Upgrade Your MacBook With A Dual HD/SSD Setup

SSD’s or Solid State Drives are a popular upgrade lately due to the very significant difference they can make to even an older Mac’s performance in real world use. Unfortunately, SSD’s are also still prohibitively expensive for those of us who wish to keep large quantities of media on an internal hard drive.

There are a few workarounds for this, but most rely on an external drive or cloud storage. Alternatively, the following guide will show you how to install an SSD and make use of a larger, standard hard drive in the SuperDrive bay. As far as non-standard upgrades go, it’s not too difficult, but is perhaps not best suited for complete novices and may well void your warranty.

Getting Started

The following guide should not be too difficult if you’re confident with opening up computers and competent with a screwdriver, but of course it’s always possible to do something nasty to your Mac while it’s opened, so proceed with caution and at your own risk!

You may be wondering why we bother moving the larger hard drive into the SuperDrive bay instead of simply placing an SSD in there. Well, this was indeed my original intention but it turns out that there’s a lot of people on the Internet that have found out that MacBook’s have issues waking from sleep when OS X is placed in the SuperDrive position. Thus, we move the hard drive.

If you’re going to be installing OS X Lion on your SSD and are thinking of doing a clean upgrade, you may wish to take a look at this guide on making your own OS X Lion boot disc to save time and space.

Choosing An SSD Size And Model

Crucial's SSD's are fast, reliable and competitively priced

Crucial's SSD's are fast, reliable and competitively priced

I scoured the Internet trying to find an inexpensive alternative to Crucial’s SSD but didn’t have much luck. Most of the good ones were almost the same price, with comparatively poor performance. Unless you happen across a good deal for one of the alternative brands like Kingston or OCZ, I’d recommend sticking with Crucial as they offer excellent service, quick shipping and an easy way of finding the right SSD for your needs.

I like to keep a very lean installation, so Crucial’s 64GB SSD was more than enough, but your results may vary.

SSD Enclosure

The Nimitz hard drive enclosure worked for me and many others

The Nimitz hard drive enclosure worked for me and many others

Unfortunately, it’s not simply a case of opening up your Mac and placing a hard drive in the SuperDrive’s empty bay, you’ll first need an enclosure to make it fit. If you wish to go the safest, best known and most reliable route, I recommend you purchase the MCE Optibay for $99.

I didn’t want to spend $99 on what basically amounts to a piece of rectangular shaped metal and a connector, so after extensive research, I settled on an enclosure sold on eBay by a China-based manufacturer/seller named ‘Nimitz’.

Now, to be clear: I’m not vouching this eBay seller in any way and don’t accept responsibility if something goes wrong – all I can offer is my own experience in the hope to save you some money. After paying $23 including postage, the enclosure was delivered from China within a week and worked perfectly.

Carbon Copy Cloner

I felt that I may as well make a fresh install of OS X for the SSD since it encourages a lean install by jettisoning unused applications but if you’d rather not install a fresh OS X system, then you could simply backup to Carbon Copy Cloner then restore your fresh SSD to that backup, no reinstalling applications, no fuss!

Read here for a guide on using Carbon Copy Cloner.

Opening Up Your Mac

The Mac I’m choosing to upgrade is a mid-2010 13″ Unibody MacBook Pro, but other models of Unibody MacBook should be very similar.

Make sure to power off your Mac and let it cool down if necessary, then remove each screw with a small screwdriver and be sure to keep them safe if you don’t want to spend over half an hour of your time searching the floor for that one missing screw, as I invariably do.

Next, touch some metal part of the MacBook’s casing to discharge any static electricity. Since this is a Unibody, we won’t need to remove the battery.

Remove The Existing Hard Drive

The hard drive is located in the bottom left corner of this photograph

The hard drive is located in the bottom left corner of this photograph

Removing the existing hard drive is a very simple procedure:

The hard drive is located in the bottom left corner of the above photo and should be quite distinctive to spot. To remove the HD, we merely need to remove the two screws holding it in, then slowly lift the plastic strip holding it in place.

An empty hard drive bay, all ready for a nice new SSD

An empty hard drive bay, all ready for a nice new SSD

Now, slowly remove the hard drive, making sure to disconnect the ribbon as you do so. This would be a good time to put your hard drive into your enclosure if it’s the one you’ve decided to use.

Installing Your SSD

Installing your SSD is equally simple, just place it in the now empty bay and plug it into the ribbon connector, before screwing in the housing again. Once this is done, take care to put your MacBook’s bottom lid on properly and tighten each screw slowly.

