Install SSD OR Buy Macbook Air OR Wait?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nazedayo, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. nazedayo macrumors member

    Jan 18, 2012
    Hi folks, I'm currently using a Macbook Pro 15" early-2011 model. I got it as a graduation gift, but honestly the i7 is overkill, and the 500GB HDD is probably the cause for my overall slow boot/app performance (I regularly clean the computer of extraneous files, like keeping the files tidy and delete everything I don't need). It also never leaves home– which makes me debate a mac mini as well.

    I use it mostly to code websites, and occasionally process images in Adobe Lightroom. Here's the question:

    Should I–

    1. Buy a new Macbook Air? I anticipate that I will go to an MBA program in about 2 years, when I will no longer be supplied a work laptop and will need a laptop then. I could sell my MBP and move onto a current gen MBA. Then again, hesitant as I suspiciously think Apple is getting ready to implement the next USB (the tiny one) in their next-gen laptops.

    2. Rip out HDD & install SSD? This would solve the slowness, and could last me a couple more years. Problem: clumsy hands, scared to rip out innards.

    3. Buy a Mac Mini? I could sell the current MBP and get a Mac Mini w/ an SSD.

    Thoughts? As much as I love to future-proof, not sure what is right at this time– yet day by day my slow MBP is irritating. Let me know what you guys think.
  2. AnonMac50 macrumors 65816

    Mar 24, 2010
    The computer sounds really good. I would install the SSD. It is cheaper, and will feel like a whole different computer.

    It's actually quite easy. I don't remember the process exactly (I've done it once 3 years ago), but it was really simple and I don't think its possible to ruin the computer by it. It shows it in the manual I think also.
  3. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    With the current prices of SSDs having dropped so drastically, I say go for an SSD. Even if you do eventually sell your MacBook Pro in favor of an Air, having an SSD would only increase its resale value.
  4. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 18, 2012
    Thanks guys, any upgrade "kits" you recommend for SSDs?
  5. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    Since your MacBook Pro uses a standard 2.5" drive, you won't need any "kit". Installation is quite simple. You can consult for directions.

    Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper! are two very good apps for cloning your current system to the new SSD. It can also be done through terminal or Disk Utility, albeit in a less intuitive manner.

    After installation, you may want to activate TRIM to help maintain the health of your SSD. Personally, I suggest activating TRIM through terminal. Instructions can be found on this forum or many other sites.

    Good luck with your SSD!
  6. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    I'm with the other posters on putting an SSD in your laptop. You only need a standard cross head to open the bottom, and I think it's a torque screw for the bits on the side of the hard-drive. As the poster above mentioned, iFixit have great guides on this. It's a 2 minute job to do and simple as anything.

    Unlike the others I'd recommend doing a full Time Machine backup. Once that's done and you've fitted a blank SSD, you can hold 'Alt' on startup and boot into Time Machine, then simply restore that to your new SSD.

    I'd steer clear of any 'TRIM enabler' programs as there were a few which do more harm than good. I know Apple don't recommend it and it's not at all necessary because the amount of read/writes you'd need to do without TRIM enabled to brick the SSD is far beyond the life of your laptop anyway.
  7. Giuly, Dec 5, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014

    Giuly macrumors 68040


    If you can undo screws and unplug a cable, then you can replace a hard drive. Once you've removed the bottom plate, it's literally two screws, plus four spacers on the side of the hard drive that require a T8 screwdriver and can be removed with drive out of the Mac. Or just get it done by someone else.

    But my vote's for that. My Mac with a 240GB SanDisk Extreme II boots near-instantly, and I have no complaints whatsoever about it.

    Apple has TRIM enabled on their own SSDs. It's meant to mark blocks as empty when you delete fines so that the SSD won't slow down when you're writing over previous data. I've enabled it, works fine for me - full speed until you run out of space.
  8. bingeciren macrumors 6502a


    Sep 6, 2011
    Search Amazon for a 480 or 500 GB SSD. I bought a Sandisk 480 GB SSD a year ago and put it in my MacMini. It is twice as fast as the Corsair 120 I have and holds pretty much everything. It was $360 when I bought it and surprisingly the price went up a little since then. Perhaps it was a promo price. However, you can still find about a 500GB SSD's for less than $400.

    It will make your Mac a totally different machine and you'll love it. This will keep you going for at least couple of more years until you decide to upgrade it to a flash disk based Mac.
  9. viggen61 macrumors 6502

    Jul 24, 2002
    New Jersey
    Your 2011 i7 MBP has a lot of life left in it. I'd put in the SSD.

