I am going to start by saying, that by reading this I potentially save you hours and hours of frustration and disappointment and possible returns and exchanges. Last week I decided I wanted to add 8gb and an SSD to my Unibody Macbook Pro (5,4). I hopped on the web and googled it, the general “how to” and I didn’t see much that stood out that warned me of any troubles to come. I obviously was not using the right search terms.

It started while at Fry’s electronics, and if you read my last post, you can read about the horrible experience with the exchanging and what not. I ended up bringing home a Patriot Torqx 128gb SSD, brand new in the box (ALWAYS GET A BRAND NEW UNOPENED BOX) just an fyi for future notice (read my previous post as to why).

I bought this drive due to the high read and write speeds, and overall it receives very nice reviews. Now there are some fortunate owners out there that were able to get this to work just fine. I was not one of those fortunate owners. I install the SSD into my macbook pro and booted the MBP up went into Disk Utility and voila, the drive appeared just fine, however when I attempted to format it and create a partition, it would go into an endless hang. I tried different methods of formatting (0’s and 35 pass) nothing worked. I restarted and tried several times but to absolutely no success. I hopped online and there were forums after forums describing the same problem, 50% of MBP users said it worked while another 50% said it did not. One thing that was never clearly stated was which model was it being installed it, there is a Macbook Pro (the older version) and the UNIBODY Macbook Pro. As far as I concluded, it does not work in the UMBP (unibody macbook pro), which is what I have. I contacted Patriot Technical support by phone and they were very friendly (their email support however is extremely slow),  but basically told me that it was truly a 50/50 chance.

The firmware of the SSD drive was up to date btw…

NOTE: Through all the SSD installations I had performed a reset of the PRAM and NVRAM (instructions on how to do this on the bottom of this post)

Now wait, I know some readers will say what about your Firmware version of your EFI? I have version 1.7 however I did downgrade to 1.6 and to no success either, same results. I could not find a way to downgrade to 1.5 which I believe it would have worked however, so if you have a UMBP and possibly version 1.5 of the EFI firmware, it may work for you just fine. There are plenty of forums and articles about what exactly the EFI firmware updates did/do, but to sum it up EFI 1.5 allowed you to install a SSD or an aftermarket HDD, and allowed your logic board (your motherboard) to utilize full SATA II and SATA I speeds. With the firmware 1.6 Apple decided that they did not want customers going out and buying third party solutions for storage (makes sense to Apple since they do make a nice profit on selling storage mediums), as well as since 97% of all macbooks and macbook pros shipping were coming with a standard SATA I hard drive, there was no need (for power consumption and battery life) to have the extra headroom of SATA II speeds, effectively, they just changed some code and nixed the SATA II speeds. To understand this is non-geek terms, it’s like your Nissan Maxima, the odometer reads like 140 or whatever, yet you have a governor that regulates your top speed to limit it to 110 or what not, because the speed limits are 65mph, there is no need to go faster..legally. Apple applied the governor basically. That’s why I drive a porsche, no governor, get it?

If you want to downgrade your EFI from 1.7 to 1.6, it is not that hard at all, here are the instructions courtesy of Panzo from Macrumors forums:

1) Download the linked .dmg file.

http://rapidshare.com/files/27518861…o_Recovery.dmg

2) do not mount file

3) plug in a usb drive any size

4) REformat this USB drive in Mac OSX HFS+ Journaled in disk utility.

5) Click on the newly formatted drive Volume, then click on the tab restore (same row as erase).

6) in this panel you will see two white input boxes, in source you will browse and select the .dmg downloaded in step 1, you can either brose it or drag and drop it in the source bow.

7) in the Destination box, drag and drop the newly formatted Volume from step 4/5

* no need to have the erase destination box checked/ticked.

8) hit the restore button/

9) once this is done, unplug and replug the usb drive, shut down the machine

10) boot up the machine while its booting up, before the apple icon pops up, press and hold the OPTION button until your drives/partitions pop up.

