The most common reason people replace computers is that they get too slow. When you get a new computer, the specifications tell you it’s 2, 3, or 4 times as fast as the old computer, but when you actually use it it seems a little faster…hardly twice as fast. Why?
The operating system (OS X), programs, and your files are all stored on the hard disk. The processors and RAM in your computer can’t do any processing until the hard drive sends them the data to process…and hard drive technology hasn’t changed much in the 29 years we’ve been around. Until a few years ago, that is.
Hard drives work a lot like turntables. A motor spins a disk, and another motor moves the “tone arm” (the read/write head) back and forth across the surface of the disk. The mechanical limitations of the motors also limit how fast the drive can find and send data needed by the processors and RAM…so they spend most of their time waiting to get the data they need instead of actually processing.
A few years ago, we began to see the first solid state drives…with no moving parts, just flash RAM chips similar to those used in iPhones and other smart phones. With no moving parts, the mechanical speed limitations are gone. Solid State Drives (or SSDs) do what hard drives do many, many times faster…just replacing the mechanical hard drive in your existing computer with an SSD will change the entire personality of the computer. It won’t seem a little faster…it will seem much, much faster.
As side benefits, SSDs aren’t magnetic like traditional drives…magnets don’t affect them. And they’re also much more shock resistant.
Roughly two years ago, the price for a 1TB SSD would have been about $1600. Last year, perhaps $800. But, like all technology, prices always start outrageously high and fall quickly. Today, you can get 1TB SSDs for about $240, and prices are continuing to fall. Smaller sizes are cheaper.
So if you have an iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro that’s gotten way too slow, you can rejuvenate it rather than replacing it by replacing the traditional hard drive with an SSD.
Note that many of the very latest Apple models already come with SSDs instead of traditional drives…which is how Apple made them faster than models from 2010, 2011, 2012, and early 2013. So this article primarily applies to models from those years. Once you replace the hard drive with an SSD, your older Mac will run about as fast as the newest Macs…at much less cost.