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back to article You DON'T need a new MacBook! Reg man fiddles with Fusion, pimps out vintage Pro

I need a new MacBook Pro… or do I? It’s probably a question that many a Mac user ponders and, given the choices these days, is much more difficult to answer. Having just reviewed the MacBook Pro 13in with Retina Display, I’m not sure I’m ready to commit myself to soldered RAM and the hope that upgrades will appear for its custom …

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It is recognized on factory-installed Fusion drive.

I set up a Fusion drive on a "pre-Fusion" iMac, that came with Apple provided SSD+HDD as BTO options.

I tried to use DIsk Utility instead of Terminal for the 2 configuration steps but Disk Utility could not help.

This was done in Mountain Lion (but in order to install Mavericks)

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How much faster?

How does it compare with a Seagate Momentus on its own. It has a bit of on-board flash storage, and when I put the 750GB model in my MacBook, it made things much faster.

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Re: How much faster?

Yes, was wondering exactly the same; unless you already have a spare SSD sitting around, is it not easier to just install a Momentus and let the drive deal with the jigging around of files rather than the OS? Running one of these in my MacBook Pro and one as a boot/primary drive on my Mac Pro and they seem to offer a very good bang/buck compromise.

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Re: How much faster?

>is it not easier to just install a Momentus and let the drive deal with the jigging around of files rather than the OS?

OSX will have a better idea of where to put which files than the Momentus drive.

Comments following the recent Reg Momentus review suggested it wasn't the fastest or cheapest solution, either. However, the build-your-own-Fusion isn't possible on all Macs.

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"I can hope the passing of time will lower the cost for a decent amount of RAM and a sizeable SSD"

Ha ha, that part made me laugh. You know this is Apple you're talking about, right?

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Last time I checked apple controlled neither the price of RAM or the prices of SSD's. So your point was exactly???

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No, Apple don't control the price of generally available RAM and SSDs. But they do control what they put into their heavily locked down kit:

"I’m not sure I’m ready to commit myself to soldered RAM and the hope that upgrades will appear for its custom SSD form factor."

So the author hopes that the "passage of time" and the reduction of costs to Apple, will in turn be passed onto the consumer. Which is not bloody likely, given the company's history and contempt towards its customers.

All clear now or would you like some pictorial representations?

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And yet

the article was all about stuffing the 'heavily locked down kit" with none-Apple bits. So, yes, pictures please. Access to crayons permitting.

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last time i checked apple started soldering ram onto the mainboard

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Anonymous Coward

"So the author hopes that the "passage of time" and the reduction of costs to Apple, will in turn be passed onto the consumer. Which is not bloody likely, given the company's history and contempt towards its customers."

I guess you don't follow Apple's product line much, i.e., don't know what you're talking about. It's very common for Macs to be refreshed with more memory for the same price year-on-year. The 2011 base model 11" MacBook Airs had 2GB RAM, 64GB SSDs. The 2012 Airs had 4GB/64GB for the same price. The 2013 Airs have 4GB/128GB for the same price. Etc.

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Yes, i really agree

I like the pro because it can be upgraded, i replaced the ram and HDD in mine to keep it running. I have no plans to change it unless it dies. It running perfectly fast enough for me. So what is it? Mid 2009 13 inch mac book pro, ancient by anyones standards. I have to admit, Mavericks has speeded it up. Mountain Lion did make it feel less than snappy.

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Re: Yes, i really agree

i have a late 2008 MacBook (uni body) i think its the oldest generation to run Mavericks. I've upped the Ram to 8GB and installed a 256 GB samsung (tlc) SSD. An over the top install of Mavericks has made it fly. Its like its new again. I was seriously thinking of buying a new machine, but now i'm good at least for the next year. If i need extra power, i think i'll use screen sharing to a VM Hackintosh on a future i7 i'm thinking about. My other half's late 2007 MacBook (core duo) is languishing several os generations back and slow as hell, even with screen sharing.

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I obtained a 2009 17 inch unibody last year, which had suffered a hard drive failure. I chose the 500GB Seagate Momentus (8GB of which is flash) and can only recommend it based on my own experiences. I use Final Cut and Photoshop quite a bit, although nothing much more taxing and it whips along at a fair old speed and I don't feel as if I am waiting for the mac at any point. Hardly a technical review but some insight from a genuine user.

