SSD too expensive? Separate your user folder for a cheap speed boost

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by dolphin842, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. dolphin842, Mar 10, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2011

    dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    dolphin842

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2004
    #1
    Despite my participation in the various SSD threads here in the Mini forum, I've yet to take the dive and install one, mostly because of the cost.

    However, I've found out that by moving my user folder onto one of my existing external 3.5" drives, I can get 'halfway' toward the magic speed boost provided by SSDs. Boot time (from power to login screen) is marginally faster, but going from login screen to fully-displayed desktop is dramatically faster. Apps also launch faster: Mail and Scrivener for example are loaded within one bounce. All in all, a perceptible increase in responsiveness: with 8GB of RAM, I'm quite satisfied with my setup for now (well, except for relying on the old Core 2 for video encodes, but that's another story...).

    I'm genuinely impressed at the boost I'm getting with the relatively low-end gear I'm using (the stock 5400rpm Mini drive and a 2TB Hitachi 5900rpm hooked up via USB). Separating system/apps from user data is usually a good thing to do anyway, so it's worth checking out if you don't want to spend the money for an SSD at the moment.

    EDIT: Forgot to mention, I also installed OS X on a small 60GB partition on the outer edge of the Mini's internal to make that as fast as possible. In Disk Utility, whatever partition is at the top of the list is on the outermost area of the physical disk.
     
  2. kioshi macrumors member

    kioshi

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2010
    Location:
    Brazil
    #2
    Hmmm if it really works, I wonder if making the same but using one drive only (like, creating a partition on your main HD for the system and putting Home and etc in another) would speed up the system too?
     
  3. dolphin842 thread starter macrumors 65816

    dolphin842

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2004
    #3
    No, that would be slower as the read head of the hard drive would have to keep traveling between two physically-separate partitions when loading things. It would also likely wear out the drive faster as the read head would be moving around more.

    The objective with a split setup is to divide system/app-loading and data-loading duties between two distinct drives. By working simultaneously to load everything, the process is much quicker as there's less 'head contention' (i.e. the head jumping back and forth between grabbing application resources and data). Putting the two partitions on the same drive would just worsen the head contention.
     
  4. kioshi macrumors member

    kioshi

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2010
    Location:
    Brazil
    #4
    I see, it makes perfect sense.

    When the case for my new drive arrives I'll try your solution since my Mac Mini 1.66 Core Duo has been struggling a bit lately (the sad thing is that it's blazing fast on Windows 7, I guess that's because I'm limited to 2GB of RAM and UNIX based systems like OS X improve a lot by adding more)
     

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