Do Me a Solid (State Drive)
Jan 16, 2015
Acronyms, we are bombarded by them, especially in the tech world. Sometimes to the degree that they don't even register anymore. But there has been one that I have been keeping on my tech radar for a while and that is SSD. It stands for Solid State Drive. And essentially, what is means is memory used as storage. Remember the days where people were having a problem differentiating RAM from ROM? Are you still, LOL? Well RAM (random access memory) was once defined as active system memory and ROM read only memory) as file storage. Think of a person sitting down at a desk. RAM would be the person's brain and ROM would be the files in the filing cabinet under the desk. In earlier versions of the Apple OS, you used to have a ROM disk that allowed you to allocate ROM for use as RAM so that files could be cached there for quicker access. When RAM became less expensive, that went away because RAM (as memory cards in your computer) is always better than mechanically based hard drives.
Enter SSDs. These are storage units comprised of RAM. And if there is one term to describe them, it would be... fast. In Boston parlance, wicked fast. Unfortunately, they are pretty expensive. But I have been biding my time, waiting for them to come down in price or go on sale. And, well, I finally made the move over the Christmas holiday when there was a sale at OWC I couldn't pass up. So I bought two Crucial M500 960MB drives, one for my PC and one for my iMac. Here is how the installation went down for both.
I had built a system from parts I purchase from NewEgg and couldn't be happier. Last year, I have upgraded several of the components, but had the same case. There was plenty of room to install another drive, though poking around the case to find the power cable and SATA connector was a bit tricky, it was getting a little tight for space. But I managed and installed the drive.
Formatting the drive using the built-in Administrator utility. I formatted it using GPT (GUID) instead of MBR, not strictly necessary for Windows 7, but what I have read mostly supports using the newer format.
If you have a PC, even a fast one, after you have used it for some time, it begins to take a while to boot up. Not just to see the desktop but to really have it useable. It's a go upstairs and make yourself a pot of coffee and then have a cup with your favorite muffin slow. Yeah, it's really about 5-10 minutes, but it seems like forever. After the install, it takes about 30 seconds, barely enough time to warm up my chair.
Never it let it be said that I don't appreciate the benefits of open architecture, both in hardware and software. Having a large case in which to add the drive and adapter, plus changing the settings and installing the patch, all fairly easy, though if you don't do the research you might get stuck with an underperforming HD or a non functional SSD. Also, TRIM was automatically available under Windows.
Even my iMac was becoming a little slow booting up. With all the startup apps, definition updates and the like. It wasn't as bad as the PC, but it definitely took a good 1.5-2 minutes to boot up all the way. I was looking forward to seeing major improvements.
The iMac was going to be a different experience. There is no roomy case to install another drive and taking it apart was going to be a chore, but I was ready for it. I already had a Universal Drive Adapter ($25) in my possession already and I have used it many times to facilitate my hard drive issues with my and my clients' machines. So I hooked the SSD up via USB to my iMac.
Again, the 2.5 to 3.5 drive adapter wasn't necessary, but I like to it be tidy inside the computer, so I used the drive adapter to secure it into position.
I knew I was going to have to spend a little time getting this installed properly, but what I wasn't expecting was the additional cost. Mind you, I didn't really need a drive adapter ($15.00), but I wasn't going to let my new drive just hang by the SATA connectors inside my iMac. Also, there was (I found after starting this post) a free, though beta, alternative to the HDD Fan Control called Mac Fan Control, but I had already plunked my $30 bucks down (a ridiculous price for a one-trick pony). And then with Apple not supporting TRIM on 3rd party drives, having to pay an additional $10 for the TRIM Enabler was kind of criminal, but the cheapest of the three additional items I had to shell out for. Seriously glad I got a good deal on the drives.
While the cloning process using Carbon Copy worked well, there was an issue getting the cloned drive to recognize my existing Time Machine backups. I found a very well written and annotated explanation of how to get TM running again with your existing backups here. I tried it and it worked for me.