Now, if you’ve got a Carbon Copy Cloner backup to restore from then go do that (remember to format your SSD). Alternatively, insert your OS X disc and head to Disk Utility to format your SSD and proceed to install OS X as normal.

Putting A Hard Drive In The SuperDrive Bay

Okay, so now we should have a fully functioning and blazing fast OS X installation on the SSD. Assuming all is well, it’s time to put a standard HD into the SuperDrive bay. This step is more tricky so it would be worth working extra carefully.

Open your MacBook again, following the previous steps to ensure it’s cooled down and you discharge any static. Now locate the SuperDrive bay – on my Mac it was directly above where the SSD is now installed.

There is also a ribbon connector plugged into the SuperDrive so remove this now if it’s not too difficult, otherwise do so later. There are three screws which affix the SuperDrive to the Mac’s casing and these need to be removed. I’ve highlighted their approximate location in the screenshot below with yellow circles – the green circles are a couple of extra screws I also had to remove, but you may not need to, as reports I’ve read online seem to suggest it depends on your model of MacBook Pro.

The SuperDrive's screws are located roughly where the yellow circles are

The SuperDrive's screws are located roughly where the yellow circles are

The two screws to the left of the SuperDrive (highlighted in yellow) are in an awkward position so use a magnetic screwdriver in order to make sure you don’t lose them.

It took me a good few minutes of nudging to remove the SuperDrive as it’s a tight fit but you should not use too much force. If you’re having trouble getting the SuperDrive out, then make sure you haven’t left a screw in somewhere.

An empty SuperDrive bay awaiting the enclosure

An empty SuperDrive bay awaiting the enclosure

Now place your ‘normal’ hard drive in the enclosure you bought and it should slot neatly into the empty SuperDrive bay. Again, be prepared to spend a few minutes to get it snug and all the screw holes lined up, ensuring to plug in the hard drive to its ribbon connector.

Don’t worry if your ribbon connector comes off the motherboard, it does clip back on, I just didn’t advise you remove it because I’ve had bad experiences with such clasps on other computers

Once your SSD and HD are in place, it should look something like this

Once your SSD and HD are in place, it should look something like this

If both your SSD and HD are now nice and snug, put the bottom lid back on your MacBook, insert the screws and power on the Mac.

Conclusion

I’ve tested my MacBook Pro for a few days and have had no issues whatsoever, keeping all my media in the secondary hard drive, while OS X and all my applications reside on the SSD for an impressively quick Mac.

For some space saving tips, check out this guide which also details how to move your iTunes Library to another drive. In addition, if you’d like to make use of your SuperDrive, then it’s possible to purchase an enclosure to enable its use with USB – this is a very easy and inexpensive job.


  • sagi

    that can be possible for the last imac 27′?

  • Richard

    Has your temperature increased much? That’d be my main concern.

    • http://adamawilliams.com Adam Williams

      Not as far as I noticed.

    • Pandjarov

      The temperature should be lower since SSD data storages do not produce so much heat as regular hard disks.

  • Gregor

    I tought also of replacing my regular HDD with an SSD, but I have doubts since I saw, that a lot of people are having problems with non-Apple SSDs. I have a mid 2009 (5.3) Macbook Pro and was thinking of a SSD with at least 240GB and found some options. Does anybody have this model of MBP and has a working SSD setup? Any help appreciated.

    • http://lex.io Lex Rivera

      Yes, it will work. For enabling TRIM for non-apple SSD use TRIMEnabler.

    • andriy

      i have crucial ssd working with NO problem on my macbook pro early2011 waiting to replace super drive with a hard drive once i get my enclosure

  • Mef

    Is there any solution for putting SuperDrive into enclosure, so I can use it as external DVD drive?

    • http://lex.io Lex Rivera

      Yes, when purchasing optibay i also got superdrive enclosure. It’s shitty as hell but it works.

  • http://www.tide-forecast.com Yar Dmitriev

    I have the optibay (same as yours), but ended up not using it.

    Basically you have to accept that HDD will spin all the time that you use your laptop, which is a downgrade from the very silent pure-SSD system. Of course, you can configure it to sleep automatically, but every once in a while (and also on every laptop waking up event, definitely) it will loudly spin up, distracting you. And draining power.

    There are forum threads about finding and eliminating the processes that spin up the HDD. Their idea is that you open/wake up your laptop, press a hotkey to spin down the HDD and then it stays that way until you need it (and press another hotkey to spin it up).

    I took care of the Spotlight, Prey, iStat Menus. But still, there were some occasional spin-ups. And the process hunt took already too much time. And anyway, the initial spin-up sucked.

