Can I install OSX and on a ExpressCard/34 SSD

Discussion in 'macOS' started by ipedro, Jun 8, 2009.

  1. ipedro macrumors 68040


    Nov 30, 2004
    Toronto, ON
    I've found a potential use for my new 17" MacBook Pro's ExpressCard/34 slot. There are ExpressCard 32GB SSDs for sale on TigerDirect.

    I have a few questions for our OSX experts here on MacRumors:

    1 - Will OSX install on the 32GB SSD in the Expresscard slot?
    2 - Will there be a speed bottle neck? Is the Expresscard I/O as fast as the HDD I/O?
    3 - Will OSX fit and have room to grow (library files, pref files, etc) on 32GB?

    If so, I would have the OS and maybe some of the smaller apps running on the Expresscard SSD and keep the HDD for storage of files.

    Any answers to these questions will be greatly appreciated. :)
  2. ipedro thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 30, 2004
    Toronto, ON
    I found some specs that can help judge whether the I/O of the expresscard would be fast enough:

    Write Speed: up to 25 MB/sec
    Read Speed: up to 35 MB/sec
  3. Thiol macrumors 6502a


    Jan 26, 2008
  4. ipedro thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 30, 2004
    Toronto, ON
    Thanks for the link. I'm still learning about the possibilities. 48GB does sound enticing for the prices listed.

    Considering Snow Leopard is supposed to come in under 6GB installed, that leaves plenty of room for other small apps, growing pref and library files, etc.

    Now the question is: is the transfer speed adequate to run an OS and will the OS install and run from the card?

    Well, I got my answer to Question #3: Will OSX fit and have room to grow (library files, pref files, etc) on 32GB?.

    All the system, library and Application files on my 320GB HDD (excluding only the user files) comes out at 25GB. It's worth mentioning that I have some pro apps like the entire Adobe CS3 suite and Aperture.

    A 32GB or 48GB SSD would allow plenty of space to run the entire system, save for my stored files (iTunes, Photo Libraries, etc) which would go on the HDD.

    Remaining are the following questions:

    1 - Will OSX install on the 32GB SSD in the Expresscard slot and boot?
    2 - Will there be a speed bottle neck? Is the Expresscard I/O as fast as the HDD I/O?

    Anybody care to chime in?

    Please don't mind as I converse with myself here... :rolleyes: Just consider this me thinking out loud and creating a record for other members seeking an answer to this question... Feel free to chime in :D ...

    Q#2 Has been answered also: 2 - Will there be a speed bottle neck? Is the Expresscard I/O as fast as the HDD I/O?

    Corsair 128GB internal SATA SSD:
    Read: 90MB/sec
    Write: 70MB/sec

    Verbatim SSD expresscard (16/32/64GB):
    Read: 125MB/sec
    Write: 30MB/sec

    So it looks like the expresscard SSD would actually be faster at reading than the tried and proven internal SATA SSD's on the market today. It's the writing that's less than half.

    I'm not an expert, but how much bandwidth does OSX need to write to its system files?

    If we could somehow put the User folder and VRAM (where most of the writing occurs) on the internal HDD, we'd have a blazing fast OS!

    The remaining question:
    1 - Will OSX install on the SSD in the Expresscard slot and boot?

    EDIT: Thiol, your suggestion on NewEgg actually has better read speeds than a SATA internal SSD and write speeds that are just about on par:

    FileMate SolidGO 48GB SSD ExpressCard
    Read: up to 115MB/s
    Write: up to 65MB/s

    So in theory, because write speeds match up, you can even leave the VRAM on the expresscard. The only files that would reside on the internal HDD would be the User files.

    I'm not sure if there's a way to change that. However, the largest files can be easily placed on the HDD without any Terminal wizardry: iTunes, Photos, Movies.

