MBP 17″ HDD update

Posted on 14 February 2013


I want to sell my MacPro so I’ll have to move about 4 TB of data to my MBP 17″. How to do that?

There are quite a few decisions to be made:

  1. What do I really need to put IN the MBP and what can I keep externally. If externally, how do I connect it to the MBP?
  2. I can’t really use the MBP as a server: how do I access the data from other computers?
  3. How to proceed with my win7 bootcamp. Can I install it on an expresscard disk?
  4. What about encryption and backup?

How much GB will fit?

Is it even possible to fit 4 GB in a MBP Core i5 2,53 17″ mid-2010? No: at this moment (feb 2013) you can go up to 3.128 GB.

This is because the MBP only takes disks up to 12.5 mm height, I tested this myself by fitting an old 1.5 TB samsung (14.8 mm) drive into my MBP but it did stick out 2.3 mm above the battery. I think a 12.5 mm drive will just fit, and still hover 1.9 mm below the keyboard (giving room for the cable). 1.5 TB is the maximum capacity that will fit the drive bay of the MBP.

It is possible to add a second disk in the MBP by replacing the superdrive with a $ 40 mcetech optibay, $ 45 OWC Data Doubler or $ 6 Amazon caddy (is one of these favorite for vibration absorbing mounting?). The superdrive bay will definately not take more then a 10.5 mm thick drive, so this is limited tot 1.5 TB drives as well.

To finish, the last few GB’s can be added to the expresscard slot. This is limited tot 128 GB.


There are 2.5″ drives with different heights ranging from 5 mm to 15 mm. 5 mm is the new netbook standard, 9.5 mm is the ‘old’ laptop standard, 15 mm is a SAS server standard.

A quick rule of thumb: Maximum density today is 500 GB per platter (250 GB per side). 1 platter=7mm / 2 platter=9.5mm / 3 platter=12.5mm / 4 platter =15mm. 

Note that the newest drives will be 1 platter = 5mm / 2 platter = 7 mm and 3 platter = 9.5 mm. I think it will  not be long before they can shoehorn 4 platters into a 12.5mm drive (it this moment this is a heat problem). But I really hope that platter density will go up to 670 GB a platter which will give you a 9.5mm  2.0 TB laptop drive. I have a feeling that WD will come with that 9.5mm 2 TB disk  in Q3/2013 (see their press release about the my passport ultra TB).

On the other hand SSD’s get bigger and cheaper, so it will be a close call. Here is a nice graph about SDD prices. Something with Kryder’s law. HDD’s capacity goes up 40% a year at the same price.


I am looking at using SSD’s instead of HDD’s in the MBP. What are the results for speed, heat, power consumption and prices?

First thing to look at are the size and price. There are 1 TB SSD drives on the market but prices are around € 1000. A 1 TB HDD is only € 70, so to me this is too much of a difference. It seems like right now the 500 GB is the size-limit for affordable drives, with a 500 GB Samsung SSD 840 drive for € 280. Still this is about five times more expensive then HDD GB’s. But it’s also faster, so I’ve tested working on a 500 GB drive for a year: unfortunately for video-editing 500 GB really is too small as primary drive. I would need at least 800 GB and that’s just too expensive right now.

When you do buy an SSD, think of things like hardware TRIM and steady state performance. The third thing is IOPS (input/output operations per second) both for write and read, both for sequential and random and at different Queue depths and packet sizes. Because my MBP only supports 3 gbps SATA the sequential speed will only go up to 250 MB/s. This and this is a really good article that shows that you should not look too much at those IOPS or sequential speeds but really only the PCmark7 score matters. Good places to read reviews are anandtech.com and tomshardware.com.


As a fast, big and cheap alternative to SSD drives I found the – not yet available – WD black hybrid SSHD 7 mm 1TB + 24 GB drive, as an answer to the € 95 Seagate Momentus XT 750 GB hybrid drives. Here is some more about SSHD’s needing at least 128 GB of NAND, like the € 300 1TB Apple fusion drive, but because you can only buy these with new computers that’s not an option. Here is a guide to make your own fusion drive with a regular HDD + regular SSD.


There are only three companies on the HDD market: Toshiba, WD and Seagate. Seagate also owns the Samsung brand, WD bought the Hitachi (now known as HGST) brand in 2012 after swapping their 3.5″ factory with one of Toshiba’s 2.5″ factories. The current fastest 2.5″ SATA harddrive is WD’s VelociRaptor 1TB. But it’s made for servers and desktops: it gets hot, needs 12V power and it’s 15 mm high so it will not work in the MBP.

So what are my options?