    I find it more comfortable now to use an external firewire HDD and connect it only when I need. At all other times, my laptop is silent and not vulnerable to movement.

  • http://lex.io Lex Rivera

    Well, i’m using 256 GB Crucial C300 SSD (placed on standard HDD tray) and 750 GB HDD in place of superdrive since Jan 2011. (mid-2010, core2duo 13′ macbook pro) Works perfectly. Since most of time i work at places where i have electricity i do not care about battery time.

    To authors: non-apple SSD does not support TRIM out-of-the-box. Please add link to TRIMEnabler app which allows patch system to support non-apple SSDs. This is very useful.

    • http://adamawilliams.com Adam Williams

      Ah I was under the impression that Mac OS X Lion supported TRIM and that it didn’t really matter with the newest Crucial SSD’s anymore.

  • haragog

    As I’ve done almost the same thing to the same machine (mid 2010 23″ MBP), with the exception I went with a more reliable Intel 80GB X25 (and a 1T HDD in the bay).

    For the superdrive I found this perl: MaxConnect Optical Bay kit for MacBooks & MacBook Pros Unibody Models (#SZ-MBUOPTEUSB01). Which was really hard to find, because it’s an enclosure near perfect imitation of the Apple standalone drive. I also bought the same optical bay part from china… (Watch out if you’re buying the correct one) Sorry don’t like to go Made In China route, but it’s too big a difference…

    Oh and the TRIMEnabler, it gets disabled every upgrade you make on OSX, and you shouldn’t use it if you’re on Lion (which I’m sure that if you’re buying a ssd you are) ‘cose it’s an old driver from 10.6.8 . So follow the advices here: http://digitaldj.net/2011/07/21/trim-enabler-for-lion/

  • Rob582

    Great article, I did this myself 3 months ago and have never looked back since. The speed of my MBP 15″ is supersonic compared to before.

  • http://tessathornton.com Tessa Thornton

    Was thinking about this, but decided to go with a memory upgrade instead (8GB) and I think it was the right choice. My MBP is way, way faster and I can run programs that would have set my lap on fire before. It’s a much more affordable option, I found my RAM for about $50 (incl shipping)

    • http://adamawilliams.com Adam Williams

      I did both but am now stuck on an older Mac with 4GB RAM for a little while and I really miss that extra 4GB!

  • Kevin

    My problem is that SSD are still expensive to get. By having a small storage 64GB to 120GB won’t work for me since all my designs require huge space.

  • http://pgdahl.dk Peter

    I upgraded both a Mac Mini (mid-2010) and a MacBook Pro (late-2011) with 128Gb SSDs from OCZ. A really worthwile upgrade and works flawlessly. I don’t know what TRIM is, though – should I worry about that?

    On a sidenote: While upgrading the MacBook Pro was a breeze, it was a real pain in the arse with the Mac mini. I happened to break one of the thermal sensors connected to the hard drive, and getting a replacement was not cheap…

    • DilbertAsended

      Yes, or you risk shortening the life of your drive.

  • http://twitter.com/designertuts designertuts

    Helpful art, just wanna share my experience with this upgrade.
    You are right about searching the web for this matter there are a few resources, and it all depend on your device & OS. So I made a quick decision and I did the upgrade.
    In my case I am on OSX leon 10.7 macbook pro 8,3 when I tried my first SSD upgrade I bought Plextor 128 GB, without even a single search in the web, I searched later and found out that it’s one of best SSD devices out there, sure it’s expensive but my advice is more the expensive SSD you buy the more you can get from it.
    I had a little problems at first to adjust the OS with the new SSD but soon apple update the MacBookProEFIUpdate2.2 and later 2.3, all my problems was gone away.
    An 128GB SSD with 8G ram is making a deference.

  • http://www.lifeintech.com Matthew Bull

    I have MBP with an SSD and OptiBay. I wrote a short article outlining my performance improvements –

    http://www.lifeintech.com/blog/2010/10/8/solid-state-drives-worth-it.html

    One thing to keep in mind is that OptiBay is known to cause issues with client virtualisation (VMware Fusion & Parallels), which I have experienced first hand. For more details check out my other article –

    http://www.lifeintech.com/blog/2011/8/7/vmware-fusion-performance-tips.html

  • http://jashsayani.com Jash Sayani

    Hmm… I think I’ll keep my SuperDrive. I just bought a 256gb SSD. That should hold all my data.

