26 June 2011

MacBook Pro: Replacing the internal HDD

A while ago I thought it would be nice to give my MacBook Pro (MBP) a performance upgrade by putting in a Solid State Drive (SSD). I had pretty high expectations, since I was under the impression that Apple delivers computers with a really high quality factor. Unfortunately it turned out that the mid 2009 model range (which I have) appeared to be a range that has a lot of problems with third party drives.  To be more precise I'm currently running a MacBookPro5,4 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.53 GHz.

Some background


Initially I had bought a 120 GB OCZ Vertex 2 SSD for about € 170,- because any SSD drive should give my MBP an enormous boost. After figuring out how to start fresh on a new disk, I took the bottom of my MBP and replaced the stock HDD with this SSD. Eager to start using the SSD, I powered the laptop and was confronted with a gray screen and a non booting laptop. Hmmm.. now what..

Booting while using the 'Option' key, which should allow me to choose from which medium to start, did not help either. I had inserted the original DVD that came with the MBP, so I could start from there, but even though I was able to select the DVD drive, my SSD was not recognized at all.
I put the stock drive back in and tried attaching the SSD through an external USB case, but that did not help at all, so I got pretty frustrated.
Attaching the USB case to an old desktop machine running the latest version of Ubuntu made the drive actually show up, so it wasn't the drive that was broken. 
It had to be something with my MBP or the hardware inside the MBP, but how hard could it be to create compatible hardware the year 2009-2011.. It wasn't like that my MPB was 10 years old or something.

Finding the exact cause of the problem did not even prove to be that simple. It took my quite a while before I figured out that apparently the mid 2009 range was famous for having hardware issues with third party drives. Even the Apple discussion forums were not very helpful if you did not know what to look for. In the end I found out that the cause of the problem was the negotiation between the Nvidia controller and the SSD drive. The Nvidia chipset inside the mid 2009 range model was the cause of the problem. Now that I knew what to look for I found hundreds op people trying to upgrade their internal drive with another without success. All hope went away, because after that I read about a lot of problems with a variety of drives, so I brought back the drive and postponed my wish for an SSD.

Two months later


This weekend I noticed that the internal HDD of my PS3 was getting full. I downloaded two free games from the 'Welcome back' program, but was unable to install them on my PS3 due to insufficient storage capacity.
The PS3 version I bought a couple of years ago only had a 40GB HDD, but fortunately Sony explicitly mentions that you can upgrade the PS3 HDD without any problems if you take a 5400 rpm version with a maximum height of 9.5 mm. So this saturday I went to the local computer store and came home with a WD Scorpio Blue 320 GB with an 8 MB cache, which had cost me only € 42,-  . I had read some good reviews on this particular drive and wanted to give it a go. The WD Scorpio Blue is a low power consuming 2.5 inch laptop drive, but appears to be one of the fastest 5400 rpm drives available.

With this new 2.5 inch drive in my hand I got tempted to see if my MPB would be able to recognize this drive, where it failed to detect the SSD two months ago. Just for the fun of it I placed it in the external USB case and VoilĂ ! it appeared inside Apples disk utility.
This triggered me to try it inside the MBP as well, just to see if it would recognize the drive. To be able to create a bootable drive I used the build in 'Restore' functionality of Disk Utility and cloned my old drive to this new drive.

Some figures


Before switching to the new drive I ran an Xbench test for the stock drive to see what the 'old' performance was like. So here are the result of the stock FUJITSU drive.


As you can see this is quite nice for a 5400 rpm drive, so after I replaced the stock drive with the WD Scorpio Blue I did another disk test and this is what the WD Scorpio Blue did.




Even though it's not as big as an improvement as an 7200 rpm or SSD drive I'm quite happy with the results of the new drive! Both read and write performance have increased, so for now I think I'll just stick with the 320 GB WD drive in my MBP and will put the 'old' stock drive into my PS3 where 250GB should be plenty of disk space. I'll test drive it for a week, just to be sure that I don't run into any issues during the week.