  • € 160 WD Scorpio Green 2 TB : the biggest 2.5″ drive on the market, but with it’s 15 mm it will not in a laptop. You can get it for € 120 in the toshiba StorE enclosure.
  • € 100 Toshiba 1.5 TB drive (5400 rpm, 8 MB). Buy here. Some of these still are delivered as 12.5 mm drives, so here is a discussion about which are the two or three platter model numbers. I can’t find anything about shockguard or encryption.
  • € ??  Hitachi Travelstar 1.5 TB (5400 rpm, 32 MB). They are sure it’s 9.5mm, it’s quit and self-encrypting.
  • € 80 WD AV-25 1 TB drive (5400 rpm, 16 MB). Buy here. This might be the best choice for speed, power and noise. Here is a nice review of it’s little 8 MB cache brother. ShockGuard was mentioned in the old product overview, but not in the new one.
  • € 73 WD’s Hitachi Travelstar 1 TB 7200 rpm 32MB. Buy here. No hardware encryption: at 7200 rpm only the 7k500 model has encryption.
  • € ?? Seagate st91000640ns 1TB 7200 rpm

One thing be aware of is SMS: The MBP has a Sudden Motion Sensor that parks the harddrive arm, so if you install a new primary disk with it’s own motion sensor you will want to disable the Apple SMS by going to terminal and typing sudo pmset -a sms 0.

For the disk in the superdrive bay you will want to it to have it’s own motion detector WD’s motion detector is called ShockGuard, Seagate calls it Gforce Protection. Note that Shock Resistance or Shock Tolerance does not necessarily mean there is a sudden motion sensor is involved.

Drive speed

Do we want 7200 RPM drives? A modern 5400 RPM disk like the WD AV-25 is said to be almost as fast as the WD black 7200 rpm drive, which only goes up to 750 GB as well as being noisier, hotter and more power-hungry. Here is a nice post about speed and platter density. This is a quote: The WD10JPVT made an almost repeat showing of the Samsung Spinpoint M8, which has identical specifications. Both drives performed extremely well in synthetic benchmarks but lost their footing in the real-world scenarios compared to some of their faster but still high-capacity (750GB) 7200RPM brethren. The takeaway here is that the WD10JPVT, like the Samsung M8, is best used as a secondary storage and/or backup drive, or in an instance where maximum capacity is required.

Do we want more platters? One would think that more platters in one disk would make a faster disk as it can be made to read in a four bits parallel mode. But this idea is too simple when you know modern drives use a tracking controller. So is a single platter disk faster then a four-platterdisk? Yes: it could be faster as the attenuator is lighter so it can have faster seek times. No: because the data is spread across four platters the arm has to make less movements for seek operations.

What really matters is the data density which you can find here. You will find that there are cases of “same but different”:

  • 2TB WD20EARX 3.5″, 4 platters – 4×500 GB –> 122 MB/s read speed (HDTune bench)
  • 2TB WD20EARX 3.5″, 3 platters – 3×667 GB –> 157 MB/s read speed (HDTune bench)

You can use identifier codes, height or weight to determine which one you have. Here is more about testing the speed.

Expresscard slot

There are a few Expresscard SSD’s on the market. They are seen as a SATA drive so it can even be used as (swappable) boot disk, and the reviews are good. The expresscard slot uses PCIe so it’s 2,5 gbps. It’s just a bit slower then the 3 gpbs SATAII connectors of my MBP. Size? Here is a problem: I can only find them up to 128 GB.

Is there any space for a $ 200 Crucial M4 256 GB mSATA SSD inside, as they are  small enough: mSATA is similar to a PCI express mini-card. There is no dedicated slot in this MBP and I have not found an expresscard adapter for mSATA.

So can we use a 256 GB  lexar SD card in a fast cardreader in the Expresscard slot? Well we can but it will not be as good as a exprescard SSD as speeds are limited, plus it’s not meant for writing paging files. Prices: € 150 Sandisk SDXC 64GB 95MB/s or the bigger € 90 Lexar SDXC 128GB 60MB/s  (20 MB/s max write). Here are some tweaks for using SSD’s and windows.

It would be nice to install just win7 on card in my Expresscard slot. This should be possible as it is possible to create a bootable OSX SD card. Might be best to install it using bootcamp? Or use Hiren to copy it from a proper location as windows does not allow installation on an external, non-ntfs disk. Or dig into Windows 8 On The Go.


What if the laptop gets stolen or lost. See more here.


It’s possible to add an Expressport harddrive or SD card for additional 256 GB of SSD space. It would be great if it takes operating systems, so one can swap them easily!

For data it’s possible to replace both the system drive and the superdrive with 9.5 mm HDD’s, there are two 1.5 TB options 9.5 mm options.  I’d like to wait for the first 9.5 mm 2 TB drives. I’d also like to wait to be sure about my editing software!

Internal drives might not be perfect for sensitive data as MBP doesn’t support hardware encryption well and I am not sure about the possibilities and speed of software encryption yet.

Until all this is sure, I’ll stick with external drives.