Installing an SSD in a MacBookPro

I just replaced my 17″ Unibody MacBookPro’s hard drive with a new Corsair 256GB SSD. The SSD uses Samsung chips and controller. It’s VERY FAST!

  1. First I made an image of my BootCamp partition using WinClone.
  2. Next I ran one final Time Machine backup to my Time Capsule.
  3. After that was complete, I shut the machine down.
  4. I swapped the new hard drive for the old one. Apple has a great guide on how to replace the hard drive in the laptop. The SSD is MUCH lighter than the OEM hard drive.
  5. I booted up with the Leopard OS X Install DVD.
  6. I selected the disk utility from the menu, and formatted the new hard drive with an HFS+ partition.
  7. I then had to reboot in order for the new partition to show up under the Restore option.
  8. After rebooting to the Install DVD again, select the Restore option from the menu, and select your most recent Time Machine backup. The step where it’s calculating the size of the backup can take a VERY long time. Be patient. The restore itself can take a while. My 220 GB took about 8 hours to restore.
  9. Now you should be able to boot into your system from the new hard drive.
  10. If you don’t use BootCamp you can skip these steps:
    1. Run the Boot Camp Assistant and recreate the Boot Camp partition. Make sure it’s the same size or larger than your previous one.
    2. Start the Windows installation process using your WIndows install CD/DVD. Make sure you format the Boot Camp partition. Once it starts actually installing Windows, you can force a shut down.
    3. Boot back into OS X, and use WinClone to restore your Boot Camp image to the partition on the SSD.

It’s like having a new machine. Booting used to take 60-90 seconds from off to 100% up and ready, including Quicksilver loading up, etc… Now it takes about 5 seconds. Applications load pretty much instantly, without bouncing in the dock. Shutdowns and sleep happen instantly. The whole machine feels amazingly faster.

It’s not the cheapest thing, but it’s a very worthwhile upgrade.

47 thoughts on “Installing an SSD in a MacBookPro

    • Lindkold,

      while I have no scientific information I’m pretty sure the battery life has gotten better since I installed the SSD. I’ve seen 8-10 hours remaining several times since then, and never seen numbers that high before.

  1. thx…that was my only concern.. Now all that’s left is finding the fastest SSD, cause I’ve seen very different results in the speed. Don’t know if it’s true, but would be a shame to invest in an expensive slow SSD…

    Final question: You write that after clean installation, you choose Restore option from the menu. Is this a default option you get when doing a clean install? (I also have a TC, and would off course like to restore this on a new harddisk and you make it seem like it’s very simple)…

    PS: I will wait to install a SSD untill after I have bought Snow Leopard – Apple will tell us on monday when this is possible..meanwhile prices will maybe go down or the capacity will go up!

    Cheers,
    Lindkold

    • Lindkold,

      I was impressed by the benchmarks on the drive I ended up getting. The Corsairs uses the Samsung chips and is very fast on benchmarks and in real life. I’m VERY happy with it.

      I don’t actually do the OS X installation, I just format the drive, reboot back to the installer, and then in one of the menus in the menu bar, before you actually install OS X, there’s a “Restore” option, which lets you just pull the data from the TC. It works great.

      Yes, I’m also looking forward to Monday, and Snow Leopard.

      Enjoy!

      Devon

  2. Well,
    sounds nice. For my part, I’m fighting with a 2nd X128, the first was dead, and the second needs 5mn to be recognised by computer when on external disk (and only if I use USB, firewire, jut don’t work).
    So before, I install the 420 bucks thing in my MBP mid-2008, it’s going to take ometime, and I might just get my money back and see if Intel does better!

    • Hello, I have a recent unibody 15”. Just wanted to ask you if ssd “just fits” where the retail drive is or there is a need of adapters or similar. I believe the retail disk uses a SATA connection, while SSD uses IDE, is this correct?

      • At least on the 17″ it just fits, perfectly. The SSD I have uses a SATA connection. I’m not sure which (if any) use IDE (which being an older standard would surprise me).

  3. hello, i just got my 80 GB intel ssd installed on my macbook pro and i have trouble while installing windows 7, theres no hard drive showing up on the window side, but on my mac home screen i can still see bootcamp partition

    • Hey Steve,

      sounds like a Bootcamp issue? Are you running the latest Bootcamp with Windows 7 support? And have you tried starting over and following each step?

