Self-Installed SSD Fusion Drive

My mid–2010 MacBook Pro was starting to show its age, so I followed the geek trend and put in a Samsung 840 PRO 256 GB SSD about three weeks ago. I installed it in the optical drive bay and created a Fusion drive (DIY instructions here, or here) in tandem with my conventional hard drive.

The Good

It’s fast. Really fast. System responsiveness is improved, and app launch times are vastly improved. A cold boot takes about 20 seconds to the password entry screen, and restoring previous session windows only takes about another 15 seconds. Wake from sleep is basically instantaneous; it takes me longer to type in my password than the combined time for wake and post-login tasks takes the computer to process. The most sluggish app I use on a regular basis, iTunes, used to take several seconds to start up and even longer to become responsive, now it’s about two seconds from launch to use.

The Bad

It runs hotter now. I almost never heard or felt the fans before the install, unless I was doing something particularly CPU intensive. Now, the fans spin up to just under 2000 rpm soon after boot, and the left side of the computer in particular gets slightly warm. It’s not really hot, just hotter than before the upgrade when it used to run very cool. I’ve tried some fixes, but from Googling around it seems that the normal state of most post-purchase dual-drive upgrades is to run a bit hotter than before.

Most of the time, sleep only takes a couple of seconds, but now occasionally takes 20 seconds or longer. I suspect that the system is duplicating or shuttling information to the hard disk from the SSD as a hedge against losing data, but I don’t have the technical skills to run tests to see for sure.

In all, the improvement in performance for most tasks makes up for these small downsides. It’s totally worth the investment of time and money if you’re running an older Mac that you’d like to get a bit more life out of. I tend to use my computers for about 5 years between upgrades, and after this upgrade the MacBook feels snappy enough that I won’t feel particularly deprived for the next year or two.