11) in my case i had three pop up, my bootcamp partition my main mac harddrive, and the BOOTABLE USB drive i just made, select the bootable USB drive (yellow orangish color) Use Arrows to navigate and Enter button to select

12) once this is selected the apple logo will come up and a dark gray bar will start to move right under it. Sit relax and wait for the process to be done.

END: you have now downgraded to EFI firmware 1.6

If you get this error

“Image Error:

Could not find any scan information. The source image needs to be imagescanned before it can be restored.”

Click on the image file in the list on the left and then click on Image in the menu and then on Scan Image for Restore. After that, everything should go smoothly.

Thanks to SmAcDuff for pointing out the solution to the Image scan error.

We continue on this amazing quest…

After my failed attempt, I went back and exchanged the Patriot Torqx for a Corsair Extreme SSD 128gb, I had again read that this drive worked for a lot of people with MBP (and again they never specified if it was a unibody or not), and it was a amazingly fast SSD to top it off, and Corsair has a quality reputation. I installed the Corsair SSD (which is damn sexy), and booted up into Snow Leopard setup. Disk Utility saw the drive, and amazingly I was able to format, and partition the drive, perfectly, no problems here. I continued on the install and selected the SSD to have Snow Leopard installed on it. The install started and I began to get excited! Then….it hung, on an endless “Setup will complete in 33 minutes” The progress bar stuck under the “X” in Mac OS “X” setup, I waited 3 hours….no movement whatsoever. I restarted and attempted again, same spot, it hung. I verified that the install DvD was not corrupt, still nothing. A quick hop online again and noticed again, that some individuals were having this same problem as well. I tried 1.7 and again downgraded to 1.6, no success. I reallllllllllly wanted to have the Corsair SSD inside my UMBP, but unfortunately, it didn’t work. Back to the store again…

I think by now most people would have given up and called it a day, or possibly forked over the $600-700 for the SSD upgrade directly through Apple, but when I want something done, I get it done, my way.

Next, I picked up the Patriot 128gb SSD KOI drive, some people think it is the “KDI” but Patriot verifies it is “KOI” (maybe they should have picked a better font). This drive even bears the “Mac Compatible” logo on the box and on the drive itself. I installed the drive, went through the process all over. The drive was recognized by Disk Utility, I was able to format and partition, but again, the install hung at 33-35 minutes, waiting for hours did absolutely nothing. At this point I began to think it was impossible to install a SSD that was not Apple certified. I began to think that my install DvD was bad. I began to get really irritated driving 26 miles to the nearest Fry’s and dealing with incompetent UEI and Devry graduates that worked there. But I was not about to give up, no sir, when I am determined to get it done, I will get it done, period. I was willing to try and return every-single-brand of SSD drives that they had to offer, then go even further and go through Newegg.com’s inventory.

Next up was the Intel 80gb SSD from Newegg.com. (Btw if you live in Southern California, Newegg.com typically has your package to you the next morning, excellent shipping!) I had to go with an 80gb SSD from intel rather a 128gb because the price of a 80gb Intel SSD is the same price as the 128gb of all the other brands ($320-$420). I didn’t want to only have 80gb of space, but I figured hell, if it works I’ll use my old Sata 250gb HDD as the storage externally. This drive is hands down the sexiest drive out of all of the SSD’s I had gone through, just thought I’d mention that. I installed the SSD in my unibody MBP, and booted it up, and muther f**k me, it didn’t even pop up in disk utility. I hopped online and noticed that there was a firmware update, so I downloaded the firmware and updated the drive. Restarted the uMBP, and voila! it popped up under Disk Utility, I was feeling excited at this point. I successfully was able to format and partition the drive, and begun the install, and…. …………………………………………………. . . . …..  . . .. it didn’t get passed the “candycane” progress bar swirling infinitely. Would not tell me how long until the process completed, it just stopped. Several restarts later, updating and downgrading the EFI, nothing. At this point I had read that one brand was extremely successful, which was the OCZ 128gb, and I was just about to order it but then I’m not sure why I decided to look at Kingston SSD drives, I figured if Kingston’s SSD drives were anything like their memory modules, which are known for to be universal compatible, then I might actually have a decent chance it would work.

