DIY MacBook Pro ‘Fusion Drive’

I know this is all over the web if you look for it, however I’ve been so impressed with my new SSD based fusion drive that I thought I’d blog about it. Fusion is a software based logical disk that automatically puts often used files on the SSD and uses a 4Gb write cache on the SSD as well I think.

I bought a 120GB SSD a year or so ago and added it to my slightly ageing 2011 Macbook pro in place of the DVD drive. I had some issues with lock ups though despite trying a second different drive, so chickened out and put the DVD drive back in.

Since having my main logic board replaced last week(for free by Apple store in West Quay!) and finding a better SSD caddy on eBay ( ¬£5.49 delivered next day !!) I’ve put the SSD back and it’s been working fine. This caddy has the correct mounting lugs to replace the DVD drive and hence no sticky tape need ūüėČ

s-l500
£5.49 delivered, the best value ever Mac upgrade ?

I created a fusion drive using the 120Gb HDD that I put in when I took the computer to be serviced. I was not expecting it to improve things so much, but basically you do not realise just how much a slow hard drive affects performance. It must be all the little writes that can’t be cached in memory since I have 16GB of RAM which you can see fills up with file cache on boot.

My 1TB drive is always over 90% full and is pretty slow any way, boot ups take literally 20 minutes. But with the fusion drive web pages load instantly and boot up is amazingly fast. I don’t think the old HD was even spinning all the time I was testing .

Here is the guide, it’s the second hit on Google ūüôā You basically have to boot from some recovery media ( I created a bootable USB thumb drive again see google) and run some terminal commands. Then you restore from a backup since it wipes ALL your data in the process.

I’m creating a second backup of my 1TB drive which looks set to ¬†take 3 days or so. The¬†WDMcloud NAS thing I have ¬† is pretty cool, but not that fast despite using Gigabit ethernet.

So pretty excited about getting¬†a turbo charged 1TB laptop! Incidentally, I’ve read that some new Mac’s come with a measly 24GB of SSD, which I guess just shows how effective the fusion drive technology is.

It’s not all great though, have been told that my iMac will probably need a new GPU at some point for at least¬†¬£150 , you win some you loose some!

Boot Demo, for those who like that sort of thing…

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The Worst has Happened

I’ve had a proper ‘First World Problem’ this week. My Mac Book has broken ! Remember that TV advert for the first ever Macintosh ?

 

MBP_GPU_logo

 

You never realise how much you rely on your technology until it lets you down. I once went for a group interview with Garmin electronics as a support rep. I asked how mobile Apps were competing with their dedicated products and got a bit of an ear full. They were telling us how their customers love and rely on their GPS gear to such an extent that they often consider it a life or death matter. People train for marathons with their wrist monitors and guide their boats at night etc etc.

 

Back at the Ranch

Any way thanks mainly, so it would seem, to some over zealous American lawyers and a class action law suit, I might just get a new mainboard !

I was some what relieved and suprised ¬†to find ¬†an Apple repair programme for a¬†known issue with Mac Book Pro 2011 displays. The problem seems related to lead free solder used on the AMD GPU. Around 2011 was the¬†time when they started using non leaded solder apparently and it’s not as good as the real stuff, at least for reliability so it would seem. I’ve also got a 2009 iMac that won’t run with out fan control software due to a graphics issue, not good really for ‘premium’ products.

 

Luckily I keep backups using Apples built in Time Machine, but I’ve never tested a restore so don’t want to rely on it really. The support rep. catagorically said that I should not remove the hard drive.¬†¬†Basically¬†I now have to sort out how to get a blank install of OSX into a machine that can not boot past the single user console.

They seriously expect me to send in my laptop with all my Emails for ten years, all my passwords and files to them as is ?

 

Solutions

…consist mainly of trying various start up modes:

  1. Boot to console mode and move the ATI drivers to force use of the integrated Intel graphics  Does not work since can not modify files under /System due to new security features in OSX
  2. Boot to recovery and turn off security  machine will not boot to any thing other than hardware test or single user mode console ( I never even knew the latter even existed)
  3. Use firewire/thunderbolt ¬†cable and target disk mode¬†to backup / format¬†I’d trust a disk image backup, however I don’t have either of these cables, they cost ¬£30 ! ( old camcorder firewire is not the same, I managed to short out my Macbook trying it Yikes!) Also a MiniDisplay port is NOT a thunderbolt cable!
  4. install OSX on an old 120GB SATA laptop drive using a USB enclosure. ¬†This seems to be a good way forward, I’m currently trying to download OSX install App¬†on working machine and then can remove the ATI/AMD drivers and see if the laptop will ¬†boot with it connected externally ūüôā

Next I will put the 120Gb disk in and then I have to go to the Mac store in Southampton and plead my case ! They wouldn’t send me a postage paid box, maybe I was pushing my luck, although that is what the official page offers¬†! ¬†ūüôā

 

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