    But also, how much RAM do you have? OS X likes as much RAM as you can toss at it. Your MBP probably came with 4GB (or {gasp!} 2GB). Get it to at least 8GB (Apple's claimed Max), or 16GB if you like (OWCs tested max) .

  10. johnfkitchen macrumors regular

    Sep 7, 2010
    First step is to upgrade the RAM to the absolute maximum. If that is 16GBs as has been suggested, then do it!

    RAM is the most effective, most cost-effective speed booster. The Mac I am writing this on has 32GBs. Mac OS will use unused RAM as "file cache", and if there is anything better than a fast I/O, it's an avoided I/O!

    The second step is to either go for the SSD if you can find one large enough for your needs while still being within budget, or get a hybrid HDD/Flash drive such as those made by Seagate.

    The hybrid drives have the advantages of being larger in capacity and more affordable, but do not match the speed of an SSD. If you go down this path, make sure that the drive is at least a 7200 RPM drive (for speed reasons).

    In closing, let me say that larger capacity spinning disks are faster than smaller capacity ones. This is because if your data will fit on a small drive, it will fit in a smaller space on a large drive, leading to faster access (seek) times. Of course this assumes that the rotational speed of the disks is identical.
  11. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Well depends on your budget, you can put in a 1TB, 500 GB, or 250 GB SSD in your MBP.
  12. JeffiJers macrumors 6502a

    Sep 12, 2012
    2011 15" is still a great computer and I am almost sure you will miss it.

    I personally without a doubt would put some SSD in that computer.

    As far as size goes, organize your current HD and go from there. I personally do not work with large files so the 256 is more then enough for me even with parallels. I do, however have an external that I depends on to offload my big "play" files such as media and other stuff I don't use daily. Even if I had 1tb of SSD I would still put the files I don't use daily on an external. Keeps things simple and clean.
  13. AtomicGrog macrumors regular

    Jul 25, 2011
    Wife had an old (last gen) white MacBook which was suffering.

    Maxing out the memory and adding SSD (like for like size wise with the original HDD) gave it another year and made the resale quite pleasant when we did sell it.

    Imho you should always max the Memory... these days it's cheap! and OSX uses it well for caching if you dont use it for the apps.

    I'd take that approach again (and again and again...) , it was a cost effective method of lengthening the life of the machine.

    There's a few things to work out prior..., some seem obvious but are easily forgotten.

    (1) Clean the machine of any unwanted material... space is time.

    (2) Backup the machine... I used a USB attached HDD and the time machine software, it's actually faster than using a NAS (I have one... tried both techniques...). The backup becomes the restore point for the SSD which is quite painless.. you simply put the machine into recovery and point it at the timemachine backup.

    (3) Be wary of some software licences, Microsoft office for example noticed I'd changed the hardware and expected me to enter the licence keys again which then failed as they had been used already, I had to contact M$ to get another code... In the end it was free and easy but a pain when you're not expecting it.

    (4) Make sure that the SSD 'Trim' is enabled, by default it wont be and OSX wont switch it on unless it's a apple drive (unlikely...) but there is a 3rd party free app to enable it (called enabletrim or similar...).

    End to end I did this with wife's machine in less than 2 hours but she did have much less disk usage I suspect.
  14. nazedayo, Dec 6, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2013

    nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 18, 2012
    Great thanks everybody.

    FYI I have 8GB RAM so I'm good there. :)

    I'm thinking about getting the 256GB Samsung 840 EVO, but I heard that there are "mac-friendly" and "non-mac-friendly" SSD's. Will that drive work?

    Also, do I need to buy a separate USB enclosure to copy over the data via Carbon Copy Cloner to the SSD? I'm guessing this could double as a free 500GB external hard drive. Any recommended enclosures?

    Also what's the deal w/ 3G and 6G? Is it relevant to me?

  15. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    The only "Mac friendly" SSDs that I am aware of are the Angelbird ones. That being said, the only thing that makes them "Mac friendly" is the fact that TRIM will be enabled on these SSDs in OS X without the users having to do anything extra.

    Other than that, an SSD is an SSD in the same way a hard drive is hard drive and there's no real Mac specific versions. You can enable TRIM on a standard SSD with a few terminal commands or use an app that enables it for you.

    Yes, if you want to transfer your data over, a 2.5" hard drive enclosure would be helpful. When I shop for these, I basically let the prices make my decisions for me.