I went back to Fry’s and picked up a Kingston 128gb SSDnow V+ series, which I might add for some reason is discontinued (Kingston will “refurbish” if it fails but that’s as far as it goes). Originally I didn’t want to go with Kingston, it doesn’t boast the fastest speeds of all the available SSD’s out there, however it is about 30% faster than the Apple SSD if you would have purchased your macbook/mackbook pro with one directly from Apple. Out of all the SSD’s I went through, this one had the best packaging, and accessories included as well. The other SSD’s only had a 3.5 mounting kit and the SSD itself. The Kingston came with a SATA II external enclosure,  SATA cable, SATA power plug, and a mounting kit for 3.5 slots. The drive itself I have to admit looks decent enough as well, it is coated in a sandpaper style rough texture which makes it feel rugged (no it won’t scratch anything like sandpaper would, unless your an idiot). Now to be clear, there IS two other 128gb Kingston SSDnow  drives available, and the prices are slightly cheaper, and from all perspectives they seem the same, however it is the write speed and read speeds that differ, be a big boy or girl and cowboy up and pay for the most expensive one, it has the highest read/write speeds (that’s this one the V+ series). I installed the drive, under 1.7 EFI firmware, and booted up, and Disk Utility immediately recognized the SSD, I formatted and partitioned the drive, and began the install, and what do you know people…..WE HAVE A WINNER. I am currently typing this on my much zippier and faster unibody Macbook pro, running Snow Leopard with all updates. I have not ran into any problems yet. It does load apps and boot tremendously faster. As a bonus I used the external enclosure that was included to stick my old 250gb HDD that was in the uMBP and transfer all my data to the new SSD.

I did notice (but it might not be related) that when I have Thunderbird (email client) open, sometimes the rainbow spinning wheel appears for 20 seconds or so, but it may not be the drive, only time will tell. I will post a video of boot up speed after the break, as well as Benchmark speeds. I will also disable the AMS sensor, as it is no longer needed and now is just a service running for no reason.

If you are thinking of upgrading to an SSD I highly recommend doing so, you can notice a large difference, especially when opening apps, and copying files, and bootup times. During this whole ordeal I had upgraded to 8gb of ram in the Macbook Pro as well, and I definitely agree that if you use Photoshop, Illustrator, Imovie, Garageband, Aperture 3 or any memory intensive applications, it is definitely worth it. If your like me and own a macbook pro unibody AND a imac 27″, you get a double bonus for upgrading the memory in your uMBP, the two 2x2gb sticks that you pull out of your uMBP, can be inserted into your two empty slots in your iMac, so that both of your systems have 8gb of memory (they both use DDR3 1066 204 pin), I’m not 100% sure if the 24″ iMac has two available slots but I imagine so.

I hope I have saved you some time, and definitely a large headache. Posted below is how to reset your PRAM NVRAM:

Resetting PRAM and NVRAM

  1. Shut down the computer.
  2. Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command, Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in step 4.
  3. Turn on the computer.
  4. Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys. You must press this key combination before the gray screen appears.
  5. Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
  6. Release the keys.

Your computer’s PRAM and the NVRAM are reset to the default values. The clock settings may be reset to a default date on some models.

If you have any questions I will gladly help you, just post a comment.

Cheers,

-Exempt

UPDATE 5/8/2010

I’ve ran into my first issue/error with the SSD. I haven’t had much time to intensively use the SSD, it’s just been used for blogging and some light video editing, however this last week, I ran into what I am logically guessing a problem with the SSD.

