SSD Buying Guide [part 2]

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Hellhammer, Jun 25, 2011.

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  1. Hellhammer, Jun 25, 2011
    Last edited by tubeexperience: Aug 13, 2016

    Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    MOD NOTE: Continued from this thread started in 2011.

    NOTE: For the MacBook Pro Retina, read the bottom section.


    I see questions about SSDs being posted everyday and they often ask the same questions. My goal is not to stop people from making new threads, absolutely not. However, I think it would be good to have one big post/thread that includes the basic information about SSDs, which can then be linked to posts asking about SSDs. The idea of this thread is that anyone can contribute to it. If you think something is missing, please PM me. You can either write it yourself which I will then add (and cite you of course) or you can ask me to investigate and write about it. I would prefer you writing it yourself because my time is limited (I have mod duties and some real work to do as well).

    SSD vs HD - Is SSD worth it?

    This gets asked a lot but there is no single answer to it. With HD, you get lots of capacity for very little $. With SSD, you pay the premium even for very little amount of storage. For the record, a 60GB SSD costs roughly the same as 1TB 2.5” or 2TB 3.5” HD at the moment. The reason why there is no one right answer is that we all have different usages. If all you need is less than 120GB for example, then 120GB SSD for ~$200-250 doesn’t sound that bad, given the huge performance increase.

    So what is the performance difference then? Enormous. Hard drives have latency of several milliseconds (ms) whereas SSDs’ latency is measured in microseconds (µs). Depending on the SSD and HD, the SSD can easily have over 100 times lower latency. The latency isn’t the only thing that separates them. SSDs sport much higher read and write speeds. Regular HDs top out at around 150MB/s but the fastest SATA 3Gb/s SSDs can provide up to 285MB/s, which is the maximum of SATA 3Gb/s. SATA 6Gb/s SSDs can offer speeds of up to 550MB/s currently, over three times faster than traditional HDs. Just to show the capability of SSDs, there are some enterprise level SSDs that deliver speeds of over 3GB/s.

    Western Digital VelociRaptor 600GB vs Intel 320 Series 160GB
    SSD vs HD - boot time

    The performance difference isn't the only advantage. Since SSDs have no moving parts, they are inaudible. HDs, especially 7200rpm ones, can be quite noisy when reading or writing data. SSDs also run cooler and in some cases use less energy (there are different results on this. Some say it increases the battery life, some say it stays the same or even degrades).

    A good SSD is also a lot more reliable. Most of us should be aware that HDs are very unreliable and some of us have experienced HD failures and even data loss. HDs have moving parts so sooner than later they will wear out, that is a fact. However, don't think your SSD is immortal though. NANDs lose their charge after about 10 years so that is about the maximum life span of an SSD. Of course, something else may fail sooner, for example the controller. There is also the wear out factor which will be covered later (finite amount of P/E cycles).

    What does SSD speed up?

    While I said the performance difference is enormous, it is still limited to certain tasks. It can’t speed your encoding times because the drive is not the bottleneck, it’s most likely the CPU. In games, it may speed up game loading times but the actual frame rate and graphics will not be improved, again because the drive is not the bottleneck.

    SSD will speed up anything that involves reading or writing of the drive. Tasks like that include but are not limited to: booting, launching apps and file transfers. People say that the OS feels more responsive with an SSD, which can be true because your slow HD was the bottleneck before. If your OS is in the SSD, then the swap file will be there too so in case you run out of RAM, the system shouldn’t feel as unresponsive as with an HD because the SSD is so fast.

    Which SSD to buy?

    I again want to start off by saying that there is no single answer to this. It all depends on your budget, needs and Mac. Here are a few things to consider:

    1. Capacity. How much capacity are you going to need? This is the number one element in determining what SSD to buy.
    2. Budget. This could be the first one too but in my opinion, it is useless to buy an SSD that cannot fulfill your needs.
    3. Mac. Different Macs have different SATA revisions and even different drive form factors. You should buy one that is the most suitable for your Mac.
    4. Usage. For general usage, it won’t matter much what SSD you get but if you are getting an SSD for serious work, then it can be crucial to get one with the best performance.

    So what SSD to buy for what Mac? Lets see:

    Any Mac with SATA 1.5Gb/s or SATA 3Gb/s (i.e. pre-2011 Macs): Intel 320 Series. Why? Because it is relatively fast, reasonably priced and probably the most reliable MLC SATA SSD on the market at the moment. Intel also offers an OS-independent firmware updater so you won’t need Windows to update its firmware.

