Up­grade your hard drive

Mac Format - - IMPROVE YOUR MAC -

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.

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