Aug 09

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This article was originally written in 2015 but it is still relevant.  I have just updated it given that SSD prices have dropped dramatically in the last 3 years. Upgrading the boot drive on my Mac Mini to an SSD drive was 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. In terms of bang for dollar, upgrading to an SSD drive is by far the best upgrade you can do.

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.

SSD drives are now reasonably cheap. I’d suggest you upgrade your entire hard drive to SSD.

1. 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 macsales.com. I have one of their OWC Mercury SSD drives in 2 of my laptops. They have a screen where you choose your macintosh computer, and it tells you which SSD drive is compatible.  Just click here and you will be asked what mac you have, follow the prompts. (I have signed up to be an affiliate of Macsales so I get a commission if you use these links.) Last check a 1TB drive was under $400. When I first wrote this article a 480G SSD drive was $1579.99!

The second place I would recommend is crucial.com. If you do get a Crucial SSD you can go for the MX or BX series. I’ve also got a Samsung EVO drive running in a 2012 Macbook pro and it’s running fine. Buy a new SSD not a second hand one. They do degrade over time.

2. Temporarily connect the new SSD Drive to your Mac.

For this you will need a cable to connect your SSD drive to your USB port. They are only about $20 and they look like this:

ssd usb

The external drive enclosures for normal hard disks should also work with an SSD.

Plug the SSD into the enclosure, and then into the Mac, and it should appear on the desktop as an ‘Untitled’ drive.

 

3. Format the SSD Drive using disk utility.

After your SDD drive is plugged in you’ll need to use Disk Utility to format it – Mac OS Extended (Journaled):

 

4. Copy everything onto the new boot drive.

Now you need to copy your entire drive onto your SSD drive. You can’t do this by hand – there are hidden files that need to be copied, so need to make what is called a ‘Clone.’ Apple’s built-in Disk Utility won’t do this so you will need an app like Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper.

Using Carbon Copy Cloner, select your boot drive as the target Disk and then select ‘Backup Everything’:

ccc

Click ‘Clone’ and your boot disk will be created on the SSD disk.

The other option is to use Super Duper. There’s a free version that will enable to clone your drive. Select ‘Backup -all files’ to make a clone.

Super Duper

Making a  clone of you drive can take a long time – hours – so take a break!

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!)

6. Swap the internal Hard disk for the SSD drive.

Now that it’s working it’s time to get rid of your old hard drive and physically replace it with the working SSD.

The difficulty of this varies according to what kind of a Macintosh computer you have. I’d check out ifixit.com for the best instructions according to your mac model.

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

Macbook

Difficulty: moderate – 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.

Mac Mini

Difficulty: hard – 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.

iMac

Difficulty: hard – 1/2 hr.

It’s quite complex to pull the iMac apart and you need a vacuum clamp to pull the glass screen off. This is easier than it sounds, but you still need to but the suction caps to do it. It requires some mechanical skill. There are good instructions here and crucial have their own guide here.

 

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 OS X 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 already 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.

If you don’t have a Time Machine backup now is a great time to start! You can use your old Internal Drive as a backup drive.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Tom says:

    Thanks so much to MHT for this instruction. After untold hours trying to get an upgrade to work, this method saved my butt. I replaced the internal drive and added an SSD and could not get them to play together. I have SuperDuper and TimeMachine and neither could restore my data the way CCC did it – folder specific. I must add that SuperDuper has been a solid system for me for years, as I was able to work from it’s bootable backup while trying to do this upgrade. Just so happens it could not restore folder-by-folder as was needed in this instance. Took a while to dig up this article, but I’m sure glad someone took the time to document their own process.

  6. Chris says:

    Hi wayne thanks very much this worked great for me!
    Only thing is I’m having the same issue as Joseph that my air port time capsule is backing up the whole 470gb again.
    Say for instance I erase the time capsule and start again with a fresh back up. In the event that I got a new Macbook with a single drive, if I went to back up from time machine to restore it would it restore as normal when the back up was made on a machine with two drives on it set up the way it is?

    Thanks again

  7. Joao says:

    Has anyone tryed out this process in Yosemite?

  8. Joao says:

    One more question. I have a external NAS, a synology. My time machine is backing in that external drive. How does having folders (OS, apps, User) on different folders affects the time machine backup? The step doesn’t cover this subject since it is related with time machine backup in the internal drives (old HDD and new SSD). Thank you

  9. Worked perfectly on my iMac with built-in SSD. It’s up and down way quicker than it was before. Got back both my mail accounts, all my bookmarks, desktop and system settings.
    Even though I have a 250.66 Gb SSD I’ll use Trim. As an old programmer I know how clock time can be eaten up and slow down a system. I’m Smiling. Now if I just knew why I wasn’t running on the SSD in the first damned place. There was a system there, but I think it was Lion. Erased the SSD and copied Mavericks to the SSD. As I said, I’m Smiling!

  10. Jason says:

    I fired it up and the boot was very fast. My only issue is my second monitor did not work.

