All of five minutes into using my newly upgraded MacBook Pro, I realized that I should have upgraded the slow old-school 500GB hard drive much sooner. The new Solid State Drive (SSD) is not only wicked fast, it’s super wicked fast. Which drive did I choose? The Crucial M500 in 480GB.

For readers who aren’t familiar with your two core storage choices, it basically comes down to this: You can have a disk drive made up of magnetic spinning platters which spin around in circles while a little arm with a sensor on it finds and reads data. The nice thing about these drives is that you can get a lot of storage space at very cheap prices.

SSDs, on the other hand, are more like massive memory chips — no moving parts. They are much faster than old hard drives.

Where’s the SSD Speed?

An SSD drive really shines when you’re accessing data from storage. If you upgrade your MacBook Pro’s hard drive to an SSD, you’ll notice it primarily when you launch applications. Instead of little app icons that bounce multiple times, your apps will fully launch with a single bounce. Amazing.

This is the MacBook Pro I should have had all along.

Of course, the newer Retina-based MacBook Pros already have solid state hard drives sealed into the case, some of which are upgradeable, too, but there’s millions of older generation MacBook Pros — and even MacBooks — that could spring back to snappy life with an SSD update. I’ve got a couple old plastic MacBooks that I’ll be upgrading next to make them more useful.

crucial m500 sdd drive

The Crucial M500 SSD comes in 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, and the whopping 960GB model.

The second “speed boost” is that I rarely see the dreaded spinning beach ball when my system is busy thinking and trying to access data. Definitely nice. Switching between multiple windows and opening up folders — faster, too. And restarts or cold boot time is down to about 15 seconds. My MacBook even wakes from sleep faster.

I have 21,000 photos in iPhoto, and using iPhoto is more reactive now, too. Loading large files and saving them is also faster.

The question is, is it worth it? For me, because I work on my Mac all day long, the answer is definitely. For someone else who is not experiencing any irritation over the speed of their system, probably not.

If you have an aging MacBook, though, and want to squeeze out a snappier experience — give your machine another year or two of pleasant life — upgrade your SDD today. The prices for new SSD drives are compelling. If you’re using 2 GB of memory, upgrade your memory, too. While 4 GB is doable, for an older system try to get to 8GB if you can.

If all this seems like too much hassle, you can always sell your MacBook as-is on eBay and spring for a new MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I will . . . eventually.

About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I've been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. I'm a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at the url of this site.