Earlier this week I attempted to transfer a Bluray to my ipad (yes this can be done, I have transferred a few to it the week prior, however not from my uMBP) every time I attempted it, the files at different times, would fail, giving me an error, “the file “blah blah” could not be transferred because Macbook SSD can not be read or written to”. This wasn’t a sync issue, rather (I’m speculating) an issue with the SSD being able to sustain a longer period of consistent writes/write time. However, I could be wrong, it could be a wonky itunes issue, it could be a “ipad in early issue” but I am guessing it very well may be the SSD. I will be editing some large video projects on it this week and will keep everyone updated.

Cheers!

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Dave says:

    Nice post !

    I’ve been looking at updating my unibody mbp also and started to get the sense that not all drives (or macbooks)7 are made equal… And i think your post pretty much confirms for me i should stay away from the indillix based controllers..

    Did you at all consider the corsair performance series (corsair p128) ?? They used the 2nd gen samsung controller so looks to give a good balance of performance and compatibility ..

    Anyway I’ve looking at either this kingstone or the corsair.. So any further helo would be great ! (did you sort out the thunderbird issue ?)

    • David says:

      Hey Dave, thanks for stopping by! I didn’t include it in my blog post above, but last week I did install a Corsair Performances Series 256gb SSD in my friends uMBP, and it had the same results as all the others, it would not finish the install of Mac OS, to save him the trouble of swapping and returning, I recommended the Kingston and voila, worked perfectly as predicted. I know that the OCZ Apex series runs on the Jmicron controller, which I think have a higher chance of working with the UNIBODY macbook pros. One thing that always should be distinguished is that the difference between the older (2008) MBP are much different from the UNIBODY macbook pros, therefore what is compatible with one, is most likely not with the latter.

      As for the Thunderbird problem and the spinning wheel, yes it was solely Thunderbird’s issue of syncing IMAP with Gmail and there was over 3k of emails. I rushed the process by simply changing the settings in Thunderbird to only sync within the last 30 days, problem solved, and now my uMBP runs perfectly!

      I have been using my uMBP quiet extensively and the time from boot to entering the OS and being able to open an app is UNDER 14 seconds, it’s very impressive. The overall system responsiveness is also much quicker and there is much less waiting time for everything across the board.

      I also upgrade to 8gb of memory, which was doubly awesome since the 2x4gb sticks that came out of my uMBP went into my 27″ iMac, so I killed two birds with one stone.

      Any questions or help needed I’m always here,

      Cheers!

      -Exempt

  2. Dave says:

    Surprising to hear the corsair didn’t work as it was my assumption that they use the same controller as the standard apple ssd’s

    One last question 🙂 The Kingston V+ used to use a samsung controller but have recently moved to toshiba . Any ideas which one you got ? From what I can tell the toshiba models start with SNVP325 while the older samsung’s Use SNV225 .. From here : http://techgage.com/article/kingston_ssdnow_v_series_128gb/

    Important difference as it most likely changes the compatibility.

    Cheers !

    • David says:

      I have the box still and the receipt at the office, I am swinging by the office tomorrow morning to grab some paperwork, I will definitely update and let you know which one!

  3. David Fumberger says:

    Ok great, that’d be really helpful 🙂

    I should really just go and buy a drive and test it out as I’ve found myself obsessing over all these forums posts trying to work out a picture of the problem !

    After skimming through this monster thread : http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2054387&start=690&tstart=0

    It seems the problem is *mostly* on the 13″ and 15″ models, but not the 17″ (which I have). Noticed you left that detail out of your otherwise indepth post.. what size MBP was yours and your friends ?

    • David says:

      Your correct, I did not state whether or not the 17″ would be compatible with the SSD drives, I have read and heard mixed reviews, majority leaning towards that they *do* have better compatibility than the 13″ and 15″ uMBP. I have not had personal experience with any of the 17″ and SSD’s, you do have a higher chance that any drive may work right off the bat, I am headed to the office now, I will post shortly the Kingston drive model, Cheers!

