Speed up your older Mac by installing OS X on an external SSD

“It’s been quiet on the This Old iMac front lately, because I don’t have much more I can do with the tools at my disposal,” Anthony Karcz writes for Forbes. “I’ve sped up Photos and gotten rid of a lot of the dead weight that was weighing down my hard drive. And my 2011 iMac is better! But it’s still not performing like a 2015 iMac.”

“I could get more RAM, but I don’t know that it will give me the performance leap I’m looking for,” Karcz writes. “I could carve more space out of the hard drive; but then I’m just moving deck chairs. No, what I really need to do is install OS X on an SSD.”

“There’s a reason that my 2010 Mac Air is zippier than my 2011 iMac, and it all comes down to hard drive,” Karcz writes. “Solid state drives are exponentially faster than standard hard drives. My Air has one for its operating system, my iMac does not.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote back in April 2012:

On the rare occasion that we use a non-SSD Mac, the experience is jarring, as we’ve become used to the speed of the SSDs in our MacBook Airs and iMacs. It’s a huge difference. Once you go SSD, you won’t go back.

MacDailyNews Note: Today is Good Friday. As such, the U.S. financial markets are closed for the day and posting will be less frequent today.

23 Comments

  1. I upgraded my 2007 MBP to SSD about 60 days ago, the change is unbelievable. It’s faster than most new laptops, its definitely faster than any HDD. I now have plans of upgrading my 2007 iMac with an SSD.

    1. And just think, the SSD is probably running at 1/2 or 1/4 of the speed that it could be. Your system likely has a SATA 1 interface, which tops out at a theoretical 1.5 Gbps, likely giving you ~150MB/s on an SSD. You’re potentially doubling your speed as it’s not uncommon for 2.5″ HDDs to get ~80MB/s but you’re also getting the super low latencies that the SSDs offer.

      My 2009 MBP that has SATA 2 tops out at around 230MB/s and my 2012 Mac Pro maxes out the SATA 3 Samsung 850 Pro at the rated 550MB/s. You’re also at roughly 1/10 the speed of what Apple’s PCIe SSDs run at, which can get 1200MB/s and upwards on the newer systems. 😀

    2. I’m planning to upgrade my old 2007 iMac next week. My wife is using it nowadays with her iPhone 6, takes tons of photos and videos from different presentations and then writes reports of them. The question is which 500GB SSD should I get?

      Next will be my summer vacation laptop (mid 2011 MBP), used only when I’m out of the country.

  2. Unbelievable.

    To get to the Forbes website you have to disable adblocking software. I did that but Ghostery still analyses what’s going on: 37 TRACKERS!!!

  3. I have a 2011 iMac. I replaced the internal hard drive with an SSD and it is amazing how much faster it is. From power on to desktop in 10 seconds. I also replaced the wifi and bluetooth cards with 802.11ac and bluetooth 4.

  4. SSD drives are certainly [significantly] faster than spinning hard drives because of the technology/mechanism itself (SSD drive is no longer based on disk(s)), and having software installed on a SSD drive will speed up your computer most of the times.

    Here’s your big problem…, thinking your computer is slow because it is old, whatever your definition for old is, 3yr, 5yr, 10yr.

    Your computer is slow because of all the [software] crap that’s running on it AT THE SAME TIME, most of which you don’t’ even know it’s running on it; exiting/quitting programs you aren’t using will help your computer speed up.

    Your computer is slow because it hasn’t got enough memory (RAM) for the [memory hug] application(s) you are running on it; installing extra RAM will help your computer speed up.

    Your computer is slow because its spinning hard drive is so fragmented that it takes your computer years to find anything in it; defragmenting your hard drive once every 3 or 6 months will help your computer speed up.

    Assuming your computer is NOT infested/infected with malware that keeps abusing your CPU or your Internet access (if you have it), those above are the three major reasons why your computer is slow.

    1. At the end of the article…. “A reboot takes about two minutes when booting from the original hard drive.”

      If booting takes that long then that’s an ANOMALY not a “computer is slow” or hard disk drive speed problem.

      Here’s one instance of what I was talking about above, though not malware, it is very close to it.

      There was a time when I noticed my Mid 2009 13″ MacBook (7yr old) started taking too LONG to boot (more time than reasonable) to just show me the login screen, like around 1 minute or more. Why? It shouldn’t take that long; that to me was abnormal, so there must be something going on, not necessarily that the computer became slow out of the blue. So, after I login (which would take again a little while) I went to look at the Console (among other things it shows you what the computer did/does after you booted it).

      Guess what? A fricking stupid Google Chrome update program interjecting (hijacking?) during the boot process which would take around 1 to 1.5 minutes to complete. After uninstalling that crap (which in itself was another nightmare) obviously computer started booting and logging in, like it normally did, in less than 30 seconds.

      Turns out I once had the need (great idea?) of installing Google Chrome for some reason but never thought it would so adamantly run their annoying update program during boot time; disgusting guys.

      By the way, if I happened to start the computer without access to the Internet, it would boot/login in less time but never paid closer attention, until I did. That update program would just do nothing seeing there was no Internet access.

    2. Because of virtual memory, filling your hard drive to capacity will cause the entire machine to slow down. Computers get slow because people fill up their computers with junk and forget to empty their trash.

      I have 16-20 apps running at the same time on average, and I never get issues with slowdowns.

    1. I know, ditto for me on my old MACS. Must make Apple wepp seeing people not replace their Macs, just buy SSD’s and feel like it’s a brand new machine.

      I was surprised too installing El Capitan on my 2007 Mac Pro (using a special boot.efi file so it can run all 64-bit)) runs a little faster than Lion does.

  5. Just did that on my Mac mini. Loaded OS X on a 480gb ssd. Using migration to move the current drive info into the new drive. Currently running using the external drive setup. Works faster via usb than the internal drive. Will move the ssd drive into the mini this weekend. It should work better and had saved me from buying a new mini.

  6. Does the article even mention to ensure you have Thunderbolt or USB 3 if you are looking for a speed increase? I couldn’t read the entire think with all the ad crap.

    The article is about speeding up and older Mac with an external SSD. It’s certainly worth noting.

    An SSD on USB 2 is substantially slower than an internal SATA mechanical drive.

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