HDD to SSD Upgrade MacBook Pro

If you demand a lot from your computer like I do, you may want to look into replacing your mechanical hard disk drive (HDD) with an SSD (Solid State Drive). The number one reason to switch is the the speed at which information is accessed and written can double, triple, or even quadruple, depending on what kind of SSD you have and the interface.

Some other reasons are that there are no moving parts on an SSD (less mechanical things to go wrong), and SSDs runs much cooler than your traditional spinning hard drive. They also consume less power (increasing battery life), make less noise and vibration, and there is never a need to defragment an SSD.[hr]

How Fast Is It Really?


Oh, its fast. Using a spinning HDD with SATA II (3Gb/s) or SATA III (6Gb/s) connection, you can get read/write speeds of around 50-150MB/s give or take a few. If you are using an SSD with SATA II (3Gb/s), you can double that speed to consistently being over 200MB/s. If you are lucky enough to have a computer with SATA III (6Gb/s) capabilities and an SSD with SATA III (6Gb/s) capabilities, you can get speeds upwards of a whopping 500MB/s.


What Is SATA II (3Gb/s) and SATA III (6Gb/s)?


Stepping backwards a bit, SATA, or a Serial ATA II, is a computer bus interface that connects host bus adapters to mass storage devices like hard disk drives, SSDs, and optical drives. There have 3 revisions of SATA, SATA (1.5Gb/s), SATA II (3Gb/s), and SATA III (6Gb/s). Fortunately each one is backwards compatible, meaning a SATA III (6Gb/s) drive will fit in a SATA II (3Gb/s) slot, but will be limited to SATA II speeds.

The Gb/s stands for Gbit/second, meaning a SATA (1.5Gb/s) will max out at 150MB/s transfer rate, SATA II (3Gb/s) at 300MB/s, and SATA III (6Gb/s) 600MB/s. Now that is fast.


How Can I Get SATA III Speeds?


If you are like me and use a MacBook Pro, there is only one default way to use SATA III (6Gb/s), and that is where the main hard drive bay sits. There are PCI Express 2.0 cards that you can plug into your mother board if you are using a desktop with only SATA II. Check this out →



3.5″ to 2.5″ Form Factor


Looking into what drives are the best, I ran into my first problem. Because I am installing my drive on my MacBook Pro (early 2011), I can relatively easily swap out an SSD with the HDD that is in there. If you are using a Mac Pro tower, the 4 HD SATA II bays are made for a 3.5″ form factor. Most SSDs are a 2.5″ form factor. How do you solve this?

There are a variety of companies producing these and you can possibly find them cheaper, but this one is a sure bet because it is specifically made for this purpose. Yes, it is a piece of plastic for $20, but it is something you will really need to secure your new SSD appropriately in your Mac Pro (if you have one). Check It Out →


Of course, if you have a machine with a 2.5″ form factor to begin with (MacBooks and most laptops), this is a non-issue.


Now To The SSD Iteself


For the SSD, I decided to go with NewEgg and got an Intel 520 Series Cherryville 180GB SSD. Check it out →


I decided to go with the SATA III version, as it would roughly triple my speed of the read/write. If you can afford it, I would suggest getting a SATA III SSD.

Again, if you have a newer MacBook Pro, you have SATA III on the main HDD. You can clone that drive to an SSD and make the swap. If the SSD is SATA III, you will get the optimal rates.


Cloning Your Old Drive To Your SSD


There are two dynamite ways to clone your drive:

Use a free program called Super Duper. It allows you to freely make a clone of your drive.

Carbon Copy Cloner is paid ($50), but it offers a variety of other features that can be extremely useful like seclective backing up if you only want some data cloned.


My Final Step


I put my cloned SSD into the SATA III slot on my MacBook Pro. It worked beautifully and was amazingly more responsive than a traditional spinning drive.

I also took this one step further installing my old HD into the slot where the DVD player once was. Here is an attachment to help you with that as well as some handle screwdrivers in the packet!

If you have any other methods of doing this, or better ways, please feel free to comment and share your experience. I was looking all around the Internet for blog posts about this, so I would like this one to have a plethora of information available for people looking to do this.

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