    Macs with SATA 6Gb/s: This just got a lot harder. I have yet to see a totally trouble-free SATA 6Gb/s SSD. No matter what SSD you pick, there seems to be some issues. All 6Gb/s SandForce based SSDs seem to be having a share of issues which look like firmware related. Intel 510 Series isn’t perfect either. There seem to be random slow downs and long boot times with that SSD. Crucial m4/Micron C400 uses the same controller as Intel 510 Series and thus shares the same issues. In fact, Crucial even pulled MacBook Pro from supported machines list.

    It’s important to note that there are plenty of users with no issues. For example AnandTech tried to recreate the issue in their 2011 MBP review but they were not able to do it. It’s also worth it to note that at least 17” MBPs are experiencing some SATA issues. Moreover, 2011 MBPs are supposed to have two SATA III ports, but some of the earlier versions only have one SATA III port. MBPs built in late May and June most likely have two SATA III ports. Some users have stated that they have two SATA III ports even though they bought their Macs at an earlier time.

    Performance degradation and TRIM

    TRIM is a command that allows the operating system to inform the SSD controller which files are no longer in use. In other words, when you delete something from the ssd, the operating system does not erase the actual data from the drive, the OS will just mark that space as free space and overwrite the data when needed.

    However, the issue with mainstream SSDs with MLC NAND is that only blocks can be erased, individual pages cannot be. To make this simpler, think page as a file and block as a folder. So, if you want to delete one file (page) inside a folder (block), the whole whole folder needs to be erased and rewritten to get rid of that file. The issue raises when you don't have TRIM because the SSD controller still thinks that the file is in use. When the OS decides to overwrite that file, you first need to read the whole block to the cache (usually DRAM) and then you can rewrite the folder (block). The difference is that if you had an empty block, only the write action would have to be done. Now the SSD needs to read the while block first and then write. For the end-user, that appears as performance degradation. It looks like your write speeds have gone and they can easily degrade by 50%.

    With TRIM, the OS can inform when a file has been deleted and the SSD controller can do this action in the background. You won't have useless files floating around, thus write speeds will remain great.

    Windows 7 supports TRIM on all SSDs. As of Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.6, TRIM is enabled on 2011 Macs with SSDs. OS X Lion is to add TRIM support for all Apple SSDs. As of DP4, third party SSDs are not supported. This may change in the future though. For third party SSDs, there is TRIM Enabler, but it is known to cause problems for some SSDs see the forum thread for more info).

    AnandTech's article covers this through with a great example. If you are interested in this whole performance degradation issue, read that, it will open your eyes a lot. In my opinion, the performance degradation issue is overhyped. Most of today's SSDs have very effective garbage collection which helps if your OS does not support TRIM. A good SSD will experience little to no degradation, even without TRIM.

    NOTE: This is still in progress and you can help me building it by PMing me. I plan on updating this when new information is released too.

    To do list:
    • Performance, different usages etc. Will get this done ASAP
    • Performance degradation and TRIM - What it is, how it works, is it necessary, support in OS X etc
    • List of SSDs with specifications and their current compatibility with Macs and OS X (maybe a fancy table?)
    • Alternative methods (OptiBay, external SSD etc)
    • Wear out (finite amount of P/E cycles)
    MacBook Pro Retina

    Mid 2012 to Early 2013:
    • Proprietary interface (SATA based)
    • Aftermarket SSDs available from Transcend and OWC
    • Also possible to use mSATA (form factor) SSDs with adapter
    Late 2013 and later:
    • Proprietary interface (PCI-e based)
    • Aftermarket SSDs available from OWC
  2. eric8258 macrumors newbie

    Dec 13, 2014
    Crucial MX500 is pretty good as well. It has a good Marvell controller.

    I guess the OP didn't mention that when picking a SSD, make sure it has a quality SSD controller as most of the time controllers fail and your SSD is trashed.
  3. MarvinHC macrumors 6502a

    Jan 9, 2014

    I was also thinking about upgrading the CMBPs with MX100s. Why do you not need to enable Trim on these?
  4. BasicGreatGuy Contributor


    Sep 21, 2012
    In the middle of several books.
    It is what a representative on Crucial's site said in a post.

    I have since disregarded that statement on their site and have installed Trim Enabler. I think they were spewing sales jargon.
  5. MarvinHC macrumors 6502a

    Jan 9, 2014
    I see. Would have been nice but not a big deal to install that Trim Enabler.
  6. MarvinHC macrumors 6502a

    Jan 9, 2014
    Would you mind explaining that a bit in more detail? What is this 'kext signing security'?
  7. alex0002, Jan 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2015

    alex0002 macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2013
    New Zealand
    True. Everyone wants to be able to tell their customers "it just works" and it's true, you don't need Trim to use that SSD or any other SSD.

