Not everybody in my family is a geek. My brother, for example, uses computers all day long in his work (he is a draftsman/designer for an engineering firm) but has little time to acquire knowledge beyond that he needs to do his job. His avocations are exercise and farming.
It wasn’t a big surprise when he came over Christmas day dragging along his son’s 2 year old MacBook Pro. Seems it had been stuttering along, reluctant to do much of anything. A quick survey with Diskwarrior got to the root of the problem: the drive was failing, unable to reliably read what it had just written to the disk. Modern hard drives are built to deal with thousands of bad read/writes per hour; it’s a known problem and things are corrected “on the fly.” But eventually things wear out and then that fragile house of cards known as the hard drive collapses.
After many frustrating attempts to retrieve the information off the disk, I finally gave up and went in search of a replacement drive. I had a number of older drives of the right size factor, but I had heard that Seagate had been building a new type of drive, mixing a high-rotation speed conventional hard drive with a small solid state drive (SSD).
Now, for those of you who don’t keep up on such things, an SSD is like one of those memory sticks you use to store files on, but can generally hold more information, are much, much faster. There are no moving parts so mechanical failure is not a problem, , and thus should be more reliable and use less energy. The problem is that these things are spendy – you will pay at least US$1.00 per Gigabyte, and the prices go up steeply from there. I had installed a couple of these in my wife and college-bound daughter’s laptops as they did not wish to give up the trusty, reliable machines that had began to show their age. The speed improvement was phenomenal, and they appreciated not having to plug in their machines as often.
I couldn’t justify dropping that much money into a high school kid’s machine. The idea of using a small amount of SSD storage for frequently accessed information and leaving the rest of the information on a larger conventional drive intrigued me, so I ordered Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB from Tiger Direct (who had them on sale for US$139).
Installation into the MacBook Pro was simple – it looks like a conventional 2.5″ hard drive – and the formatting, partitioning, and software installation went off smoothly. The speed increase was fabulous – no more “spinning rainbows of death” (the Mac version of the Windows hourglass, indicating the system is swapping information between conventional RAM and the hard drive), much shorter boot times, and application launching became lightning fast. A relatively inexpensive upgrade that dramatically improved performance in a 2 year old machine.
Nice performance upgrade at a decent price. Recommended.