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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Consumer Hardware & Components > FW800 SSD boot drive for OS X

FW800 SSD boot drive for OS X
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Eug
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Mar 10, 2012, 09:34 PM
 
After getting used to an SSD on my MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo, my iMac 2.93 GHz Core i7 is starting to feel slow.

I have no easy way of upgrading the internal drive, but I'm now strongly considering getting an external FW800 SSD. I'd like to get a USB 3.0 / FW800 SSD, but none seem to exist for any reasonable price. So, I'm considering getting the OWC Mercury Elite Pro mini and sticking my own SSD in it.

Anyone here try this?
     
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Mar 10, 2012, 10:44 PM
 
Limited bandwidth of FW800 (80MBps lol) + latency of FW and the SATA-FW bridge chip = bottleneck =

But if you do, why pay the OWC tax? The macally is $40 at Newegg.

The internal bracket and cable is only $60, but augh it's a lot of work.
( Last edited by mduell; Mar 10, 2012 at 10:58 PM. )
     
Eug  (op)
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Mar 10, 2012, 11:40 PM
 
Thanks.

1) I didn't know about the Macally. Good catch. However, I haven't seen any reviews of it out there, and it doesn't include eSATA either. People are getting over 80 MB/s out of the OWC model, which has an Oxford 944SE chipset, although I don't know what the comparative latencies are like, for random read/writes. Still, it should be way faster for general usage than any consumer platter drive, methinks. Dunno what chipset is in the Macally, and people at Newegg are complaining it's a really tight fit with some drives.

It turns out the OWC is a bit cheaper at BHPhoto than OWC itself, with decent shipping costs. Total CAD$67.83, vs. the Macally at Newegg.ca for $50.63.

2) I wasn't aware of an internal bracket available for my 2010 Core i7.

P.S. I'd consider pairing it with the $138 Kingston V100. That drive isn't particularly fast as far as SSDs go, but somehow I just don't trust OWC or OCZ SSDs. That Kingston V100 eats power compared to most 2.5" drives, but I'd be using it as an iMac boot drive.

---

Hmmm... I found the Macally for $38 with free shipping.
( Last edited by Eug; Mar 11, 2012 at 12:01 AM. )
     
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Mar 11, 2012, 12:36 AM
 
Hmm, I thought FW800 had to use beta mode (8B/10B encoding), but I guess you can do alpha mode (D/S encoding) to get the extra 20MBps.

TWAM has the parts list and links and directions and photos.

How about Intel or Crucial? I've had no problems with my OCZ Vertex 2, but I share the concerns about them.
     
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Mar 11, 2012, 01:18 AM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
Hmm, I thought FW800 had to use beta mode (8B/10B encoding), but I guess you can do alpha mode (D/S encoding) to get the extra 20MBps.
That's over my head.

TWAM has the parts list and links and directions and photos.
OK, not for me. Too complicated, and it'd void my Apple Care anyway (3 years).

How about Intel or Crucial? I've had no problems with my OCZ Vertex 2, but I share the concerns about them.
I was considering them and the Samsung, but the Kingston V100 (which does excellent garbage collection) is a good deal cheaper than them. The main problem with the Kingston V100 is that it's only really suited for desktop use, as it draws over 6 Watts (!) for read/write. Not suitable for laptop use, which makes me wonder how well it'd work with a bus-powered enclosure like the Macally.

It would be fine with Firewire bus power, but I'm wondering if the thing can handle 10 Watts (5V x 2A, using an Apple iPad USB AC adapter) via the DC input, or else 5 Watts (5V x 1A, using an Apple iPod USB AC adapter) plus an extra 2ish watts from the USB connection.

With the OWC it wouldn't be an issue because you can run it with a 2.0 Amp 5 Volt AC adapter.
( Last edited by Eug; Mar 11, 2012 at 01:51 AM. )
     
Eug  (op)
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Mar 11, 2012, 01:44 AM
 
I wanted to get a Kingston V+100, but it seems the prices have gone insane. I got mine for something like $180 for a 128 GB model last year. Now everyone is selling them for upwards of $100 more.

I wonder why.

Maybe it's because people are realizing it uses the same Toshiba chipset as Macs? I doubt it, but the pricing is just stupid high now.

---

BTW, I came across this blog post comparing the iMac internal drive vs an external FW SSD.

FW 800 + SSD runs circles around the internal platter drive. Check out the video.

I just thought of something. I have an SSD in my MacBook Pro. I'll try FW800 target mode to my iMac once I get everything working on the iMac. That should give me a reasonable idea of the performance, assuming the 2009 MBP's FW800 chipset is decent.
( Last edited by Eug; Mar 11, 2012 at 03:09 AM. )
     
Eug  (op)
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Mar 11, 2012, 10:51 PM
 
So I tried it. Certain things including multitasking are indeed sometimes a bit faster with a FW800 SSD than the internal Hitachi 7k2000 2 TB drive, but overall it's not a big difference.

