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-   -   Replace Hard Drive with Flash Card "SSD" (http://forums.macnn.com/73/hardware-hacking/360945/replace-hard-drive-flash-card-ssd/)

 
racasper Feb 3, 2008 10:03 PM
Replace Hard Drive with Flash Card "SSD"
I have a Graphite Clamshell iBook that had a very noisy 6 gig hard drive. It was irritating to hear the constant whirring noise when the computer was on, so I decided to replace the hard drive with a totally silent flash-based storage device. The idea came from an article on LowEndMac.com. This is what I found out in case anyone else wants to do it.

I bought the Addonics CF/IDE adapter and a CompactFlash Card. The adapter instructions said that CF cards can be either "fixed disk type" or "removable type". The card used as a boot volume should be a "fixed disk" type.

The flash card I chose is a Transcend 8GB, 266x speed CompactFlash card, that supports Ultra-DMA mode. UDMA means "ultra direct memory access" and is the same as fixed disk type.

On speeds: you multiply the "x" speed by 0.15 to convert to MBps. So 266x is about 40 MBps reading speed. The iBook's Ultra ATA drive bus tops out at 33 MBps, so the 266x card is a good match. I actually tried a Transcend 16GB 133x card first, but found it to have unbearably slow performance. 133x = 20 MBps which is about half the maximum throughput on the computer's bus. You ideally want a flash card that is faster than your computer's bus speed. Performance was much improved when I switched from the 133x to the 266x 8GB card. Less storage space, but still better than the original 6GB hard drive.

The cost for the slower 16GB card was about the same as the faster 8GB card. My flash card and adapter together cost about $160 plus shipping.

I used the iFixit.com guide on installing a hard drive in a clamshell iBook. Recommended for others like me who are handy with tools but have never opened up one of these machines.

When I first booted it there was no disk icon. I used the Drive Setup program on the OS9 disk to initialize the flash volume, and went from there to install the OS. Using it was pretty straightforward, just like using a hard drive.
 
mduell Feb 3, 2008 11:39 PM
Note those performance numbers are peak; the real transfer rates are quite a bit slower.

The professional flash cards, at several times the price, come with sustained performance numbers, typically in the 10-15MBps range.
 
krillbee Feb 4, 2008 01:59 AM
Another great idea for a clamshell upgrade :)
 
jolisa-feng Feb 4, 2008 08:44 AM
cheaper CF-IDE adapter
I bought many CF-IDE adapters in very cheap prices from one professional manufcturer of all kinds CF-IDE adapter in China.Their quality is also very good,their website:Sintech CF(compact flash) to IDE (IDE-CF) adapter .
 
racasper Feb 4, 2008 06:25 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by mduell (Post 3594554)
Note those performance numbers are peak; the real transfer rates are quite a bit slower.
True, and the rated speed is for reading data off the card. Writing data is slower. I have found that my 266x card has acceptable performance. It still feels a bit sluggish compared to a real hard drive, but it's very usable.

Other observations:

1. The computer is now totally silent. There's a click from the CD drive when it starts up, then no sound at all. The clamshell iBooks were designed without a fan, so I don't even hear that. This, by the way, is awesome. :)

2. More battery life. The battery was new a year ago, and was good for about 4 hours between charges. Now with the flash drive it works for almost 6 hours on a charge, with the wifi card on.

3. I have trouble playing streaming videos. They have a rhythmic stop-start-stop-start motion probably due to the physical limitations of the flash card. I have noticed the same stuttering graphics when playing Warcraft2.
 
Koralatov Feb 7, 2008 03:41 AM
Just so we're clear, you totally stole my idea! :p

Quote, Originally Posted by racasper (Post 3595119)
1. The computer is now totally silent. There's a click from the CD drive when it starts up, then no sound at all. The clamshell iBooks were designed without a fan, so I don't even hear that.
I am a major fan of silent computing (the Cube being probably the best example of this) which is what piqued my interest in carrying out the CF-HDD mod. However, as shifuimam pointed out, CF lacks any kind of wear-levelling technology, so you could be on a short road to crapsville as the flash memory begins to wear out. That said, it might not happen any time soon, so you could run it for years. I think it would depend on the OS you're running--later OSXs are more swap file-heavy than earlier editions, and I think OS8 or 9 would be your best bet when it comes to eking out the life of the CF cards.

Quote
2. More battery life. The battery was new a year ago, and was good for about 4 hours between charges. Now with the flash drive it works for almost 6 hours on a charge, with the wifi card on.
That's very nice, and somewhat unexpected in light of Ars Technica's review of the SSD MBA. Perhaps CF cards have lower power-consumption than the SSD used in the MBA. Or maybe the SSD in the MBA is drawing the same amount of power as the HDD does. I'm not sure, but either way, that's a definite plus-side to your upgrade.

Quote
3. I have trouble playing streaming videos. They have a rhythmic stop-start-stop-start motion probably due to the physical limitations of the flash card. I have noticed the same stuttering graphics when playing Warcraft2.
If you're watching streaming Flash video, then it's not the CF-HD that's to blame for the jerkiness--it's the iBook itself. Flash absolutely kills the iBook's performance. I just think the G3 isn't really cut out to handle it.