I have noticed the mac gets rather hot at times, most especially when plugged in but this has never caused a problem and I cannot clearly say it is related to the drive at all.

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Anonymous Coward

"I have noticed the mac gets rather hot at times, most especially when plugged in but this has never caused a problem and I cannot clearly say it is related to the drive at all."

Inefficiencies with battery charging mean that almost any laptop (or phone) gets hotter when being charged.

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WD Black^2 ?

I wonder if you could use the recently announced WD Black^2. Officially macs are unsupported but if it just presents itself as two SATA drives then I don't see why.

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Re: WD Black^2 ?

Because SATA can't talk to two seperate devices on the same bus natively - not without port multipliers being involved (even even then, you'd need a custom connector, etc) - and Fusion Drive needs to have two quite specifically seperate devices reported to it by the SATA controller to work, as far as I am aware.

The WD Black^2 uses a driver solution to make Windows see two devices on one SATA port (hence why no Mac support, and likely no Linux support either), but it won't be as fast as having an SSD on one SATA port, and a HDD on another seperate port due to the way SATA works.

I can see a use for it (those who have a midrange windows laptop, who want more speed, more capacity, and don't want to lose an optical bay) but it's not for me.

Steven R

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JDX
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Why DO you need to upgrade?

If your MacBook Pro was an adequate desktop replacement, why isn't it now? I'm finding in the Windows world that you really don't need to keep upgrading like you used to. Other than an SSD, if you have 4-8Gb RAM and a dual/quad-core CPU, things don't seem to be getting slower. Other than games of course, but they are always a special case.

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Re: Why DO you need to upgrade?

I have the same impression here, JDX; my Core 2 Duo 4GB laptop has been fine for the level of 3D CAD I've been using it for, for several years now. I could upgrade the RAM, but I haven't needed to. Maybe once a month or so I'll set it a few tasks where a faster CPU would cut the job down from twenty minutes to five... but I can live with that.

Once I'd installed all my software, I even made a disk image of C: in anticipation of Windows 7 crufting up in the future, but I haven't cause to use it yet.

Intel seem to think the same, since they emphasise the power saving benefits of their new CPUs above any gains in performance.

Through the nineties and into the 2000s, no computer ever seemed quite quick enough... it seemed that as soon as the hardware improved Windows would try silly graphical effects, or new versions of applications would bloat in size. Also, the tasks that could be expected of home computers required more grunt (messing about with video, for example). This isn't the case any more - if I'm using my laptop for productivity software, it's rare it breaks a sweat. Of course, a super duper CPU, GPU, stacks or RAM and an SSD would be nice, but for me not essential.

Oh, can anyone help? My laptop has a 17" 16:10 1920 x 1200 screen and I worry I won't be able to replace it come the day it dies - if anyone has any ideas, please do share!

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Re: Why DO you need to upgrade?

Quite, I use a 6 year old Mac Pro which is happily running Maverick latest version of Photoshop.

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Re: Why DO you need to upgrade?

Agreed: tbh unless you're a gamer then to me the only advantage a new desktop has over a 'pimped' older box (extra RAM, SSD) is the lower power consumption of the latest components.

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Re: Why DO you need to upgrade?

I'm of much the same opinion. I've mentioned before that my 2008 unibody macbook is pimped out (ugh) with 8gb of RAM and an SSD and it happily multitasks - up to a point, whereupon it needs a restart.

My only gripe is that with my daily workload on it, I barely get three hours out of it (although that does involve three browsers with several hundred tabs across them, normally a VM running, mail, database client etc) although to give it it's due, the wee 2ghz C2D in there clips along at a merry enough pace while it does it.

That said, even though Apple batteries are extortionately priced (well, all genuine OEM batteries are, but I digress) they are still cheaper than a 2012/2013 Macbook. So if I get to the stage where I really need more off-the-mains time, I think carrying a charged battery around would make more sense.

Just need to work out how to change the battery without killing a session. Can't seem to find the true hibernate option in OS X any more, because I suck.

Steven R

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Just zip it! :-)

Note to Bob Dormon:

an easy way to have Mavericks installer still available after Mavericks install is to compress (zip) it.

After the install, unzip the zip and voilà!

This also worked for Lion and Mountain Lion.

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Had good results...