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  • Chris

    Seriously it might be better to swap which bay you place the SSD into. I went through two spinners running with a dual setup. The bay has no shock protection, and the software that will shut the HDD off doesn’t seem to be enabled for that SATA connector. I ran with a 1TB HDD in the regular HDD bay and stuck the SSD into the ‘bay. Why move the stock HDD around? That only results in more work.

    I’ve since gotten rid of my old Intel X25 due to massive slow downs, making the laptop slower than my current 1TB only spinner setup. However, that was before TRIM and everything came to OSX so if you can TRIM the SSD then I don’t think you will have a problem. I’ve hit my laptop 12+ times, pretty hard; as in the laptop is sitting on the edge of the table and my hand smacks the palm rest area 4″ off of the table, right before the laptop slamming down. No problems, no clicking, I don’t understand other than software shock protection. I forget the name of the ‘stuff’ that does it, but having a HDD in the optibay will eventually kill it.

    Before I used to be careful with my laptop, but even slight movements would make the spinner make noise. I never used to ‘beat’ on my MBP; so that means that either I am right–in that the ‘bay lacks the software safeguards, or my previous two WD spinners were both faulty (while this one isn’t).

    • Adam

      Definitely agree with Chris here – why move the HDD to the optical bay, especially when it doesn’t have shock protection or power save options?

      I’m thinking about doing this for my old 2008 (4,1) Macbook Pro – I can’t see any reason not to just put the SSD in the optical drive bay, unless of course for some reason the SATA connection is slower than the one going to the main drive bay?…

      • Dan

        It’s slower.

  • http://iynque.com iynque

    I was just looking for kits to do this a few days ago! I couldn’t find any for my old non-unibody MacBook Pro, but here’s an Optibay for it. Thanks!

  • http://www.ericskram.com Eric Skram

    Great guide! However, I would recommend a different source for the SSD and the mounting bay. I’ve done this on a couple of my MacBook Pros, and I’ve always used OWC (Other World Computing). They’ve been around for decades and offer the best quality that i’ve found for all kinds of Mac components.

    Their site: http://www.macsales.com/

    Their device is called a Data Doubler and costs quite a bit less (~$65.00 depending on sale) and works great!

    Please note, I’m not in any way affiliated to OWC, just a fan of their products. Also, for those who feel less than comfortable tearing apart your Mac, they have a bunch of video guides on how to do it.

    Also, their Mercury 6G SSD’s are blazing fast, and better than pretty much anything Crucial is producing, although they carry Crucial too.

    • Cameron Ballensky

      I also HIGHLY suggest the OWC route. Their products are top notch and the how-to videos are fool proof.
      I bought a brand new 17″ MBP last week. Later that same evening I next day UPS’ed the parts and had them at my front door before noon the next morning. Install took about 30 minutes.

  • http://www.maxxomedia.com Mark

    As an alternative to SSD at a great price with loads of storage, I highly recommend the Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid drive – http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/products/laptops/laptop-hdd/. 500 GB of 7200 rpm hard drive plus 4GB SSD. The SSD is programmed to cache your most used applications and files for fast access. The drive is around $139 USD (depending on where you buy it) and is super fast.

    • http://www.ericskram.com Eric Skram

      Agreed. I bought a Momentus for an older MacBook Pro, since I wanted to keep the superdrive in that one. it’s like 90% as fast, and without the huge sticker shock.

      Also, I just read today that for 2012 Seagate is building a faster 750gb Momentus XT, with (don’t quote me on this…) 8gb of Solid State memory.

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  • Jeff

    I’ve been using a similar setup for about a year now. Simply awesome. One major draw back though is your battery life is going to be cut in half.

  • chillthought

    I love my MCE OptiBay, like the author said, it is the safest, and most reliable route to go for adding a 2nd HDD or SSD to your mac. I mean think about it, they offer support for it, many ebays sellers are one and done w/ you after they take your payment. Plus MCE gives you the software and hardware to still use your SuperDrive. I like!

  • Caleb

    Wow! Great guide, I am thinking of doing it, but I just don’t know long I can survive without a superdrive.

    Quick question: Boot Camp. I have a 1TB 2.5″ (that’s a little tall) – would I be able to put Windows on that, yet have Lion working off my SSD?