    However, it is also true that in the long term, Trim helps reduce write amplification and therefore helps reduce NAND wear, can help reduce the need for over-provisioning and helps with long term performance.

    For a lot of people the effort required to enable Trim is considered a minor inconvenience for the benefits gained.
  8. alex0002, Jan 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2015

    alex0002 macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2013
    New Zealand
    More details version - a kext is a kernel extension or driver used for a particular class of hardware devices or file systems.

    The IOAHCIBlockStorage kext is used for SATA and PCIe disks in OS X and this kext file is the one that is modified to support TRIM on non-apple SSDs.

    Kext signing is considered to be a security feature by Apple, as it prevents users from loading a kext that Apple has not approved. In theory a modified kext could be created and when loaded, that modified kext could compromise the security of the Mac. In practice, a user would need to give admin privileges to allow the kext installation, so most people should be smart enough to know not to install software from untrusted sources.

    Enforced kext signing, could also be considered an anti-competitive move, as it prevents vendors from directly offering drivers for add-ons without getting permission from Apple and prevents users from modifying kext files to enable features such as TRIM on third party SSDs.

    Apple allow users to disable kext signing in Yosemite, but kext signing is the default.

    Because the IOAHCIBlockStorage kext must be loaded when booting OS X, an unsigned IOAHCIBlockStorage kext could prevent OS X from booting at all.

    There are several scenarios that could lead to this situation, including a NVRAM reset. This makes running a modified IOAHCIBlockStorage kext a risk for a non technical user who might not be aware of the risks and might not be able to recover from the situation.

    More info here:
  9. MarvinHC macrumors 6502a

    Jan 9, 2014
    Thank you for the details and the link, now I understand better. I didn't first get the fact that this kext signing is new in Yosemite. Thanks again for the heads up, could have gotten me otherwise (I plan to upgrade one of my Mac's with a MX100 soon)
  10. grahamperrin macrumors 601


    Jun 8, 2007
    KEXT signing

    Not quite; the practice of signing was established long before Yosemite.

    Yosemite takes a stricter approach to items that are not (or improperly) signed.
  11. Famousaudio macrumors newbie

    Jan 12, 2015
    new york
  12. gamabr macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2015
    I dont know about crucial. But samsung has a firmware issue that you would have to update. Is not a big deal, but has taken 5 hours to me to solve.
  13. yanki01, Jan 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
  14. alex0002 macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2013
    New Zealand
  15. sngx1275 macrumors regular


    Jan 27, 2009
    I read the last 2 pages of this thread, and I know the answer is in this forum somewhere, probably a boatload of times. However, for some perhaps not great reasons I ordered a 120 gig OWC Electra drive. TRIM enabled is No under system information in 10.10. Do I need to take the effort to enable it?
  16. CLJ macrumors newbie

    Jan 19, 2010
    Los Angeles
    I need help here. Been reading for hours upon hours here and you seem to have a strong oversight on concerns or issues at play with various SSD upgrades.

    At first I was looking into OWC because of a friend's suggestion, then OWC's website states that my MBP would operate best with the 3G SSD instead of a 6G SSD (I want to get the best SSD possible to use after this MBP dies). Seems the OWC 6G SSD has an issue with certain macs that drops the SATA link speed down to 1.5Gbps (even though they are rated higher at 3Gbps). From what I gather this is due to the SandForce controller OWC uses which creates conflict with my MBP SATA controller (Nvidia MCP79).

    Are you aware of these issues with the Nvidia MCP79 SATA Contoller, and which SSDs might work best in my situation?

    MBP(5,3) 15" mid 2009 running 10.9.5
    2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    8GB RAM

    NVidia MCP79 AHCI:
    Link Speed: 3 Gigabit
    Negotiated Link Speed: 3 Gigabit

    Based on reading through pages here it looks like the Crucial MX100 is a good contender.

    FYI I'm currently running 10.9.5 on this MBP and on an iMac mid 2007 (2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM) and won't upgrade to Yosemite, until that iMac can be replaced (another year), so my "apple system" has coherence.

    Thanks in advance for any light you can shed my way!

    NVidia MCP79 issues

    OWC 6G SSD


    Attached Files:

  17. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    That's what I would go with. It uses the same Marvell controller the author of that article says he got working fine in his M550 drive. I don't see any reason to pay OWC and extra $59 for their drive.
  18. benji888 macrumors 68000


    Sep 27, 2006
    United States
    I looked at the comments on amazon for the 3rd drive you provided, and while there were comments on people using them in older macs, there was no one that said it actually worked at 3G speed in your specific mac.

    OWC knows Macs, and they sell other brands of SSDs than their own. I don't know if there is a 6G SSD with a different controller that will make a difference, if there was, I would think OWC tech would be able to suggest. (They have excellent, USA based, service).