    Any ideas? It’s an NEC PA271 and my imac is a mid 2010.

    Thanks!

  11. Sander says:

    Hi,

    Great post. I followed the steps as described here and now use an external ssd as the boot disk and to run my applications from. One thing I noticed is that my boot time is actually slower than before. It is now appr. 45 seconds from the apple logo with progress bar until the login screen appears. Any ideas why that might be. I run Yosemite.

    • Wayne says:

      Very strange. Are you sure it’s booting of the new SSD and not still booting of the old drive? What kind of machine? Does the SSD have plenty of free space?

  12. michael says:

    How are you connecting the SSD? USB 2.0 (and probably even 3.0) are much slower than the internal bus that is used for an internal SSD. That could be slowing down your SSD (effectively killing any advantage of having an SSD vs. HDD).

  13. Simon says:

    Hi.
    Just followed all this for my Mac Mini 2011 and it has all worked well. New SSD hard drive installed in M/Mini, Everything copied to new drive, booted from it, User Directories setup again. Yet to tackle Time Machine. Main question though. Being Dec 2014 my copy of Carbon Clone set up differently to what you show so I had to feel my way through the settings and it looks like I got the ‘delete items that don’t exist on the source’ setting wrong.There basically wasn’t the option under this latest version of CCC or it was worded so I don’t recognise the same function. So effectively I still have all the OS etc on my old drive just sitting there taking up space while the new copy on the SSD does all the work. Can I delete those off the old drive to free up space for storage data. For example my old, original HDD still has the same space used to prior to installing.
    Also – not something I’ll do until Time Machine is up and going again.
    Other than that – went well and easy to follow instructions. Not something I’ll do again in a hurry though – putting a 2nd drive in a Mac Mini. Fingers are too fat for the tolerances ha ha

    • Wayne says:

      Yes after you’ve got it all working you can delete everything from your original Hard Drive (Library, System, Applications). I kept mine, as a backup. If you do delete it all, only delete it after you have your new setup all backed up.

  14. Jelle van der Voort says:

    I have the following two questions:
    – Does this upgrade work with Yosemite as well? Also for a mid 2010 27″ iMac?
    – Do I need to care about TRIM support?

    Thanks

  15. Rodney says:

    Just purchased a new 27 inch IMAC and bought Seagate STAE129 Thunderbolt Adapter w/ Samsung – 840 EVO 250GB Internal SATA III Solid State Drive. Would the steps you laid out be basically the same when starting with blank canvass? I hope i gave you enough information….

  16. Ryan says:

    Just purchased 2012 Mac Mini with 840 evo plus 1TB hdd. Also have 2012 Macbook pro with 840 pro. They work just fine with Yosemite for personal use, however after learning about the lack TRIM support i’d like to have either Mountain Lion or Mavericks along with Yosemite to boot from. I ask this because these Macs are gonna be used for recording music. DAW gets installed onto main SSD but always do the recording on an external FW HDD). First of all: is this even possible? If so, would i be able to put the user files on a 3rd partition for both operating systems to use interchangeably. Also, if I boot from the Mountain Lion/Mavericks partition would enabling TRIM compromise the SSD due to the Yosemite Partition?

  17. AJ says:

    I am running OSX 10.6.8 with a OWC SSD external drive and did everything exactly as steps 1 through 4 but when I go to step 5 – Reboot with SSD drive there is an error and it will not boot with the SSD drive.

    • Wayne says:

      What error are you getting? Can you select the drive in System Preferences?
      Try doing it all over again.
      On another note, if you are running off an EXTERNAL usb drive the SSD speed will be limited unless you have a USB3 enclosure.
      Also some USB enclosures are not bootable.

      • AJ says:

        Thank you Wyane! I got it to work! It said It could not find a Kernal? I am using a OWC SSD Mercury Elite Pro mini with USB 3.0 & 2.0, FireWire 800. I am using the FireWire 800 because my iMac does not have USB 3.0 or a Lightning input.
        Running apps are much faster on the external SSD drive through firwire800 then my stock disc drive! I am very happy with the end results using the external SSD drive!

  18. footeking says:

    Thanks for the help with this. I bought this http://www.angelbird.com/en/prod/mac-pro-ssd-bay-19/ because my second optical drive bay has a Blu-ray burner installed. My boot time is much faster and applications open much faster. Best upgrade I have made for my Mac Pro (Early 2008) besides the Blu-ray burner and the Graphics Card upgrade. I was considering buying a new Mac Pro but I decided to keep my current one for the foreseeable future.

  19. sam says:

    Hey, thanks for the tutorial. I did everything as instructed but the drive didn’t appear in the start up disk preferences. Is there another way to do this?
    2011 macbook pro 13inch
    2.4ghz 16gb ram
    500 gb hdd (OEM)
    120gb intel 530 SSD
    yosemite

  20. mazerrackam says:

    quick question:

    I understand the idea of keeping the amount of data on the boot drive to a minimum but isnt it true that the more data the system accesses from the SSD the better it will operate? So for example, any user file such as a movie, photo or even browser cache would read/write faster if it exists on the same SSD as the system?

