SSD via FireWire 800: Still snappy

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by dolphin842, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. dolphin842 macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    So over the holidays, I got a SanDisk Ultra SSD (120GB, SandForce 1200-series controller). Unfortunately, I have a 2010 Mac mini, the first unibody model. Unlike the current model, it's not officially possible install an SSD in place of the optical drive (the independent Mac shops I called said their parts were only listed for the 2011 model).

    Since I still want to run Boot Camp (which requires an internal drive), I decided to hook up my new SSD via an OWC FW800 case. I grabbed a refurb of their Mercury On-The-Go case (the clear one, as opposed to the aluminum one).

    Although the FireWire bus caps the real-world data rate at ~80MB/s, most SSDs only go beyond this speed for sequential reads and writes. For random access, where SSDs truly offer a benefit, first-gen SandForce drives are well within FireWire's ceiling.

    For testing, I timed how long it took for my mini to boot and then restore a session, including 25 apps, 6500 emails, Safari with 16 tabs, and an EagleFiler database with about 14,000 documents. All told, the computer uses about 4GB of RAM when everything is loaded.

    Here are the times:

    HDD (internal 5400 rpm) for boot drive, 3.5" (FW400) for user folder:

    SSD (external USB2) for boot drive, 3.5" (FW400) for user folder:

    SSD (external FW800) for unified boot/user drive, 3.5" (FW400, chained off of SSD) for iTunes library and a few other files:

    So, long story short, even if a FW800 SSD is not as fast as native SATA, it can still really improve boot times. The system as a whole is also much more responsive.

    Bonus fun fact I learned: Hooking up a FW400 device to a FW800 device *does not* degrade the whole channel to FW400. For years I had taken this myth for truth without investigating it, but it appears FireWire chips have supported a 'bilingual' mode for quite some time.
  2. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    Cool post! My understanding is that some of the parts used to convert a Mac Mini to handle a second hard drive are compatible with the 2010 models too. You might want to check this article for some more details on how to do it.
  3. dolphin842, Jan 14, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012

    dolphin842 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    Thanks for the links! I had a suspicion that it was technically possible, but I'm still under AppleCare for the mini, and it's my primary computer, so I didn't want to mess around with it too much.
  4. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    You have figures that confirm the obvious:

    HDD (internal 5400 rpm) for boot drive, 3.5" (FW400) for user folder:
  5. dolphin842 thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jul 14, 2004
    And to think it would be even slower if I kept the whole system on the internal!
  6. louwrentius macrumors newbie

    Jul 11, 2011

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