Upgrading My MacBook Pro Hard Drive to SSD

 

I’ve been wanting to upgrade the hard drive in my MacBook Pro for a while now.  I bought it in 2010 (it’s a Mid-2010 year MBP – 15″ with the Core i7 2.66ghz processor in it).  It’s a great machine, and overall, it has been nice to use.  However the one pain point that got to me time and again was how long it took to boot it up and run applications.  I had already upgraded the RAM, seeing as how RAM is so cheap these days (though I was remiss to find out my MBP only supports 8GB) so the next logical upgrade is the drive. With prices on SSDs coming down so drastically over the years, and with speeds of 300MB+ per second read and write (and easily 500MB+ in the latest generation), it’s a chance to drastically improve the performance of any system.

Having been on the fence about making the leap, I was finally convinced that now was the time when I received a promotional email from Newegg containing a coupon for $60 off the Samsung 840 Series 500GB SSD.  The final price ended up being right around $280, which is a steal compared to historical prices.  I went ahead with my order, and having some prior experience in copying data from drives, I went ahead and ordered a couple of inexpensive SATA+power adapters from Monoprice so I could connect both the old and new drives to a different system.
Meanwhile I did my research on methods others have used to clone data in these machines.  Since I had already opened it up to upgrade the RAM, I wasn’t afraid of cracking it open again to replace the drive.  Mostly what concerned me was the data on the drive – not only do I have Mac OS X Lion but I also use Bootcamp to run Windows 8 on the machine as well.  My previous experience in migrating data from one drive to another is mostly with Windows based systems, and some dabbling with various Linux distros from long ago, and thus it is generally a simple process with widely available applications to clone these systems/drives.
There are several ways in which you can approach the hard drive upgrade in a MacBook Pro, some better meeting certain needs than others.  These processes are well documented, and generally recommend re-installing and then migrating data.  Since the SSD I bought was the exact same size as the  existing 5400RPM 500GB Hitachi hard drive already in the system, and because I didn’t want to go through the hassle of re-installing the operating systems (Max OS X or Windows 8) from scratch, I wanted to find a solution where I could simply clone the disk as it sat.
Finding software that can properly map and clone a hybrid drive with the Mac OS X and Windows partitions on it proved to be a bit of a frustrating challenge.  The Samsung SSD drives come with their software (SSD Magician) but when attempting to perform a drive clone, the Samsung software is actually setup to run Norton Ghost (a free trial is available for download from their site).  I’ve used Norton Ghost in the past with great success, however, unfortunately the trial edition doesn’t support drive cloning at all, so there went that option.
I continued my search and came across Acronis True Image 2010, but was disappointed there as well when I found that it DID support cloning, but just couldn’t clone HFS+ partitions (those created by Mac OS X) on GPT drives (which you’ll find are more and more common now that modern motherboards are coming with a UEFI BIOS and drive sizes are topping the 2TB threshold, not to mention the fact that all Intel-based Macs use this drive partitioning scheme).  More research indicated that if I upgraded to Acronis True Image 2013, it would be able to clone the HFS+ and NTFS partitions.  Again I was disappointed to find out that, like Norton, Acronis True Image 2013 doesn’t allow cloning from the trial edition.  I guess these guys are catching on to the fact that most of us will likely only download the trial and use it once to clone a disk, then never use it again, not to pay a dime in the end for it.
So at this point I’ve burned a precious few hours of my time, and life.  But I’m not one to let a problem go so I pushed forward with my research.  I eventually came across an article describing a process that was very close to what I was looking for.  This article details each step required to image the drive partitions so you can effectively clone both the Mac OS X and Windows Bootcamp partitions to a new drive.  However close this process was to what I wanted, it still wasn’t exactly the process I had envisioned, and just KNEW would work.  Luckily, others that had come across the post with the same mindset as myself had the same idea and suggested using a utility called Clonezilla to clone the entire drive.  It was all theory as far as the comments were concerned, but I didn’t see why it wouldn’t work, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try.
So I downloaded Clonezilla after reading the documentation.  At first I tried to build a bootable USB flash drive using the ZIP and the instructions provided on their site, but had trouble getting my other PC to boot off the flash drive.  I finally resorted to burning the LiveCD ISO to a CD-R and booted the system up using the freshly burned disk.  I was greeted with what looks like an old DOS application, but was pleasantly surprised to see the options available for imaging and cloning disks – this application is quite powerful indeed, and Open Source to boot!
The rest of the process was pretty straight forward.  I simply followed the on screen prompts to setup a local disk to disk clone.  Choosing the basic options along the way – the only places where you really need to pay attention are where the software prompts to set the source and destination disks.  If you’re not careful you could end up imaging the wrong drive and/or overwriting either your original Mac drive or the system drive on the PC you’re running the tool from, so definitely be careful and choose wisely.  A mistake here could ruin your day.
The only gotcha I experienced while running the software was an issue imaging the HFS+ system partition for Mac OS X to the new drive.  It seems the last shutdown I performed on the MacBook Pro wasn’t a clean shutdown, and when that happens the drive requires a check to ensure integrity of the data. Fortunately Clonezilla supports running this check as part of the cloning process (the process is called fsck, which is similar to a chkdisk for DOS folks), and even though, during my first pass through Clonezilla copied 3 out of four of the partitions on this disk, I was able to re-run the process using the option to clone a local partition to another disk/partition feature.  I simply selected the proper partition (in my case it was sdc2 to sdb2) and, instead of choosing the default not to run fsck to scan the drive/partition, I had to choose to have it run fsck prior to the clone.  This resolved the problem, and in a little less than 2 hours, I had fully imaged the original drive onto the SSD.
With that out of the way, I mounted the new SSD in the old hard drive bay and connected everything up.  I left the screws out of the laptop bottom cover just in case, flipped it over and started it up (fully expecting the system wouldn’t boot).  Much to my surprise, it came right up from where I left it last time I used it, and did so astonishingly fast.  I even booted into Windows 8 with absolutely no issues, and no tweaks required.
To sum it all up – if you have an extra PC lying around and can boot off a USB flash drive or CD-R, while connecting both the old and new drives to it, this approach is the fastest, and fairly easy way to get your system back up and running on a new SSD (or even HDD if you still can’t swallow the premium SSDs draw from your wallet).
And on a final note, if you’re upgrading to a new SSD drive from a hard disk drive, and the new SSD is NOT an Apple SSD (by default TRIM support is only enabled on Mac systems with Apple SSDs installed), you’ll want to enable TRIM support in Mac OS X (as far as I know this done automatically in Windows 7/8 but I could be wrong).   TRIM support helps to keep your new solid state drive clean and running optimally (otherwise you may face an early demise of your new SSD and will suffer performance penalties that increase over time as the mechanism used to track and recover empty sectors from the drive differs for SSDs).  I followed the instructions in the following link to get SSD TRIM support setup in Mac OS X.  Beware, these process requires you execute terminal commands, and means modifying data in modules used by the system to access your drives.  One misstep here could spell disaster for your Mac OS X installation.
- You can also try TRIM Enabler, which was recently updated for OS X Lion.
The following article provides some pretty in depth information on which MacBook Pros support what level of SATA (mine only supports SATA-II which is 3.0gbps, yours may be newer and support the SATA-III interface which tops out at 6.0gbps).  The article also links to Youtube videos by OWC showing you the step by step process of removing and replacing the drive.
Hope this information helps save you a couple hours of your life.
–Ryan

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