A few weeks ago, I started to realize I had about 10 GB left on my MacBook Pro’s 250 GB hard drive. 250 GB seemed like a ton when I bought the computer 2 years ago, but as I started downloading more music and seasons of Breaking Bad (one of the best TV shows…ever, btw), that 250 GB kept getting smaller and smaller. I have a 1 TB external drive used for backup, and so one option would have been to just keep all those shows and everything else I would get in the future on that drive. Or move my iTunes library (about 50 GB) to the external hard drive, or do the same with my iPhoto library of 10,000 photos.
But I wanted to have access to all of that stuff on my laptop and that’s when I began thinking about upgrading. I did a little research but it wasn’t until I talked with my friend Scott that I figured out what I wanted to do. He recommended the Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB Solid State Hybrid Drive. It’s a super fast 7200 RPM 500 GB drive that also has 4 GB of solid state memory. The drive basically learns what your most used files and applications are, and stores those in the SSD memory and so gives you lightning quick speed. The drive retails for $169.99 but you can pick it up on Amazon.com for $119.This is what Seagate says about the drive:
Momentus XT is a solid state hybrid drive that delivers SSD-like performance with the capacity of a hard drive.
- 80% faster performance than traditional 7200 RPM drives
- Boots within seconds of a standard laptop using SSD
- OS- and application-independent
- Whisper-quiet acoustics with Seagate® QuietStep™ technology [Link]
So after talking to Scott, he convinced me that I could easily do the installation and upgrade, and I decided to go for it. Now, I will say, that the one downside is that technically, when you upgrade your hard drive, you void out any remaining time you have on AppleCare. That’s been a concern of mine, since I typically don’t keep my laptop beyond the extended 3 year AppleCare warranty. I know that’s not usual, but it’s what I’ve done for my past 3 laptops, since I typically have issues that come up. Someone told me that it can really depend on what Apple Genius you see, because if it’s an issue unrelated to the hard drive, they should still replace anything through AppleCare. But it was a risk I was willing to take to get the upgrade in space and more importantly, speed.
Installing the Drive
I read a few articles and watched a few videos before attempting to install the drive, but it really was incredibly simple. There are a few things you need though:
- Your new drive
- A 00 Phillips Screwdriver
- A Torx T-6 Screwdriver
One decision I had made was NOT to restore from my Time Machine backup. Since starting to use Macs about 6 years ago, I’ve basically kept the same profile through all those computers, always migrating everything over to my new machine. However, 6+ years of installing & un-installing applications, having random preference files for programs that I never use and just the normal amount of “stuff” that is found on a computer that old, it had accumulated a lot of junk. So I decided to do a fresh install of Snow Leopard and start fresh.
ExtremeTech had good instructions for what to do once the drive was installed, and I followed those carefully. It took about 30-40 minutes to install Snow Leopard on the drive, and then I was good to go. I spent the rest of the evening downloading programs and getting my machine back the way I wanted it. Now, I did make sure to get backups onto my external drive before beginning this whole process. Because I use 1Password and Dropbox, this process was a lot easier, but it did take me about 5 hours to get everything re-uploaded and get iTunes/iPhoto working again.
My computer is now blazing fast. And it’s probably going to get faster as the SSD learns what programs and files I use most often. The installation process was incredibly easy and I’ve been very impressed with the Seagate drive. Some people complained about the noise, or added vibration, but I haven’t noticed anything like that at all. If anything, it seems even quieter than my previous drive.
While I know that part of the speed is from the drive itself, I think the biggest thing was starting over with a fresh install of the operating system. I cleaned out so much junk by starting over, everything about my computer seems like it is so much faster now. So – I now have a computer with twice the storage space, and it feels like a brand new computer. I think this is a great way to extend the life of your laptop. MinimalMac recently linked to a post about someone putting an SSD drive in a 4-year old MacBook and got some really great results.
If you’ve thought about upgrading, I can’t recommend the Seagate Momentus XT enough. You’ll be really happy with the storage and speed. If you have any additional questions, please let me know below.