SSD drive and extra disk for more speed, instead of DVD drive in MacBook Pro
Changing out your hard disk in your MacBook Pro to an SSD disk is a great way of increase the speed of your machine. And I’m not talking about a little faster, where talking about the feeling of getting a new machine. But a SSD is still expensive and are limited when it comes to storage size. So it’s not going to be able to replace your big standard disk. The solution is simple. Replace your internal disk with a SSD disk, then remove your DVD drive and install a large 2.5″ disk for your bigger files. Replace your DVD? Yes, do you use it anymore? I’m not. You need a special bracket to be able to install the extra disk, so you have to buy it. But many installation kits for replacing the DVD player also includes an external USB case to install the DVD into, so you still have access to one if you need. I bought my installation kit from Ebay for next to nothing, but didn’t include the case. As I said, I’m a modern Mac user and don’t use DVD. Hint, hint.
Make sure you backup all your files from your old disk to another one so we can copy it later on. Do this before installing the SSD and extra disk!
After installing the SSD disk and the extra disk in the machine, do a normal install. If you buy the kit mentioned before, just plug in the external DVD and do a normal install. Another option is to install the system from a USB stick.
TRIM is a way of keeping the SSD optimized, or as Wikipedia describes it:
TRIM enables the SSD to handle garbage collection overhead, that would otherwise significantly slow down future write operations to the involved blocks, in advance.
Apple introduced TRIM support in 10.6, but only for machines with the SSD disk installed from factory. So there’s no way of installing a third party SSD disk. Well, there’s actually a hack to fool the OS to think it’s an Apple installed disk. It’s a bit hacky, but could be worth it, especially when the disk starts to get full.
But make sure the SSD disk supports TRIM! Otherwise you could get into trouble.
Here’s a link to a program for enabling TRIM support in OS X.
Changing Hibernation Mode
When you run your MacBook until the battery drains out completely, the machine saves the current state of the machine, making it possible to resume when the AC adapter is connected again. The downside of this is that the system has to write the entire memory of your machine onto your spanking new SSD Disk. Because the prices of the disk is still high, there’s a way to not save the entire memory to disk, freeing up more space on the disk. The downside of this is that you loose all the open documents that you haven’t saved if the battery drains completely. But you get ample warning before the battery goes out, so for me, the extra space is more important. To disable the Hibernation Mode you enter the following command in the Terminal application.
[cc lang=”bash”]sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0[/cc]
This means that when the machine goes to sleep, everything is saved in RAM. This is the default behavior on a stationary machine. You can replace the “0” with “1” for suspending to disk only, or “3” to suspend to disk and RAM, the default setting for portable machines.
SSD disk for System and Applications
I have the Mac OS X system, fonts, and all my applications installed on the SSD disk. But i put larger files, like iPhoto library, Lightroom pictures, iTunes music, Final Cut Pro files and caches for them on the larger extra drive. So while you don’t use any of these programs, the extra drive goes down in sleep mode and the machine is totally silent; a godsend when writing at night, or just surfing the web. Some programs can wake up the extra drive for no apparent reason, but you can read my article on how to find software that keeps the disk from going to sleep. Another great benefit is better battery life. I have set the the sleep time to 1 minute, but you can set it for longer if you like. The extra disk starts up so fast, so there’s no need to have it spinning unnecessary. To set the number of minutes before sleep, start the Terminal application found in Applications/Utilities
[cc lang=”bash”] pmset -a disksleep 1[/cc]
Enter your password.
You can change the 1 to whichever number of minutes you want. the -a sets the number of minutes for all power modes. If you only want to change when on battery power, use -b, and use -c when on wall power.
Setting up so that the operating system doesn’t update when a file was last accessed, which will wear on your SSD disk, you need to do the following:
Create a file called
/Library/LaunchDaemons/ and copy the following text into it. Save and reboot.
< ?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
< !DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
But how do you set up links so you don’t have to store the large files on your smaller SSD disk? So let’s go through how to move the large files and link it up.
First of all create a folder on your external disk. I created a folder called Pictures. Then copy your entire iPhoto Library file from your backup to the folder on your big extra disk. To redirect iPhoto to use the iPhoto library on the external disk, you need to tell it where it is. Make sure that iPhoto isn’t running, start iPhoto while holding down the option key. You now get a dialog box, where you can choose which library file to use. Select the iPhoto Library on you extra disk.
To put the images for Adobe Lightroom is obviously going to be the extra disk. But there is a debate over the speed increase of putting the cache files on the faster SSD disk.
The normal recommendation is to place the application, Camera Raw cache, catalog and previews on the SSD and photos on the conventional disk drive; yet this configuration is only marginally faster than putting everything on a conventional disk drive. We can also see that the SSD helped reduce preview rendering times when the photos where located on the SSD. Clearly, storing photo files on the SSD isn’t a realistic proposition when typical storage capacities are factored in, but it’s worth keeping in mind for the day when larger less expensive SSDs become available.
So let’s stick with having the application on the SSD disk, and put caches, images and temporary rendered files on the extra hard disk.
Copy your folder containing your Lightroom Catalogs, including all files connected to the catalog, including the Lightroom Settings folder to your extra disk from your backup.
Under the Lightroom Settings File Handling you’ll find this dialog box:
Press “Choose” and create a new folder on your extra disk (I called mine /Caches/Lightroom Caches). To speed up the program, increase the Maximum Size settings from the standard one. You can experiment between 10GB-20GB.
If you have a lot of music in your iTunes library (mine is almost 60GB!) it’s best to move it to the extra disk. You’ll find the iTunes Library in the Music folder in your Home folder on your backup disk. Copy it to a folder on your extra disk. To tell iTunes which library to use, start iTunes while holding down the option-button.
Select your library on the extra disk and your all done!
TimeMachine extra feature
Something I found out when doing a TimeMachine backup was that it also did a backup of the extra disk and not just the SSD system disk. Maybe this differs from machine to machine so it’s a good idea to check. But it’s a great little extra bonus.