REPLACING MY MACBOOK’S HARD DRIVE WITH A SOLID-STATE DRIVE (SSD) has proven to be the most dramatic computer upgrade I’ve ever made. The startup time — including the operating system and my startup applications — has gone from 2.5 minutes, to under 30 seconds. In terms of the Macintosh experience, everything is so much faster, that it feels like having gone from a Motorola 68040-based machine, to an multi-core Intel-based machine, skipping the PowerPC altogether (maybe even better than that!)
Although platter-based drives have steadily grown in both speed and capacity over the years, the next major leap forward was promised by SSDs. These drives are based on solid-state memory, similar to your USB pen drive or the SD card in your camera. With no moving parts, they promised both dramatic speed increases, and dramatic improvements in reliability for certain contexts (like usage in laptop computers.)
The first SSDs that appeared on the market, however, proved disappointing. They were at the same time slower than the drives they were intended to replace, and they were prohibitively expensive. After reading those early reports, I lost interest in SSDs.
That is, until I read this:
Based on Jeff Atwood’s experience, things have definitely improved, and so I placed an order for a 256GB SSD from Crucial. Arriving yesterday, I mirrored my startup drive to the new SSD (using SuperDuper!) and then swapped it into the machine.
For some reason, it took about the same amount of time to go from switching the computer on, to seeing the login screen. But after that point, the experience was simply amazing.
Here are some notes:
- As mentioned before, the startup time (after logging in) dropped from 2.5 minutes, to less than 30 seconds. Whereas I used to patiently watch several startup application icons bouncing around together in the Dock for minutes, all the applications now seem to launch instantly.
- Using the “AJA System Test” benchmark tool, the SSD gets read/write speeds of 220 and 190 MB/s, respectively, compared to 40 and 50 MB/s as measured on the previous drive.
- Whereas I used to see 40 or 50 frames per second when encoding a video (from and to the same drive), I’m now seeing 130.
The overall experience of using the computer is just amazing. Applications start instantly, there’s minimum perceptible delay in switching applications, and applications which depend heavily on disk caching (like Safari and Firefox) feel an order of magnitude faster.
Update:. This is the first time I’ve upgraded a Mac which, half a year later, still feels like the most amazing performance enhancement ever.