Beachballs with OWC Mercury SSD - is it the drive or the 2011 MacBook Pro?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by econgeek, Mar 26, 2011.

  1. econgeek macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009

    Forgive the longish description below. I'm just trying to figure out what is defective here. Is the SSD bad? Is the machine bad? Is this the problem with the 2011's overheating? Is there something I should have done when I configured the SSD?


    Just bought a 15" MacBook Pro, and got an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 120GB drive to go in the optical bay spot. I have to say the bracket OWC sells is vastly superior to the OptiBay part, and to the cheap asian parts. Since I was buying the drive anyway from them, I got the bracket as well and I think it cost me $50 for the bracket rather than $75 in a package deal.

    Anyway, installation went fine. It was nice to see that Apple has upgraded the internal fit and finish. For instance, they now use a nylon cloth to hold cables in place rather than tape.

    Cloned the boot drive onto the SSD, installed warcraft and decided to see just how things would perform.

    After a couple hours I got a beachball. Switched out of warcraft... the machine was running, I could move the mouse over links in my safari window and they would highlight, etc. But each app I switched to would beachball, including the dock.

    This is characteristic of the boot drive disappearing for awhile. It can happen when the drive goes to sleep, or when there are problems. I've seen it before when drives went to sleep. After about 15-20 seconds, the machine came back ,and every click I'd made, every app switch and every attempt to open a menu item on the menu bar all executed at once, and really fast.

    I had a working machine for about 10-20 seconds-- just long enough to think it was a temporary glitch and then it happened again. This time the machine stayed frozen for over a minute at which point I held down the power key to force it to shut down.

    Upon reboot I discovered that the OS seems to be ok, but my filevaulted home directory is corrupt beyond repair. Putting it in target-disk mode and checking it out from another MacBook I'm unable to recover or repair or even attach the filevault home directory. Fortunately I've got a backup.

    I had previously set "Safe sleep" to be off. I have a WD Caviar Blue 1TB HD in the HD spot and the Mercury Extreme in the optical bay spot. I didn't disable SMS because I don't know if the WD needs it or not.

    I didn't reset PRAM or the SMC or anything like that. Resetting the SMC seems to be an issue when you want a 6GB SATA link, and I don't care since this drive is a 3GB SATA II drive. (and both HDs are showing up with a 3GB link speed.)

    I AM running 10.6.7.

    Any advice?
  2. Mactrillionaire macrumors regular

    Oct 16, 2010
    Having a hard disk and solid state disk in the same laptop is really defeating what is usually the main purposes of having that solid state disk unless the speed increase is your only concern for purchasing the solid state disk. The two biggest reasons to have a solid state disk in a laptop are shock resistance and decreased power consumption (i.e., so if you drop the laptop, you don't lose your data, even if the logic board gets damaged). To me, it makes sense to chuck the hard disk and get the biggest capacity solid state disk you can afford (and also put the optical drive back in or otherwise you may have problems obtaining service on the computer later).

    Now, that said, beach balls are typical with solid state disks that are off-spec (i.e., that prefer performance to reliability), but so is blazing performance with the same disks. You really have to make a decision of whether or not maximum performance or maximum reliability is what you are looking for in a solid state disk. If you don't want to make the decision, Apple has already made it for you and their re-branded solid state disks don't typically include these beach balls because they chose reliability over performance. If you want to buy a reliable solid state disk yourself, go with Intel or Samsung. If you want better performance but less reliability, there are a multitude of sites that rank the maximum throughput of each solid state disk and you should have a look at those sites. As for me, I'd rather have a solid state disk that has a long predictable life at a slightly slower rate than a really fast solid state disk that starts out blazingly fast and has frequent hiccups. I guess it is a personal decision, though.
  3. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    I'd appreciate hearing from someone who has some insight into the situation, specifically with the MBP 2011. I've got essentially the same setup in my 2008 model, and it has been working fine for several years. (except that the intel SSD I initially bought lasted less than a year, though fortunately the replacement has worked well so far.)
  4. Manacit macrumors member


    Feb 19, 2011
    New York, NY
    That is completely and totally not true. The main reason for a SSD is SPEED. By having the OS and apps on the SSD, the system is much much much faster, and the 1TB drive can store data that doesn't need to be on the SSD.

    That being said, I don't know what the problem is OP, I would try reimaging the SSD once more. I have heard some issues with the newer OCZ drives.

    Sent from my Nexus One using Tapatalk
  5. iTouch.lover22 macrumors regular

    Oct 30, 2009
    I've gotta agree here, SSDs are mainly installed by people for the pure speed increase. The whole point of the SSD/HDD combo is to get the combination of speed and abundance of space. This is most likely not the problem, OP, but perhaps you should try putting the SSD in the original drive bay, and put the HDD in the optibay. I don't remember all the details, but it was discussed in the massive thread on optibays somewhere.
  6. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    Manacit-- I do not have an OCZ drive, I have an OWC drive. Both use sandforce, but OWC uses tier 1 flash.

    (just a little dig at OCZ for confusing Manacit, not meant to start a flame war. I'm sure OCZ mostly, or nearly always, uses quality flash parts.)

    I do software development, and the compilation step is essentially extremely seek intensive. SSDs are dramatically faster for this, further, even though they are smaller, this keeps all of the proprietary, super important stuff on something more reliable than spinning rust. (while the pictures and videos and music on the big spinning rust drive are well backed up and less important to me.)


    Originally I came here to share this:

    I think this might be what I'm seeing, though I do have 10.6.7. However, I'm unable to reproduce the freeze using their test.
  7. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    I don't remember the reason for that either, though in this particular case a good argument for that would be that the drive bay interface is SATA III. However the SSD is SATA II so it wouldn't run at the faster interface.

