I really wanted a new MacBook Pro. Mine was just getting old and sluggish. At 3.5 years old, I guess it’s time, but it’s in near perfect condition. I think the old Aluminum MBPs look better than the new Unibody ones with black keyboards anyway. I love the Expresscard slot, so if I bought a new laptop, it would need to be the 17″ model, which starts at $2299. Nope. Not in this economy. But this laptop was going so slow that it was costing me money. I’ll always spend money on increasing productivity or efficiency.
When I say sluggish, this is what I’m talking about – 2 minutes and 40 seconds to boot up. I have it set so things like Mail and Skype start up on boot, so I could make the laptop faster if I turned off those things, but I would be starting them up a few minutes later, so there’s no point. 2:40. That’s an average of 7 boots with the 2 highest deviators thrown out. Yeah statistics!
So what about defragging? That’s a cheap upgrade. Well, it didn’t do much. Just to be clear, this is how I setup all the tests:
– Set the computer for auto login. I don’t do this normally and neither should you. You should need a password to start your computer, and you should set a screen saver password too.
– Launch all these apps at startup – Skype, iCal, iChat, Things, Mail (these apps startup in the background – Growl, ClamX, iTunes Helper, Dropbox)
– Wait until all the apps have blue markers below them in the dock. It’s hard to know when an app has “launched”. This is an easy way to tell for the stopwatch.
After defragging, which took 2 nights to fully complete:
1:08 to boot and get to the desktop
2:27 to boot and launch all the apps
So from 2:40 to 2:27 after defragging. Not much of an improvement at all. In day to day use, the computer seemed just marginally quicker than it was before.
In this setup, I would make the 80GB SSD my boot drive, remove the optical drive and place my 320GB spinning hard drive in the optical bay (with the DualDrive adapter) and run it as a second hard drive. I would lose the optical drive, but it hasn’t worked consistently in years, so I didn’t use it much. The OS and apps would go on the SSD and all my media like music and photos would go on the 320GB spinning hard drive.
After installation, this is what I got:
18.8 seconds to boot and get to the desktop
25.4 seconds to boot and launch all the apps (that’s 5.8 times faster!)
A brand new laptop with a spinning boot drive wouldn’t be this fast. So my 3.5 year old laptop is faster (in this respect) than a brand new one. Even a Mac Pro isn’t this fast. Awesome!
After using this setup for a few weeks, I’ve come to the following conclusions:
– So awesome! My computer can now keep up with me. It feels natural now. The old adage has been, if you can’t afford a new computer, load it up with RAM instead to make it feel like a new computer. Well, I’d like to add SSD to this too.
– I’ve become a huge fan of using Spotlight as a launcher. It only takes a second or 2 to launch an app by typing in the first few letters of the name (Press Command-Space Bar to open Spotlight and start typing). When I do this on other computers, even Mac Pros, it takes a few seconds longer and just feels slow.
– (Almost) every app launches faster. After Effects CS5 takes about 10 seconds. Final Cut will launch slightly faster, but it won’t open a project faster as I observed in the Mac Pro SSD article on the Current Recommendations page.
– Searching in Mail is almost instantaneous. I have to be careful though as this takes up a large part of my SSD (currently 4GB) and could get out of control fairly quickly if I don’t keep an eye on it.
– My battery life has gotten a nice boost. I almost never use the spinning hard drive in normal use. I haven’t measured it, but I would say around a 50% increase. That’s a nice surprise considering battery life on this generation MBP is a joke (I’m averaging a new battery every year).
– I don’t miss the optical drive. After releasing the MacBook Air with no built-in optical drive, Apple turned on a feature called “CD/DVD Sharing”. I can put a disc in any Mac near me and access it from my laptop. I also have an external USB DVD/Blu-Ray burner if I need it.
– If and when I upgrade to a new laptop, I’m going with an SSD. I could never go back. For me now, the only reason to upgrade to a new laptop would be screen brightness (the Unibody MBPs are so much brighter than the Aluminum ones there’s just no comparison) and battery life (2 hours vs like 8). The SSD has really extended the usable life of my Core 2 Duo beyond what I thought was possible. It truly feels like I got a new computer for only $235.
Installation How-To to be posted shortly…