Computing stuff tied to the physical world

TD – New Solid State Disk

In Hardware on Jun 5, 2012 at 00:01

Welcome to the Tuesday Teardown series, about looking inside the technology around us.

After the recent server troubles (scroll down a bit), I had to replace one of the 500 GB Hitachi drives in the Mini.

I decided to switch to a 128 GB SSD for the system disk, with up to 6x faster transfer rates:

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It came with an interesting USB-to-SATA adapter included. Which looks like this inside:

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And on the bottom:

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(sorry: no teardown of the SSD, it’s probably just a bunch of black squares anyway!)

The scary part was replacing the disk in the Mac Mini’s “unibody” Aluminium case – as explained on YouTube.

But I definitely wanted to keep the server setup in a single enclosure. First lots of disk formatting, re-shuffling, and copying and then I just went ahead and did it. The good news: it worked. The system disk is now solid state!

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I had hoped that the most accessible drive would have to be replaced, but unfortunately it was the top one (when the Mini is placed on it feet) – so a full dismantling was required – look at all those custom-shaped parts:

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The other thing I did was to add an external 2 TB 2.5″ USB drive, to hold all Time Machine backups for both these server disks as well as two other Macs here at JeeLabs. This drive wil spin up once an hour, as TM does its thing.

Summary: the JeeLabs server now maintains a good up to date image of the entire system disk at all times, ready to switch to, and everything gets backed up to an external USB drive once an hour (these backups usually only take a minute or so, due to the way Time Machine works). All four VM’s get daily backups to the cloud, as well as now being included in Time Machine (Parallels takes care to avoid huge amounts of disk file copying).

That means all the essentials will be stored in at least three places. I think I can go back to the real work, at last.

There’s plenty of room for growth: 8 GB of RAM and less than half of the system disk space used so far.


  1. Since I made the transition to SSD I will never use a normal HDD in a work machine again!

    About backups: I use a Synology NAS. Everything is backed up to the NAS which in its turn is backed up to Amazon S3.

    I hope you’ll never have to restore a backup :)

    Cheers, Niels

  2. I too installed an SSD on my home machine — and on other 6 in office: no more need to change “old” PCs :)

    You just have to remember that usually SSDs (like some newer HDDs) have 4KB sectors, not 512B. If you don’t align partitions properly, you’ll get fast wearout and slow performance.

    For backups, you could host ’em on BackBlaze for less than $4 per month per workstation. Or build your own BB storage brick (about 12K€ for 111TB redundant space — of those 12K€ about 8K€ are for the 45 3TB disks). If you really need massive space… :)

    • Let’s hope Mac OSX does the right thing with 4K sectors… (it does TRIM, so I’ll assume it knows SSD’s).

      The 4 VM backups (monthly full, daily incremental, for 2 months) cost a whopping $1.62 total per month on Amazon S3. But thanks for the Backblaze tip – it looks like a fine option for cloud backups.

      As for disk storage: I don’t need much. Our largest collection consists of our (unique) photo’s. Everything else I’ve ever produced in my life fits on a USB stick.

      Music is redundant across everyone’s disk drive in the world nowadays, and so is video.

  3. I also gained a new lease of life for my old Intel Q6600 (Quad 2.4Ghz) machine by swapping the OS drive for a 128gig SSD. It really did fly again.

    Unfortunately it didn’t stay in there long, I got that megalomaniac urge again and bought a i7 board that supported the SSD’s Sata3… Muwahahahaha… Poor old Q6600, back to mechanical drive again.

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