SSD Woes

Just to bring you up to speed (no pun intended!), I’m now on my third SSD drive on the MacPro.

If you look back on previous posts, you’ll see i was so impressed with the SSD in my MacBook Pro, I ordered one for my main production machine. It’s a 256GB SSD from Crucial memory.

I first one failed on me about 2 months ago. Very little warning but ended up I couldn’t boot. Couldn’t see the drive at all. Extracted the drive and couldn’t see it in an external drive enclosure.

Crucial were very good and their automated returns process meant the drive was swapped out with no fuss.

The replacement drive failed about two weeks ago.

Again, a replacement was issued with no fuss and I’ve just installed it into the MacPro.

Touch wood, the original SSD in the MacBook Pro has behaved faultlessly. I just need to keep an eye on it more closely and ensure my backup is up to date. Luckily, I have a second drive in the MBP so I’ll be running daily SuperDuper backups – most of my important data is on external drives or in the cloud anyway.

Anyway, back to the MacPro…

The drive is installed and working. I’ll do some performance testing between it and the drive that’s been in the MacBook Pro for a while and report back.

The Need for Speed (Part 5)…

Well it doesn’t take a genius to work out that even though I was happy with the performance boost from the 10,000 RPM drive, I wasn’t going to settle until I tried out an SSD as the boot drive for the  Mac Pro.

I was happy with the drive I acquired for the MacBook Pro, so I ordered another one from Crucial – 256GB Crucial M225 2.5″ Solid-State Drive (Part Number CT1018301)

Now as far as mounting in the Mac Pro, I also ordered the optional “Desktop Mounting kit” from Crucial but on delivery, it became obvious that this would not suffice. None of the options would enable me to fix the SSD drive to the Mac Pro disk sled.

After a bit of research, I discovered this:

MaxConnect for SSD/WD VelociRaptor/2.5 inch Drives for Mac Pro Internal Drive BaysThis is a specially designed bracket that replaces the standard Mac Pro disk sled and allows you to attach a 2.5″ SSD drive directly to it. It comes with a mountable heat sink and all the screws. Now we were in business!

Installation was simple and I copied across my existing system disk using the Migration assistant via Firewire.

So the results…

 First the boot timings:

Comparative timings between 1TB SATA drive & SSD

As you can see, some significant improvements in boot times, but not so much for Sleeping and Waking. 

Now for application loading….

Shaves a portion off each application (except Safari)

However, these figures don’t really do the SSD drive justice when you consider it was already a fairly speedy machine. 

In real life operation, the Mac Pro feels much faster and the difference seems more pronounced. Perhaps not as pronounced as the improvement to the MacBook Pro, but an improvement all the same. 

As someone who uses a Mac 9 or 10 hours a day, any incremental improvement I can tweak out of the performance of my machines is well worth it!


The Need for Speed (Part 4)…

OK, confession time… I’m never satisfied!

I previously wrote about my obsession with tweaking the last ounce of speed from my MacBook Pro by installing a hideously expensive Solid State Drive (SSD) into the laptop. As it turns out, the SSD made a huge difference to the overall performance of the laptop, transforming it into a speed demon.

Now of course, when I’m in the studio, during my normal working hours (normal working hours?) I’m chained to my Mac Pro as my main production machine. This is an early 2008 model, i.e. Pre nahalem chipset, but it’s no slouch! It’s a quad core machine with 2 x 2.8Ghz Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors and 16GB RAM. The disk configuration is a single 1TB 7200RPM system disk with three 750GB HDs in a RAID 0 striped set. 

In this configuration, my unscientific timings for various common operations are as follows:

Not too shabby!

Let’s just step back a bit though, to when Snow Leopard was launched (and before I’d even considered SSD drives) when I noticed a Tweet from my good friend Victor Cajiao of The Typical Mac User Podcast 

Victor also has a Mac pro and had decided to replace his system drive with the 300GB WD VelociRaptor drive. This is a 10,000 RPM drive in a 2.5″ form factor but built into a pretty neat 3.5″ cast metal sled that acts as a mount and as a heat sink. This baby can attach to a Mac Pro disk bracket, and slide right in. The performance figures were pretty impressive, and the drive was available for £200 inc VAT in the UK.

So I bit the bullet!

The drive was simple to install and quiet in operation. I did notice a significant bump in speed too:


Boot times were significantly faster and in general the machine felt a lot snappier and quicker in general operation. The only anomaly was the  iTunes timings but as I load my iTunes library from a network share, it may have been an issue on the network.

So, I was happy as Larry! 

Then I got the SSD drive for my MacBook Pro……


Part 5 of the saga to follow ;-)

PS You can see the previous parts of the saga here: Original Post, Part 2, Part 3

The Need for Speed (Part 3)…

In the continuing saga about optimising my Macs to get the maximum speed possible….

Checkout my previous blog posts Need for Speed… and Need for Speed (Part 2)… for some background.

Real World SSD Speed Comparisons
As promised, I did some very unscientific timings of my MacBook Pro (2.66 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo and 4GB RAM, but the generation before the sealed battery) with both the supplied SATA 320GB drive and the 256GB SSD drive.

Just to remind you, I’ve installed a 256GB SSD (Solid State Drive) to replace my standard drive. The timings were done on the MacBook Pro with my standard account and applications setup. To install the SSD drive, I replaced the SATA drive, formatted the SSD drive and then did a fresh install of Snow Leopard on the SSD. I then used the migration assistant to copy my user account and applications across from the original drive to the new SSD. This should mean that the timings are comparable.