...with the new 500GB version of the Momentus, 'The Slim' . But that's in Windows installs. Worth the money for the simple boost it gives.

Currently running the full desktop size 1TB version in my work machine and it's working a treat.

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Anonymous Coward

I upgraded my mid-2007 iMac to Mavericks recently and was disappointed with the apparent decrease in performance. It seemed to be labouring on (excessive) disk access. I performed a clean install of Mountain Lion and all was well again so I rolled forward to Mavericks and saw no degradation in performance this time. Not sure why I suffered after the original Mavericks installation. Perhaps it didn't like a bunch of homebrew stuff ? The FUSE sub-system for NTFS/ext4 filesystem support would be my guess.

The unofficial upgrade to 6GB RAM is worthwhile if you have the Santa Rosa chipset.

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Meh

My current MacBook is an iBook G4 running OSX 10.4.11. I don't care how much tweaking and twerking you do on it, I DO need a new MacBook.

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I've just put an SSD into a Thinkpad 420. You push the DVD drive eject, pull out the DVD drive, and insert the twelve quid HD caddy into the machine with the new drive in it. Takes 90 seconds. Boot and go. Doesn't generate a four page DIY mashup in La Reg, thuogh.

ThinkPads make good Hackintoshes, some people say, and you can pour water into the keyboard to brighten up a quiet day in the office

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Flame

And did the fairies come along and partition the new drive and install Win 8 onto it for you? No? Perhaps you shouldnt make pointless comparisions then.

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Anonymous Coward

The four page guide wasn't just swapping an optical drive for an SSD, but a guide to setting up the Logical Volume Manager in OSX to use the HDD and SSD as it sees fit. Afterwards, the two drives are presented to the user as a single volume, and OSX places files on each as appropriate. One can expect the OS to have a better idea of how to do that than the controller on a physical SSD/HDD hybrid drive.

There's nothing wrong with your approach, but it works best if the user remembers to keep the OS and applications on SSD C:, and bigger files on HDD D:

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If only it was that easy to keep the OS drive and user files separate on C: and D: in Windows-land. No matter how hard I try, Windows and application developers continue to insist on spraying crap all over the C: drive. Sometimes things show up in C:\, sometimes in \users\xx\, sometimes in Documents, and most insidiously, in deep locations in hidden folders like appdata\Roaming\Microsot\OnlyOnWednesdays\Adobe\foo\1234. And don't get me started on the Registry.

If Microsoft were Jimmy Savile (the wish granter, not the creepy perv) I would say, Dear Microsoft, please can you fix it for me to put my OS on a read-only C drive, my apps on a read-only D drive, global app and OS settings in one hierarchy, and per-user data in another. And please electrocute anyone who tries to break the rules.

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great article!

Excellent article -- not enough on upgrading an old Apple.

I can't wait for the missus's MacBook Pro to conk out now. Any tips for speeding this up? ;)

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Re: great article!

>I can't wait for the missus's MacBook Pro to conk out now. Any tips for speeding this up? ;)

Fire. And lots of it.

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That's two ...

Two entertaining and informative articles by Bob Dormon recently. Good stuff!

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Windows

Chromebook?

"And who knows, I might be a Chromebook convert by then."

Going on the basis of this article, I suspect the Original Author will be rooting his Chromebook and installing a custom Linux OS when that day comes.

Nice to see Mac OS upgrades are still running faster on older hardware.

Is there a blkid command equivalent in case someone fails to record the UUID of the Fusion drive? Have I misunderstood or is this applespeak for an LVM arrangement with root spanning the two drives?

The tramp: Its a recycled Thinkpad and CentOS for me under present financial circumstances. Works OK. Would like higher res screen.

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Re: Chromebook?

Yeh you can see the next command in the article (diskutil cs list) shows the UUID of the corestorage logical volume group.

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Nice work

....preserving your investment in an older machine. The one serious advantage of the new generation of MacBook Pros (other than a Retina display, if you go that way) is the PCIe flash storage. It really is startlingly faster than the SATA SSD I stuffed into an earlier 13-inch MB Pro, at least on the MacBook Air I've been using lately. Now all we need is a competitive, third-party mPCIe storage market to bring down the prices.

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cd

What happens if one of the drives fails physically? Let's say we want to try the freezer trick to grab some data, can it be stuffed in a case and mounted externally after being formatted that way?

