SSD + SATA = Best of Both Worlds

Every once and a while I pull something off that makes me smile.  I experienced this sensation last week when I swapped out the DVD drive in my MacBook Pro and replaced it with the 500 GB SATA hard drive that came with the machine.  When I first got the laptop, I purchased a lightening-fast 240 GB SSD hard drive to replace the 500 GB drive, and I put the original drive in a case to use it for Time Machine backups.  While I enjoyed the improved speed of the solid state drive, I soon ran out of space.  I used Disk Inventory X to try and figure out where all the space went and was able to free up some of it, but I also run a Windows 7 virtual machine using Parallels Desktop, which takes up about 70 GB, and the rest of the space was taken up by stuff I wanted to keep or was difficult to extricate.  The 240 GB SSD cost me about $300 on Amazon, but upgrading to 480 GB would have run me close to $800 – too painful.  Besides, a lot of space is for things like videos and audio that don’t need the blinding speed of SSD, which I wanted to reserve for the stuff I use all the time, like the main OS, programs, documents, and my Windows VM.


The natural solution was to purchase use a more economical SATA drive as a supplemental storage device, but I dreaded the idea of having to plug one into the USB port whenever I wanted to access some media.  Then I ran across an article describing how to install a second hard drive into a MacBook Pro by removing the optical DVD drive and placing it in a separate enclosure.  This made perfect sense to me, since I hardly ever play CD’s or DVD’s using my computer.  So I went ahead and purchased the kit for about $100 and set about performing the operation.  However, the instructions that came with it did not cover my model (early 2011) and were too high level for me to feel confident about.  Thankfully, the support folks for the kit sent me a link to a very good set of instructions for removing the optical drive.  It was tricky (especially when it came to putting all the screws back in the right way), but I managed to pull it off.  I took out the DVD drive, placed it in the enclosure that came with the kit, then inserted the 500 GB SATA that came with the machine, and voila! I had a total 740 GB of storage internal to my laptop.

The next step was to free up space on the SDD by moving files over to the SATA.  That’s where Disk Inventory X came in handy, helping me identity the largest files.  However, what I really wanted to do was configure iTunes to use the SATA for its media location.  I found useful information on how to do that.  While I was at I, I moved iPhoto, MobileSync, and even my Mail folders.  I kept my applications, Windows VM and most of my documents on the SSD to take advantage of faster access speed, but placed the other stuff on the SATA, as well as space-hogging video files.  I am quite satisfied with the result, and I haven’t seen problems with heat or battery drain.

The main reason I jettisoned my PC in favor of a Mac was pure and simple: better hardware.  With my Dell laptop, I had to lug around this huge brick for the power supply, which had to be replaced every 6 months. I also had to buy a fan to keep it cool, and the battery life was less than 2 hours. With the Mac, I don’t need an extra fan, and the power supply is a light little square with a small magnetic connector.  And I get several hours battery life – even when running Windows.  I do use Mac OS X Lion for things like contacts, calendar and mail, but with iCloud everything is automatically synced across all my other devices.  You guessed it: my iPhone and iPad.  There are a lot of also-rans in the phone and tablet spaces, but when it comes to consumer bliss, there’s a lot to be said for the vision Steve Jobs had for software-hardware integration.

About Tony Sneed

Sr. Software Solutions Architect, Hilti Global Application Software
This entry was posted in Personal, Technical and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to SSD + SATA = Best of Both Worlds

  1. MarkC says:

    Hey Tony, that’s my article on the installing the second drive. Astonishingly powerful set up isn’t it? Fast SSD for outright performance, normal drive for volume storage.

    • Tony Sneed says:

      Thank you for the post! I’ve had a terrific experience after installing the SATA drive by swapping out the optical DVD drive. My space problem was solved, and I still have the fast SSD drive for my apps.

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