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I have an early 2011 Macbook Pro with a Toshiba MK7559GSXP 750GB 5400rpm hard drive (that has about 48GB free) and running El Capitan. Recently I had the feeling that things were running slowly (and I probably have been ignoring it up until now), so I downloaded and ran Blacmagicdesign's Disk Speed Test 2.2.2

This speed test gave me a read and write speed of about 50 MB/s which my gut feeling is saying is not very good.

I also ran the Disk Utility's First Aid and the drive passed all the tests applied by that utility. So:

  1. Is this an unreasonable read/write speed?
  2. Would it be due to the hard drive being less than 10% full?
  3. Something else that I am missing?

After the storm

I just replaced the hard drive with a Samsung 850 EVO 1TB SSD. The boot time halved, Apps open almost immediately, the Disk Speed Test pegs at 480 MB/s and the Negotiated link speed is 6 GB/s.

Thats all good, but the weirdest things is how quiet it sounds now!

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    drives don't like to be that full, though a 5400 was not a fast drive even when new. The read/write speed from BM may not be a true indicator of your disk's actual real-world performance, though, it's a test of throughput on a small test area & assumes your drive is otherwise in pristine health. – Tetsujin May 7 '16 at 18:15
  • The speed test can use 1 GB test files up to 5 GB test files. Which are you using and do the speed results level off at 50 MB/s after 10 runs? Have you quit all other applications on the Mac during the benchmark test? – bmike May 7 '16 at 18:31
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    I would suggest not attempting to worry any longer about the speed of the disk and just retrofit a new SSD. At my place of employment, we've swapped out the 5.4kRPM HDDs to SSDs in over 100 MPBs. It has resulted in great satisfaction to our users, and extended the usable lifetime of the MBPs another two years. – IconDaemon May 7 '16 at 18:32
  • @IconDaemon SSD is on my radar, but it would be stupid to retrofit with an SSD if the disk drive wasn't the issue! The only question is SSD size. 1TB would be a natural, but if that extends the life of the laptop .. how much will I ultimately need. – Peter M May 7 '16 at 20:44
  • @bmike Yeah .. I ran the test multiple times with 2 different files sizes. 1GB gave me 50MB/s while 5GB dropped that to around 47GB/s. – Peter M May 7 '16 at 20:45
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The first thing you want to do is reference the drive specs to see what it is rated in terms of data transfer speed.

According to C/Net, it has an external data transfer rate of 300MBs (it's a SATA drive, so this is expected)

enter image description here

So, if you are getting a drive speed rating of 50MB/s, things are definitely slow. 5400 RPM is also quite slow to begin with.

Your best option is to upgrade your drive to an SSD. I have written a post that addresses this very topic. Have a look here: My Mac is getting really slow, what should I do?

  • facepalm for not looking up the drive specs myself. I have been debating an SSD upgrade, but I have also been debating to replace the entire laptop, as early 2011 is still early 2011. BTW I already have 16GB of RAM as I have run a lot of VM's simultaneously. – Peter M May 7 '16 at 18:27
  • I have done SSD upgrades Macbooks (Pro and Air) going as far back as 2009. For less than $100, it breathed new life into them. – Allan May 7 '16 at 19:05
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    I've put SSDs in every machine in the house, however old. That & maxing the RAM is the best thing you can do with any machine, no doubt. Breathes new life into them, truly. – Tetsujin May 7 '16 at 19:25
  • @Tetsujin...and how! The only place where an SSD didn't make a difference for me was in an XServe RAID that used IDE drives. Zero performance increase. Though I used an IDE to SATA adapter and put in 1TB laptop drives. 14TB of RAID goodness. :-) – Allan May 7 '16 at 19:32
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    What I did for someone was replace the old HDD with an SSD, then bought an optical bay conversion kit that allowed me to change the SuperDrive for another HDD. This way you can keep all your stuff that doesn't need to be on an SSD on a high capacity low cost drive. – Allan May 7 '16 at 20:46
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Generally, MacBook Pro models use 2.5 inch drives and iMac models use 3.5 inch drives. The 3.5 Hard Disk Drives (HDD) generally rotate a 5400 rpm, where as 3.5 inch HDDs rotate at 7200 rpm. I often thought the slower speed was to save laptop power, but this is just my guess.

What really matters is the speed data is transferred to/from the drive. Take my 2007 iMac, if I select "About this Mac" from the menu bar and then click on the "System Report..." button in the pop up window, I can get information regarding the transfer rate.

222

From the above image, I have repeated the important information below.

  • Link Speed: 3 Gigabit/second
  • Negotiated Link Speed: 3 Gigabit/second
  • Model: ST1000DM003-1CH162

The "Link Speed" is the fastest transfer rate offered by the hardware on your logic board. The common most speeds are 1.5, 3 and 6 Gb/sec. The "Negotiated Link Speed" is the actual transfer speed of the data between the logic board and the drive. My Mac is running at the maximum speed offered by the logic board hardware. Finally, there is the drive itself. The original drive was replaced with a 1 TB Seagate drive. This model drive is capable of a 6 Gb/sec transfer rate, but is running at at 3 GB/sec because my antiquated logic board.

I do not know the "Link Speed" of your logic board, but your drive has a maximum transfer rate of 3 Gb/sec.

Note: For the same transfer rate, A Solid State Drive (SSD) will be faster than a HDD. With HDD there is a latency in waiting for the drive to spin to there correct position before a read/write of data can be preformed.

  • I did check up on that and my Link Speed is 6GB/s and Negotiated speed is 3GB/s which seems common for these systems – Peter M May 7 '16 at 20:38

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