Macbook + OCZ Agility 3 SSD

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

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.

5 Year Old Macbook vs the Latest Macbook Air

I recently noticed that my Apple MacBook, (late 2006), doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I’d think that an almost five year-old computer would start to be sluggish.

I don’t use that many processor intensive applications, but with Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6.7), I am able to run SETI@Home, VMWare Fusion running Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat, Remote Desktop Connection, Photoshop, iTunes, Transmit, Chrome (with 10 tabs open) and Firefox, all at the same time without bogging down. When I boot my Macbook to Windows 7, the performance is similar.

My Macbook has an Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T7200 (4M Cache, 2.00 GHz, 667 MHz FSB). The only hardware upgrades I’ve done on it were to increase the RAM to 3GB and install a 320GB 7200 rpm hard disk. I have three paritions on the disk: a 100GB Mac OS Extended for OSX, a 75GB NTFS for Windows 7 and a 140 GB NTFS for data.

While browsing for the specs for my computer, I noticed that the Geekbench score of the latest Apple MacBook Air (late 2010) – 2698 – wasn’t that much higher than my Macbook – 2603. The current Macbook Air uses an Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor SL9400 (6MB Cache, 1.86 GHz, 1066 MHz FSB). I would think that the MBA, with a larger L2 cache, faster FSB and SSD would at least be a lot faster than my Macbook. In fact, when I run Geekbench on my Macbook, it scores 2706.

Of course the Macbook Air is 2.3 lbs (1.04 kg) lighter and has a much greater cool factor than my Macbook, but I’m strong enough to handle 5.2 lbs (2.36 kg). When my Macbook starts to feel slow, I’ll probably go to an SSD and replace the DVD drive with my current hard disk in a MCE OptiBay.

The latest 13″ Macbook Pro, with an Intel® Core™ i7-2620M Processor, has a Geekbench score that 6796. That would probably be OK for another couple of years.

Macbook Vista SP1

I applied Windows Vista Service Pack 1 to my dual-boot Macbook. I use rEFit instead of Boot Camp, with OS X as the default OS, so after each restart, I had to manually select the Vista partition.

After a couple of restarts, Vista started up OK and I ran the Windows Experience Index tool and got this. (I manually stuck the old Apple logo in there; Apple is not a Windows OEM Vendor)