    I think 48GB would be good enough to accomplish this. Now on to question #2...
  5. someguy2054 macrumors newbie

    Jul 9, 2009

    as long as you partition the the SSD as GUID, you can install and make it the boot drive. ( I suggest using Carbon Copy Cloner to move it over, so you don't have to do a fresh install)

    A few links that I've found useful:
    Other Discussion:

    Move Swap if you so wish:

    Have user settings on orignal bigger hdd:
  6. norsemen macrumors regular

    Apr 2, 2007
    Will it work as a boot-partition on a mid 2007 MacBook Pro (Santa Rosa)?
  7. ipedro thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 30, 2004
    Toronto, ON
    Thanks for the input someguy2054. I'll be getting this card once SnowLeopard comes out. With an even smaller footprint than Leopard and efficiencies across the board, 48GB will be more than enough to install the OS, Applications and VRAM on the card leaving the 350GB HDD for my User folder where I have ever growing Aperture and iTunes Libraries...

    If by September we see a 1TB SATA HDD, I'll be getting the ExpressCard SSD + a 1TB HDD to keep all my files on the MacBook Pro rather than on external drives.
  8. Freyqq macrumors 601

    Dec 13, 2004
    35 mb/sec up/down is something like real-life firewire transfer i assume that's enough to work

    edit: nvm, i read the rest of the thread. This is awesome, but with flash prices as they are, in a year you'll be getting double capacity for half most likely. Seems like it would be best to wait a while.
  9. John89 macrumors regular

    Dec 23, 2008
    I have the FileMate 48gb ExpressCard SSD for my MacBook Pro, its very good! I may try and install Snow Leopard on it when its released.

    What I really want to do is install Windows on it via Bootcamp. Dont think this is possible though :(
    So at the moment im just using it for VMware Fusion.

  10. monsterdekat macrumors newbie

    Jul 15, 2009
    Can not boot from expresscard SSD

    After reading the postings above I quickly bought a Filemate SolidGo 24GB SSD, the speed improvement would be great!:)
    But to my disappointment I couldn't get the expresscard to boot. I formatted HFS+ Journalled + GUID, installed Leopard on it with my Leopard install DVD, so far so good...
    After restarting with the option-key to choose my startup volume the expresscard was not in the list of available startup volumes...
    The funny thing is I can actually boot from the expresscard SSD when I attach it to my Macbook pro 2.16 via the supplied USB cable... So there is nothing wrong with the volume itself, it must be that the Macbook pro cannot boot from the expresscard... :(
    Am I doing something wrong? Any idears would be greatly appreciated! Thx
  11. occamsrazor macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2007
    Can't help you I'm afraid as I don't have one, but I am very interested to hear of your experiences in trying to get the expresscard bootable.
    My other question is someone on another thread suggested the card got very hot in use - can you comment on that?

    Good luck with your endeavors!
  12. John89 macrumors regular

    Dec 23, 2008
    I just installed Snow Leopard on my 48gb filemate. WOW :D very fast!

    Try going into your System Settings and hitting the Startup Disk pref pane. Is your EC/34 shown there? If it is, select that and hit Restart.

    Yes it does get quite hot, only after heavy use though.
  13. occamsrazor macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2007
    Once you've used for a while, would be interested to know how it affects battery life.....
    Also, perhaps you could do some real world speed-tests using this free utility, and post the results:
    (the one called "AJA System Test")
  14. John89 macrumors regular

    Dec 23, 2008
    No probs mate, I will give it a bash tonight when I'm home from work.
    I dont have a Leopard install disk at the moment (lost it), so I will do the tests with Snow Leopard.

  15. monsterdekat macrumors newbie

    Jul 15, 2009
    Booting from expresscard

    The expresscard gets pretty hot, but not burning. It keep functioning 100% despite the heat. Even during heavy use when connected via a USB cable it gets hot, but not uncomfortable to the hands.

    Booting: When I select the expresscard volume from the Startup Pref Pane all goes well, but when restarting its automatically reverts to the build-in HD. When restarten with the option-key pressed I do not get the expresscard as an option, so I think the Macbook Pro 2.16 doesn't initialize the expresscard prior to the booting sequence??? :(
    The computer needs to recognize the expresscard bootable volume prior to reaching the Startup Disk choice menu (option-key pressed startup).
    As I have read multiple threads where people succeded to boot a macbook pro from an expresscard it could be that some macbook versions can and some cannot boot from expresscards...
  16. John89 macrumors regular

    Dec 23, 2008
    Weird, if it shows in the 'Startup Disks' pref pane then you should be able to boot from it. I would try reinstalling Leopard if I were you.
  17. Azrel macrumors regular


    Jun 8, 2005
    An interesting idea, makes me wish I had an express port lol.

