MacBooks forum

General discussion

SSD with macbook pro ?

by AM_SOS / November 8, 2010 12:35 PM PST

hi all,
i need some buying advice. i have just started my phd and am looking for a portable laptop. my requirements are pretty basic - lots of word processing, music, movies, and of course internet. maybe some photo editing.

now first, i am a little mixed up if i should go for the macbook pro (basic 13 inch) or the newly launched macbook air (13 inch basic).
pro is more powerful and cheaper than air. but then air is lighter and also has the faster flash memory!

on the other hand, i am tempted to go for an SSD option with the pro. the price goes up of course by 315 $ or so. but in a way then the system could last me for a very long time given that the new polymer batteries last 3 times than normal ones. and its really the batteries/HDD that get worn out first.

on the other hand i am a little wary of SSD technology. it seems that the old HDD's are not that bad, and have some advantages over the SSD's. an internet search reveals that the 1st generation SSD's had a lot of problems.
so does apple now use 1st generation ones or newer ones ?

moreover, is the SSD option more reliable or the flash drive one (with air) ?

basically am ready to invest a big amount provided i am assured that the system will last me for a long time to come.

any feedback welcome,

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It depends
by Jimmy Greystone / November 8, 2010 10:36 PM PST
In reply to: SSD with macbook pro ?

It depends. Each has its own set of drawbacks. Platter based drives are cheaper and store more data, but they're very much subject to things like any little movement of the laptop. SSDs are more expensive, wear out faster (flash cells can only be written to X number of times), they haven't reached their true performance potential yet, but they use less energy, and aren't as sensitive to movement as platter based drives.

So, on the Air v MBP decision, just figure out whether or not you want more power or portability. Also note that the Air doesn't come with an optical drive, so it can get tricky reinstalling the OS without a second Mac around. If you go MBP, then you need to decide if it's worth the extra $300 for a SSD. I can't really say that it'd be worth it for you given what you describe, but that's my opinion.

If you do decide to go with the SSD or the Air, then I would strongly recommend the AppleCare plan. That way, if the SSD dies on you, Apple will swap it out. You don't have to buy that at the time of purchase, you can buy it any time before the initial one year warranty is up. But given the cost of SSDs, AppleCare would pay for itself if you ever had to have it replaced even once.

One other thing... The display on the new Air's seems to be the exact same display they've been using on all previous Air models, because I've had an order in for 7 Air displays to repair some at work, for going on like two weeks now. So that says there's some kind of major shortage of these parts, and it just happens to come about the same time Apple launches a new Air model. So while there's nothing wrong with the Air display, it just doesn't compare to the LED backlit displays in the MacBook and MBP. The color vibrancy and overall clarity is noticeably better.

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flash vs. HDD
by AM_SOS / November 8, 2010 11:42 PM PST
In reply to: It depends

Thanks for the detailed reply Jimmy!

Hey I all along I was under the impression that flash drives are ?invincible?. I mean I have USB pen drives lasting me for years now.
I basically assumed that the main mechanism of wear and tear is the presence of moving parts. which is why it sounds counter-intuitive to hear that regular HDD last longer.

So I was under the impression that what you say about flash drives (finite number of read/write ops) would apply more to the normal HDD's !

So given the same usage (say like mine) which one should last more? An SSD, the flash memory (in the Air), or the good old HDD (say in MB Pro) ?

As you have guessed I will use my comp for lots of reading/writing, internet, music and movies.
Also I am generally careful and don't usually save/delete large bulks of data to the HDD (such as movies). Perhaps this is why my Toshiba A200 HDD has become slower now and looks far from dying out. And its been 3.5 years now!

So you have me sort of converted now. I am mainly interested in the air because I thought that its non mechanical flash memory would last much longer as compared to the MBP HDD.

Can you say something about the mechanism of wear and tear? e.g. although I generally don't save/delete large chunks of data, I do leave my comp open for hours at stretch (all that typing work!). I've used my Toshiba like this, and so is this why the HDD is still is good shape?


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by Jimmy Greystone / November 9, 2010 10:28 AM PST
In reply to: flash vs. HDD

Actually, while I'm sure it's not infinite, you can magnetize and demagnetize a metal platter so many times it may as well be infinite. What usually ends up happening is the bearings in the motor give out, or the motor just dies. In theory, you could transfer the platters to another motor and go right on using them.

And no, there's really no particular rhyme or reason as to why some drives seem to be immortal and others die in like 6 months. It's just the wonders of modern manufacturing.

The Air is great because it's thin, light, and quiet. But it's in no way, shape, or form, a powerful computer. It's fine for everything with the possible exception of movies. That might be a touch iffy on an Air. HD content may very likely be out of the question. It is a Core 2 Duo CPU in there, not an Atom, but you'd probably be pushing it. And with no DVD drive, that could present a problem as well.