      From the Windows side it shouldn’t matter what type of drive it is, it just sees the sata controller…

      Devon

  4. I see you know the upsides of Solid State Drives. Do you know the downsides? Honestly I think you MAY have just bought into what apple and other sites have told you. The biggest downside is the lifespan. Currently harddrives last a lot longer than SSD drives. The reasoning is the SSD’s are flash memory, just like flash drives, and flash drives have a lower read/write span than HDD’s. Basically, using that SSD in your MBP often is going to kill it.

    • Hey Rick,

      do you have any references on that that refer to the current generation of SSDs?

      While SSD cells do limited write-cycles, modern wear-leveling firmware makes this pretty much a non-issue for normal users like myself. Samsung’s specs on the MLC MTBF (mean time between failures) is over a million hours of “normal” use, versus 700,000 hours for a normal HD: http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/products/flash/ssd/2008/product/chart.html

      Combine that with the fact that the lack of moving parts is a big win for reliability, especially in a laptop like mine that gets moved, carried, bumped, etc…

      Also the performance is night and day, still. When I use someone else’s computer I immediately have to check activity monitor to find what’s burning all the CPU and making things slow, only to find there’s nothing, it’s just that I’m used to way more speed, which is from the SSD. :)

      Devon

    • SSDs do have shorter life spans under ideal conditions, but SSDs are also, more or less, completely resistant to mechanical failure. In the time that you would need to cause an SSD to fail, assuming you didn’t intentionally defragment it daily, you would have mostly likely damaged an HDD mechanically, assuming you use it in a laptop. Google “anandtech” and “SSD” for technical details on the pros and cons of SSD. In general, when an SSD starts to die, you will know about way beforehand. This is usually not the case with HDD. Also, SSD is lighter, typically much more energy efficient, and once again, it is resistant to mechanical vibration. I think in the future, we will start seeing more computers with small SSDs for the operating system and critical information , and HDDs as storage drives (Facebook cache, et cetera, lol).

  5. Hi,

    Brilliant article. Just received my first Macbook Pro 13″ today. Ive been thinking of moving over to Macs from PC for a long time and I finally took the decision. I’m thinking of installing an SSD and I thought I’d take your advice on the Kingston SSDNow V 128 GB SATA 3 GB/s 2.5″ with the Upgrade Kit Bundle. Its a good deal for 270$. Im just not sure if it’ll fit or if I need an adapter of some sort. Ive seen other queries on the same issue; but mine’s a 13″. So just being careful :o)

    Appreciate the help.

  6. Pingback: Intel X25-M 160GB SSD Review

  7. Hi Rick–thanks for posting this article. What you’ve done is precisely what I’m considering doing, but I have one major question to ask you: in addition to the faster speed and lighter weight, does the SSD make the MacBook Pro run any cooler, temperature-wise? My 13″ MacBook Pro is constantly running at a very high temperature, often a lot warmer than I want it to if actually using it as a true “lap” top computer. My theory is that a SSD would solve this problem–no moving parts to create heat, right, not to mention less battery power being used to power that extra movement. So, yeah, I’m thinking about an SSD solution here, but I wanted to ask someone who has done this before I actually take the plunge. Will switching out to an SSD help my heat issues???

    • It should be cooler. No motors or moving parts mean less energy draw and less heat. I’m not sure how noticeable it will be or not. My 17″ MBP gets warm, but not too bad unless I’m really maxing out the CPU for extended periods of time.

      • Thanks for the reply, Devon, and sorry for getting your name mixed up with a previous poster. You said something that causes me to ask a further question, not quite related to the SSD thing, but I’ll ask it anyway. I am brand new to the world of computer upgrades–never installed extra memory or anything of that sort. You mentioned that maxing out the CPU for extended periods of time can contribute to the heat problem I’m experiencing. I run a stock trading application that constantly streams stock info, so I’m wondering if perhaps that could contribute to the issue. I’ve got a 2.26ghz CPU with 2g of memory and a 160gb HD. What might help if the streaming application is the source of the problem? The SSD upgrade seems logical, but might adding extra memory be a better solution?

        • It’s easy to tell: just start up the Activity Monitor application (/Applications/Utilities/Activity Monitor). The CPU tab will show you how much CPU is being used. If it’s showing a lot of User % and not much Idle % than you’re using a lot of CPU and that’s making things hot. A SSD won’t help much in that case.

          If you look at the System Memory tab, that will tell you if upgrading your RAM would help. The important ones there are Free and Swap used.

