I've read quite a bit on Ask Different and elsewhere about how fitting a Solid State Drive (SSD) is one of the best ways (if not the best way) to increase the performance of your Apple Mac computer.

AFAIK this is a piece of hardware that is fitted internally inside the computer in place of the regular hard drive (and therefore takes a bit of technical know-how).

How then does an External SSD as exemplified here fit into the equation of increasing the performance of your Apple Mac ? (or am I getting the wrong end of the stick.)

  • What kind of Mac do you have? I just put an in an SSD instead of my optical drive, and put the OS on there (in addition to leaving it on the HDD for backup) as well as all the applications. It's an older 3G SSD, but still, the difference is totally stunning! Boots in a matter of seconds. (And this is in comparison to a 7200rpm HDD). – bassplayer7 Jun 3 '13 at 13:38
  • @bassplayer7 Late 2010 13" Macbook Pro – Simon Jun 3 '13 at 15:49
  • USB has MUCH slower access time! Although it's speed is quite adequate for large sequential file access, it's performance during file operations involving many small files (like loading apps or booting your computer) will be very compromised as compared to an internal SATA drive. I would be more than welcome to take you through the steps required to DIY replace your HDD for an SSD (saving you money off that overpriced external drive). – Alexander - Reinstate Monica Jun 28 '13 at 1:10

It's definitely worth going internal. Someone asked the question some time ago here and the conclusion was, that even with USB3 (which only the newest Macs have), the internal version is more than 50% faster.

USB3 external will probably still be faster than a regular 2.5" MacBook drive (assuming that you have a MacBook), maybe even with USB2, but with older hardware (and thus older connectors, e.g. just USB2) the margins will get slimmer.

It may depend on your machine (e.g. if you still have warranty or if it is one that is hard to take apart, like the the very new superslim iMacs), but having retrofitted an SSD into a 2009 iMac I can say the benefit does outweigh efforts IMO.

Also given the SSD you linked there, you can get a current Samsung of the same size less expensive and spend the rest of the money for someone skilled to put it into your machine.

  • @Nicholas Would they carry out the SSD upgrade at the Apple Store or is it best to find someone independent ? – Simon Jun 3 '13 at 9:56
  • I don't know, haven't asked an Apple store, but they will probably try to sell you an overpriced Apple drive. You'll simply have to ask, probably with better chances if it's not one of their own stores but a chain than also sells Apple (and it depends on the machine how complex it is and how skilled a 3rd party needs to be to do it). – Nicholaz Jun 3 '13 at 9:59
  • Fine....Lastly are there any suitable youtube videos that might demonstrate the process (having never done anything like that before, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared.) – Simon Jun 3 '13 at 10:54
  • There are ususally tons of videso, but the one stop go for these tasks is ifixit.com ... their instructions are superb also sell the necessary tools if you don't have them. Although trying it with a "never having done any of that before" background will greatly depend on the type of computer. What kind of machine is it that you want to upgrade? – Nicholaz Jun 3 '13 at 11:34
  • Thanks for that, I'll check it out. (I have a late 2010 13" Macbook Pro btw) – Simon Jun 3 '13 at 11:51

There are two factors at play here:

  • How is the storage drive connected to the CPU? (which bus and what else shares that bus)
  • How are the bare drives comparable for file access times?

For the jump from HDD to SSD - the bigger factor is the drive and not the bus. There are many benefits to having a drive internal, but benchmark speeds isn't a prime reason. My guess is that if you had the same SSD mounted via USB 3.0, FireWire, Thunderbolt and SATA internally - any of these would get most of the speedup of an internal drive.

I would expect it to be hard to even measure the difference between Thunderbolt and SATA direct connect and I would also expect that if someone didn't know how the drive were connected, you couldn't observe the speed difference between the other connect methods on a modern Mac (but that a benchmark would reveal average access speeds a bit slower on USB or Firewire than if it were connected over a lower latency / higher bandwidth bus).

  • Since he has an older model without thunderbolt or USB3 I think there will be a noticeable difference. Also having the operating system on the SSD (which for a portable Mac should be on the internal drive) will make a big difference. – Nicholaz Jun 4 '13 at 19:38

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