Last week, as a my graduation gift to myself, I bought the OWC Data Doubler and solid-state drive (SSD) that have been on my wish list for a year or two. I use my Mac so much less than when I bought it, since I’ve offloaded much of my computing to my iPad and now also my iPhone.
Thus, unless Apple deems it incompatible with an OS X upgrade in the next couple years, I’m hoping it will last a while longer. I have used each of my previous two Macs for five years before replacing. However, I want to keep it humming speedily, so with the memory maxed out at 8 GB, the natural next step is a solid-state drive.
This evening, I spent half an hour reviewing the instructions for each of the two avenues I could choose. One is to use the SSD as a second volume in my Mac, likely a holder of system files and applications, while leaving my data on the existing hard disk. Although this process might be the shorter of the two, it also seems more complicated. Plus, it leaved me with two volumes on my Mac.
When I upgraded to Mountain Lion last summer, I consolidated the three partitions I previously maintained (segregating Earthy, Media, and Storage) because at some time in the past I thought there was value in keeping my music on a separate volume. But I no longer remembered why, so it seemed time to simplify. As desired, I’ve chosen to exclude some folders from my Time Machine backup.
The second path to consider is a Fusion Drive. Apple introduced this feature to the 2012 model iMacs and enabled the possibility for all Mountain Lion-compatible Macs when it released 10.8.3 in March. Fusion enables the Mac to both treat multiple physical storage devices as a single volume (“Core Storage”) and automatically move files between them to balance space and performance (“automated storage tiering”). The performance boost of Fusion compared to a hard disk along comes from the use of an SSD for some of the data.
From my perspective, Fusion is the preferred choice because it maintains my simpler volume setup (just one). I’m okay with knowing that if one drive fails, all my data is lost, as I’ve had the same expectation with just one drive on board. I keep a regular Time Machine backup and will continue to do so.
There are several steps to this process. First, I need to verify that I have 10.8.3 on my flash drive. If I don’t, I’ll need to download it first, and that’ll take a while on my home Internet connection. Next, I need to quit all my apps and clone my disk to my external drive so I have an easy way to restore all my data, including what doesn’t get backed up by Time Machine. Then, I need to install the OWC Data Doubler and SSD I bought. Finally, I’ll make this a Fusion Drive together with my existing hard disk, install OS X, and restore my data.
In truth, I could install the hardware at any time, but as long as I’m not planning to use the SSD as a separate drive, I might as well just do it all in order. I also bought OWC’s SuperSlim enclosure for my SuperDrive that I’ll be removing when I install the DataDoubler.
The next question is when this upgrade is going to happen. It’s not going to be tonight. Maybe tomorrow or Wednesday. I feel confident about it being a midweek project without interrupting too much of my life, and I think I’ll actually need to be working more this weekend.
I’ll be documenting the process thoroughly and I look forward to sharing photos and reflections along the way. Stay tuned here and on Twitter!