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Anonymous Coward

Indeed, using two drives as one obviously decreases reliability vs. using one drive. As for what you do in the event of a drive failure though, that remains the same. Restore from backups.

Time Machine seems nice and that's what I would recommend to my mom, but it's a bit limited for my taste. Personally I use a program called SuperDuper! which clones drives by doing incremental copies. Every week I use it to clone my Mac's drives to 2.5" external disks (I rotate between a few) with encrypted partitions. It takes about 15 minutes and runs fine in the background. I have no fear of data loss or theft. At the very worst I would lose a week of work.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't mind all this non-upgradable crap if the laptop is £400 or something. But £1000 and beyond is insane for what amounts to an x86 tablet in a shiny box.

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Anonymous Coward

What x86 tablet has a Haswell i5 with 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD? The only one I can think of is the Surface Pro 2, which costs $999, i.e., exactly the same as an 11.6" MacBook Air.

And while the RAM in the Air is soldered on, the SSD, battery, and fan are easily replaced, and those are the parts I'm most worried about upgrading or repairing.

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>What x86 tablet has a Haswell i5 with 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD? The only one I can think of is the Surface Pro 2, which costs $999, i.e., exactly the same as an 11.6" MacBook Air.

I was going to say THIS! but it has an i7 and a minimum of a 256 GB SSD. Ho Hum.

http://cintiqcompanion.wacom.com/CintiqCompanion/en/

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Anonymous Coward

HD + SSD management

The idea of merging my hard drive and SSD into one logical volume appeals to me but I'm not going to do it until it's officially supported by Apple.

Until then, I've had no problems using them separately. I put OS X, my software, and the files I'm currently working on on the SSD (takes about 60GB at the moment) and I drag and drop everything else to some folders on my hard drive. The only "tricky" thing that I've done is to redirect iTunes to save songs/videos/etc. to the hard drive, which is pretty easily accomplished in its Preferences window.

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Re: HD + SSD management

>The idea of merging my hard drive and SSD into one logical volume appeals to me but I'm not going to do it until it's officially supported by Apple.

It's part of OSX's CoreStorage inherited from when they were flirting with ZFS, and it's used in many a new Mac. If it goes tits-up, you have your Time Machine hourly back ups- right?

I just don't think it's Apples' style to officially sanction this on machines they have already sold you.

That said, the law of diminishing returns suggests that it won't speed up your system appreciably over your current set-up, since your OS and applications are already on the faster drive; a large part of Fusion Drive's intended appeal (when implemented on brand new machines) is to not even bother the user with the fact that there are two disks in the first place.

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Re: HD + SSD management

I created a symbolic link for my home directory that points to a folder on my HDD. That way all your installed apps and system files are on the SSD, but your downloads/music etc are on the HDD.

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This is the situation I've been in. The other techies at work are upgrading to the new SSD powered Macs, but I don't want to lose the optical drive, and I don't like having a machine that cannot be serviced in any way. I want to replace the dead optical drive with a new blu-ray jobbie, swap the hard drive for something faster, and double the RAM from 8GB back to 16GB (I had an 8GB stick die on me along with the optical drive, because Macs are more reliable than other machines). Cheaper than buying a new machine, I can do all the servicing myself, but the company would prefer I just got a new one. No thanks, guys.

I can't see why the end result wouldn't be just as capable of doing what I already do. I mean, the machine runs Linux half the time anyway - OSX is the slowest system on here, so I'm not that fussed about Mavericks.

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FAIL

So...

For the price of a new laptop, fiddlefucked around, wasted time trying to build a 'Frankenstien'. Awesome.

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Headmaster

Re: So...

Errm, Frankenstein* was the builder, not the product. Easily fixed:

For the price of a new laptop, fiddlefucked around, wasted time trying to be a 'Frankenstein'. Awesome.

Agreed, splendid article!

* Read the book, see the films, get the T-shirts - it's always Frankenstein's monster.

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"Admittedly, I have to thank Kingston and Seagate for being open to persuasion here by providing the large capacity storage I used for this workthrough, which would have added up to around £400."

"If this internal SuperDrive still works, then eBay awaits – it'll probably pay for a caddy... or two."

Wait a minute, you got 2 free hard drives and you get to ebay them? How do I get in on this scam?

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