Upgrade your hard drive
pgrading the storage in your Mac can boost its performance – and resale value! – by either giving it more space to store stuff, or by making the whole system faster.
Do you want to add storage externally – connected over USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt or another more specialised interconnect – or replace or augment the storage inside your Mac? While not impossible, getting inside the recent slim iMacs and the squat (post2010) Mac minis is daunting. If you’re nervous of damaging your device, then an external upgrade (or paying an Apple Authorised Service Provider) is safer.
Happily, most laptops, older iMacs and Mac minis, Mac Pros and older tower Macs are not difficult to get into. Replacing the hard disk is usually a case of disconnecting the old one and hooking up its replacement. Indeed, with some computers, such as the old Power Mac G5 and Mac Pro, you can not just replace the supplied drive, but add additional drives for super-easy expansion. That’s not just limited to those devices, though; if you have an older MacBook
UPro or iMac that came with an optical drive, you can remove that and add another hard disk in its place, giving you two storage pools inside your machine. (You can pair two drives together to create a dynamic Fusion Drive; they’ll then appear like one drive, and OS X will automatically shunt data around to give the best performance. That’s true if both drives are internal, or one is external; see MF259, page 18 for how to set this up.)
Your replacement drive needs to be the right physical size and have the right connection. Note down the name of your specific model from About This Mac in the Apple menu then check compatibility with the shop you’re buying from. Broadly, we can say that older computers use IDE (also called ATA and PATA) hard disks (3.5-inch for desktops, 2.5-inch for laptops), newer computer use SATA hard disks (ditto on size) and the newest use PCIe connectors for little strips of solid-state storage – but there are caveats and exceptions even with these broad definitions. I replaced the hard disk with an SSD in my 2008 MacBook Pro, then put the hard disk into an OptiBay in place of CD/DVD drive. It’s given me a massive improvement in speed and performance. Just follow instructions from iFixit! Make sure you have decent
Assuming you’re looking at upgrading the primary (or only) drive inside your Mac, we advise SSD over hard disk. They’re more expensive than hard disks of the same capacity, but the disparity is no longer painful, and the benefits are huge. Your Mac will be faster to start up, much more responsive in general use; an SSD helps alleviate bottlenecks on low-RAM systems, and they draw less power. It’s worth hooking up an external drive for big things like your iTunes library.
With external drives, you can pick between portable drives that draw their power from USB or Thunderbolt (which tend to cost more per gigabyte) or mains-powered desktop drives. Choose one with the fastest connection your Mac has (in descending order: Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, FireWire 800, USB 2.0, FireWire 400), and if you need very high performance or protection against failure, get a RAID drive that uses two or more drives at once.