In this post I’m going to walk you through the process of adding a Solid State Drive (SSD) to a Macbook Pro.
First some background.
The Macbook Pro in question (13 inch) is a MacBookPro5,5 – dating it around 2 years old. It started out with Leopard, then upgraded to Snow Leopard without any reinstalls during that time. It was however getting unbearably slow.
I had done a good deal of research on ways to fix the speed problem and while there were improvements it still was not the jolt of an increase that I was after.
So after launching into the latest issue of Macworld magazine I came across the Other World Computing (OWC) ad that is usually in the first few pages. SSD, with a kit to replace your DVD drive – it didn’t take much to get me across the decision making line.
A bit of a side here but ordering from OWC was a fantastic process, it was here (Australia) in the same week I ordered it and with the Aussie dollar trampling the Greenback at the moment it was win – win.
Finally before we get into the nitty gritty, if you’re reading this questioning “will it be _that_ different” – oh yes, you won’t believe the difference. My Macbook now boots in around 14 seconds, Photoshop opens like an iPad app starting up. In fact it gives your whole Mac the same feel of an iPad, every application opens very very quickly. You may also be thinking, well I want my DVD drive. Well that is something that you’ll have to answer, I rarely used mine and with rumours of OS X upgrades like Lion being distributed by the App Store, you probably won’t use it either.
So into the detail
The end result of this is that you use the SSD to house your operating system (OS X) and your application, utilising the existing hard drive for your files, music, videos, photos etc..
I went for the 60G SSD and there’s about 15G left over, so you really don’t want to go any small than that.
It is a three step process. First to get the hardware installed, second to copy the operating system to the new drive and finally making your mac boot from the new drive.
For this project I used the OWC disk doubler product, the sell it in a bundle that includes the SSD, the tray that holds the SSD in place of your DVD and a small tool kit with all that’s required.
I’m not going to go into the step by step of how to do this part because in the kit you get a booklet that is the definitive guide on getting the hardware done. It is very easy to follow. There is a video online that covers it at their web site but I found the book easier as I could simply work through it as I completed each step.
In short, what’s required is taking the back off your Macbook, removing the DVD, fitting the SSD to the rack and finally replacing it in place of your DVD.
Moving OS X
Firstly thanks to “murphworxs” at the Macword Forums who helped with some great info on the moving of the operating system. Carbon Copy Cloner is the tool of choice here. It’s downloadable free of charge and does a great job of copying the required part of your Mac hard disk onto your SSD.
Couple of things to watch for here:
When you first boot your computer after installing the SSD, OS X will say it doesn’t recognise the disk you’ve inserted. You simply need to format the Drive – done with Disk Utility.
Format it with “OS X Extender (Journaling)” and settings as per the screen shot below.
After you’ve done this you should see that you have two hard drive icons on your desktop, one is your original drive and one will be your SSD.
Next using Carbon Copy Cloner to copy everything except your home directory to the SSD. This will include OS X and your applications.
Choose your hard disk on the source side and your SSD for the destination.
The trick here is to select “Incremental backup of selected items”, this then changes the interface so instead of cloning the whole disk you can deselect your home directory underneath “users”. See the screen shot below.
This process will take some time, 40 – 60 minutes depending on the amount of data on your disk.
Boot from your SSD
When the cloning is done reboot the Mac holding down the Option key as it starts up, this will allow you to choose which disk to boot from – choose your SSD.
You’ll get into OS X very quickly however you won’t have all of your setup as you need to tell the OS where your home directory is. To do this go into System Preferences, the into Users. Click the padlock and enter your password. Control click your user account and you’re presented with the screen as shown below.
On this screen click Choose, then navigate to your home directory on your original hard disk. This will tell OS X where you’re home directory is located.
While you’re in System Preferences chose Startup Disk and you will now be able to choose between your old hard drive and your new SSD, select the latter then reboot your Mac. It should now start up and have all of your data in the right place.
The only other thing to do to complete this is clean up your old hard drive. Once you’re happy that it is all working well, you should be able to delete everything from the old disk except for your Users directory.
Good luck – you will be amazed by the speed increase!
If you have any questions please post a comment here.