How to speed up your mac with a Solid State SSD Drive


This article was originally written in 2015 but it is still relevant.  I have just updated it given that SSD prices have dropped dramatically in the last 3 years. Upgrading the boot drive on my Mac Mini to an SSD drive was by far the biggest speed enhancement I’ve experienced on any computer! The speed increase is incredible – almost hard to believe. Boot time went from 60 seconds to under 30 seconds, and applications launch instantly – no bouncing dock icon. In terms of bang for dollar, upgrading to an SSD drive is by far the best upgrade you can do.

What we are doing.


SDD stands for ‘Solid State Drive.’ SSD drives are the same shape and size as a traditional drive. The difference is that an SSD drive uses RAM chips instead of a spinning hard disk to store information. This makes it much, much faster.

SSD drives are now reasonably cheap. I’d suggest you upgrade your entire hard drive to SSD.

1. Order an SSD.

There have been issues in the past with SSD drives and there have been some brands not working with OSX, so make sure you get a good one.

The first place I would recommend is I have one of their OWC Mercury SSD drives in 2 of my laptops. They have a screen where you choose your macintosh computer, and it tells you which SSD drive is compatible.  Just click here and you will be asked what mac you have, follow the prompts. (I have signed up to be an affiliate of Macsales so I get a commission if you use these links.) Last check a 1TB drive was under $400. When I first wrote this article a 480G SSD drive was $1579.99!

The second place I would recommend is If you do get a Crucial SSD you can go for the MX or BX series. I’ve also got a Samsung EVO drive running in a 2012 Macbook pro and it’s running fine. Buy a new SSD not a second hand one. They do degrade over time.

2. Temporarily connect the new SSD Drive to your Mac.

For this you will need a cable to connect your SSD drive to your USB port. They are only about $20 and they look like this:

ssd usb

The external drive enclosures for normal hard disks should also work with an SSD.

Plug the SSD into the enclosure, and then into the Mac, and it should appear on the desktop as an ‘Untitled’ drive.


3. Format the SSD Drive using disk utility.

After your SDD drive is plugged in you’ll need to use Disk Utility to format it – Mac OS Extended (Journaled):


4. Copy everything onto the new boot drive.

Now you need to copy your entire drive onto your SSD drive. You can’t do this by hand – there are hidden files that need to be copied, so need to make what is called a ‘Clone.’ Apple’s built-in Disk Utility won’t do this so you will need an app like Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper.

Using Carbon Copy Cloner, select your boot drive as the target Disk and then select ‘Backup Everything’:


Click ‘Clone’ and your boot disk will be created on the SSD disk.

The other option is to use Super Duper. There’s a free version that will enable to clone your drive. Select ‘Backup -all files’ to make a clone.

Super Duper

Making a  clone of you drive can take a long time – hours – so take a break!

5. Reboot from the new SSD boot drive.

Under System Preferences click Startup Drive select the SSD Drive, then restart! (wow – notice how fast it is!)

6. Swap the internal Hard disk for the SSD drive.

Now that it’s working it’s time to get rid of your old hard drive and physically replace it with the working SSD.

The difficulty of this varies according to what kind of a Macintosh computer you have. I’d check out for the best instructions according to your mac model.

Mac Pro

Difficulty: easy – 30 seconds.

For a mac pro it simply connects into the spare optical bay slot – no adapters needed, a 30 second operation – see how here. I just sat the SSD drive in and added a bit of gaffe tape but there are some great adapters out there eg Angelbird SSD Adapter


Difficulty: moderate – 1 hour.

For a Macbook or Macbook Pro can replace the internal optical drive with your old Hard Drive or order a large SSD drive and replace your old hard drive with it. You can find instructions here.

Mac Mini

Difficulty: hard – 1/2 hr.

For a new aluminium mac mini  you will need to replace one of the internal drives.  This involves pulling out the fan and motherboard to get the new SSD drive in. You can get the old hard disk out without pulling out the motherboard but the SSD drives are actually ever so slightly thicker and more uniform in shape so the motherboard needs to come out to manoeuvre the SSD drive in place. There’s easy to follow instructions here at mac fixit.


Difficulty: hard – 1/2 hr.

It’s quite complex to pull the iMac apart and you need a vacuum clamp to pull the glass screen off. This is easier than it sounds, but you still need to but the suction caps to do it. It requires some mechanical skill. There are good instructions here and crucial have their own guide here.


So how fast is it? Here’s a demo of how quickly applications launch from my new SSD drive…


7. Check if you need to Enable TRIM.

Some Hard Drives do not come with TRIM support and so you need to download this TRIM Enabler app and run it. This will enable OS X built in  TRIM support which keeps your SSD drive lean and clean.

The SSD I recommend above (Crucial M4) does not need TRIM support (read this article for more information). You can turn it on anyway no problems. The OWC Mercury SSD drives do not need TRIM enabled either.

STOP PRESS: There are new reports that TRIM enabler does not work with Yosemite. Read this article for more information.


8. Time Machine

If you already have a Time Machine backup, when you change Hard Drives it starts all over again and won’t recognise the old Time Machine backup. Read this post for info on how to get around this. Also here is another very good article on this.

