Solid State Drive for iMac 2011. Which is best?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by TVreporter, Dec 10, 2016.

  1. TVreporter macrumors regular


    Mar 11, 2012
    Near Toronto
    Can someone please guide me through what external solid state drive I should get for my mid-2011 27-inch iMac.

    It's starting to get sluggish - I have 480GB free on a 1TB drive (3.1 GHZ i5 with 12GB ram) running on El Capitan.

    There seems to be so much conflicting articles on what SSD works and what doesn't.
    I'm confused... will a USB 3.0 work with the 2.0 ports? Is Thunderbolt SSD better and what would I need to hook up one?

    I want to boot the OS off the SSD and maintain the iMac HD for storage mainly for videos and personal photography.
    But articles with TRIM, SATA, etc just confuse me.

    Can someone recommend a setup and/or solid state drive to buy (hoping to go with at least 500GB drive).

    Thanks in advance!
  2. StayPuft, Dec 10, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016

    StayPuft Suspended


    Mar 22, 2016
    Yes, you can use a USB 3 drive with USB 2 ports since it's backwards compatible. However, I would advise against it since you are still limited by the speed of the USB 2 port, which will make running the OS off an external drive quite sluggish. You're much better off going with a Thunderbolt drive with an SSD, since it is significantly faster.

    The Samsung external SSD is super fast:

    That one is 500 GB but you can go up to 2 TB ... though at that price you might as well invest in a new iMac. SSDs get really pricey past 500 GB.

    You can simply clone your drive to the external with Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper and you're ready to boot from your external drive.
  3. TVreporter thread starter macrumors regular


    Mar 11, 2012
    Near Toronto
    So if copy the drive to the external...does that include my 14000+ photos would be accessed on that SSD as well? Anyone have a thorough step by step on how to do a setup for this newb! :)
  4. Bruno09 macrumors 68020

    Aug 24, 2013
    Far from here
  5. TVreporter thread starter macrumors regular


    Mar 11, 2012
    Near Toronto
    Thanks Bruno09, but I have no technical expertise to attempt that (or a steady enough hand to manage pulling the glass off!) I'm in a small town without any Mac specialists here. I'd rather not risk it and stick with an external SSD.
  6. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I recently got a 500gb and a 1tb Samsung T3 and they are very fast. Using the 500gb as the boot drive for a 2012 mini that has a slow internal hard drive. I use the 1tb on another machine to store the video project I am currently working on. The speed on both drives is virtually identical, here's the 500 on USB3


    So I am very happy after a couple weeks use. There has been some discussion that the lack of TRIM might be an issue with these, but not everyone agrees on that topic.

    However, on an old iMac with USB 2.0… save your money. You are going to be limited to around 35 MB/sec throughput - not even 10% of what these drives are capable of. Might as well just buy the cheapest USB hard drive you can find. I get around 180MB/sec on my full size desktop hard drives, but again, you will be limited to about 35MB/sec. A cheap USB 2.0 bus powered drive like the original WD Passport is going to perform about the same on yourmachine.

    A thunderbolt drive might be a good alternative, but they are more expensive and there are fewer to choose from.
  7. Celerondon macrumors 6502a


    Oct 17, 2013
    Southern Cal
    Yep. USB 3.0 drives work fine with 2.0 ports but they function at 2.0 speeds. I agree that the USB 2.0 data rate is too slow to take advantage of an SSD.

    An external Thunderbolt enclosure equipped with an SSD could improve your iMac for a reasonable price. Check the offerings at OWC ( to see some good options. I just found a 480GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD for under $120 at their site. Although a two-drive enclosure would cost you another $227.50, your performance increase would be astounding. There appear to be a limited number of TB1 enclosures available but the TB2 (>$) version is plentiful if you like "future proofing" your storage.

    When we say that external Thunderbolt storage is not worth the premium price (for non-RAID storage), we are often comparing it to USB 3.0 alternatives. Is that storage device in your iMac a regular spinning hard drive? Thunderbolt storage could be a relatively inexpensive choice for you if you compare it to the cost of a new iMac.

    Note: StayPuft suggested "cloning" your drive rather than simply copying the contents.
    Another option could be to format the new SSD as your OS X boot drive and leave the document files on the original internal spinner. :cool:

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