I visited my local Apple retail store over the weekend and left with the crushing urge to spread the word about solid state hard drives (SSD from here on). I went into the store to have the guys at the Genius Bar take a look at the battery on my MacBook Pro. The battery had developed a bulge and was actually causing the back panel on my laptop to bend and twist. The good news is that they guys at the Genius Bar took one look at the issue and promptly swapped out my battery with a brand new one at no charge. I call that truly great customer service since my MacBook Pro was no longer under warranty.
But I digress. While I was talking with two technicians at the Genius Bar, I mentioned that I had installed an SSD as my boot drive. This really got their attention. One of them politely asked if I would mind firing up the laptop so he could have a look. Like many of us, he had read blurbs online indicating that an SSD could breath new life into an aging laptop. Both gentlemen noted that they had each been considering the SSD option for their older MacBooks. Obviously they both had the chance to play with the SSD powered MacBook Air’s, but they understood there was a big difference between the latest hardware and what they were running at home.
I fired up my MacBook Pro and spun the screen around so they could watch it boot. One of the tech’s eyebrows went up dramatically and I knew the desktop had just arrived on screen. He had to explain to the other tech that it was a cold boot, and not just a machine waking up from sleep. This drew some more attention and a female Genius tech came over to see what was going on. So we ran through another boot, just to get everyone on the same page. The machine booted in seconds. The 3 techs were stunned! So, after asking permission, the tech went about opening a series of apps such as Safari, the Office 2011 apps, and the latest Adobe Creative Suite. Again, they were all visibly taken back by the responsiveness of the system when launching some of the more gangly professional apps. So we moved on to launch Parallels and see Windows 7 Pro boot in less time than any of them had thought possible.
The Apple techs were really, really impressed. So we got talking about the different SSD options out there. And, in my experience, all SSD drives are not the same. I recently installed the cheapest SSD I could find in a Dell laptop for a friend. My buddy wanted SSD, but price was his primary concern. He picked up a drive I had never heard of. And when we installed it in his notebook, not only was it no faster than his just replaced conventional hard drive, but it was actually slower!
The moral of the story is, when it comes to SSD, you get what you pay for. Look for a drive that is a brand name and has good customer ratings and actually posts performance specs. Also, look at the warranty. Solid-state memory has a finite life span and the memory will wear out eventually. Make sure you find a brand that stands behind their warranty. Bear in mind that the price goes up dramatically as the capacity gets larger. So weigh what you need to do on the computer against how much storage you can afford. A friend suggested a creative solution to the price per megabyte problem and it was another feature of my MacBook Pro that captured the attention of the Apple technicians. I used the OWC Data Doubler to replace my MacBook’s optical (CD/DVD) drive with the conventional hard drive that came with the computer. That Data Doubler is a mounting bracket that fits into the MacBook’s optical drive slot and makes it very easy to mount an additional hard drive in the space. With the SSD installed in the standard hard drive bay, you now use the SSD for a boot drive, the location of your home folder, and for your applications. All data such as photos, iTunes, and other large files such as virtual machines can reside on the conventional hard drive.
TheSSDReview.com is hosting a giveaway of a new OWC Electra 240GB SSD. Follow this link for details. The contest ends August 29th, 2011.