Upgrading the hard drive on old Macbook Pro (and upgrading to Lion)

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My old 13″ Macbook Pro’s 250GB is at it’s limit. It’s full and slow, and it is running Snow Leopard. So it was time to change it all.

The old disk was a 250GB Hitachi HTS542525K9SA00 with a 5400RPM rotational speed, the new, a Seagate Momentus 750GB 7200RPM beast.

The Plan?

1. Get the new hard drive onto a usb case

2. Install Snow Leopard on it



3. Install Lion on the usb drive

4. Check if all the applications are ok

5. copy all the data from the old drive to the new one (*)

6. Install the new drive into the mack book

(*) why not use the migration tools? Simple. Sometimes we need a clean start, in order to make sure the new system is as untainted as possible.



The results:

This was the poor state of my old hard drive:

 

Blackmagic's DIskspeed test result: 25MB/s writes, 26MB/s reads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, the new hard drive, with Lion through the USB case:

The new hard drive, through the USB case, 27MB/s writes, 35 MB/reads.

 

And voila, even from a bottlenecked environment such as a USB case, the new drive starts to shine. It’s 10% faster on writes and 40% faster on reads. Although those are not valid for all work loads, it shows some improvement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, the new hard drive already inside the Macbook, and connected by the almighty SATA ports:

 

The Seagate Momentus 7200 connected to the Macbook through the SATA port: 103MB/s writes and 107MB/s

 

Now those are results to write home about: 4.5 fold increase on both writes and reads. This is a brand new life on this laptop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, the new drive with Filevault active:

The new hard drive with Filevault active: 100MB/s writes 106MB/s reads

 

 

Contrary to some other tests: on Blackmagic’s speed test, Filevault doesn’t impact as much on performance, at most a couple of percentage points, which is less than the uncertainty of the tool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In sum

After making sure that each computer has as much memory as possible, the next best upgrade is the hard drive. The hard drive, even for SSDs is the slowest component, and is frequently the most significantly bottleneck for almost all common work loads. In this specific case, the old drive as slow from the start, and after getting with little free space, got even slower, as the inner cylinders are far slower then the outer ones. When moving to a bigger, with more cache, faster hard drive, everything gets a fresh start: the raw performance is better, less cylinders are occupied, and maybe, even Lion gets it’s share of performance enhancement.

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