  • AK

    what an awesome solution, did that on my macbookpro mid/11 got the caddy from amazon for 11$

  • Cory

    http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/drive_bracket/datadoubler/

    Just installed in my macbook pro 8,2 the other day with hard drive in the optical drive bay and the OWC 6G Mercury Electra 240gb 6gbit/s in the hard drive bay. The optical bay does support 6gbit/s but is not stable. A normal hard drive is only 3gbit/s, hence why I put it in the optical bay area and the SSD in the hard drive area. My laptop is now insanley fast, it boots up in under 20 seconds. Make sure your hard drive bay supports 6gbit/s. You can also get a superdrive external enclosure that works fine. These OWC drives are very fast and you do not need to enable trim since they have a trash management system built in to the SSD. The frame that goes into the optical drive bay is not plastic but solid metal and very durable. Defiantly worth the price, also check out the comparison between different SSD brands.

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  • Robert

    i really like the SSD’s from OWC. Great customer service and they really know their stuff!
    http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/OWC/Mercury_6G/

  • Joe

    Any idea whether this would work on the White MacBook?

    I’ve never tried opening it up to access the hard drive and superdrive, only to upgrade the memory…

    • http://adamawilliams.com Adam Williams

      Yes it would.

      If it’s the unibody plastic model then it’s easy and if memory serves I *believe* the above instructions should work, though I don’t have a unibody plastic Macbook to check.

      The older plastic Macbook type is quite a bit more difficult and you’d need a slightly different enclosure, but I’ve just done the upgrade on my 2007 black plastic macbook and it works fine.

      I’d recommend taking a look at this guide on iFixit:

      http://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook-Core-2-Duo-Optical-Drive-Replacement/518/1

  • Trentr

    Great tutorial, ordered the Nimitz bay for my iMac 21.5″ and saved some $$$. Just a word of advice (trust me, I’m a pro) – you really should modify the following sentence: “Since this is a Unibody, we won’t need to remove the battery.” No, you do not need to remove the battery, however, you REALLY should disconnect the battery from the main logic board prior to anything else.

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  • Sam

    Installed a Crucial m4 250gb sad but had nothing but problems with the drive hanging every time an operation is requested. I have tried clean install of lion as well as making sure all firm ware is up t date but the drive is practically unusable. not sure what the issue is thinking of returning the drive to see if it is a sad problem.

  • Antonio

    Ok but be carefull as not all SSD are good and relieable. It is a pit to say that the Big Intel has a SSD 520, that is not compatible with Apple and dont care about that. I bought one 240G and lost my money and time trying to varius possible solutions as TRIM, Firmware, OS update, change of benchmarking and so on.
    I am thinking about to buy a OWC, at least they have stated with Macs, what is your opinion.

  • Miklos

    I know it’s an old article, but could you describe more specific the screwdrivers which you’ve used?

  • oscar

    excelent tutorial i just have one question; why do i need to install the osx on the ssd before installing the hdd ?

  • Chris Nehren

    I followed this guide a month or so ago. The SSD has been working wonderfully (my Core i7 late 2011 MBP absolutely *flies* with it—almost as fast as one of the new Retina MBPs), and my over-the-LAN Time Machine backup restored flawlessly to the SSD, so doing the software set up was just a matter of patience.

    I ran into an issue when trying to put my Apple hard drive in the Optibay enclosure, however–there were four screws on the side of the drive which caused it to not fit the enclosure. Not being mechanically inclined I thought I was doing something wrong and tried to squeeze the drive into the enclosure.

    This didn’t work very well. You may commence laughing at me.

    I did some Web searching today and after finding no hits about people complaining about this issue, figured that it must be possible to remove the screws from the drive. After being surprised again at just how tiny the screws are, I managed to remove them with a teensy tiny itsy-bitsy hex wrench (0.050″, to be exact, the smallest in my Craftsman 20 piece set). They each “popped” a bit after the first quarter turn, but otherwise came off easily.

    Thank you for the guide, and I would suggest incorporating my experience into the main article for those who have not evolved beyond the stone age in terms of mechanical aptitude—if only for comic value.

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  • Everton

    Does anyone think that after this we can make a fusion drive with the SSD + HD? http://jollyjinx.tumblr.com/post/34638496292/fusion-drive-on-older-macs-yes-since-apple-has

  • Matt Hillebrand

    Ever since I replaced my optical drive with an SSD, my fan(s) seem to make more noise. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not. The upper-left corner of my computer seems to get really hot, even when the CPU/GPU aren’t being taxed.

    Has anyone had any problems like this? Apple did a quick check and couldn’t find anything wrong with my MBP, so they want me to leave with them for a day or two, but I just have too much work to do right now. Ugh.

    • http://exirion.net/ssdfanctrl/ Evan

      I noticed the same thing. I downloaded ssd fan ctrl and set it to SMART for the HDD now I don’t have the fan noise.

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