I also just found this GREAT article on keeping Time Machine working when you change the Hard Drive.

If you don’t have a Time Machine backup now is a great time to start! You can use your old Internal Drive as a backup drive.


270 responses to “How to speed up your mac with a Solid State SSD Drive”

  1. Steve

    I am using a Seagate 250GB USB 3.0 as the boot drive (Mojave) on my 2014 Mac Mini. Seriously fast boot-up and excellent system responsiveness compared to the 1TB internal hard drive. No need to pull the Mac apart to upgrade the boot drive (just leave the internal spinning disk in place as your data drive, it works fine as an APFS volume, provided its not the system disk).

    Installing an internal SSD may give you optimal performance but using an external USB boot SSD still gives a much more responsive system than the old hard drive, for minimal upgrade difficulty and minimal cost.

    (I don’t have any trim issues either).

    1. Yes now that they have fast External SSD drives with thunderbolt/USB-C this is certainly a great option.

  2. S Bartruff

    Help….I have established the SSD as the start-up drive (Mac Mini 2012) and it works effectively (much faster).

    However, during the night the Mac reboots and establishes the Mac HD as the default start-up…..How do I remedy this issue?


    1. Bartruff Stuart

      I may have solved the reboot problem by not allowing the Mac mini to transition to a sleep mode

  3. Stuart Bartruff

    Follow-up to my prior comment. The MAC rebooted again to default the MAC HD as the start-up. I received the following error message: The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer.

  4. Bob

    I did this with my wifes’ old 21′ Imac…those horrible ones that come with the built in memory. We were going to replace it , but this solution made it work like a new machine…much faster overall. I used a 256 Samsung T5, erxactly as described here.

  5. nmetro

    I bought a SanDisk Extreme Portable 1TB SSD dirve at Amazon.

    I plugged it into my USB 3.0 port on an iMac late 2014 4k system, with soldered 8 GB memory.

    I went through the formatting process with Disk Utility. Making sure that GUID was set.

    I downloaded Carbon Copy, and ran it clicking on Trial. I then closed the disks (it took about 40 minutes for 6 GB)

    I rebooted, when it was done, held down the Option key and selected the new disk.

    I was up in under a minute. I tried a few things and they run much, much faster.

    The SSD disk, I purchased, supports USB 3.1 and USB-C. It is also very tiny, light, and it wrapped in rubber to protect it. It is so small it can be attached, by Velcro, to the back of the monitor stand. I wasn’t that comfortable trying to take apart an iMac just to replace the disk.

    I do not use my iMac for heavy duty gaming, and the like, but I feel like that I have a new computer.

    So these instructions, at least in my situation.

  6. Gregory

    Love this post but have a hiccup. Please Help or direct me..

    Cloned old hard drive to NVMe 1TB Pcie Hard drive and set it to boot in System Prefs:

    1.) Drive is still seen as External even though it’s not…
    2.) Even though it is set to boot off SSD, if I take out old hard drive I get the “?” can’t find drive symbol..

    I think it’s not really booting of the SSD..
    Running High Sierra, don’t have a Metal GPU (Do I need one?)

    Any Suggestions Welcome! Thanks a million!

    1. Yes, Sounds like it’s not booting of the SSD.
      Are you using CCC?
      You could try a Recovery mode boot from SSD.

  7. Sean

    I decided to ‘upgrade’ my 2019 iMac which has HDD and terrible performance (35mbs disk write speed) almost unusable. I simply formatted a T5 500gb to GUID in disk utility and then found it easier to restart the iMac, cmd+R and reinstalled Big Sur 11.2.1 onto the SSD. Admittedly i had to go through the iMac set up process again (wifi, icloud account etc.) and then I needed to re-download a couple of applications (Microsoft office). It took a bit longer, however very accessible for the novice user who wasn’t sure about cloning disks etc. Long story short, my read/write speeds are now 10x faster (500mbs) and by bootup is now about a minute before I have a fully useable iMac – before it took about 5 mins! Applications now boot significantly quicker. Word now boots in under 10 secs and is useable straight away – used to take over 45 secs + time for it to catch up before I could type. For £75 this was the best way to upgrade the performance of my machine – I was almost considering cutting my losses and trading it in (for nothing at apple) and get something faster. Save myself a few thousand pounds today! Thanks for the tips!!!

  8. Peter Vic Au

    Just installing a Sandisk Extreme 2TB SSD (1050mb/s) to a 2019 21.5 Mac with a 1tb fusion snail speed drive. Since Monterey I have to drag the thing awake, it’s like a teenager on the weekend. There’s a few good guides on the process like this one Step by step it’s slow, but easy to follow. Apple provide everything you need. Once you’ve formatted, you download Monterey and follow the prompts. If you select right, it will transfer all of your apps and data and system to your new SSD. No other software needed. But if you have a lot on your Mac, it will take a while, the average read speed from the old drive at about 30 mb/s. Quoting 6hrs to finish atm. One of the keys to a successful swap is renaming the new SSD to Macintosh HD, and then finally selecting it as your every time startup disk. I had requested a trade-in quote from Apple using my serial number – return reply was “Your Mac is ready for recycling”. The model was only discontinued a year ago!

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