  4. Henri says:

    sorry, i realised i post the comment in the wrong section, please remove other post in “about”

    hello david

    i just read your article regarding

    “Installing a SSD in a Macbook Pro unibody”

    just wanted to say thanks heaps!!

    i have the same device are you a unibody macbook pro 13″ 2.53ghz 2009 June release.

    and i also have the imac 27″ 3.06ghz

    i also recently purchased the kingston 128gb v+ series

    was wondering if you have tried using that on your imac? and if its compatible or not?

    feel free to email me.

    thanks.

    • David says:

      Hello Henri 🙂 , I had recently debated whether or not to put a 256gb SSD in my 27″ iMac, but I think I am going to hold off until at least a 500gb SSD comes out that is reasonably priced, I would prefer a 1tb lol. I am pretty sure that the memory chipset in the iMac is the same as our macbook pros, so I am figuring that it should work just as well. When I do plop one in I will be sure to update and let everyone know! Between Adobe CS5 suite, Final Cut Pro and all my other software installed, before I put any other data onto the drive I am already at 60-70gb used, so a 128gb is not an option at the moment.

      Cheers!

  5. Dino says:

    I had the same problem as you with all other SSD drives and pretty much gave up that the SSD drives weren’t meant to be for my late 2008 Unibody Macbook Pro. I just ordered this one and should receive it tomorrow. I sure hope I get the same results as you. Will post with the outcome tomorrow (crossing my fingers).

    • David says:

      I would love to hear what happens and will update my post when you get your results in!

      Cheers!

      • Dino says:

        Well, was at the kids soccer game and missed the UPS delivery this morning. They usually always leave it at the door, but I guess next day delivery triggers a signature required status. Needless to say, I’m bummed that I have to wait until Monday. Nevertheless, I will post what happens Monday evening.

  6. Dino says:

    I’m happy to report that my Kingston SSDNow V+Series 256GB drive (SNVP325-S2B/256GB) works on my late 2008 Macbook Pro 15″ Unibody. It works like a charm. Disk utility recognized it and formatted it quickly. The OS install went smoothly (with no freezes like on the other SSD drives). I’m just starting to put it through its paces today, but so far so good!

    My theory is that either Kingston figured out the problem or that it may be the new Toshiba controller. If it’s due to the Toshiba controller, then it’s possible that the 1st generation Kingston V+ drives may have the same issues as the other SSD brands given that they use a Samsung controller. The 2nd generation Kingston V+ models (which start with “SNVP325”) use a Toshiba controller.

    Either way, I’m glad that Kingston has a drive that appears to be more compatible with the sensitive laptops (like the late 2008 Mac Unibody models).

  7. Dino says:

    Dave, do you get the beachball thing for about 5-15 seconds every once in a while with the Kingston SSD? I seem to notice it more frequently. Everything loads fast but it seems to hang every once in a while. Like I said, seems to be more frequently. Can’t quite put my finger on it. I even disabled the Sudden Motion Sensor in Terminal, but that didn’t make a difference.

    • David says:

      I do notice it as a matter of fact. At first I thought it was solely a Thunderbird issue, however at random times, yes for no reason it has to stop and “think”, which usually lasts for 10 seconds or so. I too have disabled the SMS, and am making a logical guess that it is not the SSD itself but rather a software issue. Firefox is my first guess and possibly something related to flash applications but I may be wrong and it could be a hardware issue. What applications are you running when you notice it the most? When I use photoshop o r illustrator or final cut pro, I don’t notice it for hours, then I open up email and firefox and I at times notice it.

      • Dino says:

        I first noticed it in Firefox as well. However, I subsequently noticed it in iTunes and Aperture (both of which are Apple products). I’m starting to wonder if it is a hardware thing. Whenever it occurs, I get the same duration as you where it lasts for 10 seconds or so.