All in all, congratulations in carrying out the mod successfully, and I'm glad you're happy with the results. Personally, I'm going to exercise some rare patience and wait until a 32GB SSD comes down to about ~£80, then I'll bite. I think it would have fewer performance compromises and question-marks about its potential longevity than the CF-HD solution.

Seeing as you cracked open the iBook more recently than I have, you may be able to answer some questions for me about the internals of it. I'm pretty keen on carrying out an internal Bluetooth mod. Speaking to MacNN's former Clamshell-expert-in-residence (shifuimam), she seems to think it's possible, but likely at the cost of sacrficing the internal modem for the space it will free up. I'm keen to keep the modem intact (for use as a fallback), and I'm desperately on the lookout for space inside the casing to contain the stripped down USB hub controller chip and Bluetooth dongle. Any ideas or input?
 
racasper Feb 8, 2008 06:41 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by Koralatov (Post 3596874)
Just so we're clear, you totally stole my idea! :p
Well what can I say. Great minds think alike.

Quote
I am a major fan of silent computing (the Cube being probably the best example of this) which is what piqued my interest in carrying out the CF-HDD mod. However, as shifuimam pointed out, CF lacks any kind of wear-levelling technology, so you could be on a short road to crapsville as the flash memory begins to wear out. That said, it might not happen any time soon, so you could run it for years. I think it would depend on the OS you're running--later OSXs are more swap file-heavy than earlier editions, and I think OS8 or 9 would be your best bet when it comes to eking out the life of the CF cards.
I knew going into this that the flash card might wear out due to the memory cells having a limited number of write cycles. Some of my research was very pessimistic about this, and other articles implied that flash would probably have about the same average lifespan as hard drives. I really don't know for sure, so I just did it anyway to see what would happen. I figure that if the card stops working I can replace it with a new (quiet) hard drive. I am running Panther as my OS.

You are right about the slow G3 having trouble playing videos. However I do remember Warcraft2 playing much more smoothly with the old hard drive. Or maybe I'm not remembering clearly (very possible).

Quote
Seeing as you cracked open the iBook more recently than I have, you may be able to answer some questions for me about the internals of it. I'm pretty keen on carrying out an internal Bluetooth mod. Speaking to MacNN's former Clamshell-expert-in-residence (shifuimam), she seems to think it's possible, but likely at the cost of sacrficing the internal modem for the space it will free up. I'm keen to keep the modem intact (for use as a fallback), and I'm desperately on the lookout for space inside the casing to contain the stripped down USB hub controller chip and Bluetooth dongle. Any ideas or input?
I don't know how much room you need. If it's just a small circuit board and some thin wires, you might fit it to the right of the modem on top of the EMI shield, next the the power button. Or inside the display case? Take a look at the photos at ifixit to look for open spaces. Good luck!
 
Koralatov Feb 9, 2008 09:01 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by racasper (Post 3598329)
I knew going into this that the flash card might wear out due to the memory cells having a limited number of write cycles. Some of my research was very pessimistic about this, and other articles implied that flash would probably have about the same average lifespan as hard drives. I really don't know for sure, so I just did it anyway to see what would happen. I figure that if the card stops working I can replace it with a new (quiet) hard drive. I am running Panther as my OS.
Information on the internet seems to be conflicting at best on this subject; I've read both online, and it ended up leaving me slightly more confused than anything. As I said, personally, I'm waiting for a cheapish 32GB SSD before I jump into the flash revolution. In the meantime, my (slightly noisy) 10GB hard disk is more than adequate. Using Panther will possibly extend the lifespan somewhat as well--on lower-end hardware, I don't think it will swap-out as much, which will mean fewer write/read cycles on the flash. Another way of boosting both performance and the CF's life might be to ensure you have the full 576MB of RAM in your iBook.

Quote
You are right about the slow G3 having trouble playing videos. However I do remember Warcraft2 playing much more smoothly with the old hard drive. Or maybe I'm not remembering clearly (very possible).
I'm not sure about Warcraft, as I don't play games on my iBook, but you might quite possibly be right--if it makes moderate or heavy use of the HDD, then the CF might be acting as a bottleneck, and thus slowly performance down.

If you're really interested in getting better performance when playing videos, Low End Mac has some advice on how to get better results, though I personally think they're not worth the effort or the trade-offs. As it stands, I use my iBook as an internet browsing/IM/email machine, and the lack of YouTube, etc., doesn't bother me.

Quote
I don't know how much room you need. If it's just a small circuit board and some thin wires, you might fit it to the right of the modem on top of the EMI shield, next the the power button. Or inside the display case? Take a look at the photos at ifixit to look for open spaces. Good luck!
I tried the iFixit guides but they didn't show me what I wanted to see at the right angles to make a judgment. As it stands, I have to swap out my Clamshell's logic board some time soon (I'm moving it from a graphite to a key lime--hurray!), so I'll likely take a better look then. Thanks for the pointer about the modem and power buttons, though--I'll pay special attention to them when I get around to doing the switch out.
 
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