    I'm sure in the future, we'll have express card equivalents that will allow for high bandwidth, possibly graphic chips as well.

    Laptops are the future, let's hope the recent move by apple to abandon the express port is only a short term move.
  18. John89 macrumors regular

    Dec 23, 2008

    I hope these are thrown back into the 15" and 13" mbp's soon!

    Ok I couldn't find my SnowLeopard.dmg file. Sorry! I did how ever find some old benchmarks from VMware Fusion using Windows XP

    Attached Files:

  19. eVolcre macrumors 68000


    Jan 7, 2003
    I'm going to be following this thread with a lot of interest. Thanks iPedro.

    This seems like the perfect SSD hybrid system. I couldn't live with the 128GB solo internal drives because I don't want to be carting around a portable all the time. But making this the boot drive with applications and maybe my documents and research stored on it (pdfs and long word docs don't take up much space) would be fantastic. Lets me use my 500GB internal as the photo/movie/music repository.

    Keep us posted on your experiment. How does it seem speed wise? People who have upgraded to an internal SSD on a MBP say that the difference is absolutely night and day.

  20. dheista macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2002
    New York City
    Hi gents,

    I just bought a Filemate 48GB SSD expresscard and installed using Carbon Copy Cloner.

    It boots just fine, and very fast compared to my 500GB 7200RPM internal in my 2.4 non-unibody.

    However - when booting mail, it crashes every time. I can't copy my ~Library in it's entirety to the SSD card, because my Mail caches are 53GB. I saw that early and just created an alias for ~/Library/Mail that points back to the internal original boot disk. That doesn't seem to work. I found an article on Apple's support site that talks about Mail needing to be in the /Applications folder - but it is...

    I also have left my desktop images (that rotate) in the original disk, but when booting - it seems the internal disk hasn't mounted in time to get the ~/Pictures folder in order to load the desktop images, so I'm left with the pink & purple default image.

    Anyone know how to get Apple Mail to work with an Alias to the ~/Library/Mail folder?

    I had to change the home directory on the SSD boot up to use the original disk. Found it in a post on nn:

    The link to move the users directory:

    Pretty simple actually, and it fixed both the background image problem and the Mail folder problem.

    Unfortunately - this means all the Users application support and ~/Library information is all on the non-SSD disk :-(
  21. occamsrazor macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2007
    Which may or may not be a bad thing... When you open an application it will be loading the application from the SSD and the user data from the HD - over the two drives simultaneously, so in theory it will load at drive1-speed + drive2-speed, kind've like a Raid-0.
    Now, bearing in mind the different characteristics of the two drives, and the different nature of SSDs vs HDs, it may be better or worse in real-world speed than the SSD alone.
    The bigger disadvantage in my mind with having the user folder on the HD, is you won't be able to spin-down the HD when not being used to save power, as for sure the users folder will always be written to or read from.

    Have you done any scientific-ish tests? Can you post them? I'm interested...

    Can you comment on possible reduction in battery life by using the additional SSD drive, and/or possible extra heat issues?
  22. dheista macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2002
    New York City
    Good point on the reading/writing to dual disks - hadn't thought of that.

    And hadn't thought about the battery life being affected by non-spindown of the Users disk.

    I haven't done ANY tests, other than booting alternately a few times - the SSD takes less than 15 seconds to boot, whereas the non-SSD takes at least a minute. I'll time them a few times later today. If you have any suggestion on freeware/shareware software I can download and run some tests on - I'm happy to do that...

    Heat - I definitely feel more heat when the SSD is installed under the left speaker where my Expresscard slot is. It's not heinous, but I do notice on my iStat Menus temperature monitor - the CPU temp is at 53 today, and it used to be pretty consistently 49 or 50. It's not hotter ambient temp today, so I can only guess that it's the expresscard adding a few degrees. But nothing drastic or scary.

