MacBook Pro Solid State Drive Upgrade Guide and Performance Testing

Performance Test Platform

The test platform is a base model MacBook Pro 13" from Early 2011 (Intel Core i5 2.3GHz, 4GB DDR3-1333).

  • Hitachi 5K500 320GB hard drive (5400rpm)
  • Western Digital Scorpio Black 500GB hard drive (7200rpm)

Solid State Drive Firmware Versions

  • Crucial m4: FW009
  • Kingston HyperX: 332
  • OCZ Vertex 3: 2.15
  • Other World Computing Mercury Electra 6G: 332

Testing Configuration and Software

  • InTech QuickBench 4.0
  • BlackMagic Disk Speed Test 2.1

A base OS X Lion 10.7.2 install is used for the operating system.

All tests were performed 5 times each, and the average of all test runs were used as the results.  Before the QuickBench and BlackMagic Speed Test, the SSD drives were cleared using Parted Magic's Secure Erase function and the hard drives were formatted.

For the real world file copy tests and boot speed tests, an identical system image based on my personal OS X install was used.  Wifi was turned off, and bootup applications included atMonitor and Google Chromium.

The hard drives and SSDs were connected to the SATA 6G connector in the optical bay using the OWC Data Doubler.

Other Testing Notes

For fun and because we had two of Kingston's HyperX SSDs on hand, we tested the drives in a RAID-0 configuration. RAID was setup in OS X's Disk Utility with a 128k stripe size, and the drives were installed in the main hard drive bay and the optical drive bay (using OWC's Data Doubler).


Performance Test Results

QuickBench helps to illustrate the maximum potential speeds that drives can achieve.  It uses easily compressible streams of data, so its results should be read as a best case scenario.  For the read tests, the all of the SSDs show similar performance.  Crucial's m4 is slightly slower for 4k random reads, and OWC's Electra 6G (representing the async Sandforce class of drives) is a bit slower for sequential reads.

For writes, the two synchronous NAND powered Sandforce drives from Kingston and OCZ lead.  Closely following is OWC's Electra 6G with asynchronous NAND.  Crucial's m4 was the slowest SSD in the test, but still far ahead of the two hard drives.

The BlackMagic Disk Speed Test uses incompressible data streams for testing drive performance.  As such, the performance of Crucial's m4 drive was relatively the same between the BlackMagic and QuickBench results.  On the other hand, the SandForce SF-2281 based drives benefit from compressible data, and their speed drops on the BlackMagic test versus QuickBench.  The Electra 6G drive suffers the most, due to it using asynchronous NAND.

Regardless of which SSD you choose, your boot times will be cut significantly.  While not specifically tested, application load times are generally also a fraction of what they would be with a hard drive.  All of the SSDs are within a second of each other.

Again, the HyperX and Vertex 3 drives lead the pack with regards to file copying speeds.  The m4 and Electra 6G trade blows between the tests.  The m4 wins with the Movie and Music tests as those files are not easily compressible, but the Electra 6G wins for the Document test as those files are more easily compressible.

In reference to our original Solid State Drive Roundup featuring these same drives but on a Windows platform, the SSDs performed as expected with OS X running on our MacBook Pro.  In general, the Sandforce SF-2281 drives with synchronous NAND (HyperX and Vertex 3) performed the best.  The Sandforce drive (Electra 6G) with asynchronous NAND and the m4 (with its Marvell controller) traded blows, dependant on the compressibility of the data used to test with.



Error when transfering files to HDD in a dual SSD HDD setup

Hi, I have a late 2011 MacBook Pro 15" that's just had a 120gb SSD fitted as the start up disk and a 750gb HDD fitted in the optical drive slot. And this is of course so I can keep all my files (downloads, music, photos, films, work files, etc) on the HDD. But the HDD frequently gives me error messages when transferring files onto it, mainly larger ones, saying that it can't read or write to the disk. I have had the HDD bracket changed and also the connector cable. It seemed to solve the problem but now it has come back. Has anyone else experienced this? Any advice or suggestions would be be great. Thanks! Pete

Case sensitive Journal and Adobe Error

For adobe CS users on a Mac : After formatting a SSD with 'Case sensitive' format and cloning I encountered an error while downloading Adobe Application Manager as it can't be case-sensitive. I had to reformat with just Extended and clone again. It downloads tip top now.

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iMac 2007 upgrade

There is a tutorial to do this upgrade on an iMac 21" late 2007?

Only applications on HDD

What if I only want mountain lion and my applications on the SSD and my music, pictures and all other files to remain on my HDD? How do I know what folders to copy over to the SSD?

Just do a clean install of

Just do a clean install of Mountain Lion on the hard drive and copy your applications folder over afterwards to rewrite the installed applications folder.

