Macbook + OCZ Agility 3 SSD

OCZ Agility 3 SSD Packaging
OCZ Agility 3 SSD Packaging

On my nearly five year old Macbook (Late 2006), I’ve upgraded the RAM to 3GB and replaced the original 120 GB 5400 rpm hard drive with a WD Scorpio Black 320 GB 7200 rpm hard drive. When I managed to break the internal DVD drive, I decided to put in a SSD, the last performance upgrade for a computer that should be near the end of its useful life. The main reason that I decided to do a $225 upgrade was that it doesn’t feel like the computer has slowed down that much over the years, so I’m able to squeeze some more time out of it.

The SandForce controllers are starting to mature – the OCZ Agility 3 I bought on Amazon uses a second generation SandForce controller and falls more in the budget/midrange performance SSD category. Considering that my Macbook uses an Intel ICH7-M ACHI controller that is SATA revision 1.0 (SATA 1.5 Gbit/s) – the Agility 3’s SATA 6 Gbit/s throughput capability is way beyond this old Macbook. Maybe I can use it in my next computer too, he rationalized.

I bought a $99 (USD) MCE Technologies Optibay, a caddy that replaces the DVD and will hold a 2.5″ drive. Had I done more pre-purchase research, I might have purchased a $15 (USD) version on eBay. MCE Tech did include a case for my damaged DVD drive so it can be used externally connected by USB. And their tech support did promptly answer a question when I phoned them about the DVD interface using PATA – so my former SATA boot drive was now going to be using a PATA interface.

Macbook (Late 2006) with OCZ Agility 3 SSD
Macbook (Late 2006) with OCZ Agility 3 SSD

I dual boot into OS X and Windows 7 using rEFIT as a boot manager. With a new SSD as a boot drive, I wanted to do clean installs of OS X and Windows 7. The latter was a major hurdle. I could boot Snow Leopard from the external DVD drive or USB flash drive to install OS X, but I couldn’t find a way to boot the Windows 7 install DVD from the external DVD or a USB flash drive. I found some convoluted solutions that involved making a Windows VM but it was way too much work.

Instead, I took the computer apart and put the DVD drive back in the internal bay and booted the Windows 7 disk from the DVD drive. I had to try this a couple of times and ended up breaking the flex cable from the DVD to the motherboard. An eBay purchased fortunately solved that problem, though in frustration, several times I thought Ice-T’s Mac repair method would have been way more satisfying. If you’ve been able to boot your Macbook with a Windows 7 install DVD in an external DVD or flash drive please let me know how you did it.

The only other question I haven’t solved with this setup is the second hard drive (non boot drive) needs the Windows bootmgr file or Windows 7 on the SSD will not boot. Disk Manager sees the SSD as Disk 0. The NTFS partition on the second hard drive is marked Active, Primary Partition and I get the feeling that has something to do with it. Figuring out this problem is a back burner operation right now.

The end result was worth it. I managed to pare down my applications so I can have all of them installed on the SSD in both operating systems. Movies, music, photos and virtual machines are on the 320 GB hard drive.

I’ve since installed OS X Lion (Lion problems in a future post) and the computer boots to the iOS-like linen login screen in about 25 seconds. In OS X, Chrome and Firefox launch with less than one bounce in the dock. Windows 7 boots in about 45 seconds and applications are similarly snappy compared to the rotating media.

4 Replies to “Macbook + OCZ Agility 3 SSD”

  1. Hi Mr Wong,

    – For Snow Leo there seem to be TRIM enable possibilities in case you run Snow Leo again one day.
    Or even may be to write name of drive in place of appleSSD inside Lion (not sure trim is enabled for all drives in Lion. Have a look at internet. Might be worth be sure it’s enabled for the SSD.

    will give you a 400Mhz GMA950, runs under snow leo <———- reason for snow leo ?

    – you could have used the refit boot menu to boot from external DVD drive (I had to do it with XP sp2, as bootcamp didn't allow booting from this dvd.

    From another site:

    And run the installer when the DMG mounts. An "efi" folder will appear inside Macintosh HD. Leave it. Make a blank partition for Windows (if you haven't already). Any size will do. Insert the Windows Install DVD/CD into the external drive.


    Hold Option…

    Select the disk with the name "rEFIt" in bold. After a short delay, a logo will appear "rEFIt". And a series of icons. Press the corresponding arrow key to go to the disc. Select it, and it will then boot into the Install CD**.

    ** Denotes that this process DOES take a lot of time, the computer or rEFIt hasn't crashed, just wait it out, everything can be sluggish.

    Make sure the Windows partition is formatted as FAT (MS-DOS). If you made it with Boot Camp Assistant, it will be. Otherwise, open up Disk Utility and do it.

    Once in the Windows installer:

    For Vista, format the disk to NTFS in Drive Options directly from the Installer. If it says "Windows cannot be installed onto this Disk. The selected disk is of the GPT Partition Table", go back to OS X and format the Partition to FAT and select the appropriate partition for install when you are back in.

    For XP or previous, simply continue the Install, For gods sake, make sure you look at which partition you install to , I didn't once, and lost everything.

    Above is exactly what I did. I wrote it all down so I wouldn't forget it. I knew it may come in handy

    – NTFS/MAC partitions readwrite ? from Thireus site

    For your Mac:
    NTFS pour Mac® OS X (shareware)
    The Software provides full read-and-write access to your Windows Partitions.
    MacFuse (freeware)
    MacFUSE allows you to extend Mac OS X's native file handling capabilities via 3rd-party file systems.
    For Windows:
    MacDrive (shareware)
    MacDrive is the only solution you need to share files between Mac disks and Windows.

    Best regards

  2. I ran Xbench 1.3 on both the OCZ Agility 3 and the Western Digital WD3200BEKT.

    The Agility 3 is on the SATA bus, which on my Macintrash is 1.5 Gigabit. The WD3200BEKT is a SATA device, but with the Optibay, it is running on the ATA bus.

    I had links to Xbench results text files for the OCZ Agility 3 and Western Digital WD3200BEKT but I can’t find them anymore.

  3. If you don’t mind me asking, what are your XBench disk scores ? You can save them as text at the end of the benchmark.

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