I should also correct myself from earlier. Had yet another Air come across my workbench today. Fortunately this one just has a logic board with a smoking electrical short, not a display failure. Nothing like the smell of burning solder to wake you up. But I did notice the box said the display is LED backlit, so my mistake earlier. Usually I'm not paying close attention to that sort of thing, because I'm too busy removing or replacing the display.

Also, flash drives these days have logic built into the control chip so it spreads out the write cycles as much as possible to improve the longevity of the cells. They SHOULD last about as long as your average HDD... So figure 2-3 years. But right now, unless you have some actual NEED for the SSD, they aren't a very compelling price:performance & capacity ratio. In another 3-5 years, that may be a very different story, but that's probably at least one computer upgrade out for most people. So next time you're looking to get a system, SSDs will likely be a much more attractive and easy choice. Right now, they're still a bit expensive for what you get IMO.

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what effects the platter HDD life ?
by AM_SOS / November 9, 2010 2:35 PM PST
In reply to: Actually

Thats really helpful. I was sort of taken in the by all that publicity that made me think too highly of flash/SSD technology.

So correct me if I am wrong but you are basically saying that as of now there is no appreciable difference in the longevity of SSD/flash and platter HDD's. One can expect them to last up to 3 years.

Can you clarify for me what really matters when it comes to HDD wear and tear?
I am wondering how I can maximise the life of the platter HDD that will be supplied with the MBP I will probably buy.
One thing I know for sure is that one should avoid saving/deleting bulky data such as movies.

But in what other ways lead to faster wear and tear? I mean if I leave my laptop on for several hours how negatively does this tell on the life of the platter HDD?
Or maybe this is related to the number of cold boots that the user carries out. Will it matter if instead of leaving the computer on for several hours at a stretch I shut it and reboot it several times?


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Generally speaking
by Jimmy Greystone / November 9, 2010 8:48 PM PST

Generally speaking, yes. SSDs are not (yet) really any better than platter based drives. Some day that will change, but it's not today.

And the main thing to do to increase the life of a platter based drive in a laptop is make sure the laptop is ALWAYS stationary when in use. You want to pick it up and move to another room, put it to sleep first or shut it off. The read/write arms are less than the thickness of an average human hair from the surface of the drive, so sudden movements can be very bad.

Outside of that, there's really nothing more to do. The mean time to failure on platter drives is pretty high, but you still will never know if you get one that will die prematurely or one that will seemingly last forever. That's what your warranty is for. And in the case of a platter based drive, it's a pretty inexpensive thing to fix yourself if it goes out past your warranty period. You just need a PH00 screwdriver. You won't find those at your local hardware store, but plenty of electronics stores carry them.

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by AM_SOS / November 10, 2010 5:27 AM PST
In reply to: Generally speaking

hey JImmy!
thanks for your very engaged replies. you've just helped me narrow my choice and i think i won't go wrong with the MBP !

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Buy the SSD later if you want it
by onemoremile / November 12, 2010 11:48 PM PST
In reply to: :o)

If you pick the MacBook Pro, there is another option. You can choose the HDD now and add AppleCare for three years. When the AppleCare warranty has expired, SSDs should have improved to the point that they will be reliable and will maintain their speed advantage over time without the erosion in speed that currently seems to afflict them. At that point, if you still like your MacBook Pro, you can swap out your hard drive for an SSD and revitalize your three year-old Mac. I recently replaced the original hard drive on my daughter's three year-old MacBook with a higher capacity HDD and she is thrilled with her revitalized machine. By the time you do the swap, SSD prices will probably have dropped considerably, too.

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depends on the state of the laptop!
by AM_SOS / November 13, 2010 11:21 PM PST

oh yeah ! now why didnt i think of that before.
this seems to be sound idea.
only one problem - the rest of hte laptop should be in good shape!
keyboard, screen hinges etc. i remember several friends telling me that the old body used to get cracked and people would generally go for a warrantly claim right before it ended after the first year.

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replace HDD with SSD towards the end of warranty ?
by AM_SOS / November 21, 2010 5:31 AM PST

Hi onemoremile,
Although I am put off by the high prices, what you said is sort of stuck in my head.
Now, in line with your suggestion I am wondering if it would not be possible to use the HDD for a little less than 3 years and then replace it with an SSD?
Since I will have the 3 year apple care plan will it be possible to get apple to replace the HDD with the new SSD free of charge?
That way I can keep using the MBP for many more years, and also justify this initially high investment.
What say?

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No chance of that happening,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / November 21, 2010 7:23 AM PST

Apple will only replace items that were on the original machine, like for like.