    • Wayne says:

      This is correct.
      If you can afford a large SSD drive it will operate much faster having everything on the SSD.
      SSD drives are dropping in price so that option is becoming more viable all the time.

  21. Anthony says:

    Hey. Running a 2012 Macbook Pro and installed a Samsung Pro 256GB SSD.

    Followed The instructions to clone the disk to the SSD. Started up, followed instructions for User accounts, restarted and it says im not able to log in with my user account because an error occured. Help!

  22. Morgn says:

    Hello,
    Great article, wish I found it 2 days ago. I just installed a SSD in place of my optical drive on my Macbook Pro late 2011. I followed all your steps. But for some reason the applications haven’t moved over to the SDD from the HDD. I used CCC, did i miss something or do you have to manually reinstall them on the SDD??

    • Wayne says:

      The method in the article should copy all the Applications from your computer’s main Applications folder across. That should be all of your apps, unless you have installed any just in your Users/Applications folder.

  23. Clef says:

    This method seems to work however I did have to re-point iTunes as my library is on an external drive and that ended up requiring the ‘Shared’ directory to be copied over for whatever reason. I also use FontExplorer and there seem to be some problems with that as well… re-licensing issues, not sure. Other than that this seems to work.

  24. Thomas Taggart says:

    Can I pull certain folders from within my User folder to put on the SSD? Like my Google Drive folder, where I store and create a lot of data that others use? Ideally, I’d like to keep my music, photos, videos, assorted documents on the regular HD (all in the typical folders and stored according to a system for the documents), but place GIS and database related files which are stored in my google drive on the SSD. Obviously this would increase the space needed for the SSD, which is fine. It just seems that if i have a complicated program (ArcMap) loading from the SSD, I should also store the files read into that program and created from that program to the SSD.

  25. Darren says:

    Hello, Great article. I did a similar thing when i first bought my MBP in 2012.
    I used CC-Copy to clone the HD to the SSD and I now have all my applications on the SSD. I have noticed that there is also still a copy of all the applications on the original HD. Is it safe to remove these? And if so, what is the best way?
    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.
    Darren

  26. Esteban says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for all the info. I did everything as listed and I ran into the problem of no longer being able to log into my account. Unfortunately I only had a single admin account defined so I had to go in to single user mode and create a new account to be able to log into the computer at all. I am not sure what to do beyond this point but I would love to get back to work using my new SSD as a boot drive.

    Thank you!

  27. waihoe says:

    hey, does is work with el capitan 10.11.1, mid 2012? :) appreciate you feedback.

  28. Jared says:

    Okay, I have a weird situation. I did all the steps, and they worked perfectly. However, step 6 is where everything went to hell. I did exactly as instructed, selected my old user directory from my old HDD, restarted the computer, but when i entered my login an error message popped up saying that my user couldnt be accessed due to an “error”! I ended up having to erase the whole drive, go back to the HDD, and clone it all over again to get back to this point. Then I created a TEST user to try this on, and it has the same problems. Fortunately now I can always go back into the regular user and undo it. But do you have any thoughts on this? Why would it not be working?

    System Info:

    MacBook Pro (mid-2012)
    Running El Capitan
    HDD – 1TB (Nearly full)
    SSD – 1TB (850GB after cloning)

    • Wayne says:

      What is the error? You could try cloning your entire HDD to the SSD at step 4, that should work. If you have so many files using 1TB, what are the big ones? Videos? Maybe you could keep some of them on the old HDD to save space? It doesn’t really matter which files you have on the new SSD, it’s just a matter of space and economics.
      Wayne

  29. I have done this successfully and though had a few problems with certain software permissions – ITune synching in particular. If I run Time Machine will it back up BOTH the System and Applications Folders – meaning both those on SSD and the Internal HDD which hold all my USER stuff? I don’t plan to delete the System and Apps from the HDD for the time being. Sometimes I need to use it as the Startup disk.

  30. Vince says:

    After step 6 and you encounter a message that says “You are unable to log in to the user ‘xxxx’ at this time.”

    Here is my solution to fixing it:
    1) Follow the steps in this link:
    https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4328284
    **Make sure you type in the characters exactly as it’s shown, including the spacing

    2) After successfully creating a new admin account and logging in, it will prompt you to put in a password for your original hard drive. Do that and then go to finder and locate your original hard drive, “Macintosh HD” or whatever name you may have changed it to.

    3) Right click your original hard drive and select decrypt.

    It may take a long time to decrypt, mine still says it is decrypting as I write this. But I was able to restart my laptop and log in directly to my original account. I deleted the admin account that I previously created. Restarted, and I am still able to log in. When I right click my hard drive, it still says decrypting so I’m guessing it’s just working in the background until it is finished, however long that may take.

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