It seems like an incremental speed boost, when dealing with basic OS tasks, but it's nowhere near as fast as my MacBook Pro with internal SATA SSD feels. In fact I think the biggest advantage is simply that I now have two drives... which I can do simply by adding a second FW platter drive. And that's what I've done. My external Time Machine drive is FW800, and I've put a 60 GB partition on that drive for scratch and extra work space.

Bah! So, my Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro with SSD will continue to feel faster than my Core i7 for basic OS tasks. I do all my video encoding on the Core i7 though of course.

I think this FW800 SSD idea still would be useful but only with early FW800 Macs, which have slower internal hard drives than my Hitachi. For example, if you have a 2006 Core 2 Duo 24" iMac with 6 year old 250 GB hard drive, this FW800 SSD idea may be more of an upgrade.
( Last edited by Eug; Mar 11, 2012 at 10:59 PM. )
     
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Mar 11, 2012, 11:25 PM
 
is it that difficult to replace the internal drive on the iMac with an SSD? I have an iMac C2D I was thinking about putting an SSD into.
     
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Mar 12, 2012, 06:28 AM
 
Depends on the exact model iMac you have, but in general, disassembling iMacs is finicky, and the latest ones have issues with the fact that the HDD heat sensor is internal. I have installed one into the optical slot on my 27" iMac, and while it was a bit tricky to get the display panel out, I have done tricker installs.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Aug 13, 2012, 10:06 PM
 
Hi Eug,

I am just wondering what option did you take? I am in the exact same situation, iMac mid 2010 with 1TB internal. I have just over 12 months of my apple care which I dont want to revoke. I saw the video from Zwei but his mac was a lot older.

thanks
     
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Aug 14, 2012, 10:06 AM
 
Originally Posted by sole View Post
Hi Eug,
I am just wondering what option did you take? I am in the exact same situation, iMac mid 2010 with 1TB internal. I have just over 12 months of my apple care which I dont want to revoke. I saw the video from Zwei but his mac was a lot older.
thanks
I just stuck with my 2010 iMac, as is.

It turns out my sis may be interested in buying it. In that case I'd consider selling it and then picking up a 21.5" with SSD. (I like the pixel density of the 21.5" better.)

Actually the #1 issue for me is actually the screen height. #2 is the pixel density (too high on the 27" for my tastes). #3 is the SSD. However, the only problem is that any new iMac is going to come with Lion. It turns out my workplace's VPN software doesn't support Lion, and my IT department says they will never support 3rd party VPN software on Lion. They have some sort of web-based security software, but I'm not too enamoured with it.
     
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Aug 15, 2012, 01:17 PM
 
thanks for update Eug,

They never make it easy, right! I can understand your 2nd and 3rd reason but what you mean the 'height'. Is 27" just too tall? And in regards to new iMac, I would have that you could install SL if you wanted.??

I just upgraded my Ram to 20 GB, it does help and to be honest it is not too bad in terms of start up time. I think i am just a little picky but given that I wanna keep this machine for a while, I am still considering to get an external case with FW800, however it is a bit of investment, at leasat 300 AUD for only a 256GB. And my other major concern is that how Time Machine would handle split drives? Would it still back up both?
     
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Aug 16, 2012, 08:55 PM
 
I have the 2.8 27 iMac, and am thinking about taking out the optical drive and replacing it with a ssd, keeping the hd for backup.
     
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Aug 17, 2012, 07:51 AM
 
I find the 27" too tall. So much so that I lowered it with a 3rd party VESA mount stand. I'm not a tall guy.

I don't think Snow Leopard will work on the next iMac. Usually such OS downgrades are missing key drivers for the new hardware. For example, even if the machine otherwise works fine, you might lose OS control of the fans, which isn't a good thing obviously. By the way, I meant that the new Mac would come with Mountain Lion. My VPN software works on Lion. It doesn't work properly with Mountain Lion. However, it's moot, because I suspect that Lion won't work 100% either, on a machine that ships with Mountain Lion.

I'd be curious to see if anyone tries it.
     
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Aug 19, 2012, 12:52 AM
 
From the research / watching youtube videos , those who add SSD don't actually take out the original HDD, instead they fit the SSD behind the optical drives with double sided tape. it seems like a simple and practical solution.

http://www.twam.info/hardware/apple/installing-additional-ssd-in-mid-2010-27-imac

haha, I remember I had to measure my desk to make sure it fitted. other than that I really like the big screen. anyhow you just gotta wait to find out i guess. If I was to upgrade, I am considering get MBP and large monitor when using at home. I had it before and I liked how portability, but it got stolen from my house, hence iMac.
     
   
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