10 Sep 2012

Who needs a DVD drive anyway?

I was mildly surprised to discover Apple have ceased manufacture of the classic 17" MacBook Pro. It's a logical move I suppose what with their 2012 all singing all dancing 'Retina' but for someone like me who doubles up their laptop as a TV it's not completely about resolution, physical screen size is still relevant. 
Mine's a mid-2009 2.8GHZ Core2 Duo and although the lure of an i7 is out there I've no working need for all that processing power, I did fancy a bit of an upgrade though, you know, as you do.

Having already maxed out the memory at 8GB (that's the limit for mine) the next option would have to be an SSD, however they're still rather pricey and £300 for a 512GB just wasn't a viable option. A year or so back I installed a Seagate Momentus XT 'Hybrid' HD which gave a mild performance boost over the standard 7200rpm but was still nowhere near the zip of an SSD boot. I'd heard about kits to replace the DVD drive with your main HD, opening up options for a smaller, cheaper SSD boot and as I already had a Kingston 64GB SATA SSD from a FW800 caddy I'd been using to boot OSX at the co-working space this seemed like a good route to take.

The kit I sourced from http://hdcaddy.com. It included an external USB DVD SuperDrive case and dropped in at around £60 inc postage, not bad, much better than £300 anyway. I'm not concerned about losing the internal DVD as I can't recall the last time I used it other than to burn up an Ubuntu .iso somewhere in the distant past when people still used physical media.

Fig:1 - HDCaddy & USB SuperDrive case.

Fitting the kit was relatively easy and once everything was installed I ran a few operational tests to see what the difference was. Booting was noticeably quicker and Photoshop fired up in a fraction of the time it had previously taken to load. Below are the 'official' R/W tests for both disks using BlackMagic Speedtest app (a free download from the App Store btw).

Fig:2 - Seagate Momentus XT R/W test.

Fig:3- Kingston SSD R/W test.

As you can see at more than double the speed for R/W it was a worthy upgrade, nowhere near the speed you'll get from a Retina unit (Fig:4) but I'm still very pleased with the results and it's given my old 2009 MacBook an easy couple more years use as a viable unit.

Fig:4 - MacBook Retina SSD R/W test results.

One final tweak was to make the 'slave' HD power down (sleep) a bit quicker, default on OSX is 5 minutes but by entering the following command in Terminal this can be dropped to 1 minute. 

sudo pmset -a disksleep 1

Having the slave HD power down is much nicer as when it isn't in use the MacBook is totally silent, just like a 'modern' computer :-)

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