If you plead that your HD is defunct in year 3, then they will replace it with an identical drive and NOT an SSD.

The warranty only covers the equipment that your originally purchased, and you did not purchase an SSD



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but the plan can still work ?
by AM_SOS / November 21, 2010 8:40 AM PST

i see.
but you dont think they'll agree even if i am willing to pay the extra amount for the SSD ?
second. even if i end up paying it will still be possible to make this transition ? i mean i am really looking at enhancing the life of the MBP by plonking on a new SSD for what should not be more than 150 $ 3 years down the line ...

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Don't bother
by Jimmy Greystone / November 21, 2010 10:08 AM PST

Don't bother, because Apple isn't going to discount their prices the whole 5 years that they support a system. After 3 years, if the drive craps out, you'd be paying the same then as you would today to get the same SSD that is now based on three year old tech. You'd be better off buying an after market drive at that point. That, and Apple isn't really going to be interested in doing that sort of thing. They are a very... Fussy... Company. There's no real particular rhyme or reason to a lot of the things they do that I've ever been able to work out. And there secretiveness can get a bit annoying. They won't even tell authorized service providers how many dead pixels qualify for a replacement, as an example. We have to take a screenshot of the display, email it to them, and then wait for them to get back to us.

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by onemoremile / November 21, 2010 8:33 AM PST

I was suggesting that you buy an SSD three years from now and install it yourself or have it installed. I recently upgraded my daughter's MacBook by replacing her HDD with a new, larger, HDD. You could do the same thing in the future, assuming that SSD prices come down.

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how complicated and reliable is the replacement ?
by AM_SOS / November 21, 2010 11:33 PM PST
In reply to: Replacement

thanks all!
ok that makes sense. i can always buy the SSD on my own.
but i would definitely not be able to install it on my own! you think this can be done at a local store ? or someone more specialised ?
also most likely the battery would have conked off by then. and i hope apple will not have a problem in replacing that ...
btw, how much dismantling is required to install the HDD / SSD ? is it something like replacing RAM ? as simple ? and done by removing only a few parts ?
i would be loathe to have the MBP opened up. sort of feel that its always a good idea to let the factory settings lie undisturbed. and i wouldn't even have warranty at that time..

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MBP with SSD
by luba6a2007 / November 22, 2010 1:41 AM PST

IMHO after 3 years you won't have that MPB any more-it will be outdated and on the market will be other laptops,our imagination can't describe. So-just have fun NOW with you MBP!!!

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Hard drives on that machine are user replaceable.
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / November 22, 2010 8:03 AM PST

If you can use a Philips screw driver, you can do it.

No dismantling required

But, as has been pointed out, you may be putting lipstick on a pig.


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Installation videos
by onemoremile / November 22, 2010 9:38 AM PST
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Hi Jimmy
by luba6a2007 / November 12, 2010 6:26 PM PST
In reply to: Generally speaking

you make my day!I also have that kind of worries,and now all is clear!I?ll wait for other generation SSD ,before jumping on to them

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A no wait alternative for the MP Pro option
by aabencomo / November 14, 2010 9:10 AM PST
In reply to: Hi Jimmy

Don't forget that Seagate has a 500gb hybrid drive - 7200 rpm platter and 4gb flash memory in one 2.5" drive. I've seen this drive as low as $109 on sale and regularly $125-130 on If you buy this drive, spend $15 or so for a usb enclosure (or 30 or so for usb+FW enclosure) and you'll have yourself a MB Pro that boots fast and loads SW really fast after the 4gb SSD style cache learns your habits. I don't have the urls at hand, but I recall reading reviews praising the drive; and you can read many user reviews on the product page at

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Oops forgot to mention
by aabencomo / November 14, 2010 9:13 AM PST

If you didn't get the implication, I meant to be more clear and say that the drive you replace will make a great backup drive and/or clone of the internal drive. I've replaced multiple MB and MBP drives, some for added space and some for speed (7200 vs 5400 rpm), and I always spend the few extra $ to have another external drive on hand.

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My unique solution
by Chrisspy / February 24, 2012 4:07 AM PST
In reply to: SSD with macbook pro ?

I recently had a similar choice to make and decided on a "hybrid" solution.

I purchased an early 2011 macbook PRO with its standard 320GB harddrive. I then purchased a 60GB solid state drive (for about $85) and replaced that with the original drive (note after speaking to Apple this did not void any warranty). This allowed for my macbook to startup (from complete power off) in under 10 seconds and all applications ran extremely fast however i faced issues with filling up the very small 60GB SSD.

With instructions from here, i was able to utilize both drivers giving me the best of both worlds: blazing fast SSD speed, with the storage capacity of a standard drive. I now keep my music, videos, and downloads on the HDD, and my operating system and sensitive files on my SSD.

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