    The problem is more likely with the hardware in the Mac.

    All I can say is this: I helped a friend upgrade his 2011 MBP 17 with a data doubler to create a DIY fusion drive. While that Mac has a 6G controller in the HDD slot, the optical slot had a similar version of the 6G controller, it would not work with either the 6G SSD nor a 6G HDD, as apple only planned on a 1.5G optical drive to use that controller. We put the 6G SSD in the HDD slot and got an HDD limited to 3G for the data doubler (optical slot), as the optical slot would not work with a 6G drive. It might have recognized the drive in the system report, but, it did not work. (The 3G HDD works at 3G speed in that slot.)

    So, you're taking a chance getting any 6G drive.

    • Be sure whatever drive you get, you are able to get a full refund/exchange if it ends up working at 1.5G speed.

    In the end, if you get a 3G SSD, it will still be much faster than an HDD in a future mac. Unless you are doing video editing or some other highly disk intensive work with it, you may not notice.
  19. CLJ macrumors newbie

    Jan 19, 2010
    Los Angeles
    Thanks Weaselboy! Reading your feedback and posts helped clear a lot of the fog (along with many other members contributions). So many different variables at play.

    The saving difference was over $85 with shipping. I guess the MX100 was on sale for $175 when I bought it, now up to $199.

    I'll be doing a fresh install and pulling individual programs onboard one at a time off of Time Machine. I haven't fully researched that aspect, but I think it'll be pretty straight forward (famous last words)
  20. CLJ macrumors newbie

    Jan 19, 2010
    Los Angeles

    Thanks for the input here. Yeah, I've read countless trial and error reports of what set ups worked for different Macs and which different didn't. I made me a tad insane for about 36 hours of reading every chance I got about everything I could to figure it out what would work.

    It started off with trying to salvage a friend's MBP, she spilt water on. Nothing would work. Took it completely apart and soaked the logic board in alcohol etc. Finally I took her hard drive out and tested it in my MBP and it freaked me out how fast my MBP ran, I hadn't seen my machine run like that in a long time. Anyway, I ordered a new hard drive on immediate impulse, wanting to get my MBP some life again, stupid move. By the time I got around to installing it, I started looking into any other "improvements" to get my systems leaned up as much as possible to able to handle photo and video editing. That's when I started down the SSD & Yosemite rabbit hole.

    The best insight was the last thing I looked at (obviously the last). In this write up the author has a Mac Mini with the same Nvidia MCP7 controller that I have in my mid 2009 15" MBP.

    He gets into the the SATA negotiated speed issues and what the cause remedy is:

    I may do a similar thing as you by taking my HDD and putting it into the optics bay. We'll see.

  21. benji888 macrumors 68000


    Sep 27, 2006
    United States
    yeah, my mid2010 MBP is so much faster :D with my fusion drive setup, but, I'm not doing much with photography at the moment. I got an OWC 3G SSD. When you install OS X on the fusion drive it goes on the SSD, so everything to do with the OS & apps is super fast. The only lag would be with large file saves/opens, since you mentioned video editing.

    If you do it, you have to wipe both drives before you create the fusion drive. I can find my links, I read a lot and I used several sources to do it, so, let me know and I'll post links. I created the fusion drive with Mavericks and had no problem going to Yosemite. You can get an optibay adapter from OWC or fixit, just be sure it will fit your specific MBP.

    I also did the combo update for 10.10.2, recommend, can clear some issues. I recommend always going with the combo update over the incrementals. With 10.10.2, startup (from pushing power button) is about 30 secs. to sign-in screen.
  22. CLJ macrumors newbie

    Jan 19, 2010
    Los Angeles
    That'd be great!
    Would surely save me hours of fishing and sifting around looking the stuff up.

    Cool, thanks. Never heard of a "combo update" and just did a quick read. Good to know!
  23. skottichan macrumors 6502a


    Oct 23, 2007
    Columbus, OH
    Quick question for anyone who has experience; will OWC's Aurora SSD's work in the 2014 MBP?

    If they do, are there any competing SSDs?

    I'm kinda wanting to shop around on SSD's before buying a new MBP next month.
  24. davidlv macrumors 65816

    Apr 5, 2009
    Kyoto, Japan
    Look at the OWC Aurora page, do you see 2014 mentioned? No.
    It says "almost any Mac ..." not "every Mac".
    When you buy that rMBP, order the storage and RAM you need, aftermarket is "almost dead by design" - send your thanks to Apple for that .... :rolleyes:
  25. MagicBoy macrumors 68040


    May 28, 2006
    Manchester, UK
    No. There's no third party solution for the late-2013 and 2014 as yet.
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