Upgrade to an SSD Drive to Speed Up a Sluggish Mac

iMac image

My Annoying iMac

For quite some time now, my workhorse computer – a mid-2011 model iMac – has not been quite as zippy as it once was. Performing basic tasks were talking longer and longer, and the appearance of the spinning beachball became a regular occurrence. The decline was especially noticeable when trying to launch applications – icons would bounce 8, 10, 12 or more times before finally opening, if the application opened at all. What was even more strange, was that checking the Activity Monitor application displayed CPU usage of only about 5 to 10% and over half of my memory was typically still available. So it wasn’t a memory issue nor was it a process hogging all of my CPU.

What I Tried

I tried all the usual things: resetting the pram, repairing permissions, defragging the drive, verifying and repairing the disk, running CCleaner, etc. I even created a brand-new user account in the event that it was a rogue Preference file was causing the difficulty. But alas, nothing worked. I was hesitant to purchase a new computer because I liked this one: an iMac with a 27-inch screen, 16 gigs of memory and a 1 TB hard drive. Moreover, I haven’t owned this Mac for all that long, perhaps a little over a year. But I was quickly getting to the end of my rope.

My Suspicion

I then began to wonder whether the problem might lie with the hard drive. I had tested the hard drive for errors several times and all appeared in working order. Yet, a troublesome hard drive was the only thing that made sense. So I did a tad of research.

My One Last Approach

Crucial M550 Drive image

I’d been reading quite a bit about SSD drives recently and was delighted to notice that they had considerably come down in price. So some hemming and hawing, I decided on one last ditch approach: I would replace my serial ATA hard drive with an SSD drive – so I purchased a Crucial M550 1TB from from Amazon, which happened to be on sale at the time for a little over $400. Not too bad for a 1 TB Solid State Drive.

How I Installed It

Toolbox image

I found an excellent tutorial online for installing an SSD drive in a mid-2011 iMac written by blogger and photographer Brian Tobey. There are numerous articles and YouTube videos out there as well, so you should be able to find a video or article relevant to your Mac model. So following Brian’s careful instructions, I replaced my old hard drive with a shiny new SSD drive.

The Verdict

The result? Absolutely amazing! But the true test was launching the Microsoft Word application. Before the upgrade, the icon would bounce 10-15 times before the application finally opened. So I clicked on the icon for Word and it bounced once and only once – and it then opened. Gasp! The same thing with Adobe Photoshop – the application opened instantly. I now wish I hadn’t waited so long before upgrading the drive. It’s like I have a brand-new machine. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever owned a computer that’s as fast as my iMac is right now.

So if your Mac is bogging down or if you simply wish to enjoy numerous benefits of a zippy SSD drive, you might want to consider upgrading your hard drive to an SSD drive. To find out which drives are compatible with your Mac, visit Crucial’s web site at crucial.com. They offer a handy utility that will display SSD drives (as well as memory) that are compatible with your make of Mac. Once you find an SSD drive, you can then purchase the item right from their site.

Note: Replacing the hard drive yourself may void the warranty on your Mac. If this is an issue for you, you might want to have a certified Apple technician perform the installation.

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