We just upgraded our aging late  2008 MacBooks with SSDs ($120) and did an Apple refurbish ($300). I know this seems like a crazy amount of money to spend when you can buy a new Macbook Air for $1K, but somehow it feels good to keep things going (reduce, reuse, recycle). Even the really slow original MacBook Air mid 2008 is really a very good email and web surfing machine with an SSD drive installed (man was that hard to do!). With the Macbook mid 2008, this was super easy since it just has a latch for the removable battery, but with the mid 2010 MacBook Pro, you do have to remove the back cover, but then everything is right there. Corsair says you can just use a standard SSD and you just need a #00 phillips and t6 torx driver. The process is pretty simple:

  1. Remove all the back cover screws with your phillips
  2. The SSD is held in with some more phillips
  3. Take off the size screws on the drive that is in there with the torx
  4. Put them on your SSD and put it all back together!

In terms of SSDs, I’ve been buying them pretty steadily for a year and the technological advances are mind boggling. One big question is how well will an SSD work in an older machine at just 3GBps. In our other machines the hard disk was just slow it wasn’t about throughout but just about less disk thrashing. Worked really well to put a budget SSD into a older Macbook from 2009. The Crucial m4 and Samsung 830 have been great. Tom’s Hardware did a good analysis of this. They put an 840 Pro into an older machine. On their benchmark in a 6GBps Sata 3 machine you get to the wire limit of 450-522 MBps while you get 250-260GBps on Sata 2. With a high speed 10k Raptor it can do 210MBps in sequential reads and writes. Read another way a very ordinary SSD can saturate an older machines. So there isn’t any need to get the latest high performance SSD. Also turns out not surprisingly that random access is 20-50x faster than a hard drive regardless of 3 or 6 GBps. And that in real world startup apps benchmarks they are 2x faster than the fastest hard drive regardless of Sata speed.
So a value oriented drive is wonderful. Get a value oriented previous generation one instead.
The second use has been a very fast drive for a home brew PC. We put two Samsung 840 in a RAID-0 configuration at 1Gbps which is pretty cool and that machine is wicked fast with 6Gbps and an overocked Core i5. Although Tomshardware has shown that for most workstation scenarios you can’t get enough reads to actually use this extra bandwidth unless you have high queue deaths. So most of the time one big SSD is better than two small ones in rAID-0
A good value oriented drive would be:   There are lots of strange technical things to know about (like TRIM and the fact they get slower as they get fragmented and you need to worry about write-leveling). But a quick review of current SSDs from Anandtech shows that there are simple SSDs and then the new class of hybrid drives with an SSD cache and then a big hard disk called SSHD

  • Crucial m500.This supports encryption on Windows 8 (yawn :-0)
  • Western Digital WD500MPVX. This is a hard disk with a small amount of flash. The Seagate Momentum XT has the same approach, these are cheaper but slower than an all flash SSD for a custom OEM product.
  • Seagate 600. Anandtechs latest benchmarks which check for both performance consistency and it is very fast. Main issue is high idle power consumption. Not good for notebooks.
  • OCZ Vector 512. Performs remarkably well

This is a SATA-2 machine, so you don’t need a super fast SSD (3Gbps is what it can sustain). But it should run quieter and faster.

I’m Rich & Co.

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