External Firewire boot SSD?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Paulywauly, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. Paulywauly macrumors 6502a

    Paulywauly

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    #1
    I'm wanting to upgrade my late 2009 iMac with an SSD, but don't wanna pry the thing apart and risk voiding the Applecare warranty which has 2 and a half years left!

    Has anyone else out there tried booting an SSD this way? if so, what do you think of it? Would there be much performance difference between the regular stock Western Digital SATA HD and a decent SSD in a firewire 800 enclosure?

    I'd only be storing the OS and apps on it if i did as all of my other data is held on other external drives.
     
  2. Kauai macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    I'm not an expert on the issue but I'm pretty sure from prior research that an external SSD is largely redundant considering the speed of an external storage unit is already capped to FW/USB speeds regardless of it being a HDD or an SSD. If you need the storage, which it seems like your doing this for the speed, then just get an external HDD with 4x the capacity for 4x less money. Otherwise, if you don't mind gambling with your Apple care and don't feel safe doing it yourself, send your iMac to OWC.
     
  3. alust2013 macrumors 601

    alust2013

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    #3
    An SSD would easily saturate the FW800 interface, thus would not be much faster than the internal HDD, if at all.
     
  4. Paulywauly thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Paulywauly

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    #4
    Yeah i assumed the FW800 would be the bottleneck there, but i dont do alot of writing to my boot drive and dont need a sustained high read/write speed. im more interested in being able to open up a large number of applications quickly and switch between them etc. I do understand that the firewire will always be a bottleneck and i wouldnt be using the SSD to its full potential, but would the quicker memory seek times of the SSD make much of a difference in this case?
     
  5. alust2013 macrumors 601

    alust2013

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    #5
    It may make a difference, but likely not one worth the amount of money that would be.
     
  6. Paulywauly thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Paulywauly

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    #6
    good point!
     
  7. miata macrumors 6502

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    #7
    I would like to come back to this value judgement. My situation is that I have a 2008 20" iMac that is the family computer and switching users is pretty slow. I'm thinking that booting from a FW800 SSD would make this much faster. Am I fantasizing?

    You can get a 120 GB SSD for around $200 and if you have a FW800 external enclosure sitting around wouldn't this be a pretty cost effective upgrade. I would consider replacing the internal drive, but it seems that Apple makes this pretty difficult.
     
  8. Paulywauly thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Paulywauly

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    #8
    the thing with user switching is that there would be alot of reading from your SSD, i'd imagine the FW800 bottleneck would slow things down as it needs to pull all your startup applications from it.

    Is your mac still under Applecare? if not and you're feeling adventurous you could try replacing your internal drive? its really not as hard as it looks if you use a good guide
     
  9. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #9
    FW800 can be saturated by a desktop HDD in certain tasks, so an SSD would be a waste of money.

    it's either eSATA or install/have someone install the SSD inside the computer.
     
  10. Detrius macrumors 68000

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    #10
    Your internal hard drive can easily do 150MB/sec when transferring large amounts of data. FW800 has a theoretical maximum of 100MB/sec, so a current desktop hard drive is slowed down by FW800. Therefore, an external SSD over FW800 would not be faster. You might get reduced latency out of it, which counts for something, but you'd be losing the potential 500MB/sec r/w speeds (or whatever the insane numbers are on the SSD).
     
  11. Fishrrman macrumors G3

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #11
    Agree with most of the previous posters that an external SSD -- even in a Firewire800 enclosure -- probably wouldn't give you the "speed boost" you're looking for.

    Having said that, why not just get a _good_ external Firewire800 enclosure, put the drive of your choice in it, and then...
    - partition it into at least two partitions (call them, say, "clone" and "scratch")
    - clean out your internal drive, moving the unnecessary items to the sratch partition
    - use CarbonCopyCloner to "dupe" the cleaned-up internal drive to the "clone" partition
    - defrag and optimize your internal (you can boot from the CCC clone to do this)
    - and then, keep on using your internal drive?
     
  12. miata macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Thanks for your inputs. I'm out of AppelCare, so no worries about the warrantee. I may have to look at replacing the internal drive. I've been hesitant about opening the iMac. I get most of my upgrades from OWC and saw that they don't even have videos for upgrading the internal disks for the iMacs.

    Is it pretty straight forward to upgrade an '08 iMac 20?"
     
  13. rtrt macrumors 6502a

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    #13
    i'm not so sure that the external firewire would be as slow as some others think.

    but since i've not tested it i can only go with what ive read over the last few years.

    we could debate it on here but i think a better idea for you is to get the ssd and try it in the firewire enclosure.

    if it's fast enough for you then you can just use it.

    if it's not fast enough then since you seem open to the internal option anyway - just go for it then.

    i for one would be interested to hear how you get on.
     
  14. miata macrumors 6502

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    #14
    I just ordered an OWC Pro 120 GB SSD for my MBP 15. I have a OWC On-The-Go Pro FW 800 drives that I could play with. If I copy my system from my MPB (early 2008) with CCC would I be able to boot it with my iMac (early 2008)?
     
