Q&A: Installing an SSD in a MacBook

I've installed many SSD drives in MacBooks.  Here are some answers to about the best approaches for a MacBook SSD upgrade:

Q: Should I bother to install an SSD, or just get a new MacBook?

New Macs can be mighty expensive, so I suggest you look into an SSD upgrade if you have a traditional hard drive.

I have found that replacing a hard drive with an SSD results in a substantial increase in performance.  I guesstimate that a MacBook with an SSD "feels" more than three times faster then a MacBook without an SSD.

Q: Which SSD drive do you buy or recommend for a MacBook?

I think that most any good laptop SSD will do.

These days, I have been buying SSD drives that are about 250 GB, as they are often well under $70.  In particular, I have installed these SSDs with great success:
When shopping around, look for bargains.  I found a special deal and bought this great SanDisk 1 TB SSD for about $165. I'm using that SSD right now!

Q: What tools do you use to remove/install an SSD drive in a MacBook?
I feel that one needs to use the right tools or not do it at all.  And so when dealing with any laptop, that means using the correct philips and torx head drivers.

If I were starting from scratch I might get a driver set like this $12 kit.

You might find this hard to believe, but screw drivers do wear out.  It is dumb to damage a screw head with a worn driver, as such an occurrence can turn an easy project into an expensive and time-consuming nightmare.  Use good screw drivers, and retire worn drivers to less-critical duties such as "nail punch" or "lever".

I also use an ice cube tray to organize any screws I removed, so that I can always put them back in their home. 

Q: What tools do you use to transfer data from old drive to new?

When dealing with laptop drives, I use a small USB to SATA adapter cable that I keep in my tool box.  I currently use a USB 2.0-based adapter, but these days I would definitely get a faster USB 3.0 device like this Startech USB 3.0 to SATA Adapter.  Under $12 is amazing for a tool that can be used for years.

When dealing 3.5 inch desktop drives, like those found in an old iMac or Mac Pro, I use a USB to SATA drive dock.   A dock is heftier and uses an external power supply to power those big drives.  A dock like this Sabrent USB 3.0 to SATA External Hard Drive Docking Station looks good to me.  Oh, and note that these docks can also accept 2.5 inch laptop drives.  Nice!

Each of these devices should last at least a decade, so having one or both in my toolbox is a great investment.

Q: What other software do you use to migrate data?

I exclusively use the "free" built-in tools: Disk Utility, Migration Assistant, and Time Machine.  Other people swear by CCC and Super Duper.  Those are great tools, but I find that built-in tools do the trick for me.

Q: What about TRIM support?

TRIM is an SSD firmware feature that helps keep SSDs fast.  Unlike traditional hard drives, SSD storage locations must be cleared before they are reused.  TRIM helps speed this process considerably.  Some people think that TRIM is bad, and historically it was problematic.  But quality, modern SSDs have reliable TRIM support.

TRIM is off by default, and is not required.  Mac OS X v 10.11 and 10.12 (El Capitan and Sierra) will use TRIM if you enable it.  To enable TRIM, this command must be entered into the Terminal:

sudo trimforce enable

Not running El Capitan or Sierra?   They're a free upgrade for all modern Macs. I recommend the latest operating system for most Mac users.

Afraid of TRIM?  No problem.  I haven't enabled TRIM on all the Mac's I manage, but the SSDs still seem to be running very fast.

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