SSD in a FW800 Enclosure?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by NATO, Jun 5, 2009.

  1. NATO macrumors 68000


    Feb 14, 2005
    Northern Ireland
    I was just wondering if anyone has put an SSD in a FW800 enclosure and if so could they share their experience of its performance?

    I'm quite interested in using an SSD as the boot drive for my iMac and I really don't want to have to disassemble it to get at the HDD so I thought I might buy a 2.5" FW800 enclosure and put a SSD drive into it, booting from that and using it as my OS X installation.

    Could anyone share their experience or advice regarding this? I know I might not get the full speed out of the drive, but I was wondering whether it would still be a lot faster than the internal HDD (1TB WD Black).

    Thanks for any and all advice.
  2. Darth.Titan macrumors 68030


    Oct 31, 2007
    Austin, TX
    Unfortunately the Firewire 800 will be the limiting factor. Attaching a SSD to a medium with approx 786 megabits throughput will negate any speed advantages of the drive. (The internal SATA bus has over 3 times the throughput of firewire 800)

    A SSD in an external enclosure would be no faster than a standard HD in the same external enclosure.
  3. Mal macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    Well, let's think about this for a second. SATA has a maximum throughput of 3.0Gbit/s, and the SSD drives I believe can generally utilize the full potential of the bus, or at least close. FireWire has a maximum throughput of 800Mbit/s, and generally achieves slower speeds than that. 3.0Gbit/s : 800Mbit/s = nearly 4:1 speed ratio.

    Yeah, I wouldn't recommend it. It'd be slower than your internal drive by a decent factor, I imagine.

  4. itickings macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2007
    Keep in mind that raw transfer speed isn't the only advantage SSD:s have to offer, virtually zero seeking delay (no physical movement required to find data) is another one which will speed up many things.

    Hypothetically, if FW800 do limit the bandwidth so that a SSD is slower than an internal HD for raw transfers, the SSD may still be/feel faster since it finds data instantaneous. Unfortunately, I have no idea how FW800 will impact on that part. It would be interesting to find out, though. I suppose I have to go out and buy a FW800 enclosure somewhere...

    Sure, the same SSD on SATA will most likely blow the same drive on FW800 away, but replacing the drive in an iMac is seldom an option. Using an SSD on FW800 for OSX and applications, and the existing internal HD for user data could very well result in a significant speed enhancement. Just keep in mind that not all SSD:s are created equal - the better ones are great, the cheaper ones are crap. If you're buying a SSD, you really really need to do some research first, the advertised numbers are blatant lies.
  5. sammich macrumors 601


    Sep 26, 2006
    A lot of speed of a SSD comes in the form of bursts, which hit 200 mb/s on a good SSD. You won't see those over FW800.

    If you look up the reviews of Seagate's 5400.6 drive, it's average speed is 80 mb/s, which is the top end of real world FW800 speeds.
  6. itickings macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2007
    In my opinion, people tend to put far too much weight on sequential read/write and theoretical numbers, and far too little on random access read/write and latency or access time.

    I'm sure someone, somewhere must have posted a good and scientific analysis of real world throughput as well as latency imposed by FW400/FW800/USB. No idea where, though. Would be a nice read. If someone finds it, please let me know. :)
  7. Bengt77 macrumors 68000


    Jun 7, 2002
    Maybe, itickings, but better safe than sorry. I would definitely not put an SSD in a FireWire enclosure. Definitely go for eSATA.
  8. itickings macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2007
    I will, as soon as I figure out how to connect something to an iMac by eSATA... :rolleyes:
  9. Blackjack75 macrumors newbie

    May 6, 2005
    So did you do it finally ? If so, how does it perform?

    I think it would really benefit OS operations like booting and launching apps. Especially since the disks now coming with iMacs are so bad and it's so hard to change them. I don't want to take the risk either.
  10. Blackjack75 macrumors newbie

    May 6, 2005
    Intel X25M gets over 200 mb/sec in reads and 70Mb/sec for writes so you'll only be limited for reads (since FW800 has a max 100Mb/sec throughput).

    Add to that the much smaller latency when accessing files and I think you'll still feel quite a change.

    I'd love to hear about someone who actually tried it of course.
  11. JFreak macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2003
    Tampere, Finland
    FW800 is 800 Mb/s (megabits per second) so what you said does not make sense, because 800 megabits is way larger than 200 millibits.

    (however, if you would have said 200 MB/s which means 200 megabytes, you would be in the right ballpark for a really top notch high performance drive that I could not afford...)


    m = milli = 0.001
    M = mega = 1000000
    b = bit
    B = byte = 8 bits
  12. Battlefield Fan macrumors 65816

    Battlefield Fan

    Mar 9, 2008
    Just call your local apple store and tell them you have a 3rd party part you want installed in your iMac. They should have a list of apple cert. stores that can install it for you.

    That's what I did with my laptop and cost $40. The estimate was around $40-$80. If your willing to pay $$$ for an ssd then go ahead and fork out just a little more to ensure you get the most for your dollar.
  13. itickings macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2007
    Reviving an old thread here, but now I've tried, so why not? :)

    For reference, the computer is an old white iMac 24" (first generation) maxed out with 2+2=3GiB ram. In other words, not a speed monster by today's standards, but a capable computer for most tasks.

    I acquired an Intel X25-m G2 SSD, put it in a FW800 enclosure and made a fresh install of Snow Leopard (or actually two identical installations, one on the external FW800 SSD drive and one on the internal stock SATA drive) and made some quick comparisons.

    In the boot process part from where the drive I/O is involved, the stock internal SATA drive took roughly twice as long as the external FW800 SSD did to get everything up and running, and the FW800 SSD starts applications noticeably faster.

    For those of you interested in numbers, I've attached a couple of Xbench screenshots. Not 100% reliable since I ran both benchmarks while booted from the SSD. When booting from the other drive instead, the SSD was a bit quicker than in the attached screenshot.

    As expected, the sequential transfers are limited by the FW800 interface and the stock internal SATA drive can keep up with it, but when it comes to random transfers the SSD shines. Really shines. :D

    While I'm fairly convinced that putting the X25-m on the internal 1.5Gb/s SATA would be even faster, I have no intention in going through the trouble of replacing the internal drive as long as it is functional...

    Anyway, after completing the initial comparisons I erased the stock internal drive and started using it for the "Users" folder, and limited the FW800 SSD to OS and applications. For me, this is a very good combination. The old iMac is much snappier. It boots really quick, applications start instantaneously and I have 250GB dedicate for data without paying through the nose.

    All in all, great upgrade for my computer. The FW800 SSD as boot drive made it faster, no doubt about it.

    Attached Files:

  14. zweigand macrumors 6502a


    Oct 19, 2003
    Thanks for the insight! I think my Internal drive is getting slow/wonky and I really don't want to dig into my iMac to replace it. I will definitely be looking into an external FW800 SSD now.
  15. beeskward macrumors newbie

    Oct 11, 2010
    Agreed... It really depends upon the application...
    In my case, I run 2 or more Parallels VMs stored on an external SSD RAID0 connected to my Macbook Pro via FW800 when I'm on the road. The performance is nothing less than astonishing. The performance penalty of that setup over when the same drive is connected via eSata to my Mac Pro is surprisingly small... maybe 10-20% hit in Windows VM boot times and Java application compiles... Really impressive.

    FYI, I'm using the awesome Guardian MAXimus mini RAID enclosure

    Bus powered road warrior heaven over FW800
  16. zweigand macrumors 6502a


    Oct 19, 2003
    More results.

    I'd love to see some benchmarks from a newer 7200rpm HD for comparison.

Share This Page