Type of SSD

Do I need to buy the SSD from an Apple Store, or can it be any type of SSD? I tried to install an Intel 520 series SATA II/III SSD in my MacBook Pro 13" (2011) and it didn´t work; I had to restart the computer two times every time I turned it on. (and this SSD was made at an Apple authorized store; after I installed it, they told me it might not work properly!)


What about the TRIM issue...

is MicronC400 Compatible with MAcbook pro 8,1(early 2011) i7 13"

Hi is the macbook pro 2011 (early), i7 2.7ghz compatible with micron ssd c400 256gb (mtfddak256mam-1k12? Thank you

Thanks for the guide, made my

Thanks for the guide, made my transition to SSD effortless. I used Carbon Copy Cloner and it's still easy. Just wondering how much data does the author had on his hard drive? Because it took me 90minutes to copy 70GB of data from hard drive to SSD. For those who has Steam, do not use case-sensitive for the format because Steam doesn't run on case-sensitive formats. I tried and that's what happened for me. Fix was easy though, boot up from the hard drive just replaced (unless you wiped everything from the old hard drive) and format your SSD to case-insensitive and clone everything back from the hard drive you just replaced. I also read that after changing to SSD I should disable Sudden Motion Sensor, disable Hibernate and disable spotlight and use Trim Enabler. I've read the comment about not needing TRIM but what are your views on disabling this and that? Thanks again.


Okay, I know you can't get the 6Gb/s speed on a SATA II system, but can it physically accept a SATA III? I mean, suppose I found a great deal on a SATA III SSD and wanted to put it in my 2010 MBP 6,1 - could I? Or do I have to get a SATA II?

It should run perfectly fine

It should run perfectly fine at SATA II speed, i mean got a SATA III disk in my SATA II MacBook Pro 2010, and it works like a charm.

Format of SSD

Hi, thanks for a great guide. Why should the format be case-sensitive? /Jonas

It doesn't really matter, you

It doesn't really matter, you can choose either case-sensitive or not.  You SHOULDN'T encounter any issues either way, and if you do it would be rare.

Is it void the warranty ?

Great article, i am planning to replace the hard drive with solid state storage but mine is still under warranty. is it void warranty ?

Along with the memory (RAM),

Along with the memory (RAM), the hard drive in your MacBook is considered as a user-serviceable part.  Keep in mind if Apple finds that you damage your laptop while installing a drive (ex. breaking the SATA ribbon connector), that probably won't be covered by warranty.  And the new SSD you put in won't be covered by Apple's warranty, but a new SSD should have its own warranty from the manufacturer.

Reset PRAM

Thanks for the awesome post; I just upgraded a few days ago to the Crucial M4 and it smokes. The one thing I had to do was reset PRAM as I had a strange 20second boot delay. Once reset it boots in record time.

Comparison to Apple SSD????

I just wondered if you had any results of a factory fitted apple SSD? This would then make it clear whether it was worth doing a DIY job or paying for the 'branded' version. Thanks

Sorry no, but as far as I

Sorry no, but as far as I know, the SSDs tested in this review are faster than most Apple branded SSDs (as they use drives from Toshiba or last gen Samsung drives).

Garbage Collection / TRIM

Guys, what's the latest word on TRIM? Are various TRIM-enabling hacks worth the hassle on OS X Lion?

I'd leave TRIM as disabled in

I'd leave TRIM as disabled in OS X.  In general, TRIM is good.  But many believe that the stability bugs present in the Sandforce based drives are caused by TRIM.  So by enabling it, it can cause some unstability with OS X (or other operating systems).  For most users, the garbage collection algorithms used by SSD controllers are good enough anyway.

thanks. great article, by the

thanks. great article, by the way - very useful info.

SSD MacBook Pro Compatibility?

My daughter has a late-2009 13" MacBook Pro. Last I looked into a SSD, there were apparently Apple (OS?) issues which restricted the speed to less than SATA2 (i think it was 150Mbps = SATA1). Has this been resolved? Would she be able to get SATA2 or SATA3 performance out of the newer SSD? BTW, can the MBPs use 9.5mm SSDs or (as I assume) are they limited to using 7mm thick SSDs?

You can check what SATA

You can check what SATA version your MacBook Pro supports by clicking on the top-left hand Apple button -> About this Mac -> More Info... -> Select Serial-ATA -> Then in the details section, you should see Link Speed.  If it says 1.5 Gigabit, then it's SATA I, if it's 3 Gigabit, then it's SATA II, if it's 6 Gigabit then it's SATA III.

Regardless of what version of SATA your MBP supports, you will still gain a noticable speed benefits.  Also, all of the current SATA III SSDs are backwards compatible.  I believe that with current software updates installed, you should be at SATA II.  And MBPs support 9.5mm drives.

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