          SSDs are primary faster, being cooler is a nice benefit but I’m not sure you should buy one just for that reason.

          • Thanks for this, Devon. Sorry to continue to ask questions unrelated to the original article, but I googled RAM and Swap Used and couldn’t make heads or tails out of things, so I’m going to ask you about what I found. My CPU usage doesn’t seem to be a problem at all–it seems to vary between 80-90% Idle….so I’m guessing that is good. About RAM, though, under the Memory tab in Activity monitor, sometimes my “Free” readout is as low as 50MB, sometimes as much as 200MB. Swap Used is 1.07GB. The computer is 2G of memory, though the pie chart in Activity monitor lists it at 1.75GB total. Soooo….with the “Free” readout being as low as 50MB, could I benefit from adding memory? Or am I fine with what I’ve got? My computer had been running a little slow, but seems to have improved after running a “Clean My Mac” application I bought online. So would more memory be overkill??

            • It sounds like your CPU is fine, so that’s not the issue.

              The reason it shows 1.75 GB instead of 2GB is your video card uses 256 MB of shared system memory. So that’s normal.

              Swap used is high. Ideally you want that to be pretty close to 0. On my laptop right now I’m using 26 MB of swap. Installing more RAM will help you out. If you can upgrade to 4 GB I’d recommend it.

    • Your argument about no moving parts doesn’t make sense to me. The cpu/gpu and ram does not have any moving parts either but they are the hottest components of the system. I wouldn’t believe SSDs are cooler until I’ve seen some benchmarks.

  8. Devon,

    I am currently purchasing a 17-inch LED – MacBook Pro 2.66GHz Intel Core i7.

    I plan to purchase this item with the standard RAM (4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM) because I can easily purchase 8.0GB (4.0GB x 2 Kit) NuRAM DDR3 PC3-8500 1066MHz SO-DIMM w/Lifetime Warranty for $168.99 at OWC as opposed to dropping the $360 that APPLE charges for the upgrade.

    I also plan to purchase this item with the standard hard drive (500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm) and purchasing a SSD to install as opposed to purchasing the $585 that APPLE charges an upgrade to the 256GB Solid State Drive by Toshiba.

    My question for you is: What is the best SSD available for the computer that I am going to purchase? I figure that if I am to drop that much $$$ into a laptop, I would like to equip it with the best/fastest SSD.

    I have researched SSD with similar size GB as the 256GB SSD and these are the ones that I have found thus far:

    - Crucial RealSSD C300 CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1 2.5″ 256GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1) – $569.99 at newegg.com
    - MaxConnect for SSD/WD VelociRaptor/2.5 inch Drives for Mac Pro Internal Drive Bays (Item#: SZ-2VTX200G009-01) – $599.00 at maxupgrades.com
    - 200GB Mercury Extreme Pro RE SSD 2.5″ Serial-ATA 9.5mm Solid State Drive (OWCSSDMXE200) – $659.99 at OWC
    - OCZ Technology 200 GB Vertex Limited Edition 2.5-Inch SATAII Solid State Drive (OCZSSD2-1VTXLE200G) – $622.70 at memoryC
    - OCZ Technology 240 GB Vertex 2 Series SATA II 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive (OCZSSD2-2VTXE240G) – $635.70 at memoryC

    If possible, could you tell me if any of the above SSDs are the most efficient/fastest hard drive for the 17-inch LED – MacBook Pro 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 or if there is another SSD (with the approximate GB of the 256GB SSD from APPLE) that is the most efficient/fastest hard drive.

    Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Mark,

      I was recently looking at SSDs again, and my choice to drool over (can’t justify the upgrade yet) is the OCZ Vertex 2 240 GB drive. The Sandforce chipset looks amazing, and will really help on the Mac (where we’re lacking TRIM support). So that’s the one I’d recommend.

      Sounds like it’ll be a sweet machine! Enjoy!

      Devon

  9. Devon,

    Thanks for your quick response!

    Just to clarify, you would choose the OCZ Technology 240 GB Vertex 2 Series SATA II 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive (OCZSSD2-2VTXE240G) as opposed to the OCZ Technology 200 GB Vertex Limited Edition 2.5-Inch SATAII Solid State Drive (OCZSSD2-1VTXLE200G)?

    Just want to make sure…

    Mark

    • Correct! The 240 GB Vertex 2 with Sandforce chipset. I’d encourage you to do your own research (anandtech.com, etc…) but that’s the one I would/will buy.