  15. rtrt, Dec 3, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    rtrt macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    yep, just clone as you say and then boot with alt key held down. you'll see the external as an additional boot volume and take it from there.

    ----------------------
    didn't read properly. why not just clone the iMac and then boot the iMac with a volume you know works?

    if you clone the MBP, then so long as you've run the latest updater i think you'd be fine - but again why not clone the iMac
     
  16. miata macrumors 6502

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    #16
    Two reasons:

    1) There is too much data on the iMac to fit on a 120 GB SSD
    2) Since the SSD is going into the MBP I need to clone it anyway

    I pretty much stay up with the latest patches, so I should have the latest versions.
     
  17. rtrt macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    ah ok i'd thought the ssd was destined for the imac.

    btw you can clone a boot drive thats too large to fit on the destination by leaving out enough of the user files to fit.

    movies, music that sort of thing.

    with carbon copy cloner you can, i've not used super duper so not sure there.
     
  18. miata macrumors 6502

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    #18
    I'm considering an SSD for the iMac. I just want to see what kind of performance I get before reorganizing a bunch of stuff. I've also been checking out the iFixit instructions and may take a stab at replacing the internal drive.

    If my first test looks promising maybe I'll do a customized clone as you describe. Right now the iMac is the iTunes media server with music and mp4 videos. I can probably just exclude a few directories an be good to go.
     
  19. rnb2 macrumors regular

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    #19
    I upgraded from a 1st-generation Mac Pro 2GHz to a 2009 i7 iMac, and I didn't pull the trigger until I knew that a FW800 SSD would give satisfactory performance (I tested the SSD in the external enclosure with the Mac Pro first).

    While the theoretical speed of the FW800 vs SATA buses would lead you to believe that it wouldn't make much difference, I'm compared booting from the internal 1TB WD Caviar Black to the 80GB Intel X25m in the FW800 enclosure, and the SSD is always significantly faster. It's also dramatically faster launching applications.

    Latency and seek time with the SSD makes for a better user experience, especially when the system is able to read lots of data from the internal drive while simultaneously reading from the external SSD. You also don't have to deal with the OS getting slower and slower as the internal drive fills up (though partitioning can help with this, you will essentially sacrifice the fastest part of the HD to OS speed, with reads from the data partition necessarily slower).

    I already had the SSD from my Mac Pro, so there wasn't a question of spending new money to get the performance benefit, but I still think its worth grabbing a small (even 60GB should do the trick - I haven't gone over 50% with my 80GB yet), fast SSD and putting it in a good FW800 enclosure, like the aluminum OWC unit. You do lose the peak sustained read speed, but that's not really important on an OS/Applications drive - you do benefit greatly from the SSD's ability to load data from several places at once without read heads thrashing all over a spinning platter, and it does make a big difference in day-to-day use.
     
  20. mjsmke macrumors 6502a

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    #20
    As previous posters have said, an SSD conmected via FW800 would be pointless. It would be like buying a Ferrari and only using 1s gear.

    For opening multiple applications, or anything at all a external FW800 drive would be slower than the internal drive conected via the SATA ports.

    Some people have used an available esata port from inside the iMac and conected an external drive with that. This would be much faster than your original idea. But this would involve opening up your iMac.
     
  21. Paulywauly thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Paulywauly

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    #21
    good response thanks nice to see someones give this a try! :) Do you have any benchmarks?
     
  22. rnb2 macrumors regular

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    #22
    That's simply not true.

    Opening multiple apps from a FW800 SSD is dramatically faster than opening them from the internal SATA drive. Applications are small - a few MB to a few hundred MB - so 80MB/s from the SSD is plenty to open multiple apps as fast as you can think about it. In the meantime, the internal HD is thrashing the read heads all over to load all those apps.

    A FW800 SSD gives a dramatically more responsive system than using just the internal HD. An internal SSD would certainly be preferable, but given how difficult that would be with the 2009 iMac, I'm happy with the compromise.
     
  23. rnb2 macrumors regular

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    #23
    Honestly have never felt the need to do any benchmarking. I know it boots faster and opens applications faster from the times I've booted from the internal (I keep a clone of the boot drive on a separate partition on the internal for safety and in case I need to take it in for service).

    It's not a question of transfer speed so much as responsiveness (which is hard to benchmark) - you gain both from the lack of latency and seek time, and from having applications and user data split so there's less thrashing on the internal drive.
     
  24. rtrt macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    I wonder how many of these previous posters have actually tried the set up that they say is pointless?

    It seems that rnb2 has tried it and thinks it's a reasonably useful set up for him/her.

    Thats good enough for me to try it myself, when my set up and situation allows.

    Would I spend money on his experience alone - maybe not. I'd probably look for a few others with similar experience first.

    In my case I have the ssd already, just not the time/availability right now.
     
  25. miata macrumors 6502

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    #25
    I remember bootinga MBP from a FW800 drive for a while when my internal HDD crashed and it was not bad. The interesting thing will be how much of the SSD benefit you can exploit. I have to believe that retrieving lots of small files or searching is going to be very fast even with an external SSD.

    I guess we'll find out in a few days when my OWC Pro 120 GB SSD arrives.
     

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