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I would sincerely love a new MacBook, but I can't justify spending the prices that are being touted by Apple what with life to pay for and everything. I upgraded my memory to 2GB a while ago, but am thinking of now upgrading the HD to a SSD seeing as the MacBook is still performing OK, just a bit lagging behind the times.

For the record, my MacBook is the 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (13-inch White) MB061LL/A version. I have upgraded the HDD 2 or 3 times since this purchase in 2008. The current RPM is 5400, but I have just found out I was missold as I have never knowingly bought a HDD other than 7200rpm (!).

Crucial recommends their 256GB Crucial M4 2.5-inch SATA 6GB/s SSD. But I know that the SATA controller in my model is only 1.5Gb/s. So is this actually worth the upgrade?

To give some idea on usage, I mainly surf the internet for long periods so no real heavy usage apart from spinning or streaming a film now and again. But I will now be looking to use this as my main music recording computer due to my dedicated PC dying.

Thanks in advance

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Whoops yes you're right - 7200rpm –  tomdot Jun 22 '12 at 7:27

6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted
  1. Your Macbook can have as much as 3GB of RAM. Check it first.
  2. Buy an Optical Disk Drive to HDD adaptor on ebay (9.5mm PATA to SATA variant). Put you HDD there.
  3. Crucial is good. 64GB is enough for me, SATA150 and probably you. Small read/writes are same between different sizes and you will not get those faster linear RW anyway — why pay more when you can have platters to store those big files?
  4. Still it's wiser to sell your Macbook as is and buy anything unibody(used) for a bit more — you'll get better graphics to help with flash (I have such a notebook and know how pathetically slow it becomes when flash is on). And then max that unibody Macbook with RAM (which is DDR3 and cheaper) and SSD.
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A 50% increase in RAM looks like a massive increase, however is it really worth the extra few coinage? I also thought about the optical drive thing but I use it a lot for DVDs and burning so I can't give it up really :-( I hadn't thought about selling my MacBook as I didn't think I would get to much for it - but maybe I will have another look at that –  tomdot Jun 22 '12 at 7:36
    
If you go SSD route then I believe it's worth to upgrade RAM. Also you may put your DVD into external case like this one ebay.com/itm/… One caveat it will probably not boot from it though. –  iskra Jun 23 '12 at 9:48
    
I have actually upgraded the RAM over the weekend which has improved performance no end, meaning I will look to get a 256GB SSD in the near future. –  tomdot Jun 25 '12 at 13:48
    
It's your money but frankly 256GB SSD doesn't make much sense on SATA1 bus in old Macbook. –  iskra Jun 25 '12 at 16:00

Yes,

... because there are other advantages besides the faster access times.

  • SSDs work inaudible
  • SSDs are shock-resitant
  • SSDs use less energy but the total impact is very little...
  • SSDs max out the SATA 1 throughput, which your old HDD will probably not.

Also, you might get a SSD and then use it in your newer Mac which you will buy in a few years. Make sure to get a SSD with a SATA 3 interface - which is backward compatible to SATA 1.

What about TRIM? The current SSDs have very efficient garbage collection which make the need for TRIM dispensable. But as such performances largely differ depending on the hardware manufacturer, make sure to study performance reviews of the SSD which you'll consider.

I've written some more in this post.

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So what about the hangining issues mentioned in a post above? That would be a real issue for me as I wouldn't need that type of behaviour from my system. Also, what about accessing large files and the issue surrounding Apple only SSDs? –  tomdot Jun 22 '12 at 8:03
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@tomdot According to an answer here on apple.SE the hanging issue is related to Mac firmware on certain Mac models: apple.stackexchange.com/a/37696/13414 –  gentmatt Jun 22 '12 at 8:11
    
I'm still unsure whether this would affect me or not? I'm suspecting it wouldn't but it still doesn't help my decision with picking and choosing EDIT: Just saw that comment stating no problems on my model. –  tomdot Jun 22 '12 at 8:33

SATA I is still going to be an enourmous speed increase on your existing spinning drive.

I upgraded to a SATA III compatible drive in my iMac, which only supports SATA II, and initially the auto speed negotiation for my particular drive controller resulted in only acheving SATA I speeds - and it was still a huge improvement. I got it up to SATA II speeds by forcing the link speed on the drive through firmware updates. The point being that a good SATA III drive will be backwards compatible for your Macbook, and you'll still benefit from being able to take it with you should you ever upgrade to a machine that supports faster speeds.

You may want to look into replacing the optical drive with a caddy bay adapter for the SSD, if you have issues of price/capacity, and use the SSD as boot and your existing drive as bulk storage of data.

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See an above comment - I actually use the optical drive so switching it is out of the question. I think I understand that the speed difference will be worth it, however do you have any input to the hanging issues mentioned in another answer? –  tomdot Jun 22 '12 at 7:39
    
Can't comment on it, it's not appearing on here as a regular issue, and loads of people are putting SSDs into almost every Mac you can think of. If you need the DVD drive, consider a cheap USB enclosure - I got one that mimics the look of the official Apple USB Superdrive for about $10 on ebay, and simply put the internal drive I took out into it so I still have it when I need it. –  stuffe Jun 22 '12 at 9:54
    
Actually yeah that sounds like a good idea. I'll have an eBay on it. Caddy bay adapters seem large in number and I can't seem to find one that's suitable for my MacBook. –  tomdot Jun 22 '12 at 10:36

This is one of those questions where the only valid (enough) answer is "it depends ...".

We can begin with your question about whether using a Crucial M4 SSD is "worth it" in your MacBook.