  10. Devon,

    Thanks a million, I really appreciate your response! Just a couple more questions:

    Assuming that the 240 GB Vertex 2 with Sandforce chipset is compatible with the 17-inch LED – MacBook Pro 2.66GHz Intel Core i7, can I just swap drives before starting up the new computer? In other words, can I skip your above instructions regarding making an image of BootCamp partition using WinClone?

    Since the computer is new, will I still have to boot up with the Snow Leopard OS X Install DVD, select the disk utility from the menu, format the new hard drive with an HFS+ partition…etc…etc?

    Pretty much I’m asking what are the steps that I must take in installing the SSD on a mew machine to avoid paying a mac certified store to do it for me.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide me. Appreciate it more then you know!

    Mark

    • Mark,

      for a new computer you wouldn’t have to do any of the backup steps. Just install the drive, and use the Install DVD to format it and then install Snow Leopard and go from there. Should be nice and easy!!

  11. Devon,

    …sWeet! And I’m loving your quick response. BTW, before I purchase this drive, is the model number:

    OCZSSD2-2VTXE240G

    Correct?

    Reason I’m asking is I can’t find the “Sandforce chipset” that you mentioned in the description of the product…just want to make sure that I am purchasing the correct recommended SSD by you.

    Mark

  12. I know that is seriously boring and you are skipping on the next comment, but I just wanted to throw you a big many thanks – you cleared up some things for me!

  13. Hi,
    Have installed an128GB SSD in my Macbook Pro 2010 but have had a couple of problems. Sometimes when you try to enter time machine and or Finder the machine freezes. Also the only way out of this is to hold the power button down and reboot. I have been informed by Apple that there are slight differences between the 2009 and 2010 models. I have tried this with OCZ and Crucial SSDs and get same result. Any ideas out there.

    David

    • David,

      sorry! No ideas:( That sounds bad though. If you find out the solution please let me know as I’ll be wanting to upgrade to a newer MBP sometime this year….

      Devon

  14. Devon,

    What’s up buddy! Check it, I held off on purchasing that MAC do to some other obligations…however, now I’m ready. Of course now the top dog for the 17″ macbook pro is the 2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7…so that’s the animal I will purchase. Now back to the SSD…now available is the OCZ Technology 240 GB Vertex 3 SATA III 6.0 Gb/s 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive VTX3-25SAT3-240G.

    Do you recommend spending the $528 on the Vertex 3 as opposed to spending the $450 on Apple’s 256GB SSD?

    • Hey Mark,

      I recently upgraded to the 2.3 GHz quad+HT i7 MBP myself! It’s a killer machine, you’ll love it!! I opted for the Apple 512 GB SSD, which has xbench scores much higher than I had expected. I’m VERY happy with it. One of my coworkers waited and got the Vertex3 SSD, which is insanely fast!!! He’s also VERY happy:) FWIW my XBench overall disk score was 312, his was 389. So it’s definitely faster:) Is it worth the extra $? Depends on your needs I guess.

      Devon

  15. Thanks Devon…I appreciate your response. By the way, even though I have my old machine saved via Time Machine…I want to start fresh and just pull certain shizzl and programs from the back-up disk.

    So when installing the Vertex 3…I only have to do what you stated before and just manually install the drive…use the Install DVD that comes with the new mac to format it and then install the operating system via disk that comes with it???

    I actaully wouldn’t mind you spoonfeeding me the steps because honestly I’ve never changed out or upgraded the hard drive of any computer…only an operating operating system. So I would appreciate any needed steps I must follow that you recommend…thanks a million!

    - Mark

    • Mark,

      with my old Crucial yes it was very simple. Swap drives, use the install DVD, format, install. My coworker had some issues with his swap, but I think that was mostly related to the Time Machine restoration.

  16. Devon,

    Do you have any / know of any links that can walk me through the process of swapping drives with the February 2011
    released 2.3 GHz quad+HT i7 MBP?

  17. This doesn’t make sense. The linked press release touts transfer speeds that are 2.4x faster. Yet you claim to go from 60-90 seconds to 5. That is 12-18 times faster. How comes? Also, such a speed up would require that there would be no CPU time consumed during bootup, which is obviously false. It would be impressive to go from 60 seconds to 20 seconds, but anything 10 seconds or under is just not believable. Please show a video of you booting your machine in 5 seconds. You can’t do it.

    -Geert

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