    As for Battery - my batteries are pretty crappy. I've gone through 204 cycles on the current battery, and only 84% of my original capacity remains. If I was really curious - I'd run some longer battery tests on the existing battery, but I just need to buy a couple new batteries to replace these aging ones.
  23. occamsrazor macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2007
    I used to do this in a PowerMac desktop with two internal drives on different IDE buses, it enabled you to use the combined speed of both buses, but without the disadvantages of Raid-0. This situation is more tricky to determine, though, as from what I've read the random-read-write speeds of the SSDs are much better than the HDs, so you might be losing out on some of that benefit for user data with your setup, although you'll still be getting all the advantages for system stuff and especially caching.

    As for the heat aspect that's been the thing worrying me as I live in a very hot place (40C plus), and also the battery life, but guess you can't win at everything.

    Any chance one of you who has the unibody MBP could post a close-up photo showing how far the SSD sticks out?
  24. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    Though I do not know about changing the profile location in Apple Mail. On your old boot disk you can install Thunderbird and import all of your mail and address book. You can then install Thunderbird on your SSD boot disk and change its default profile location to your secondary drive.

    Manage Thunderbird Profiles This is written mainly for Windows users but if you read through it. This page tells you the terminal commands for Mac OS X to open the profile manager. You go on with the steps to choose create a new profile.

    When choosing a location for your new profile you will instead choose the profile directory you created on your old boot drive. It should be at ~/Library/Thunderbird/Profiles/xxxxxxxx.default/ (the ~ is in reference to your user directory in the old hard drive). Don't be alarmed if there are more than one profile folders this is common. If this is the case navigate in the Finder to the Thunderbird folder and get info (command + i) on each profile folder, the massive one is the profile you want to select.

    Then follow the linked to guide to finish your profile setup. At this point you will want to select the new profile as default and get delete the old one via profile manager. Do not physically delete the Thunderbird folder from your SSD's ~/Library as that still contains preferences including current profile location.

    An added bonus to Thunderbird if you use boot camp is that you can link to the same profile folder in multiple OSes without a problem. This should also work with VMWARE but I can not be sure. For a while on my gaming PC I had Mac OS X, Windows 7 and Windows XP all using the same Thunderbird profile. If you want a cross platform calendar simply download and install the Lightning add-on for Thunderbird. Sunbird may work as well if you want a separate calendar but you will need to find out how to change it's profile location yourself.
  25. dheista macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2002
    New York City

    Ok - here's the XBench tests. First one is for my internal 500gb 7200 RPM "normal" disk I replaced just a few weeks ago. The machine originally had a 200GB drive that I believe is a 5400RPM drive. The 500GB was a noticable improvement in performance, but the SSD is amazing.

    500GB 7200 RPM:
    Disk Test 40.59
    Sequential 91.66
    Uncached Write 128.42 78.85 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 89.59 50.69 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 55.21 16.16 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 152.00 76.39 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random 26.07
    Uncached Write 7.85 0.83 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 147.47 47.21 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 82.57 0.59 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 139.47 25.88 MB/sec [256K blocks]

    48GB SSD:
    Disk Test 75.97
    Sequential 96.60
    Uncached Write 97.15 59.65 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 103.24 58.41 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 60.47 17.70 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 204.37 102.71 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Random 62.61
    Uncached Write 18.75 1.98 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Write 132.95 42.56 MB/sec [256K blocks]
    Uncached Read 985.21 6.98 MB/sec [4K blocks]
    Uncached Read 497.38 92.29 MB/sec [256K blocks]

    Note the Random Uncached Reads take a HUGE hit on the 7200RPM, but only about 10% less performance with the SSD. But most of the other specs are pretty uninteresting on the SSD. Write performance is actually poorer in most cases, but not substantially. It's the read performance!

    I'll test boot-times now...

    With 500GB 7200RPM disk:

    48 seconds

    48GB SSD:

    28 seconds

    As I said - it's noticably faster with the SSD.

    And of course - launching applications takes one bounce, where most took 5-10 bounces with the 7200RPM drive. And forget about starting multiple applications at once with the spinning drive!!

    Can't wait to pick up my SSD Air tomorrow. That should really scream with everything on the SSD.

    And hoping for a 128GB SSD ExpressCard soon. I'm SO sold on these - I'm telling everyone I know that has an expresscard macbook pro to get one ASAP!

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