    Also, I can't make that switch as the hard drive is a 12.5mm model, and the optical bay space is limited to 9mm drives.
  8. lithast macrumors newbie

    Mar 19, 2011
    Hi mate,

    I have a 2011 15" MBP with a 240GB OWC drive and have not had any issues at all with it. I have not had a beach ball or lock up (post 10.6.7 update), it seems rock solid.

    When I got the MBP I replaced the 500gb internal drive with the SSD and did a clean install of Snow Leopard.

    I then followed the instructions here (step 1-3 only).

    If that doesn't work then I'd suggest putting the SSD on the primary channel and leaving the optical bay empty and see if you get the same result.

    If you want to test if the drive is achieving the speed it should be the benchmarking app that OWC use can be found here. You should be seeing 270mb/sec averages.

    Hope that helps.
  9. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009

    Thanks. I'd done some of what you suggested, but you gave me several possibilities for diagnosis, and I'm going to work thru them and see what I can discover. I'm also planning to set up a partition on the hard drive with the OS on it, and can run from the hard drive without the SSD and see what that does.
  10. Manacit macrumors member


    Feb 19, 2011
    New York, NY
    Oops! Reading comprehension failure right there, I saw O** and my mind immediately went to the articles I was just reading about how OCZ's latest drives have a higher failure rate then the norm, and don't perform as well. I think I can say, fairly definitively, that an OCZ drive failure is not your problem OP! I'm glad I could help you rule that out ;)

    In all seriousness, if it keeps happening, I'd recommend RMAing the SSD and going for a new one, there's no reason that you should be having these problems, and it can't hurt to try a new drive to rule out a problem with the actual drive instead of your MBP.
  11. Mactrillionaire macrumors regular

    Oct 16, 2010
    I said in a laptop, not necessarily a workstation (which isn't prone to the same shock resistance and power consumption concerns). And, yes, some people do buy the less impressive MBP (doesn't apply to 2011) and get a solid state disk with it so that they can enjoy the longer battery life and not have to worry about losing data if the computer is dropped just because such people are more mobile users than most.

    As far as the thread starter's concerns go, it is probably a better idea to just compile your code on a workstation. Nothing eats battery life on a laptop like compiling code (yeah, not even Flash). If you don't believe me, just try updating MacPorts (it is recommended to update every two weeks).
  12. davidlv macrumors 65816

    Apr 5, 2009
    Kyoto, Japan
    The one outstanding fact is you "cloned" the system. What about doing a clean install and then import your user info from the larger HD using Migration assistant?
    There is also an issue with the OWC firmware right now, another thread here has all of the info. If you RMA the drive, any replacement should have the latest firmware, which may or may not be part / all of the issue you are encountering.
    I suspect you will be OK with a clean install and update to 10.6.7.
    Also check out the Trim thread in the Mac Pro section, good news there for you.
  13. Mactrillionaire macrumors regular

    Oct 16, 2010
    Bottom line: Send the OWC solid state disk back to MacSales and get a refund or credit (unless you waited too long). Get this solid state disk instead. It is reasonably priced for what you are getting (save $200 from what Apple is charging for what is very similar in both performance and reliability) and won Tom's Hardware award for best drive on sustained performance. Result: Beach balls axed.
  14. econgeek thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 8, 2009
    Fortunately, it hasn't been happening consistently. No completely problem free, but things have not been like they were the first day when I started the thread. Then every web page opened by Safari was slow, and I remember the system taking time to boot. Now, when booting, there's the blue screen where it looks for the OS for just an instant, and then the login screen-- don't even get a chance to see the grey screen with the apple logo and spinning indicator. It is damn fast.

    It happens that I am not in the USA, so an RMA would be complicated and probably involve paying off customs once again to let me have my drive back when returned by OWC.

    I'm very keen to understand the reasoning behind the belief that a clone onto an SSD drive is going to be more problematic than a clean install. I can see this being the case if the problem was due to corruption on the previous drive. but is there another argument for it?

    I'm not ruling out trying this, but it would be a bit of a pain.

    That firmware update supports hibernate. It would be easier to finagle some sort of windows boot and install the update than to RMA the drive. But that's also a possibility to try.

    Trim is only useful for poorly designed SSDs. Some SSDs are just a bunch of flash in a box. Intel and Sanddisk based drives use sophisticated wear leveling and have their own garbage collection mechanisms, and thus TRIM doesn't have an advantage for them (or any effect I believe.)

    If you will notice, I never said that battery life was a concern, and your advice is nonsensical when one can easily plug in the laptop during periods of regular compilation. I do not keep crap like macports around, and frankly don't believe you about anything because you have convinced me that you are the kind of person who does not really understand how little he actually knows, nor let that stop him from spouting off (quite irrelevant) opinions.

    You're telling me to send back my well engineered sophisticated drive and get a generic drive that costs twice as much, based on-- near as I can tell-- no actual understanding of how SSDs work or what makes them reliable or performant, or even why people use them, after having just told me to go out and buy a Mac Pro and use that to compile my code.

    Yeah, if this forum had an ignore feature, you'd be plonked.
  15. andreiru macrumors 6502


    Apr 18, 2008
    Kurgan, RF
    Has this ever been resolved? I am experiencing beach balls too. Latest firmware, '09 MBP, Lion, clean-ish install (user settings transferred via assistant). Had serious stalls after a logic board replacement, but as soon as disabled FileVault 2 they disappeared. But now slowly coming back (not a tenth as bad as with FileVault 2 though). I learnt that SpotLight under Lion can cause this somehow.

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