      • David says:

        I haven’t noticed in itunes, but yes definitely in firefox, I used the macbook pro in length the last few days and it happened 2 times in the last 48 hours. Im with you on this one though, twice for 10 seconds each is still annoying and a little to much, I am very curious as to whether or not anyone who was able to get the other brands to work, if they experience the same dilemma.

      • Dino says:

        I’m pretty sure it’s a first gen unibody thing. Either that or some setting that we have yet to uncover. I think I’m going to return mine and maybe upgrade to a new MBP toward the end of this year.

      • David says:

        Ah shittynto hear that dpaulesc, however I am with you on buying a new MBP later this year as well, upgrades included this time!

  8. Dino says:

    Me too. I’m doing the upgrades @ purchase time also in order to avoid the headaches.

  9. Dity says:

    This site sells all mac stuff and I think this drive would have better compatibility, but I’m not sure. http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/internal_storage/Mercury_Extreme_SSD_Sandforce

  10. Dino says:

    Yeah, OWC is a good site. The Voyager Q hard drive dock they have there is amazing. I use it to back up my Mac Mini.

    However, I’m not sure how good they are when it comes to returns. I still think I’m going to go the new MBP route later this year.

    On an unrelated note, I upgraded my wife’s Macbook Air to an SSD from iFixit.com. They sell original Samsung SSD drives that Apple used for the MBA. Now that was an interesting upgrade since the drive uses a ribbon cable. But was really fun dissecting that MBA. She hasn’t had any problems with that SSD upgrade.

  11. Dity says:

    Well I’ve gotten actually purchased two upgrades from them, one was a 7200 rpm 320GB for my 2006 MBP 2.3GHz C2D, the second was a 640GB 5400 rpm HD, both came with external enclosures and worked awesome so I never had to return anything. They were pretty easy to install using ifixit instructions. I have no idea about SSDs and their complexity, but it says pretty clearly what hard drives are compatible with which computers on the site. I would definitely upgrade to SSD if it was $600 for a 500 GB drive. Really I need a TB for my laptop, and I hate lugging external drives, but I know I’m not a “typical” user. I would also like to reencode all my CDs into ALAC for Serato for when I DJ, but that definitely won’t fly until we have 2TB SSDs

  12. This article is a gem. It has really helped me, I was having problems during the installation, and your guide helped me solve them. Thanks a lot. 🙂

  13. maninov says:

    nice article. very helpful

    Thanks !

  14. Vasek says:

    I have troubhle with oem Samsung SSD 128gb (from Lenovo). It doesn’t recongnize by my unibody macbook (late 2008 ?5,1?).

    I hope that above steps will work with my “fruit” 🙂

  15. Tony Tromp says:

    Nice post.. But seriously, i am giving up on apple for all those reasons and more.

  16. Michael says:

    Hey bro,

    Thanks for the post. I am a budding techy (now that i have a career and money for the first time ever) and I have purchased a kingston 128 for my macbook pro unibody with the intel core duo and 2.66 ghz processor.

    Could you please email or post the instructions for installation?

  17. Jean says:

    Hello,
    Thanks for your comments.

    I have a MBP 17″ (april 2008) and would like to replace the original HDD with a SSD WD SiliconEdge Blue 128GB. (I have it in stock !)

    I’m not an Apple expert (sorry) and wonder if i may start doing it, but wonder if its compatible ?

    Any idea ?
    regards,
    Jean

    • David says:

      I haven’t heard of that SSD to be honest, what really determines the compatibility is the memory controller on the SSD. Another determining factor is what year your MacBook pro is as well, you’ll know right from the install whether or not it’s going to work, and it’s not difficult at all to swap it out

      Cheers

  18. Jean says:

    Thanks anyway, David, i will take the chance (!)
    In fact, i’m more interessted to reduce de temperature of the system, and more usable hours when traveling.
    Regards,
    Jean

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s