I decided it was time to upgrade my Mid 2011 27″ iMac (iMac12,2) to an SSD as its system volume.
The hard drive that shipped with this machine is a 1 TB 7200 RPM model. System Information says it’s a WD1001FALS-403AA0, which is a Western Digital Caviar Black 1 TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gbit/s drive. It’s pretty fast, actually. Here are the performance results:
100+ MB/s write / read is fast for a hard drive. If I was a normal person, I would be happy with these performance numbers. Luckily, I am not a normal person. I sit at my development machine for 10+ hours every day so it needs to run as fast as a scalded dog.
I did a ton of research into how I was going to move to an SSD as my system volume. It turns out that it is a royal PITA, and relatively dangerous, to take an iMac apart and install a 3rd party drive. Additionally, you run the risk of it not working at all as these newer iMacs require special hard drives with built-in thermal protection circuitry and firmware. I won’t go into details, but if you want to learn more google “install ssd on 2011 iMac” and check out the results. http://www.ifixit.com/ is a great source of resources.
An external SSD was the answer. Since I’ve had good luck with LaCie in the past, I decided to buy the LaCie Little Big Disk 240 GB Thunderbolt SSD.
On the negative side, this external drive is expensive ($899) and doesn’t come with a cable (which will set you back another $50). This means it costs ~$350 more than the factory-installed 256 GB SSD.
On the positive side, going with an external drive results in a simple, safe upgrade, and $350 isn’t a huge amount of money. Additionally, if my whole machine dies, I will have my system volume on an external drive that I can simply attach to another iMac or MacBook Pro to get up and running again quickly. I like this part the best.
The device actually contains two Intel SSDSA2CW120G3 drives which retail for $260 a piece (not brown box). These drives can be configured as a Mirrored RAID Set (RAID 1) or as a Striped RAID Set (RAID 0). They can also be configured as a Concatenated Disk Set (JBOD), but that wouldn’t be any fun.
I ordered the disk on Tuesday and it came today (on my birthday) from Amazon via J&R.
Here’s the box:
Opening it reveals some instructions, some warrantee info, a DVD, the drive itself, and a box of stuff:
The stuff includes the power supply, outlet adapters, the base, and an allen wrench for installing the base:
It took about 2 minutes to get the drive ready for the machine:
Once the drive was attached to the machine, I ran some tests. Right out of the box, configured as a Striped RAID Set (RAID 0), this is how the drive scored:
Ummm. That’s insanely fast. Holy crap.
I decided to see how a Mirrored RAID Set (RAID 1) would perform so I erased the drive, reconfigured it, and here’s how it scored:
Next I wanted to see how an individual drive would perform so I erased the drive again and formatted one of the drives. Here’s how it scored:
These numbers all make sense.
Given that I run Time Machine, and have the luxury of preferring speed over safety, I returned the drive to a Striped RAID Set (RAID 0) and used Carbon Copy to clone my system volume to it.
Once this was done, I selected the new drive as the startup disk using System Preferences:
This is good stuff!