This is how I set up two Solid State Drives (SSD) in my 17″ MacBook Pro.
For the last year or so, I’ve been struggling with the storage limitations of my 128GB SSD drive. With my professional photography, photos of my baby girls and client files alone, I was sorely lacking hard drive space. Distributing files across several external drives worked for a little while, but then just got too complex. Nothing sucks worse than having to sort through several external drives to find a photo when you’re on a deadline.
To solve my storage dilemma, I decided to add a second SSD drive to my MacBook Pro. I decided against adding a standard spinning hard drive because of the draw it would take on my battery – that and the heartbreaking drop in performance if I was editing massive photos from the standard drive.
I know OWC sells very nice internal 2.5″ drive bays for the MacBook Pro. They run about $75. There are other companies that sell similar drive bays for $90-ish. I found one on eBay for about $30 with shipping. It’s generic and not as pretty as the OWC version, but it fits and works fine.
For the second drive, I bought the Mushkin Enhanced Callisto Deluxe 240GB drive from newegg.com. It had the best ratings at the time, and it was hard to argue with 285MBs/275MBs read & write times.
These photos show the progression from single drive + DVD to dual SSD with no DVD.
Removing the screws from the MacBook Pro. The first time is slow – maybe 2-3 minutes. I can get in and out of the MBP case now in under 60 seconds.
This is the original 128GB Corsair P128 Solid State Drive I bought in 2009. It was running slowly due to outdated firmware and no effing firmware tool for Mac systems. I had to pull the drive, clone it to another drive, pop it in a Dell laptop to run the firmware update (which erased the drive) and then re-clone my data back. After the firmware update, the drive ran almost as fast as the day I bought it.
From the Department of Obvious Statements: the Mushkin SSD is exactly the same size as the Corsair drive. Same size, same weight.
To employ the second drive in the MacBook Pro, you need to pull the SuperDrive out of its snuggly, warm spot near the logicboard. Note: with your MBP case open, find yourself a can of compressed air and blow out the fans. You’ll see that mine were a little nasty. Clean fans = cool, fast laptop.
Be super careful removing the screws and the paper-thin SATA cable (the orange tab just to the right of the SuperDrive).
Once the SuperDrive has been removed, you can buy an external adapter to continue using it to read/write DVDs. External adapters cost about $20. Personally, I’m over the 8X speed and went with a 22X drive. More on that later.
Next, the secondary SSD is placed in the new drive bay. It fits very snugly and the drive height seemed about 1/2mm too much, but once the drive & bay were inserted into the SuperDrive spot, it fit perfectly. Oh, and don’t forget to put the little SATA cable back in place on the logicboard.
Here’s the P128 SSD in the drive bay, in the SuperDrive slot. And 8GB RAM from newegg. Twas $600 when it first came out, then $300 last summer. I got mine for $120 in November 2010. Last week, I saw it on sale for under $70. Good lordy, how prices change.
Here’s where I cloned the P128 with my OS X and files over to the new Mushkin 240GB SSD. Cloning SSD to SSD is pretty fast – roughly 2GB/minute.
Once the cloning is done and MacBook Pro is rebooted, I wiped the old drive clean for use as storage.
Lessons from using Dual SSDs in the MacBook Pro:
Lesson 1: Using the 240GB drive as the primary was a rookie mistake. I think I was tired (twins up all night) and not thinking right. The 128GB SSD should have been the primary with the 240GB used for all that fantastic, high-speed storage, scratch disk, etc. (Now I remember – the Mushkin drive was about 60MB/s faster than the Corsair and served better as the main drive.)
Lesson 2: FTLOG, OMG, keep a daily backup routine. Even though Solid State Drives like the Muskin Calisto 240GB have a MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) rating of 2 million hours, you never know when it’s going to just puke on you and die. Unlike platter drives, SSD drives are very, very difficult to recover data from. My Mushkin drive died in under 30 days. Completely unresponsive. Not even visible connected to an external drive dock. Just friking dead. Gone. Toast. Mushkin said it happens to 1 in 1,000 drives, cannot be anticipated, prevented or recovered from.
Lesson 3: Again, backup to TimeMachine, Dropbox, Mozy, ZumoDrive, or whatever external, off-drive solution you like best; just make sure you do it daily. I use all four of those options concurrently. 50GB with Mozy, 2GB with Dropbox, 3GB with ZumoDrive and a 2TB FireWire 800 drive for TimeMachine.
Lesson 4: The potential of an SSD failure is not related to dual-drive action but just the facts of life in the hard drive world. You may get the 2 million hours of use from your drive (roughly 228 years – good luck testing that out!) but you also may get 20,000 hours, or just 200. A note in fairness – my Corsair P128 SSD has never had an issue and has been running strong, 20 hours per day, since June 2009.
Lesson 5: Running dual SSDs in a MacBook Pro is really quite awesome. To have extra storage, a super fast scratch disk, etc. is simply beautiful. If your MBP is out of warranty and/or you don’t mind risking warranty repairs, and if you don’t need to burn DVDs while on the road, then the dual SSD setup could work well for you.
I decided to make a clean installation of OS X Leopard last night. I had already used Carbon Copy Cloner to copy my Leopard installation DVD to an 8GB partition on one of my USB memory sticks. Having the OS X installation DVD on USB is awesome.
At the tick of 5:44pm, I rebooted my MacBook Pro 1) with the USB memory key attached and 2) while holding the alt/option key down to select a boot drive. I selected the OS X installation partition and opted for the “erase and install” option.
The installation was complete and the system rebooted at 5:53pm. I got through the final setup screens and had the new OS X desktop under my control at 5:54pm. Total time: 10 minutes!
Why was this clean installation so fast? The USB flash memory to SSD flash memory data transfer is much faster than DVD to SSD, and dramatically faster than DVD to spinning HDD.
As a side note, when installing OS X from a flash drive, you don’t have to wait for the standard integrity check of the installation DVD – the verification effort is automatically skipped. I’ve always ditched that step anyway, but for those who allow verification to continue, a good deal of valuable time can be lost. Just another benefit of going all-flash.