

    I used your instructions to install SSD in a Mac Pro 4,1. If the original user directory was on a filevault 2 encrypted volume, you’ll want to follow the instructions here:

    http://vitobotta.com/filevault-home-folder-second-drive/#sthash.hRvF6Apu.dpbs

    to install “unlock” launch agent so that upon boot from the SSD it can unlock the “old” user directory on the encrypted volume. Otherwise, if you follow your directions and change the user directory to point to the old filevault 2 encrypted directory and then restart you will not be able to login as the encrypted volume is not unlocked at boot time. The only way out of this snag is to boot from another admin user change the user directory of the desired user back to the SSD default, install unlock, reboot, change user directory back to encrypted volume, and reboot.

  12. Hi Wayne. I think I remember Dubbo Zoo from many years ago. I have added an SSD to my iMac (a bit of work!) and saw your method to use it to boot up, etc. I have Bootcamp on my old hard drive with a windows partition….can I use your method, do you think? I guess I could press alt on booting and select the Bootcamp partition still??? Thanks for your work.
    Ian C

  13. Jason says:

    Hi Wayne,

    I followed the steps exactly like you suggested. After I re-linked my user folder and restarted, all the desktop items were restore but the OS was not responsive for more than 30 mins, so I had to turn off the power. When the computer was turned on again, I was unable to access the OS at all. I’m still on 10.6.8.

  14. Fiona Lyn says:

    Waiting for the SSD price down.I think after you replace your HD with SSD, you can easily use mac time capsule backup your mac to a pc installed the replaced HD.

  15. Jostein says:

    I cloned everything except users and it works fine. I am using my old HDD in the optical bay. I would like to erase the old systems files from the HDD as they take up a good chunk and are cloned to the SSD. Is there a way to do this without messing up the users folders? Cheers for a good tutorial!

  16. Dick Bowyer says:

    Thank you for info. If I run parallels with Windows xp virtual machine, is this best done from SSD or internal HD. If the former, how do I move across to SSD?

    • Wayne says:

      It’s up to you. If you use windows a lot and you want it to run very fast, put it on the SSD, if you don’t use it much, put it on normal HD. I’ve never used parallels so I don’t know how to choose where it resides, but I assume there’s a setting somewhere where you choose where to run it from.

  17. Wolfgang says:

    Great post, I had my used 2010 iMac now for several months and since it has a 2T HD in it, I wasn’t paying much attention to the 250 Gig SSD it also has.

    Than I started searching and came on this post. I set i all up as Wayne described purchased Carbon Copy because another cloning program I had did not do the job.

    It worked perfect, the speed increase is amazing, we have three users and the flipping over alone is so much faster, all the programs load much faster.

    Thanks Wayne.

  18. Joe says:

    Moving towards SSD is the smarter choice to boost up the speed of the Mac but still the hidden and duplicate files has slow down the speed of my Mac. Lastly I have to go towards the Speedup Mac software to dump away all the junk.

  19. Kyle says:

    Thanks for this great article! I just have 2 questions:

    1. Can you confirm that the TRIM enabler is necessary for Mavericks/Yosemite? I assume it is, but it never hurts to ask.

    2. I have no intention of paying $40 for software (CCC) that I’ll only use once. Yes, I see that they have a 30-day free trial, but I don’t want to be able to boot from the HDD; I want it to contain the user folders and nothing else. Here’s how I *think* is the best way to do this. Please let me know if you would recommend an alternate route (or if you think I’m foolish not to just use CCC your way).

    Boot from the recovery disk and copy the HDD to an external HD. Install OS afresh on the SSD and create profiles. Erase the HD. Copy profiles to HDD and follow your step #6. Then, finally, use migration assistant to import data from external HD.

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