Adding a Silicon Power 512GB SSD to my Mac Pro 2008

TLDR; here’s the main points:

  • Restore a Time Machine backup using Recovery, not from Disk Utils from the MacOS installer
  • If an uninitialized SSD is not visible to Disk Utils, it may show up under ‘diskutils list’
  • If still not visible, put it in a USB drive enclosure where it should get detected, then initialize it

I picked up a cheap $50 512GB SSD to add to my Mac Pro 2008. I already have Windows 10 on one SSD, but decided it was time to replace the WD Blue 5000rpm drive also with an SSD. Backed up El Capitan to Time Machine, and now ready to add the new drive.

I mounted it in a Sabrent 2.5 to 3.5 caddy, and then attached to one of my drive sleds.

I’ve had good luck with new and even refurb drives over the past couple of years, this Silicon Power SSD is the first drive that’s given me issues, as it’s not visible in Disk Utils or even to ‘diskutils list’ which normally detects and lists an installed drive even though it’s not usable. Not knowing if it was the SATA connectors, I removed all my other disks, and moved it between each of the 4 slots, and no go, it was still not detected in MacOS Recovery Disk Utils, either when booted into El Cap, or in Windows 10.

First attempt to see what was going on, I tried downloading Silicon Power’s SP Toolbox software, and Windows Defender says it has a trojan:

Ok, well that’s not good. Uninstalled.

To double check that the drive could be detected on other machines I uninstalled it and moved it to a USB3 external drive enclosure. Windows 10 Disk Management now sees the disk as uninitialized, and pops up a dialog to initialize it as either MBR or GPT. Ok, picked GPT but haven’t formatted it yet. Going to now book back into MacOS Recovery to see if I can format it, and restore my TimeMachine backup. Back in a few mins.

Ok. So I have a Recovery partition that for some reason does not boot. The other option is to boot from an MacOS El Cap bootable USB flash drive and restore from Disk Utils there. I tried this and when I selected the ‘Restore…’ menu option, selected the Time Machine USB drive and the SSD as the target, I ended up restoring a copy of the content of the Time Machine backup onto the SSD, but it’s not bootable. First clue that this happened should have been from the boot menu screen when I had 2 identical orange Time Machine drive icons, and not a new silver bootable disk.

Since I don’t have a working Recovery partition to boot from where the ‘Restore from Time Machine’ option is, I went the long way round and installed El Cap from USB to the new SSD which got it bootable and with a new Recovery partition, then booted to this Recovery partition, selected the ‘Restore from Time Machine’ option, left it restoring over night, and now I have I my previously El Cap install completely transferred to the new SSD, successfully bootable and all. That took way longer than I expected, but now successfully up and running!

El Cap boot time from SSD on this 2008 Mac Pro is about 4 seconds, whereas before from a 5000rpm WD Blue it was at least a minute to get to the desktop… a HUGE improvement!

Replacing a MacBook Pro optical drive with a SSD: stripped screws a-plenty

Older model MacBook Pros typically came with a rotational hard disk and an optical  disk. Some models had a 6Gbps SATA controller for the HDD and a 3Gbps controller on the optical drive bay. It’s worth checking in the System Information tool if the controller for the optical bay is not slower than the HDD bay. If it is then you might want to consider swapping out your HDD for the SDD. If both bays are 6Gbps on both sides, then it’s ok to put an SDD in the optical bay and not limit it’s throughput.

My mid-2012 MBP has 6Gbps on both bays:

HDD:

Optical bay:

 

I used an OWC drive doubler bracket to put my SSD into my optical bay. Here’s the patient open and ready to receive it’s new drive. Existing HDD at the top right, optical drive bay bottom right. The bag of tools comes with the OWC bracket:

 The OWC bracket is more pricey at $29 on Amazon, compared to the cheaper alternatives at < $10, but the difference in price seems to be you get everything you need in be box, including tools, replacement screws, and a manual. The manual is incredibly detailed and covers step by step with photos for each MBP model that the bracket fits. Find you model, follow the steps, done.

The replacement probably should take you less than an hour, but I ran into one of the soft black screws that wouldn’t budge and it stripped pretty much instantly. I tried the elastic band trick, I tried supergluing a screwdriver to the screw.., no good.

Drilling out a stripped screw is probably the last resort, unless you can reach it with a dremel and cut a slot into the top. This one was recessed, so did some reading around and a ‘Grabit’ seemed to be the way to go.

The screw in question for me was the larger one in step #8 in iFixit’s instructions here. The instructions even say:

Take care, as these screws are unusually easy to strip

Yep. I think that should actually say:

These screws are guaranteed to strip. Make sure you have tools at hand to remove them when stripped.

The Grabit Micro #1 and #2 did the job for me. The #1 seemed the one to use. Using the drill end, it took a while to drill a whole into the top of my stripped screw. Flipping the drill bit around to the extraction end, it didn’t catch like it was supposed to. At that point I thought my only option was to drill the screw out, so I swapped the next up size and started slowly drilling, but the drill bit end actually caught inside the hole. Since the drill and extractor ends both turn anticlockwise, it immediately started to remove the screw. Phew!

So hows the SSD? It’s awesome. Whereas before El Capitan seemed to take more than a minute (I hadn’t timed it, but roughly) to cold boot on my i7 2012 MacBook Pro, from a clean install on this SanDisk SSD, it boots to logon in around 6 to 7 seconds. Pretty damn incredible. It boots from cold it the same time it would take to come out of sleep from my HDD. And using OS X is incredibly damn fast and fluid. My 2012 MBP has a couple more years of life to go 🙂