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I'm developing a lot of Java software with Eclipse. My MacBook running Snow Leopard 10.6.8 with 4GB RAM and Core 2 Duo is very slow.

Would it help to use an SSD and upgrade RAM to 6 or 8 GB? I've read that SSD will make my MacBook much faster, but will it have an effect on Java development?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

TL;DR: Yes on both accounts.

Start with RAM. Max it out at 8 GBs. My compile times dropped in half going from 4 GB to 8 GB -- swapping is a performance killer and the primary cause of the beach ball on OS X. More memory, less swapping. Happier development.

Then go SDD. In my case I went to an SDD in my DVD drive slot. I never used the thing so didn't think it was worth keeping around. Compile times for larger Java projects on the SDD vs the HD are consistently 3x faster on the SDD.

There's a caveat to all of this: SDDs are unreliable. When they fail, they fail hard. That's why I opted to keep my Main drive on a spinning platter drive. Also remember: Time Machine doesn't back up anything by your Main drive. So that means nothing on my SDD is backed up by Time Machine. Why am I okay with this? Two words: revision control. I only do things on my SDD that are backed by revision control. In my case git. And I push my changes upstream fairly frequently. If the drive fails, I'd lose an hour or two of work and that's not so bad. Everything else is safe on my remote repository in the cloud.

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Very nice one, thank you :-) A good idea to put only version controlled stuff on the SSD! Where can I find information which RAM to buy and how to install it? (same with SSD) – strauberry Sep 30 '11 at 14:58
I'm actually reversing the order of advice with many clients. Get SSD first - before you pick a CPU, before RAM - get it and a Time Machine drive that is always connected. You can always get RAM later. – bmike Sep 30 '11 at 15:12
@strauberry I bought everything through Amazon. RAM was Corsair, drive was OCZ and the mounting kit for it was OptiBay from MCE Technologies. – Ian C. Sep 30 '11 at 15:19
@strauberry the Crucial website has a memory selector tool on it that'll help you pick the right sticks for your make and model of machine. Most of the other RAM manufacturers have something similar. Who you buy from is up to you. – Ian C. Sep 30 '11 at 16:02
I bought an SSD and RAM at the MacBook runs like hell :-) Very nice! I've bought 2x 4GB SO-DIMM KINGSTON ValueRAM CL7 (DDR3-1066) and an OCZ VERTEX 3 SATA III 2.5″ SSD – strauberry Oct 9 '11 at 18:32

Upgrading to an SSD will make everything faster. Like, everything. Ok, so it won't make everything faster, but everything will feel quite speedy. Additional RAM will help as well, but you'll notice just an unbelievable difference in day to day usability and responsiveness.

Now, with that said, SSDs are still quite expensive. If you have an older computer, it might be better to spend the money on a new machine (such as an Air with an SSD) instead a significant amount just for the new drive. This depends on the size you want to get.

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Thank you for this answer! I hoped that something like that will come out ^^ I've search a couple of time but I did not found a) a manual how to see whether my macbook is "prepared" for SSD and b) how to build it in... make a whole TimeMachine backup, put the ssd in, install Snow Leopard and say "restore from TimeMachine backup" during installation? Do you have any links to manuals :-)? – strauberry Sep 30 '11 at 14:54
Multiple approaches to install depending on your setup. If for example, you are installing the SSD in place of the SuperDrive, and will thus have two HDs installed, you can copy over stuff quite easily. If not, you'll need an enclosure of some kind, or backup to external, then restore from that. – chrismanderson Sep 30 '11 at 16:34

I upgraded my MacBook (see hardware specs here) and used the manuals from The MacBook runs now very smooth and extremly fast :-)

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strauberry, is that the 13" or 15" Pro you are using? – ChrisF Oct 19 '11 at 14:51
I'm using the MacBook (without Pro!) with 15'' – strauberry Oct 19 '11 at 15:12

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