Aug 23


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.

UPDATE: The prices of Hard Disks has dropped dramatically. You can now skip step 4 and 6 if you wish and put your entire Hard disk onto an SSD Drive. You can get 500GB and 1TB Hard disks at a reasonable price now.

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.  In 2011 I ordered a 64GB SSD for US$119, you can now get one for under half that price. I am now running from a 1TB SSD.

Where to order an SSD.

There have been issues in the past with SSD drives and there have been some brands not working with OSX, so make sure you get a good one.

The first place I would recommend is They have a few models – go for the OWC Mercury Pro 6G drive.   Make sure you click on the green ‘pro’ tab to get the Mercury ‘Pro’ 6G drive.  I am an affiliate of Macsales so I get a commission if you use these links. Just click here and you will be asked what mac you have, follow the prompts.

The second place I would recommend is If you do get a Crucial SSD I’d go for the MX200 series.

As I said in my RAM article, I prefer crucial for RAM but OWC for SSD drives.

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.



Difficulty: hard – 1 hour.

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.


Difficulty: Hardest!

It’s quite complex to pull the iMac apart and you need a vacuum clamp to pull the glass screen off.  It requires some mechanical skill. There are good instructions here and crucial have their own guide here.


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. Check if you need to Enable TRIM.

Some Hard Drives do not come with TRIM support and so you need to download this TRIM Enabler app and run it. This will enable OSX built in  TRIM support which keeps your SSD drive lean and clean.

The SSD I recommend above (Crucial M4) does not need TRIM support (read this article for more information). You can turn it on anyway no problems. The OWC Mercury SSD drives do not need TRIM enabled either.

STOP PRESS: There are new reports that TRIM enabler does not work with Yosemite. Read this article for more information.


8. Time Machine

If you have a Time Machine backup, when you change Hard Drives it starts all over again and won’t recognise the old Time Machine backup. Read this post for info on how to get around this. Also here is another very good article on this.

I also just found this GREAT article on keeping Time Machine working when you change the Hard Drive.

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

  1. Zac Imboden says:

    Just a note of thanks and a word of warning to others. In Carbon Copy, I deselected the *entire* Users folder. Somehow, it still copied over my users, but I could not sign into iCloud (from System Preferences) or iTunes Store (from iTunes).
    I cloned again, this time selected the Users Folder but deselecting only my primary and secondary users. This worked.
    Thanks again for such well-written instructions.

  2. Alex says:

    Great post, but I’m still having issues getting my computer to boot from the SSD.. I think.

    I bought a Samsung EVO 850 SSD (and enclosure) and connected it via USB 3.0, as opposed to opening up my mac mini 2014. The drive is all set up after running Carbon Copier and it’s even found as a bootable drive in “Startup Disk”.

    However, after booting up, I look at “About this Mac”, it still lists my original HDD as the boot disk. Is this right?

    I’m 98% sure that my computer booted off of the SSD, is there another way that I can verify that everything worked?

    • Wayne says:

      From memory… (I don’t have a spare external drive with me at them moment.)
      The boot disk has a grey icon on the desktop while the others are orange.
      The system folder on the boot disk has a different icon – it has a dark blue X, the non boot disk doesn’t.
      In ‘Disk Utility’ you can’t ‘unmount’ the boot disk.
      In ‘Disk Utility’ you can only repair the boot disk.
      Listen to the non SSD hard disk during boot and make sure it’s not making noises!

  3. Jeremy says:

    Thanks so much for this article. Worked like a charm. MBP 6,1 boots up and runs so much better now.

    Two questions:
    1) Is there away to move the “User folder” in Step 6 over to the new SSD? Would this make any difference in the way the computer starts up?
    2) Would putting all my music and movies on the SSD make iTunes and other programs run any faster?

    Again, thanks for this article. Really helped me in this process.

    • Wayne says:

      You can just clone your entire Hard Disk over to the SSD, yes that will make everything run faster. In fact this is what I do on my laptop – with a 240G SSD drive. It’s just that big SSD drives are expensive although they are getting cheaper. It’s better to have it all off the SSD, I just do it this way with the user folder on the old HD as a cheaper option.

  4. Rob Peters says:

    Hi Wayne,
    I only read your very interesting article AFTER (on December 29) I built in a 240 GB SSD in my mid 2011 iMac and made my two drives into a fusion drive. My Mac boots very fast now (about 20 seconds) BUT often used programs don’t seem to go to the SSD. Do I simply have to wait or could anything be wrong?
    As I have CCC I am now thinking of “defusioning” my fusion drive. Do you have any idea’s about this?

