Solid State Drive on a MacBook Pro

SSD icon by Matt Terry

Recently I installed an SSD on my MBP. It was easily the best computer upgrade I've ever made and now my laptop runs at least twice as fast.

Boot time is maybe 10 seconds, Photoshop runs like a dream and my localhost server absolutely flys, which makes developing drupal websites even quicker.

Since the technology is still in it's infancy there are a lot of contradicting and out dated blog posts out there, so I thought I'd share what I found out here.

Disclaimer - you are probably about to void your warrantee and possibly brick your mac, don't take my word for any of this stuff :)

One thing you might be interested in is having 2 drives in your laptop. You can replace the DVD drive with a second hard drive. This allows you to have a small cheap SSD for osX and a big storage HDD as well. This isn't what I did, I just replaced my HDD for an SSD and use a Lacie D2 NAS drive at home for big storage. If you do want to do that then someone I know used hardwrk.com.

I ended up Getting a Crucial 256Gb drive, you can use the Crucial SSD Advisor to find the perfect drive for your laptop

Here's the one I got: Crucial CT256M4SSD2CCA 256GB M4 SSD with Transfer Kit

It comes with a software CD but that didn't actually work on osX Lion, I downloaded a fresher copy of SuperDuper but that was a bit flakey too and didn't support the new OSX Lion 'Recovery Partition'.

So I read a lot of blogs and found out about Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) software for Mac. The latest version DOES support the Lion Recovery Partition and makes it super easy to clone the disk.CCC documentation is really helpful

So the way I did it was:

  • Install Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC)
  • Plug in the new SSD using the supplied USB to SATA cable
  • Format the drive using Disk Utility (I use Journaled HFS+)
  • I named the drive 'SSD'
  • Use CCC to make your recovery partition
  • Clone the drive using CCC

Next you want to check the drive works and is bootable so...

  • Reboot your Mac and hold Cmd+R to restart
  • Select your external SSD as the boot drive and continue to boot
  • So you should now be running your mac from the external disk

Now you need to swap the drives

  • Shut down your laptop
  • Remove the old drive and install the new SSD - I think you need a #00 screwdriver for this
  • Reboot into the local SSD drive once you have put your laptop back together

Now that your new SSD is installed you should instantly see a performance boost. There are a lot of things you can do to increase this further. One thing you probably don't want to do is run a benchmark on your new drive. SSD's have a limited read / write lifetime and a benchmark will just reduce it's life.

Read up about TRIM and decide if you want to use it, I DO use it. This article is all about TRIM and the Trim Enabler software however I ended up using the method mentioned here: Enable TRIM in Mac osX Lion

If the SSD is the only drive in your laptop you can turn off the sudden motion sensor, this stops an HDD if your laptop is in freefall but there's no need for it with an SSD.

Then go read this superb list of performance tips for SSD on a Mac and decide which ones you want to try (at your own risk of course).

After that I had a general tidy up, removed as many startup programs as I could, I installed Tinkertool which is a GUI to some hidden osX settings and I also installed Docker so my MBP even looks faster ;)

Hope that's been of use to some people.

Good Luck.