October 30, 2017

Juicing Up the iMac With an SSD

Product Category: OWC SSD Upgrade Kits for 27-Inch iMac 2011
Product: OWC DIY Kit for 2011 iMac's factory HDD: 1.0TB... at MacSales.com

I work on an old iMac (27 inch, mid 2011). Few years ago, I upgraded the memory to 16 gigs. It is a great machine and has been chugging along without any problems. I love the big screen. It is probably the best Mac I have used. I am aware of the age of the machine and have been a little anxious, expecting something to fail soon enough.

It did. DiskWarrior 5 started giving me a warning. The gist of the message was that the hard drive was running hot and I should be careful. I started looking for a replacement drive for the machine. Internal hard drives are cheap nowadays and I was starting the initial research when Chris, my co-host of the blog, entered the conversation with a terse, "Get an SSD."

Chris is a mild, soft-spoken, gentle soul who manages to see both sides of every argument. Bugs me no end. This was a lot more emphatic than I have seen Chris in a while. I pointed out to him that the two options were not price competitive, I could get a lot more drive for a lot less money. He was oblivious to all arguments. "Get an SSD." He proclaimed again. He is a new father. I reasoned that the child must be keeping him awake and sleep deprivation might be the underlying cause behind his taciturn response. I picked up the phone and called him. Before I could get too many words out, he growled, "Get an SSD. Goodbye." He hung up.

Must be sleep deprivation on a massive scale, I thought. But I listened to him and started researching my options on an internal SSD. I don't know much about the technology. But I had heard good things about Other World Computing. So, I looked at their offerings. I was surprised at the ease of navigating to what I was looking for. They had an offering specifically designed for my machine and they had videos to show me how to get the drive swap done. The reviews were good and I couldn't find any user comments which were severely critical.

I got a 1TB SSD with their installation kit and it cost me about $400.

The package arrived and Chris showed up as requested. He is more efficient with hardware than I am. The package had a couple of suction cups, a couple of screwdrivers, and a bracket for the SSD. He took the front screen of the iMac out and then unscrewed a bunch of screws. The magnets in the iMac made this a delicate task, but everything went smoothly. Chris is a lot more patient than I am. He removed the actual display and then unhooked the hard drive and put in the new SSD and the additional bracket into the space that held the hard drive. He connected the thingies which needed to be connected and the job was done. My iMac looked the same, but it had a brand spanking new SSD as its main drive now.

I rebooted off an external system drive (Thank you, SuperDuper!), and proceeded to install High Sierra on the internal drive. I migrated stuff from the external drive and the whole process took about six hours. Most of the time was spent on the migration. I had about 500 gigs of stuff to move and the bootable external hard drive was on an USB 2 connection.

The Experience

On the iMac, restarting was a pain. I have a bunch of programs which launch automatically on restart and the process used to take a long time. Nearly ten minutes. That meant any required restart usually was accompanied by a trip to the coffee machine for a refill. Frankly, I hated restarting. When application installs made me go through a restart, I was always quite unhappy at the intrusion.

It restarts now in about 30 seconds. The first time I was aware of it, I was looking at the screen waiting for it to finish, before I realized that it was ready to go. The indicator is always Alfred. I have a ton of snippets which are in Alfred and it takes the longest to launch. I knew I was ready when the butler icon of Alfred showed up in the menu-bar. It is now practically instantaneous. You have no idea how much pleasure that gives me.

List of things that launch automatically on restart:

  1. 1Password.
  2. Cardhop.
  3. Box.
  4. Dropbox.
  5. Little Snitch 4.
  6. Short Menu.
  7. f.lux.
  8. VPN Unlimited.
  9. Tomates Time Management.
  10. Noizio.
  11. Keyboard Maestro.
  12. Hazel.
  13. Alfred.
  14. DEVONthink Sorter.

Launching apps is instant. I issue a keyboard command, through Alfred, and the app is ready to go. Some apps required more time before and those are the ones which are the most improved. Sublime Text was always quick, but BBEdit 12 was not. It is now. Ulysses? Instant. OmniOutliner? Instant. Curio? Instant. You get the idea.

Most of the new machines from Apple come with SSDs or Fusion Drives. They are fast. Older iMacs have regular hard drives. If your machine is something you want to keep and are willing to spend some money to upgrade the machine, the SSD is a great upgrade. It will feel like a new machine.

I don't do things which are processor intensive. I write. I read. I browse the web. I watch the occasional YouTube video. I write a lot. These are not processor intensive tasks. I don't need a new machine. In fact, I would be happy to get three more years of use out of this one. I am hoping that the SSD is going to make that possible.

If you are looking for an SSD upgrade check out the MacSales folks. I am happy with the kit they sold me. The videos made the scary task of opening up the iMac seem easy and it lived up to the demo. This was a great upgrade experience.

Recommended heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Hardware iMac SSD

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