I recently purchased a late model 2009 Apple MacBook Pro which came with a 500G 5400 RPM drive. After many years of using a laptop on a daily basis I quickly came to realize that one of the biggest factors in laptop performance was a slow hard drive. I think Apple ships their laptops with 5400 rpm drives because the average user would never know the difference and it helps keep the heat down and the laptop quiet.
I upgraded my last MacBook Pro to a 7200 rpm drive not long after having it and noticed a great speed improvement but also a pretty significant amount of heat being transferred through the aluminum body when the drive was working over time. I wanted to avoid that this time.
I decided to pursue a Solid-State Drive (SSD) as they are really fast compared to a traditional hard drive and with no moving parts, very cool. My research started with a couple articles from AnandTech, The SSD Anthology and The SSD Relapse: Understanding and Choosing the Best SSD. I think as far as technology goes the OCZ drives look like the best-bet right now against the Intel X25-M drives, the only real downside, the capacity. Intel has a 160G drive versus the OCZ 120G and when going from 500G on my MacBook Pro, I decided the extra 40G would be better than the slight advantage OCZ has from a technology standpoint. Maybe down the road when OCZ has some bigger drives, I may revisit them.
I purchased the Intel SSDSA2MH160G2C1 X25M from ZipZoomfly.com, who had the best prices at the time.
There are no real deals out there right now since these drives are in such demand. It is hard enough finding them in-stock, never mind a great deal.
The first thing to do before attempting to do something like this is to do a full backup which will later be used to restore from and be up and running quickly. I use a great external Firewire 800 enclosure from Other World Computing with an old laptop drive inside, just for this type of situation. The software I use for backup is SuperDuper from Shirt Pocket, which does a great job.
The process of upgrading the hard drive in the new unibody MacBook Pros is so much easier than in the older Pros from 2006 with a lot less screws and hoops to jump through. Apple actually provides pretty clear instructions on the process of physically changing out the hard drive in the MBP Manual on their website.
Removing ten screws on the underside of the case and the cover pops right off with the drive exposed. Two additional screws removed and the drive is out, unplugged and new SSD in place. Pretty easy indeed.
Once the system is powered up with external Firewire drive installed and booting up into OS X from a previous complete system backup done with SuperDuper, format the SSD with Disk Utility and perform a restore with SuperDuper to the new SSD and you?re done. The original backup took just under an hour, the restore just over 1/2 hr.
Finally and Most Important
Rebooting OS X from the new drive really shows how snappy these drives are, but booting is not the key differentiator. I decided to go about my business and do the things I do everyday; email, bringing up a web browser, loading RubyMine as well as a half dozen other tasks. After about a half day of use I could really notice the difference when doing these tasks, no spinning beach ball, minimal bounce of application icon when loading and an overall smoother experience.
I don?t have benchmarks to show as I don?t really care how much faster the SSD is than the traditional hard drive, I only care the SSD has removed the pause.
When these small pauses are removed from my workflow, everything goes smoother. I feel more efficient, I am getting more done. This time savings and overall efficiency will pay for the drive in no time. It would certainly not be fair to compare gigabyte per dollar of SSD vs. traditional drives, it goes much deeper and the benefits much greater with SSD. Yes, I am an SSD fan boy.