Before letting you in on the timings, I’d just say that my Voyager Q Interface has been a tremendous boon, allowing my to swap drives around for backups, test installs, creating a SL boot drive – marvellous. I used it in this instance to mount the original 2.5″ SATA drive via Firewire to copy across my setup to the SSD. A really great bit of kit!

OK, so on to the timings!

First, the operation of the MacBook Pro

Sleep and Wake don’t look that different but just look at the boot from cold to login panel result! Almost a minute quicker. The login panel to last icon bounce result was also hugely impressive although I’m not sure if all is as it seems. I have several applications loading on boot and for some reason, LittleSnapper seems to take an age to load on the standard drive.

OK, let’s look at some application loading.

As I say, pretty unscientific, the number of bounces for the SSD is the number taken for the application to be loaded and the screen drawn. Obviously, in the case of Mail, it takes longer for the mail to be updated but we’re just looking at application loading times here. Interestingly, with the eSata drive, on Mail and iTunes, the applications hadn’t been drawn on the screen even when the icon had stopped bouncing, taking a few seconds more in each case.

It’s really hard to visualise what these speed increases mean without actually trying it out, but I think you’ll agree, there are some pretty significant improvements to be had if you’re fortunate enough to have the spare cash for an SSD card. I’ve no doubt that the cost will drop dramatically over the next few years.

I wonder if the fabled iPad or Apple tablet could be fitted with an SSD drive as standard. Well we know that Snow Leopard has been slimmed down for a reason, it’s just the price premium that’s the blocker I would imagine. But a 10″ tablet with Snow Leopard and a 64GB SSD….

Now the next project to try out is the 10,000RPM hard drive for the Mac Pro as mentioned in a previous post. I have to admit though, I’m wondering if the improvements on the Mac Pro would be as dramatic using an SSD.

I’ll have to think about that!

The Need for Speed (Part 2)…

In the continuing saga about optimising my Macs to get the maximum speed possible….

Checkout my previous blog post Need for Speed… for some background.

Thinking about SSD (Solid State Drives)

I blame Leo Laporte!

Well, he was the one that put me on to SSD drives in the first place. I knew Leo had replaced his supplied SATA drive in his MacBook Pro with a 128GB Corsair SSD (Solid State Drive) a couple of months ago, and was extolling its virtues on the MacMania trip.

I’d sort of considered it, but the limitations of 128GB and the rather high price had dissuaded me.

No, I thought I’d wait until Snow Leopard appeared and see what speed improvements that would bring. I was still searching for the Holy Grail, for computing nirvana, a place where my computer would boot in the flash of an eye, where applications would spring into life virtually instantaneously, a place where the damn thing would keep up with me and not waste precious seconds, hesitantly opening windows a few seconds after I’d instructed them to open.

Now the new release of Snow Leopard took me closer to that place, but by not much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still faster, but not an order of magnitude faster.

Then by coincidence, I listened to MacBreak Weekly earlier in the week and Leo mentioned his SSD drive again, this time being used in conjunction with a bracket to install a second drive to replace the SuperDrive. I was intrigued and thought it time to do some more research.

There were SSD drives on Amazon but they were either from companies I’d never heard of, were too small (64GB – please!) or much too expensive. However, a quick Google turned up a rather surprising result….

SSD drives, available in the UK, from Crucial – the memory people. I never knew Crucial did SSDs? I have to admit, that did give me a huge amount of confidence.

Now to see if a drive was available for my model of MacBookPro, what capacity and what price?

I have a 15″ MacBook Pro with 2.66 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo and 4GB RAM. As usual, Crucial have some great guides to zero right into your make and model of laptop. Lo and behold, they do three SSDs:

64GB for £116
128GB for £221
256GB for £399

All plus VAT by the way!

My current SATA drive is a 320GB drive and I was running with about 150GB used including the full Final Cut Studio application and the usual assortment of applications. You can see where this is going can’t you!

Now the 256GB SSD is quite a stretch and pretty expensive but it’s a legitimate business expense and besides, I need to stay at the cutting edge don’t I. So after talking myself into it, I stumped up the credit card and ordered the little beastie.

Its a 256GB Crucial M225 2.5″ Solid-State Drive (Part Number CT1018301) and arrived today. Click on the image for more info.

My plan was to remove the existing drive from the MacBook Pro, replace it with the SSD, format the SSD and install a fresh install of Snow Leopard on to it. Then, use migration assistant to copy my applications and user account across from the original drive.

This all went according to plan, except for the fact I forgot to install the QuickTime 7 the first time round. However, it wasn’t too much of a chore as it installed a complete Snow Leopard installation in 9 minute and 44 seconds from a Snow Leopard image via a Firewire connected drive.

Let me just say that again, it installed a full Snow Leopard build in 9 minutes and 44 seconds!

This thing is fast, blisteringly fast!

Now in my haste to install the SSD and try it out, I didn’t take any benchmarks of the Apple supplied SATA disk. However, the removal of the disk is so trivial, I’ll replace the supplied drive over the weekend and post some real life comparisons between the standard configuration with Snow Leopard, and the SSD with Snow Leopard.

So have I reached computing nirvana?

You’d better believe it….OK, so it doesn’t instantaneously boot, but it flies!

Applications open in the blink of an eye, it’s breathtaking. Just one example, open Safari and the application window is drawn before the icon has a chance to do a single bounce!

I’ll spend a bit more time over the weekend and report back with those comparisons, I think you’ll be impressed.

For now, it’s time for bed. That’s quite enough excitement for one day.


To get the next update in the continuing saga about optimising my Macs to get the maximum speed possible…. Need for Speed (Part 3)…