    Thanks a lot & greetings from the Netherlands.

    • Wayne says:

      I’ve never looked into a fusion drive sorry. You would think if the fusion drive is meant to put commonly used software on the SSD, then your often used programs should be on the SSD, but I’m not sure how fusion drive works exactly.
      I run my two separately, not as a fusion drive. So I can move applications onto my SSD if I want them to launch quickly or I can leave them on my old hard drive if I use them less regularly or don’t care if they take a while to boot up.

  5. Edwin says:

    Thumbs up on the simplest yet most effective way of doing this hdd to ssd move. I did all your steps and it works like a charm on my old 2009 imac running el cap.
    Question though, what happen when software update is due?
    Do i need to run ccc everytime osx or an app is upgraded?
    Thank you

    • Wayne says:

      Software update all works as normal. OS X updates itself onto the SSD boot drive, as do any apps form the app store. I’ve been running this setup for 3 years now.

  6. BIll says:

    Wonderfully written instructions, Wayne. Thanks!

    One question: I’ve gone ahead and cloned the system, apps and user file to the new SSD/boot drive. Is it then okay to erase the old boot disk?

  7. Evan says:

    Worked great for me as well. CCC lets you clone with the trial version but I might purchase anyway. Runs great. I did notice a warning of a complication in OSX when I changed the User directory back to the old HD that said you might not be able to log in after changing the directory, exactly what Jim Dyer experienced. But it worked ok for me. I would be curious how to avoid that. Thanks for a great solution!

  8. Steven says:

    Hey Wayne
    I just had a mate put 128 ssd on two old imacs! Running cool now… happy :)

  9. Will says:

    Bought a kit from OWC to add an SSD to my mid 2010 iMac 27″. Cloned my original 1TB drive to a 2TB drive and installed that at the same time as my SSD. With the OWC install kit and these directions, everything went super smooth and worked perfectly. Thanks for the great directions! If anyone wants to know step-by-step what I did, reply and I will post.

  10. MATTHIAS says:

    I have to admit I`m a bit of a novice when it comes to SSD. How to I get the Mac OS onto the SSD? That`s all done in Step 4? Or do I need to first install the OS on the SSD via a memory stick and then follow your instructions to get all the rest copied over?

  11. Patrick says:

    What should be done with System Folder on source disc after moving to boot drive? Delete? I had problems once before with source disc failure. TM didn’t work properly when trying to install backup to new hard drive. Also source disc with fall behind regular system updates.

    • Wayne says:

      Yes, you can delete it, or leave it as a bootable backup. I would keep it till you are confident the new system is working and backed up and then delete it.

  12. Louis says:


    I’ve run into some trouble. I’ve followed these exact steps. My Macbook Pro restarted when I changed the home directory. The problem is that when i tried to log in to my account (the only one that’s on there), I get an error message. It says that due to some kind of error they can’t log me in. The error didn’t even get specified. Any tips or help on how to solve this problem?

    Thank you!

  13. Shane says:

    Hello. Thanks for this! I just ordered from OWC and am exited to try adding a boot only ssd drive and take out my old optical drive. Going to follow your instructions and use Carbon Copy Cloner to make it all work. Question. Future when it comes time for monthly backups. I have always used Super Duper. Will I now need to make bootable backups of both of the drives, the old HD and the new boot SSD?

  14. Shane says:

    Sorry one more question! Looks like My Carbon CC expired. Do you know now to do step 4 above to just “copy your system folder and applications” with Super Duper instead? Much appreciated!

    • Wayne says:

      It is a little bit more complicated to exclude a folder in Super Duper because Super Duper is designed to be very simple, the downside is it is harder to do anything other than a standard backup. But it is possible – look in the User Guide on page 20 – ‘How to exclude a folder from a backup.’

      It’s a lot easier in Carbon Copy Cloner.

      • Shane says:

        Very kind thank you!

      • Shane says:

        Alls set and working properly! Thanks again! (Some pathing fixes with Lightroom and other old home folder updates in a few other programs etc… no big deal.) Question, for example when the day comes to upgrade to a new machine and SSD prices are reasonable for 3tb :) can you explain the process to combine back to a single drive?

  15. Ashley says:

    I am grateful for the information in this post and used it to successfully switch to an SSD drive yesterday, which has been a revelation in the newfound speed. It’s now clear my old Mac Pro is still a capable machine but the SATA drive is massively responsible for the delays and spinning ball.