No, it is not.

As you pointed out, your MB only supports SATA I with a max throughput of 1.5 Gbit/s. It makes no kind of cost/benefit sense to pay the premium for a recent SATA III capable SSD when your MB will only be able to use it at a fraction of the speeds it is capable of.

Another limiting factor is that your MB uses a 667 MHz Front Side Bus (FSB). Strictly speaking this is a memory (RAM) to CPU throughput limitation, not SATA. But I bring it up because it is a factor limiting your MB's overall maximum performance. That is, it is another reason you would not enjoy the full benefit of a SATA III capable SSD. Your MB is unlikely to be able to move data between RAM and the CPU fast enough to stress even your SATA I controller's throughput.

So if you ultimately do decide to move to an SSD, I would suggest you consider older SATA II models which would be a better fit to the throughput of your MB. The older SSDs should also be relatively less expensive.

Another concern with using an SSD in a MB is if your version of OS X supports the TRIM command. My understanding is that you would need either Snow Leopard (10.6.8) or Lion (10.7). Also, since Apple's OS X only supports TRIM for Apple supplied SSDs, you may still have to jump through hoops to enable TRIM for the SSD you choose to use.

Of course, not having support for the TRIM command does not make your SSD worthless. However, it can mean that, over time, you will suffer a significant degradation in your SSD's write speed. So it is something you might want to look into further before deciding whether or not to move to an SSD.

Finally, an SSD is not really a good choice for storing large amounts of data such as music files. You would probably be better served using a traditional HDD with a larger capacity.

Another possible alternative might be using Seagate's 750GB hybrid HDD, the Momentus XT. While you will never see the SSD performance from a hybrid, you may get enough of a boost to make you happier using your MB. And you would also have the extra storage space for storing large (music) files.

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My OS is Lion, but given the rest of your answer it appears irrelevant. I think a new machine is in order tbh, and even the cheapest Air is roughly equivalent to my current Macbook. –  tomdot Jun 22 '12 at 7:48
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I agree with the principle in this answer, but in practice older SATA2 drives are harder to get hold of than newer SATA3 ones, which had roughly halved in price since last year. Whileever you will hopfully max out your BUS speeds anyway, it doesn't really matter what drive you put in. A SATA3 will be perfectly backward compatible, but also more future proff when you take it with you to your next machine. With regards to TRIM, only Apple supplied drives use it by defualt, but it is simple to enable if you need it with a free utility. However modern SSD controllers make TRIM largely pointless –  stuffe Jun 22 '12 at 9:57

I've got the next newer model with a an OWC Mercury Electra 120GB SSD and 6GB of RAM. The disk performance is roughly doubled but it's far short of a new MacBook Air/Pro with an SSD. However, there is a caveat. I get pauses that last 20-30 seconds on a regular basis (say once an hour). I've never figured out the cause but it happens much more frequently when I run out of free memory and paging starts. Paging should be fast so it should not be an issue, yet there's a definite connection. Others have reported the same thing but it's rare to find SSD's in old MacBooks so experience is limited. I experienced similar, but different, pauses with a 500GB mechanical disk that I was using before.

Browsers consume crazy amounts of memory but it's not too bad for me since I have 6GB of RAM. It might be an issue specfic to my SSD, system, or model but the same issue on a 2GB max system is going to be ugly.

120GB is tight so going with 240GB is the right idea for size.

Just to give a feel for the performance differences, I ran Black Magic Speed Test and got around 100 MB/s write and 125 MB/s read compared to a YouTube video of a Crucial M4 128GB on a MacBook Pro 2011 which got about 200 MB/s write and 506 MB/s write. The OWC is a similar speed drive so the 1.5 vs 6.0 interface is the difference. I couldn't find any numbers for a stock white MacBook but here's a video that compares boot times.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_hbdkz71xg&sns=em

Here's a new MacBook Air vs an older one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecZCe3RUtWA&feature=relmfu

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Well I'm not exactly looking to be a cheapskate and say "yay free MacBook Air/Pro 2012 for £170!!!!" What I'm looking to do is extend the life of my working MacBook without dropping £2500 over 4 years for a new one, so a comparison with an up to date MBP is not what I was looking to do. Though, the paging issue is way more relevant to me - sounds like a deal breaker tbh given that I'm looking to record music onto the SSD and my RAM is relatively low - and I had saw those videos beforehand but they're still useful. Thanks for the input –  tomdot Jun 21 '12 at 7:07
    
NOTE : I would actually be upvoting your answer, however my rep is too small. –  tomdot Jun 21 '12 at 7:27
    
could your hanging issues be related to a firmware problem mentioned in a post below? –  tomdot Jun 22 '12 at 8:32

I have a similar white MacBook 2.0gig core 2 duo made in late 2007. I filled up the mem banks with 4 gigs dd2 667, and replaced the original 80 gig hard drive with a 120 gig SSD. I am aware of the 3 gig of ram limitation, and the limited transfer rate of the old serial ATA interface, but overall, the update was cheap a total of $130 usd, for the 2 x 2gig ram and a refurbished ssd drive.

The overall result to me is great. Boot time is very low, compared to the same computer back in 2008. Browsing the internet feels natural as if it was a new MAC, NetFlix works great. For few more $$ got OS 10.7, and it works as if it was made for it.

Compared to a new MacBook Air, the old white plastic should be slower but that new fresh speed is irrelevant to me. I get to keep an optical drive and firewire interface that are absent with the new MacBook Air, and I still having the chance to replace my battery anytime I want.

To me it is, indeed a wise upgrade

DD

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