    3G (aka SATA 2) and 6G (aka SATA 3) makes a big difference. At this point, I don't see any reason to purchase an SSD that only has SATA 2.
  16. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 18, 2012
    Got it, thanks so much.
  17. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    My Samsung SSD came with Windows-only Utility software. This included:

    - Firmware update
    - 'Overprovisioning' utility.

    Chances are you won't need to update the firmware - and if you do you'll just have to borrow a PC or use Windows in a virtual machine.

    Overprovisioning is just a fifty-buck word for leaving about 10% of the disk capacity unformatted to give the SSD's internal performance/lifespan optimising routines more room to shuffle data around. You can do this easily in disk utility by just making the partition you create a tad smaller than the full capacity of the disc.

    As for external enclosures, there are some dirt cheap 'USB to SATA' cables that will get the job done.

    The other thing to consider is getting a 'data doubler' or 'optical drive bay HD adapter' which will let you replace your optical drive with a 2.5" HDD - usual approach is to replace your HD with an SSD and put the old HD in the optical bay. You can then use the SSD as the boot/system disc (which gives you the speed increase) and keep the old HDD for less commonly used files.

    Obviously, this is only an option if you rarely use your CD/DVD (which goes in an external enclosure). Also, although changing the main HDD is as easy as pie, removing the CD/DVD and replacing it with the adapter+HD is a bit more fiddly - but not rocket science.

    Tip from experience - make sure you use the correct size screwdrivers and be very careful not to strip the screw heads.
  18. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    I didn't realize Samsung SSDs required additional software to enable over provisioning. I know SSDs that use Sandforce controllers and the newer Marvell based SSDs do it in firmware.
  19. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 18, 2012
    What if I completely reformat it into Mac OS Journaled? Will it be a problem?
  20. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
    As far as I know, it's never been a problem for anyone else who has installed an SSD.
  21. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    I understand you're unsure, but honestly the whole process is pretty easy and painless.

    An SSD is def your best option moving forward in the short-medium term. Get something at least 256GB in capacity and look for specials, like this:

    [512GB+ would be preferable, but obviously more expensive.]

    Connect SSD in USB enclosure
    [Anandtech recommends having approx 20% free space at all times as the best way to maintain performance, so, using Disk Utility partition the drive into Free Space (20%) and Mac OS Journaled (80%)]

    Use Carbon Copy Cloner to make an exact copy of your drive onto the SSD. Check capacity used and available to ensure this is an option.

    Swap the HDD out and SSD in. It's a 5-10minute job for a novice who is being ultra careful.

    Enjoy what feels like a brand new machine.
  22. driveparty macrumors member


    Apr 19, 2008
    Russia / USA
    SSD is better

    However, i won't believe the '11 MBP should be that slow. First, you probably should consider RAM (memory) upgrade, at least some 8GB, but the 16GB would be the best. Second –*tidy up your clumsy hands and get the SSD: it's quite simple and there should be tons of instructions out there on the web.
    Regarding the SSD model, i would suggest the Samsung 840 PRO (exactly the PRO!!!). Finally, get rid of the DVD, install the OWC DVD SATA adapter (they call it "Data Doubler" here, put your current HDD in the adapter, get either 128 or 256GB 840 PRO (the bigger is better in sense of performance), and you'll get the perfect fusion drive ready configured machine.

    The 16GB modules set ~= $110 - $140
    OWC Data Doubler = $35
    Samsung SSD 840 PRO ~= $120 for 128GB and ~= $220 for the 256GB


    Why?! I've got my 840 PRO installed in '12 (current) Mac mini since i bought that Mac, and it works just flawlessly. The only thing i would suggest you to do is the SSD firmware update, but you don't need Windows for that, just download Mac bootable ISO from Samsung, restore it to USB drive and boot your Mac from USB drive.
  23. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011

    If you want to be on the safe side, when you format the drive in Disk Utility, go into the 'partition' tab and shrink the Mac OS X partition to leave about 10% of the drive unused. Maybe others here can chip in with their 0.5c as to whether that is really necessary.

    …but even if you just slap it in and format it as normal, you're not going to let the magic smoke out.
  24. pastrychef macrumors 601


    Sep 15, 2006
    New York City, NY
  25. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    20-25% is the recommendation for free space:

    "OCZ's Vector and Samsung's SSD 840 Pro both deliver much better IO consistency if you simply set aside 25% of the total NAND capacity as spare area."

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