    My only observation for the benefit of others reading this is that the cost of SSD drives have come down significantly since this article was first written, so I would suggest buying an SSD that is big enough to contain the full user data and the OS etc in one place if you can stretch that far. That should be fast and easy to manage.

    I purchased a 256 gig Samsung PCI SSD that is lightening fast with read speeds of almost 2000mb/s. Most Apps now open in the blink of an eye and navigating around the finder is now instant, however anything requiring access to user data left on the old SATA like email messages is still dog slow when accessing that information. Given the amount of data in question I may end up buying a 500 gig SSD purely for user data. Hopefully that will then keep me going for a few more years without needing a new computer.

    • Wayne says:

      Thanks Ashley, yes I need to update this article. I just replaced my drive with a 1TB SSD and have everything on one drive. They are certainly more affordable now!

      • Ashley says:

        Thank you Wayne. One point I struggled with after the install was whether or not to enable Trim, which I eventually did via the terminal in El Capitan with “sudo trimforce enable” but I had to search high and low to find information about whether this was required for my Samsung SM951. I can’t help feeling these drives should arrive with specific information.

        One major advantage not often mentioned about using an SSD is the dramatic reduction in noise levels. The constant disk activity on my SATA drive with not much real activity becomes pretty tedious when you are working all day long. A second bigger SSD of the same kind for the user data would have this machine running like a thoroughbred.

      • Wayne says:

        I have an article about TRIM here:
        Yes, it’s drive specific whether you need to enable TRIM or not, and I agree the manufacturers should be clearer with instructions on TRIM!

  16. ElD says:

    Thanks for the gr8 guide!

    I googled but did not find any concrete answer, looking for your kind advice…

    I have a new Imac 21.5, late2015, 8gb, 2.8 Ghz and I wish to have a faster Boot / Apps and so on.

    Can I use your method with an SSD Card via the SDXC Card on the back of the Mac?

  17. Brea says:

    Hi thanks so much for this comprehensive tutorial! I did have a question though. I added a ssd to my iMac and transferred all my files over to it. I left the user files on my old drive. I also set up the startup up drive to the ssd. But it doesn’t seem to be noticeably faster. I’m worried I did something wrong. Would it help at all to split the drives and have one open all the apps and one startup? Or even have my larger apps on the ssd and all the others on the old one? I use large programs like photoshop so I need fast processing speeds.

    • Wayne says:

      It should be very noticeably faster to boot and run apps. It might not be booting of the SDD drive.

      To see which drive you are running from, in the finder:
      select ‘Go to Folder” from the ‘Go’ dropdown menu,
      then type /
      press ‘Go’

      It will open a window from the current boot drive.

      • Brea says:

        Yes it is booting from the new drive. I actually think everything is slower, even the boot up time! But…when I open Lightroom I open my Activity monitor and see a significant load on my CPU. But as I use the app, there’s spikes of load on the SSD. Is my processor going out?

  18. Virginie says:

    I have a really old MACbook pro – 17″ from mid 2009. I’ve ordred a new SSD and RAM, the compatible kind, don’t worry! ;)
    I need to install a new OS system I imagine. I can’t seem to find out how to do that.. do I make a bootable USB stick with it saved there? (I’m used to PCs so this is tricky for me!)

  19. desmond says:

    Hi, does this applicable to external SSD?

    i wasnt able to select the external SSD drive as start up disk, do i click target disk mode instead?

    Is step 6 applicable to external ssd too?

    appreciate your reply.


  20. Daniel says:

    Your description worked perfect for me! I am just wondering now, how to delete OSX and the apps from the “old” HHD in order to make more room for pictures, etc.

    Thanks for tips!


  21. y_p_w says:

    Just one fairly substantial correction.

    “The difference is that an SSD drive uses RAM chips instead of a spinning hard disk to store information.”

    While an SSD may contain some RAM as a buffer, that’s not what it uses to permanently store information. It uses a non-volatile memory. That can theoretically be an EEPROM, but more often NAND flash. Intel and Micron have a new form of non-volatile memory that they call “3D XPoint” (cross-point). Intel even has some modules out on the market now that are supposed to serve as some sort of link between RAM and a flash memory based SSD.

  22. Trevis says:

    Thanks! Been trying to solve the issue for a long time. I also read this article It’s not bad, but you have more ways to suggest)

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